Csillagászat (Hírfigyelő)

Sunspot AR 2673 activity. 07/09/2017, 13:30-14:30

napkitores.hu - 2017. szeptember 22. 22:30
Equipment: -telescopes Celestron 102\660+Coronado PST H-alpha -mount Celestron NexStar SE -ZWO Ir-cut filter -ZWO 290 MC camera. Animation from 105 ...

Ayaw nila si MAYMAY na nasa gilid kaya pinaupo nila | Oh Maymay aming Prinsesa

napkitores.hu - 2017. szeptember 22. 22:30
Please join our Official Mayward Fandom Page. Click lang sa Link Below https://www.facebook.com/groups/MaywardFandom/

Amazing Mysterious ?? UFO Alien Ship Seen In Arizona 2017

napkitores.hu - 2017. szeptember 22. 22:30
This is a video compilation of captured #UFO footage that was caught on #camera in 2016 and 2017. The UFO caught on camera is claimed to be proof of ...

NASA'S OSIRIS-REx spacecraft slingshots past Earth

sciencedaily.com - 2017. szeptember 22. 22:25
NASA's asteroid sample return spacecraft successfully used Earth's gravity on Friday to slingshot itself on a path toward the asteroid Bennu, for a rendezvous next August.

S&T Webinar: When’s the Next Solar Eclipse?

skyandtelescope.com-MostRecent - 2017. szeptember 22. 21:25

If you loved seeing August's solar eclipse and are eager to see another one, don't miss this live webinar on upcoming total and annular solar eclipses.

You'll need to head to the Southern Hemisphere to see the total solar eclipses in 2019, 2020, or 2021.
Fred Espenak / eclipsewise.com

Now that the Great American Eclipse of 2017 has come and gone, I’m already getting scads of emails from people who can’t wait to witness totality again. “When’s the next solar eclipse?” they ask. “Where can I sign up for more information?”

There’s no “TSE” in 2018. Instead, nearly two years will pass until your next opportunity to stand in the Moon’s shadow again. On paper, the solar eclipse of July 2, 2019, offers up to 4m 33s of totality, nearly double what eclipse-goers witnessed next August. However, to experience that you’ll need to be bobbing somewhere in the South Pacific Ocean or standing in central Chile or Argentina (the path’s only landfall).

But where are the best locations? And what about the eclipses after that? Fortunately, you can have all your questions answered this coming week, when eclipse-chase Jamie Carter will be offer a live webinar about the solar eclipses in 2019 and afterward. He’ll share with you the essential characteristics and travel possibilities of upcoming solar eclipses to help you choose which to see.

Science writer and eclipse-chaser Jamie Carter

Carter is a science journalist and author who specializes in eclipses, stargazing, and dark-sky destinations. He's the author of The Great South American Eclipse Travel Guide for July 2, 2019, When Is The Next Eclipse? When, Where & Wow to see Solar & Lunar Eclipses 2018-2030, and A Stargazing Program For Beginners. He also runs whenisthenexteclipse.com.

Seeing a solar eclipse under clear skies is never guaranteed, but you can maximize your chances, your budget, and your vacation time by participating in Carter’s discussion about eclipse-chasing in the next decade.

I'll be hosting this exciting presentation, and I hope you'll join me. It's $29.99 to participate (or to download afterward), but it will be well worth the cost. Click here to register, and I look forward to having you join us.

The post S&T Webinar: When’s the Next Solar Eclipse? appeared first on Sky & Telescope.

Scientists Urge Europe to Stick With “Armageddon”-style Asteroid Mission

universetoday - 2017. szeptember 22. 21:06

For decades, scientists have known that in near-Earth space there are thousands of comets and asteroids that periodically cross Earth’s orbit. These Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are routinely tracked by NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) to make sure that none pose a risk of collision with our planet. Various programs and missions have also been proposed to divert or destroy any asteroids that might pass too closely to Earth in the future.

One such mission is the Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA), a collaborative effort between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). Recently, the ESA announced that it would be withdrawing from this mission due to budget constraints. But this past Wednesday (Sept. 20th), during the European Planetary Science Conference in Riga, a group of international scientists urged them to reconsider.

In addition to NASA and the ESA, AIDA was designed with assistance from the Observatoire de la Côte d´Azur (OCA), and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL). To test possible asteroid deflection techniques, the mission intends to send a spacecraft to crash into the tiny moon of the distant asteroid named Didymos (nicknamed “Didymoon”) by 2022 to alter its trajectory.

