Category Archives: Cool Stuff

10 Billion Year-old Neutrino Found

Way to go Fermi!

Nearly 10 billion years ago, the black hole at the center of a galaxy known as PKS B1424-418 produced a powerful outburst. Light from this blast began arriving at Earth in 2012. Now astronomers using data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and other space- and ground-based observatories have shown that a record-breaking neutrino seen around the same time likely was born in the same event. — NASA

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Using Galaxies as Dark Energy Tools

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Using galaxy clusters to study dark energy – very innovative!

From NASA:

These four galaxy clusters were part of a large survey of over 300 clusters used to investigate dark energy, the mysterious energy that is currently driving the accelerating expansion of the Universe. In these composite images, X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (purple) have been combined with optical light from the Hubble Space Telescope and Sloan Digital Sky Survey (red, green, and blue).

Researchers used a novel technique that takes advantage of the observation that the outer reaches of galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the universe held together by gravity, show similarity in their X-ray emission profiles and sizes. That is, more massive clusters are simply scaled up versions of less massive ones, similar to Russian dolls that nest inside one another.

The amount of matter in the Universe, which is dominated by the unseen substance called dark matter, and the properties of dark energy (what astronomers call cosmological parameters) affect the rate of expansion of the Universe and, therefore, how the distances to objects changes with time. If the cosmological parameters used are incorrect and a cluster is inferred to be traveling away faster than the correct value, then a cluster will appear to be larger and fainter due to this “Russian doll” property. If the cluster is inferred to be traveling away more slowly than the correct value, the cluster will be smaller and brighter than a cluster according to theory.

These latest results confirm earlier studies that the amount of dark energy has not changed over billions of years. They also support the idea that dark energy is best explained by the “cosmological constant,” which Einstein first proposed and is equivalent to the energy of empty space.

The galaxy clusters in this large sample ranged in distance from about 760 million to 8.7 billion light years from Earth, providing astronomers with information about the era where dark energy caused the once-decelerating expansion of the Universe to accelerate.

The X-ray emission in the outer parts of galaxy clusters is faint because the gas is diffuse there. To deal with this issue in this study, the X-ray signal from different clusters was added together. Regions near the centers of the clusters are excluded from the analysis because of large differences between the properties of different clusters caused by supermassive black hole outbursts, the cooling of gas and the formation of stars.

A paper describing these results by Andrea Morandi and Ming Sun (University of Alabama at Huntsville) appeared in the April 11th, 2016 issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal and is available online. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.

Image credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Alabama/A. Morandi et al; Optical: SDSS, NASA/STScI

Starshot

Russian scientist and billionaire entrepreneur Yuri Milner and Cosmologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking announced a space exploration project called Breakthrough Starshot

Video – short version
Video – long version

Jupiter Impact?

Perhaps you’ve heard about this possible impact with Jupiter which occurred on 17 March. Nobody is quite sure whether this was a comet or an asteroid but it seems something did impact Jupiter.

The video does a great job of showing some of the moons orbiting the planet too!

I am waiting for a local picture that might show this event and will share it when I get it.Hat tip to John Mckeon

SCRAT Flight Test Maneuvers

The video depicts a demonstration of a series of flight test and maneuvers carried out at NASA’s Armstrong Flight research Center with the G-III aircraft as part of the Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge experiments. While some of the inputs to the joystick and other flight controls may seem odd or harsh, they are needed to determine how this aircraft reacts with an experimental flap installed. Data is collected and displayed synchronized to the flight maneuvers.

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Jupiter’s X-Ray Aurora

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Aurora occurrence on Jupiter has been known for a long time, now for the first time it is being studied in x-ray light. The press release below mentions a composite image, it was two shots of the auroral activity, click the image above to see the second picture.

Jupiter is pretty bright in the sky because we are just past the point were Earth and Jupiter are the closest we are in our orbits an event that happens about every 13 months.

Jupiter is an amazing planet and we are going to be seeing a lot more from it in the coming months as the spacecraft Juno nears the planet.

Here’s the press release from NASA:

Solar storms are triggering X-ray auroras on Jupiter that are about eight times brighter than normal over a large area of the planet and hundreds of times more energetic than Earth’s “northern lights,” according to a new study using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This result is the first time that Jupiter’s auroras have been studied in X-ray light when a giant solar storm arrived at the planet.

The Sun constantly ejects streams of particles into space in the solar wind. Sometimes, giant storms, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), erupt and the winds become much stronger. These events compress Jupiter’s magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by Jupiter’s magnetic field, shifting its boundary with the solar wind inward by more than a million miles. This new study found that the interaction at the boundary triggers the X-rays in Jupiter’s auroras, which cover an area bigger than the surface of the Earth.

These composite images show Jupiter and its aurora during and after a CME’s arrival at Jupiter in October 2011. In these images, X-ray data from Chandra (purple) have been overlaid on an optical image from the Hubble Space Telescope. The left-hand panel reveals the X-ray activity when the CME reached Jupiter, and the right-hand side is the view two days later after the CME subsided. The impact of the CME on Jupiter’s aurora was tracked by monitoring the X-rays emitted during two 11-hour observations. The scientists used that data to pinpoint the source of the X-ray activity and identify areas to investigate further at different time points. They plan to find out how the X-rays form by collecting data on Jupiter’s magnetic field, magnetosphere and aurora using Chandra and ESA’s XMM-Newton.

A paper describing these results appeared in the March 22, 2016 issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research. The authors on the paper are William Dunn (UCL), Graziella Branduardi-Raymont (UCL), Ronald Elsner (NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center), Marissa Vogt (Boston University), Laurent Lamy (University of Paris Diderot), Peter Ford (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Andrew Coates (UCL), Randall Gladstone (Southwest Research Institute), Caitriona Jackman (University of Southampton), Jonathan Nichols (University of Leicester), Jonathan Rae (UCL), Ali Varsani (UCL), Tomoki Kimura (JAXA), Kenneth Hansen (University of Michigan), and Jamie Jasinski (UCL).

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.

Image credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/UCL/W.Dunn et al, Optical: NASA/STScI