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Posts Tagged ‘national science foundation’

Astronomers Get Rare Peek at Early Stage of Star Formation

March 14, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF

Image Credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF

Using radio and infrared telescopes, astronomers have obtained a first tantalizing look at a crucial early stage in star formation. The new observations promise to help scientists understand the early stages of a sequence of events through which a giant cloud of gas and dust collapses into dense cores that, in turn, form new stars.

The scientists studied a giant cloud about 770 light-years from Earth in the constellation Perseus. They used the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory and the National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Telescope (GBT) to make detailed observations of a clump, containing nearly 100 times the mass of the Sun, within that cloud.

Full Story: http://www.nrao.edu/pr/2012/clumpcores/

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Powerful New Astronomy Tool Arrives on Mauna Kea

February 28, 2012 Leave a comment

A 10,000-pound package was delivered on Feb. 16 to the W. M. Keck Observatory near the summit of Mauna Kea. Inside is a powerful new scientific instrument that will dramatically increase the cosmic data gathering power of what is already the world’s most productive ground-based observatory.

The new instrument is called MOSFIRE (Multi-Object Spectrometer For Infra-Red Exploration). It is the newest tool to survey the cosmos and help astronomers learn more about star formation, galaxy formation and the early universe. The spectrometer was made possible through funding provided by the National Science Foundation and a generous donation from astronomy benefactors Gordon and Betty Moore.

“This is a crucial and important step,” said MOSFIRE co-principal investigator Ian McLean of U.C. Los Angeles, who has been involved in the building of four instruments for the Keck telescopes. “Just shipping it to Hawaii is the first step.” A long series of installation steps are already underway that will lead up to MOSFIRE’s “first light” on the sky and handover to the Keck community in August.

Full Story: http://keckobservatory.org/news/mosfire_astronomy_mauna_kea

VLBA, RXTE Team Up to Pinpoint Black Hole’s Outburst

January 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Astronomers have gained an important clue about a ubiquitous cosmic process by pinpointing the exact moment when gigantic “bullets” of fast-moving material were launched from the region surrounding a black hole. They made this breakthrough by using the ultra-sharp radio “vision” of the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), along with NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) satellite, to study an outburst from a system including a black hole and its companion star in 2009.

Black holes in such binary-star systems can pull material from their companions. That material forms a rapidly-rotating disk of material around the black hole, and “jets” of material are thrown outward perpendicular to the disk. Most of the time, the jets show a steady flow of material, but occasionally the steady jets disappear and superfast “bullets” of material are ejected at speeds approaching that of light. Such an outburst can produce as much energy in an hour as the Sun emits in five years.

Full Story: http://www.nrao.edu/pr/2012/diskjet/