Artist’s impression of the path DART will take to reach the asteroid Didymos. Credit: NASA

This mission would be a first for scientists, and would test the capabilities of space agencies to divert rocks away from Earth’s orbit. NASA’s contribution to this mission is known as the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), the spacecraft which would be responsible for crashing into Didymoon. Plans for this spacecraft recently entered Phase B, having met with approval, but still in need of further development.

The plan was to mount DART on an already planned commercial or military launch, and would then be placed in geosynchronous orbit between December 2020 and May 2021. It would then rely on a NEXT-C ion engine to push itself beyond the Moon and reach an escape point to depart the Earth-Moon system, eventually making its way to Didymos and Didymoon.

Europe’s contribution to the mission was known as the Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM), which would involve sending a small craft close to Didymos to observe the crash and conduct research on the asteroid’s moon. Unfortunately, this aspect of the mission suffered a setback when space ministers from the ESA’s 22 member states rejected a €250 million ($300 million USD) request for funding last December.

However, during the European Planetary Science Congress – which will be taking place from September 17th to 22nd in the Latvian capital of Riga – scientists took the opportunity to advise the mission’s European partners to get back on board. As they emphasized, this mission – which is a dry-run for future asteroid redirect missions – is crucial if space agencies hope to develop the capacity to protect Earth from hazardous NEOs.

ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission, a candidate mission due for launch in 2020, will map the smaller body of the Didymos binary asteroid system down to 1 m resolution following its arrival in 2022. Credit: ESA

Andrew Cheng from JHUAPL is the project scientist for the DART mission. As he told the AFP at the European Planetary Science Congress, “This is the kind of disaster that could be a tremendous catastrophe.” He also stressed that unlike other natural disasters, an asteroid strike “is something that the world is able to defend. We can do something.”

But before that can happen, the methods need to be further developed, tested and refined. Hence why Didymoon was selected as the target for the AIDA mission. Whereas the meteor that exploded over the Russian town of Chelyabinsk in 2013 was just 20 meters across (65 feet), but still injured 1600 people, Didymoon measures about 160 meters (525 feet) in diameter.

It is estimated that if this asteroid struck Earth, the resulting impact would be as powerful as a 400 megatonne blast. To put that in perspective, the most powerful thermonuclear device ever built – the Soviet Tsar Bomba – had a yield of 50 megatonnes. Hence, the smaller companion of this binary asteroid, if it struck Earth, would have an impact 80 times greater than the most powerful bomb ever built by humans.

In addition to advocating that the ESA remain committed to the mission, European scientists at the conference also proposed an altered, more cost-effective alternative for AIM. This alternative called for a miniaturized version of the AIM craft that would be equipped with just a camera, forgoing a lander and radars designed to probe Didymoon’s internal structure.

Simulated image of the Didymos system, derived from photometric lightcurve and radar data. Credits: Naidu et al./AIDA Workshop (2016)

According to Patrick Michel, the science lead for the AIM mission, this revised mission would cost about €210 million ($250 million USD). But as he also noted, this would require that the AIM part of the mission be delayed. While it would still conduct crucial measurements of Didymoon, it would not be part of the AIDA mission if NASA decides to stick with its original timeline.

“The main point of the mission was to measure the mass of the object, because this is how you really measure the deflection,” he said. “Two or three years (after impact), these things won’t change. Of course it’s better… that we have the two at the same time. But we found something I think that still works and allows to relax the very tight schedule.”

In the meantime, Jan Woerner – the head of the European Space Agency – indicated that the ESA would be moving forward with the new proposal when the next ministerial meeting takes place in 2019. As he told the AFP via email:

“It is important for humanity, as a species we have the means today to deflect an asteroid. We know it will happen, one day sooner or later. It’s not a question of if, but when. We have never tested asteroid deflection and there is no way we can test in (the) laboratory. We need to know if our models are correct, (whether) our simulations work as expected.”

In the end, it remains to be seen if the AIDA mission will see one or two missions traveling to Didymoon by 2022. Obviously, it would be better if both mission happened simultaneously, as the AIM mission will be capable of obtaining information DART will not. Much of that information has to do with with studying the effects of the collision up close and as they happen.

But regardless of how this mission unfolds, it is clear that space agencies from around the world are dedicated to developing techniques for protecting Earth from asteroids that pose a collision hazard. Between NASA, the ESA, and their many institutional partners and private contractors, multiple methods are being developed to divert or destroy oncoming space rocks before they hit us.

However, I’m pretty sure not one of them involves sending a bunch of miners with minimal training into space to plant a nuke inside an asteroid. That would just be silly on its face!

And be sure to check out this video that details the AIDA and Asteroid Impact Mission, courtesy of ESA:

 

Further Reading: AFP

 

The post Scientists Urge Europe to Stick With “Armageddon”-style Asteroid Mission appeared first on Universe Today.

