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Posts Tagged ‘spitzer space telescope’

Professor Helps To Discover Near-Earth Asteroid Is Really A Comet

September 16, 2013 Leave a comment

Some things are not always what they seem—even in space. For thirty years, scientists believed a large near-Earth object was an asteroid. Now, an international team including Joshua Emery, assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences at UT, has discovered it is actually a comet.

Called 3552 Don Quixote, the body is the third largest near-Earth object—mostly rocky bodies, or asteroids, that orbit the Sun in the vicinity of Earth. About 5 percent of near-Earth objects are thought to be “dead” comets that have shed all the water and carbon dioxide in the form of ice that give them their coma—a cloud surrounding the comet nucleus—and tail.

The team found that Don Quixote is neither. It is, in fact, an active comet, thus likely containing water ice and not just rocks. The finding will be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress 2013 in London today, Sept. 10. The discovery could hold implications for the origin of water on Earth.

Full Story: http://www.utk.edu/tntoday/2013/09/10/professor-helps-discover-nearearth-asteroid-comet/

Spitzer Discovers Young Stars With A ‘Hula Hoop’


Artist's impression. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Artist’s impression. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have spotted a young stellar system that “blinks” every 93 days. Called YLW 16A, the system likely consists of three developing stars, two of which are surrounded by a disk of material left over from the star-formation process.

As the two inner stars whirl around each other, they periodically peek out from the disk that girds them like a hula hoop. The hoop itself appears to be misaligned from the central star pair, probably due to the disrupting gravitational presence of the third star orbiting at the periphery of the system. The whole system cycles through bright and faint phases, with the central stars playing a sort of cosmic peek-a-boo as the tilted disk twirls around them. It is believed that this disk should go on to spawn planets and the other celestial bodies that make up a solar system.

Spitzer observed infrared light from YLW 16A, emitted by the warmed gas and dust in the disk that still swathes the young stars. Other observations came from the ground-based 2MASS survey, as well as from the NACO instrument at the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-236

Monster Galaxies Lose Their Appetite With Age


Galaxy clusters. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SDSS/NOAO

Galaxy clusters. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SDSS/NOAO

Our universe is filled with gobs of galaxies, bound together by gravity into larger families called clusters. Lying at the heart of most clusters is a monster galaxy thought to grow in size by merging with neighboring galaxies, a process astronomers call galactic cannibalism.

New research from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) is showing that, contrary to previous theories, these gargantuan galaxies appear to slow their growth over time, feeding less and less off neighboring galaxies.

“We’ve found that these massive galaxies may have started a diet in the last 5 billion years, and therefore have not gained much weight lately,” said Yen-Ting Lin of the Academia Sinica in Taipei, Taiwan, lead author of a study published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-239

NASA’s Spitzer Observes Gas Emission From Comet ISON


Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/UCF

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/UCF

Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have observed what most likely are strong carbon dioxide emissions from Comet ISON ahead of its anticipated pass through the inner solar system later this year.

Images captured June 13 with Spitzer’s Infrared Array Camera indicate carbon dioxide is slowly and steadily “fizzing” away from the so-called “soda-pop comet,” along with dust, in a tail about 186,400 miles (300,000 kilometers) long.

“We estimate ISON is emitting about 2.2 million pounds (1 million kilograms) of what is most likely carbon dioxide gas and about 120 million pounds (54.4 million kilograms) of dust every day,” said Carey Lisse, leader of NASA’s Comet ISON Observation Campaign and a senior research scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. “Previous observations made by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission and Deep Impact spacecraft gave us only upper limits for any gas emission from ISON. Thanks to Spitzer, we now know for sure the comet’s distant activity has been powered by gas.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-231

NASA’s Spitzer Sees Milky Way’s Blooming Countryside

June 6, 2013 1 comment

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Wisconsin

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Wisconsin

New views from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope show blooming stars in our Milky Way galaxy’s more barren territories, far from its crowded core.

The images are part of the Galactic Legacy Infrared Mid-Plane Survey Extraordinaire (Glimpse 360) project, which is mapping the celestial topography of our galaxy. The map and a full, 360-degree view of the Milky Way plane will be available later this year. Anyone with a computer may view the Glimpse images and help catalog features.

We live in a spiral collection of stars that is mostly flat, like a vinyl record, but it has a slight warp. Our solar system is located about two-thirds of the way out from the Milky Way’s center, in the Orion Spur, an offshoot of the Perseus spiral arm. Spitzer’s infrared observations are allowing researchers to map the shape of the galaxy and its warp with the most precision yet.

While Spitzer and other telescopes have created mosaics of the galaxy’s plane looking in the direction of its center before, the region behind us, with its sparse stars and dark skies, is less charted.

“We sometimes call this flyover country,” said Barbara Whitney, an astronomer from the University of Wisconsin at Madison who uses Spitzer to study young stars. “We are finding all sorts of new star formation in the lesser-known areas at the outer edges of the galaxy.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-186

Herschel Space Observatory Finds Galaxy Mega Merger


Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Irvine/STScI/Keck/NRAO/SAO

Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Irvine/STScI/Keck/NRAO/SAO

A massive and rare merging of two galaxies has been spotted in images taken by the Herschel space observatory, a European Space Agency mission with important NASA participation.

Follow-up studies by several telescopes on the ground and in space, including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, tell a tale of two faraway galaxies intertwined and furiously making stars. Eventually, the duo will settle down to form one super-giant elliptical galaxy.

The findings help explain a mystery in astronomy. Back when our universe was 3 billion to 4 billion years old, it was populated with large reddish elliptical-shaped galaxies made up of old stars. Scientists have wondered whether those galaxies built up slowly over time through the acquisitions of smaller galaxies, or formed more rapidly through powerful collisions between two large galaxies.

The new findings suggest massive mergers are responsible for the giant elliptical galaxies.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-171
Also: http://news.uci.edu/press-releases/fragile-mega-galaxy-is-missing-link-in-history-of-cosmos/
Also: http://keckobservatory.org/news/fragile_mega_galaxy_is_missing_link_in_history_of_cosmos

NASA Develops Key To Cosmic Carbon’s Molecular Evolution


Scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., now have the capability to systematically investigate the molecular evolution of cosmic carbon. For the first time, these scientists are able to automatically interpret previously unknown infrared emissions from space that come from surprisingly complex organic molecules, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are abundant and important across the universe.

Between 2003 and 2005, thanks to its unprecedented sensitivity, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, managed and operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., created maps of the tell-tale PAH signature across large regions of space, from hot regions of harsh ultraviolet (UV) radiation close to stars, to cold, dark clouds where stars and planets form. By exclusively using their unique collection of authentic PAH spectra, coupled with algorithm-driven, blind-computational analyses, scientists at Ames were able to interpret the cosmic infrared maps with complex organic molecules. They found that PAHs changed significantly in size, electrical charge and structure, to adjust to the different environment at each spot in the map. Carbon is one of the most abundant atoms in space and scientists believe that the spectral changes across these maps trace the molecular evolution of carbon across the universe.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/universe/features/evolution-of-cosmic-carbon-pah.html