Category Archives: Cool Stuff

Kids Can You Draw?

The CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite or CHEOPS set to launch in 2017 will measure the bulk density of exo-planets from the size of super-Earths to around Neptune already known to be in orbit around stars. The mission will accomplish this by using ultra-high precision photometry.

ESA is holding a fun contest open to kids ages 8 to 14 and the winners (around 3,000) will get their entries engraved on metal plaques that will fly on Cheops. Very cool.

The video gives the details also available below (and on the video site):
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Zombie Stars


NuSTAR looked towards the center of the galaxy and the black hole at the galactic center and look what it found:

From NuSTAR:

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has captured a new high-energy X-ray view (magenta) of the bustling center of our Milky Way galaxy. The smaller circle shows the area where the NuSTAR image was taken — the very center of our galaxy, where a giant black hole resides. That region is enlarged to the right, in the larger circle, to show the NuSTAR data.

The NuSTAR picture is one of the most detailed ever taken of the center of our galaxy in high-energy X-rays. The X-ray light, normally invisible to our eyes, has been assigned the color magenta. The brightest point of light near the center of the X-ray picture is coming from a spinning dead star, known as a pulsar, which is near the giant black hole. While the pulsar’s X-ray emissions were known before, scientists were surprised to find more high-energy X-rays than predicted in the surrounding regions, seen here as the elliptical haze.

Astronomers aren’t sure what the sources of the extra X-rays are, but one possibility is a population of dead stars.

The background picture was captured in infrared light by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

The NuSTAR image has an X-ray energy range of 20 to 40 kiloelectron volts.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Read the whole story and see higher resolution images at NuSTAR.

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Create Your Own Mosaic

From ESA:
The International Space Station has been invaded by alien… artwork! ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti has been decorating the space station with mosaic artwork of aliens. Now Samantha is inviting you to show off your artistic skills by designing your very own space mosaic!

Contest page

This contest is open to kids age 12 and younger. Too bad in a way this would make for a good second contest for ages 12 and up too perhaps by age group. it will be fun to see the results.

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Space X Landing Attempt

The other day Space X launched the CRS-6 and then attempted to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket onto a barge floating in the ocean.

Space X has released the video of the “failed” landing. Thank you Space X! The attempt is amazing and I would not necessarily call this a failure, not a complete failure anyway, merely another step to success.


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New Craters on the Moon

The bright flash of a meteor impact was seen on the moon a couple of years ago on 17 March 2013. The flash was some 10 times any flash recorded before. NASA recorded the flash at lunar coordinates 20.6°N, 336.1°E.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was able to image the location before and after and it turns out it has found a few more.

The video and a really cool before/after image is located at the NASA site.`

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Speeding Star

An artist impression of the mass-transfer phase followed by a double-detonation supernova that leads to the ejection of US 708.  CREDIT: ESA/HUBBLE, NASA, S. GEIER
An artist impression of the mass-transfer phase followed by a double-detonation supernova that leads to the ejection of US 708. CREDIT: ESA/HUBBLE, NASA, S. GEIER

Scientists using the W.M. Keck Observatory and Pan-STARRS1 telescopes have discovered a star that breaks a speed record. This star is traveling at 1,200 km/sec (2.7 million miles per hour). Fast enough so the star will escape the gravity of the galaxy and leave. Only a handful of such stars are known.

This star was part of a binary star system and was ejected by a supernova explosion. The image above is an artist impression and it shows the star to the left and the supernova at the same time but the supernova would have faded away by the time the star hit that position.

The hypervelocity stars are destined to spend their lives speeding through intergalactic space although it is thought usually such stars get ejected due to a close encounter with the black hole at the center of Milky Way.

While the image shown here is an artist concept, scientists observed this star called US 708 with the Echellette Spectrograph and Imager instrument on the 10-meter, Keck II telescope to measure its distance and velocity along our line of sight. By combining position measurements from the archives with new measurements from Pan-STARRS1, scientists were able to come up with the star’s velocity across our line of sight. The trajectory of the star shows the velocity cannot be from an encounter with a black hole.

There’s more (from the Keck press release):

US 708 has another peculiar property in marked contrast to other hypervelocity stars: it is a rapidly rotating, compact helium star likely formed by interaction with a close companion. Thus, US 708 could have originally resided in an ultra compact binary system, transferring helium to a massive white dwarf companion, ultimately triggering a thermonuclear explosion of a type Ia supernova. In this scenario, the surviving companion, i.e. US 708, was violently ejected from the disrupted binary as a result, and is now traveling with extreme velocity.

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