Positive, negative or neutral, it all matters: NASA explains space radiation

sciencedaily.com - 2017. szeptember 22. 15:09
Charged particles may be small, but they matter to astronauts. NASA's Human Research Program (HRP) is investigating these particles to solve one of its biggest challenges for a human journey to Mars: space radiation and its effects on the human body.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, September 22 – 30

skyandtelescope.com-MostRecent - 2017. szeptember 22. 11:49

 

Friday, September 22

• Low in the west-southwest during twilight, spot the thin waxing crescent Moon. Can you see Jupiter to the lower right of it, by about 7°? (for North America.)

Equinox: Autumn begins in the Northern Hemisphere, and spring in the Southern Hemisphere, at 4:02 p.m. EDT. This is when the Sun crosses the equator (both Earth's equator and the celestial equator) heading south for the season.

• Coincidentally, every year around when summer turns to autumn, Deneb takes over from brighter Vega as the zenith star after nightfall (for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes).

Saturday, September 23

• The starry W of Cassiopeia stands high in the northeast after dark. The right-hand side of the W (the brightest side) is tilted up. Down below it, Perseus is climbing up from the horizon.

• Saturn's brightest moon, Titan, stands about four ring-lengths to Saturn's west this evening. A small telescope will show it; look just after dark while Saturn is still fairly high. Titan circles Saturn every 16 days, so it takes 8 days to move east-west from one elongation to the other.

Sunday, September 24

• This is the time of year when the rich Cygnus Milky Way crosses the zenith in the hour after nightfall is complete (for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes). The Milky Way now rises straight up from the southwest horizon, passed overhead, and runs straight down to the northeast.

The waxing Moon steps eastward over Scorpius and Saturn early this week.

By week's end, big macho Venus is closing right in on delicate little Mars, low in the eastern dawn.

Monday, September 25

• As twilight fades and the stars come out, the crescent Moon shines in the southwest. Look below or lower left of it, by about a fist-width at arm's length, for twinkly Antares. A similar distance or a bit more to the Moon's left, Saturn glows steadily.

Tuesday, September 26

• The "star" below or lower left of the Moon this evening is Saturn, 3,800 times farther away: Saturn is currently 85 light-minutes distant, compared to the Moon's 1.3 light-seconds.

Wednesday, September 27

• First-quarter Moon; exact at 10:54 p.m. EDT. Since we're still close to the equinox date, the almost exactly first-quarter Moon stands due south right at sunset. (Think about why!)

Then as night comes on, look to the Moon's lower right for Saturn, and to the Moon's lower left for the Sagittarius Teapot. Depending on where you are, a line lower left from the Moon will go right through the Teapot's centerline from the top of the lid through the center of the base.

Thursday, September 28

• Now the Moon shines above the Teapot's handle at nightfall.

Friday, September 29

• As the stars come out in late twilight, look high above the Moon for Altair. After dark, examine the sky about a fist at arm's length upper left of Altair for dim little Delphinus, the Dolphin. A little less far straight above Altair is smaller, dimmer Sagitta, the Arrow. (Binoculars will help.)

Saturday, September 30

• Arcturus shines in the west these evenings, sinking as twilight fades out. Equally-bright Capella is rising lower in the north-northeast, depending on your latitude. (The farther north you are the higher it will be.) They're both magnitude 0, as bright as Vega high overhead.

By mid- to late evening, Arcturus and Capella shine at identical heights. When will this happen? That depends on both your latitude and longitude.

When it happens, turn around and look low in the south-southeast (well to the lower left of the Moon). There will be 1st-magnitude Fomalhaut at the same height too — if you're at latitude 43° north. Seen from south of that latitude, Fomalhaut will be higher than Capella and Arcturus. Seen from north of there, it will be lower.

________________________

Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations! They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.

This is an outdoor nature hobby. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential guide to astronomy.

The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6, and hundreds of telescopic galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae among them. Shown above is the Jumbo Edition for easier reading in the night. Larger view. Sample chart.

Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The basic standard is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in either the original or Jumbo Edition), which shows stars to magnitude 7.6.

Next up is the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude 8.5; nearly three times as many. The next up, once you know your way around, is the even larger Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts with a telescope.

You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders collection (which includes its own charts), Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, or the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner.

Can a computerized telescope replace charts? Not for beginners, I don't think, and not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically (meaning heavy and expensive).

And as Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand."

This Week's Planet Roundup

Saturn on September 17th, imaged remotely in "fair seeing" with the 1-meter Chilescope by Damian Peach and the Chilescope team. Saturn was just past eastern quadrature, so the globe is casting its shadow well to the east of our line of sight onto the rings behind it. (South is up.) Two days earlier, Cassini added itself to Saturn's material forever.

Mercury is disappearing into the glow of sunrise, farther to the lower left of bright Venus and faint Mars every morning.

Venus is the brilliant "Morning Star," (magnitude –3.9) low due east in the dawn. Every day it's sinking down lower toward Mars, and farther away from Regulus above it.

Mars, also low in the dawn, is magnitude +1.8, only 1/200th as bright as Venus. Use binoculars to look for it below or lower left of Venus. Their separation diminishes from 7° on the morning of the 23rd to 3° on the 30th (shown above). They'll pass closely by each other (¼° apart during dawn in the Americas) on October 5th.

Jupiter (magnitude –1.7) is disappearing into the sunset. Use binoculars or a low-power, wide-field scope to try for it just above the west-southwest horizon during bright twilight.

Saturn (magnitude +0.5, in Ophiuchus to the right of Sagittarius) glows in the south-southwest at dusk. Can you still find Antares twinkling 13° to Saturn's lower right? Get your telescope on Saturn early before it goes any lower!

Uranus (magnitude 5.7, in Pisces) and Neptune (magnitude 7.8, in Aquarius) are well up in the east and southeast, respectively, by mid- to late evening. Use our finder charts.

______________________

All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America.

Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) is Universal Time (UT, UTC, GMT, or Z time) minus 4 hours.

______________________

"This adventure is made possible by generations of searchers strictly adhering to a simple set of rules. Test ideas by experiments and observations. Build on those ideas that pass the test. Reject the ones that fail. Follow the evidence wherever it leads, and question everything. Accept these terms, and the cosmos is yours."
— Neil deGrasse Tyson, 2014

______________________

"Objective reality exists. Facts are often determinable. Carbon dioxide traps global heat. Vaccines save lives. Bacteria evolve to thwart antibiotics, because evolution. Science and reason are not a political conspiracy. They are how we discover reality. Civilization's survival depends on our ability, and willingness, to do so."
— Alan MacRobert, your Sky at a Glance editor

______________________

"Facts are stubborn things."
— John Adams, 1770

 

The post This Week’s Sky at a Glance, September 22 – 30 appeared first on Sky & Telescope.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sampler Slingshots Around Earth Friday, Sept. 22 – Catch It If You Can!

universetoday - 2017. szeptember 22. 04:01

Artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth on Sept. 22, 2017. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Barely a year after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx robotic asteroid sampler launched on a trailblazing mission to snatch a soil sample from a pristine asteroid and return it to Earth for research analysis, the probe is speeding back home for a swift slingshot around our home planet on Friday Sept. 22 to gain a gravity assist speed boost required to complete its journey to the carbon rich asteroid Bennu and back.

As it swings by Earth NASA’s first ever asteroid sample return mission, OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer), will pass only 11,000 miles (17,000 kilometers) above Earth just before 12:52 p.m. EDT on Friday.

And NASA is asking the public to try and ‘Catch It If You Can’ – by waving hello and/or taking snapshots during and after the probes high speed flyby.

Plus you can watch NASA Facebook Live event at Noon Friday: https://www.facebook.com/NASAGoddard/

OSIRIS-REx will be approaching Earth at a velocity of about 19,000 mph on Friday as it begins flying over Australia during the Earth Gravity Assist (EGA) maneuver.

Since blastoff from the Florida Space Coast on Sept. 8, 2016 the probe has already racked up almost 600 million miles on its round trip journey from Earth and back to set up Friday’s critical gravity assist maneuver to Bennu and back.

As OSIRIS-REx continues along its flight path the spacecraft will reach its closest point to Earth over Antarctica, just south of Cape Horn, Chile. It will gain a velocity boost of about 8400 mph.

The spacecraft will also conduct a post flyby science campaign by collecting images and science observations of Earth and the Moon four hours after closest approach to calibrate its five science instruments.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sampling spacecraft, return capsule and payload fairings inside the Payloads Hazardous Servicing Facility high bay at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is being processed for Sep. 8, 2016 launch to asteroid Bennu from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The allure of Bennu is that it is a carbon rich asteroid – thus OSIRIS-REx could potentially bring back samples infused with the organic chemicals like amino acids that are the building blocks of life as we know it.

“We are interested in that material because it is a time capsule from the earliest stages of solar system formation,” OSIRIS-Rex Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta told Universe Today in a prelaunch interview with the spacecraft in the cleanroom at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The do or die gravity assist plunge is absolutely essential to set OSIRIS-REx on course to match the asteroid’s path and speed when it reaches the vicinity of asteroid Bennu a year from now in October 2018.

“The Earth Gravity Assist is a clever way to move the spacecraft onto Bennu’s orbital plane using Earth’s own gravity instead of expending fuel,” says Lauretta, of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Just how close to Earth will OSIRIS-REx be during its flyby on Friday? The spacecraft will come within 11,000 miles (17,000 km) of the Earth’s surface as it passes over Antarctica at 12:52 a.m. EDT. on Sept. 22, 2017. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona

Bennu’s orbit around the Sun is tilted at a six-degree inclination with respect to Earth’s orbital plane.

The asteroid is 1,614-foot (500 m) in diameter and crosses Earth’s orbit around the sun every six years.

Numerous NASA spacecraft – including NASA’s just completed Cassini mission to Saturn – utilize gravity assists around a variety of celestial bodies to gain speed and change course to save vast amounts of propellant and time in order to accomplish science missions and visit additional target objects that would otherwise be impossible.

The flyby will be a nail-biting time for NASA and the science team because right afterwards the refrigerator sized probe will be out of contact with engineers – unable to receive telemetry for about an hour.

“For about an hour, NASA will be out of contact with the spacecraft as it passes over Antarctica,” said Mike Moreau, the flight dynamics system lead at Goddard, in a statement.

“OSIRIS-REx uses the Deep Space Network to communicate with Earth, and the spacecraft will be too low relative to the southern horizon to be in view with either the Deep Space tracking station at Canberra, Australia, or Goldstone, California.”

NASA says the team will regain communication with OSIRIS-REx roughly 50 minutes after closest approach over Antarctica at about 1:40 p.m. EDT.

The post flyby science campaign is set to begin at 4:52 p.m. EDT, Friday, Sept. 22.

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on the first U.S. mission to sample an asteroid, retrieve at least two ounces of surface material and return it to Earth for study. Liftoff was at 7:05 p.m. EDT on September 8, 2016 in this remote camera view taken from inside the launch pad perimeter. Note the newly install crew access arm and white room for astronaut flights atop Atlas starting in early 2018. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft originally departed Earth atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket under crystal clear skies on September 8, 2016 at 7:05 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Everything with the launch went exactly according to plan for the daring mission boldly seeking to gather rocks and soil from carbon rich Bennu.

View of science instrument suite and TAGSAM robotic sample return arm on NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sampling spacecraft inside the Payloads Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Probe is slated for Sep. 8, 2016 launch to asteroid Bennu from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

OSIRIS-Rex is equipped with an ingenious robotic arm named TAGSAM designed to collect at least a 60-gram (2.1-ounce) sample and bring it back to Earth in 2023 for study by scientists using the world’s most advanced research instruments.

“The primary objective of the OSIRIS-Rex mission is to bring back pristine material from the surface of the carbonaceous asteroid Bennu,” OSIRIS-Rex Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta told me in the prelaunch interview in the KSC cleanroom with the spacecraft as the probe was undergoing final launch preparations.

“We are interested in that material because it is a time capsule from the earliest stages of solar system formation.”

“It records the very first material that formed from the earliest stages of solar system formation. And we are really interested in the evolution of carbon during that phase. Particularly the key prebiotic molecules like amino acids, nucleic acids, phosphates and sugars that build up. These are basically the biomolecules for all of life.”

1 day to Earth flyby for OSIRIS-Rex

NASA and the mission team is also inviting the public to get engaged by participating in the Wave to OSIRIS-REx social media campaign.

“Individuals and groups from anywhere in the world are encouraged to take photos of themselves waving to OSIRIS-REx, share them using the hashtag #HelloOSIRISREx and tag the mission account in their posts on Twitter (@OSIRISREx) or Instagram (@OSIRIS_REx).

Participants may begin taking and sharing photos at any time—or wait until the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft makes its closest approach to Earth at 12:52p.m. EDT on Friday, Sept. 22.”

The probe’s flight path during the flyby will pass through the ring of numerous satellites orbiting in geosynchronous orbit, but none are expected to be within close range.

Members of the OSIRIS-REx mission team celebrate the successful spacecraft launch on Sept. 8, 2016 atop ULA Atlas V at the post-launch briefing at the Kennedy Space Center, FL. Principal Investigator Dante Lauretta is 4th from right, NASA Planetary Science Director Jim Green is center, 5th from left. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite NASA mission and launch reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Dr Dante Lauretta, principal investigator for OSIRIS-REx at the University of Arizona, Tucson, and Dr. Ken Kremer, Universe Today point to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sampling spacecraft inside the Payloads Hazardous Servicing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center on Aug. 20, 2016. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The post NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Asteroid Sampler Slingshots Around Earth Friday, Sept. 22 – Catch It If You Can! appeared first on Universe Today.

New Study Says a Fast Radio Burst Happens Every Second in the Universe

universetoday - 2017. szeptember 22. 02:57

When astronomers first noted the detection of a Fast Radio Burst (FRB) in 2007 (aka. the Lorimer Burst), they were both astounded and intrigued. This high-energy burst of radio pulses, which lasted only a few milliseconds, appeared to be coming from outside of our galaxy. Since that time, astronomers have found evidence of many FRBs in previously-recorded data, and are still speculated as to what causes them.

Thanks to subsequent discoveries and research, astronomers now know that FRBs are far more common than previously thought. In fact, according to a new study by a team of researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), FRBs may occur once every second within the observable Universe. If true, FRBs could be a powerful tool for researching the origins and evolution of the cosmos.

The study, titled “A Fast Radio Burst Occurs Every Second throughout the Observable Universe“, recently appeared in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The study was led by Anastasia Fialkov, a postdoc researcher and Fellow at the CfA’s Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC). She was joined by Professor Abraham Loeb, the director of the ITC and the Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard.

As noted, FRBs have remained something of a mystery since they were first discovered. Not only do their causes remain unknown, but much about their true is still not understood. As Dr. Fialkov told Universe Today via email:

“FRBs (or fast radio bursts) are astrophysical signals of an undetermined nature. The observed bursts are short (or millisecond duration), bright pulses in the radio part of the electromagnetic spectrum (at GHz frequencies). Only 24 bursts have been observed so far and we still do not know for sure which physical processes trigger them. The most plausible explanation is that they are launched by rotating magnetized neutron stars. However, this theory is to be confirmed.”

For the sake of their study, Fialkov and Loeb relied on observations made by multiple telescopes of the repeating fast radio burst known as FRB 121102. This FRB was first observed in 2012 by researchers using the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, and has since been confirmed to be coming from a galaxy located 3 billion light years away in the direction of the Auriga constellation.

Since it was discovered, additional bursts have been detected coming from its location, making FRB 121102 the only known example of a repeating FRB. This repetitive nature has also allowed astronomers to conduct more detailed studies of it than any other FRB. As Prof. Loeb told Universe Today via email, these and other reasons made it an ideal target for their study:

“FRB 121102 is the only FRB for which a host galaxy and a distance were identified. It is also the only repeating FRB source from which we detected hundreds of FRBs by now. The radio spectrum of its FRBs is centered on a characteristic frequency and not covering a very broad band. This has important implications for the detectability of such FRBs, because in order to find them the radio observatory needs to be tuned to their frequency.”

Image of the sky where the radio burst FRB 121102 was found, in the constellation Auriga. You can see its location with a green circle. At left is supernova remnant S147 and at right, a star formation area called IC 410. Credit: Rogelio Bernal Andreo (DeepSkyColors.com)

Based on what is known about FRB 121102, Fialkov and Loeb conducted a series of calculations that assumed that it’s behavior was representative of all FRBs. They then projected how many FRBs would exist across the entire sky and determined that within the observable Universe, a FRB would likely be taking place once every second. As Dr. Fialkov explained:

“Assuming that FRBs are produced by galaxies of a particular type (e.g., similar to FRB 121102) we can calculate how many FRBs have to be produced by each galaxy to explain the existing observations (i.e., 2000 per sky per day). With this number in mind we can infer the production rate for the entire population of galaxies. This calculation shows that an FRB occurs every second when accounting for all the faint events.”

While the exact nature and origins of FRBs are still unknown – suggestions include rotating neutron stars and even alien intelligence! – Fialkov and Loeb indicate that they could be used to study the structure and evolution of the Universe. If indeed they occur with such regular frequency throughout the cosmos, then more distant sources could act as probes which astronomers would then rely on to plumb the depths of space.

For instance, over vast cosmic distances, there is a significant amount of intervening material that makes it difficult for astronomers to study the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) – the leftover radiation from the Big Bang. Studies of this intervening material could lead to a new estimates of just how dense space is – i.e. how much of it is composed of ordinary matter, dark matter, and dark energy – and how rapidly it is expanding.

Gemini composite image of the field around FRB 121102, the only repeating FRB discovered so far. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF/NRC

And as Prof. Loeb indicated, FRBs could also be used to explore enduring cosmlogical questions, like how the “Dark Age” of the Universe ended:

“FRBs can be used to measure the column of free electrons towards their source. This can be used to measure the density of ordinary matter between galaxies in the present-day universe. In addition, FRBs at early cosmic times can be used to find out when the ultraviolet light from the first stars broke up the primordial atoms of hydrogen left over from the Big Bang into their constituent electrons and protons.”

The “Dark Age”, which occurred between 380,000 and 150 million years after the Big Bang, was characterized by a “fog” of hydrogen atoms interacting with photons. As a result of this, the radiation of this period is undetectable by our current instruments. At present, scientists are still attempting to resolve how the Universe made the transition between these “Dark Ages” and subsequent epochs when the Universe was filled with light.

This period of “reionization”, which took place 150 million to 1 billion years after the Big Bang, was when the first stars and quasars formed. It is generally believed that UV light from the first stars in the Universe traveled outwards to ionize the hydrogen gas (thus clearing the fog). A recent study also suggested that black holes that existed in the early Universe created the necessary “winds” that allowed this ionizing radiation to escape.

To this end, FRBs could be used to probe into this early period of the Universe and determine what broke down this “fog” and allowed light to escape. Studying very distant FRBs could allow scientists to study where, when and how this process of “reionization” occurred. Looking ahead, Fialkov and Loeb explained how future radio telescopes will be able to discover many FRBs.

The planned Square Kilometer Array will be the world’s largest radio telescope when it begins operations in 2018. Credit: SKA

“Future radio observatories, like the Square Kilometer Array, will be sensitive enough to detect FRBs from the first generation of galaxies at the edge of the observable universe,” said Prof. Loeb. “Our work provides the first estimate of the number and properties of the first flashes of radio waves that lit up in the infant universe.”

And then there’s the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) at the at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, which recently began operating. These and other instruments will serve as powerful tools for detecting FRBs, which in turn could be used to view previously unseen regions of time and space, and unlock some of the deepest cosmological mysteries.

“[W]e find that a next generation telescope (with a much better sensitivity than the existing ones) is expected to see many more FRBs than what is observed today,” said Dr. Fialkov. “This would allow to characterize the population of FRBs and identify their origin. Understanding the nature of FRBs will be a major breakthrough. Once the properties of these sources are known, FRBs can be used as cosmic beacons to explore the Universe. One application is to study the history of reionization (cosmic phase transition when the inter-galactic gas was ionized by stars).”

It is an inspired thought, using natural cosmic phenomena as research tools. In that respect, using FRBs to probe the most distant objects in space (and as far back in time as we can) is kind of like using quasars as navigational beacons. In the end, advancing our knowledge of the Universe allows us to explore more of it.

Further Reading: CfA, Astrophysical Journal Letters

The post New Study Says a Fast Radio Burst Happens Every Second in the Universe appeared first on Universe Today.

Puffed-Up Hot Jupiter Is Surprisingly Dark

skyandtelescope.com-MostRecent - 2017. szeptember 21. 21:52

Researchers have found that a football-shaped, ultra-hot gas giant that’s being devoured by its host star is also one of the least reflective exoplanets ever found.

This illustration shows the exoplanet WASP-12b — an alien world as black as asphalt orbiting a Sun-like star. They’re so close together that the star is pulling gas away from the planet.
NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

Imagine a football-shaped planet covered in a fresh layer of asphalt and you might get close to what WASP-12b, a hot Jupiter 900 light-years away, would look like to a hypothetical space traveler. Add a faint red glow like that of a smoldering iron and you’re probably dead on.

A group of astronomers led by Taylor Bell (McGill Space Institute) helped paint that picture. They discovered that WASP-12b is one of the least reflective exoplanets known to date. Bell’s team used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the planet as it passed behind its host star, measuring the tiny dip in light due to the disappearance of the planet’s reflection of starlight. They found that it absorbs 94% of the visible light it receives, compared to 60% for most hot Jupiters.

WASP-12b is a gaseous giant orbiting a Sun-like star once a day, close enough to be roasted by stellar radiation. The planet has taken the shape of a football due to strong tidal forces. The same forces cause the planet to always face the same side to its star, which makes the dayside temperature rise to a toasting 3100°C. The extreme heat not only prevents the formation of clouds, which could reflect some light back to space, but it also dissociates hydrogen molecules (H2) into hydrogen atoms (H), which absorb even more light.

This is only the second time researchers have used this method to spectrally resolve reflected light from a hot Jupiter. On exoplanet, HD 189733b, Hubble revealed a very different world, one where silicate beads in the atmosphere scatter blue light.

Another hot Jupiter called TrES-2b actually holds the record for the darkest exoplanet — it’s so light-hungry that it absorbs more than 99% of its star’s light.

But none of that makes WASP-12b any less fascinating — it’s a strange world that has found itself the subject of many investigations.

Puffed-Up World

Since it was discovered in 2008, WASP-12b has been observed at many wavelengths, including with NASA’s Great Observatories: Hubble (visible/UV), Spitzer (infrared), and Chandra (X-ray). Hubble’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph revealed in 2010 that the planet is slowly being devoured by its host star. They’re so close together that the star is pulling gas away from the planet. At the current rate of dissolution, scientists estimate that in roughly 10 million years WASP-12b will be no more.

The weird planet also appears to be bloated: even though it only has 1.4 Jupiter’s mass, it’s three times Jupiter’s size. Some researchers think that electric currents emanating from the star could link to the planet’s magnetic field, ionizing particles to puff up the atmosphere.

Probing WASP-12b’s Atmospheric Chemistry

Previous observations using transmission spectroscopy, which probes a sliver of atmosphere at the boundary between night and day, have showed hints of a titanium oxide haze — a powerful heat absorber. But it can’t contribute to the low reflectivity that Bell’s team found. “Our observations firmly reject such a model for the planet's dayside, which is not overly surprising as we would expect the dayside would be far too hot for this haze to exist,” Bell says.

But with a difference of 1000°C between the planet’s nightside and dayside, each side might exhibit completely different chemistries. “It’s entirely possible,” Bell adds, “that such haze may form closer to the night side of the planet and affect the transit observations.”

WASP-12b will probably continue to surprise us: The planet will almost certainly be observed with the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2018. Those observations could give additional insights into the strange properties of WASP-12b’s atmosphere.

 

References: Bell et al. “The Very Low Albedo of WASP-12b from Spectral Eclipse Observations with Hubble.Astrophysical Journal Letters, September 14, 2017.

The post Puffed-Up Hot Jupiter Is Surprisingly Dark appeared first on Sky & Telescope.

ALERT NEWS , Today Sunspots Coming, Hurricane Connection, Fluoride

napkitores.hu - 2017. szeptember 21. 20:30
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Detecting cosmic rays from a galaxy far, far away

sciencedaily.com - 2017. szeptember 21. 20:12
Where do cosmic rays come from? Solving a 50-year-old mystery, a collaboration of researchers has discovered it's much farther than the Milky Way.

Some Cosmic Rays Come from Outside the Galaxy

skyandtelescope.com-MostRecent - 2017. szeptember 21. 20:05

Astronomers have detected more extremely energetic cosmic particles coming from one side of the sky than the other.

This artist’s concept shows an example of the air shower of secondary particles that a cosmic ray creates when it hits Earth's atmosphere. The white structure is one of the water tanks that serve as a Cherenkov-radiation detector for the Pierre Auger Observatory in western Argentina.
A. Chantelauze / S. Staffi / L. Bret

Particles traveling at fair fractions of the speed of light hit Earth all the time. These ridiculously energetic entities, called cosmic rays, are protons and larger atomic nuclei from space. Their energies range from about a billion to beyond 10 million trillion electron volts (109 to 1020 eV), or up to 10 million times higher than the energy at which the Large Hadron Collider smashes protons together. (Incidentally, this is why we know the LHC won’t create dangerous microscopic black holes.)

Astronomers think the lower-energy cosmic rays (which are far more common) come from within the Milky Way, particularly from star-forming regions and supernova remnants. The more energetic ones — we’re talking 1,000 trillion eV — are thought to come from outside the galaxy.

The best way to tell is by determining which direction the cosmic rays come from. But that’s not easy. The Milky Way’s magnetic field scrambles these particles’ paths, analogous to how thick fog scatters light, John Gallagher III and Francis Halzen (both University of Wisconsin, Madison) write in a perspective piece in the September 22nd Science. “Just as light seems to come from all directions because it scatters over short distances in fog, cosmic rays scattered by magnetic fields also appear to arrive uniformly across the sky,” they explain.

But the more energetic the particle, the better its chances for evading the magnetic fog. The most energetic ones should be able to travel fairly unimpeded, meaning astronomers have a shot at determining where they come from. Previous work has hinted at the existence of at least one hotspot.

An all-sky diagram of the cosmic ray excess. The map is in galactic coordinates, which means that the Milky Way's plane lies along the central horizontal axis. The color gradient is for particles with energies above 8 million trillion electron volts (EeV). The cross and surrounding contours indicate the "dipole" direction. The 2MRS label is for the peak in the galaxy distribution, and arrows indicate suspected deflection directions for less energetic cosmic rays coming from the 2MRS direction and encountering the Milky Way's magnetic field. However, those particles are less energetic than the ones that show the two-toned distribution.
Pierre Auger Collaboration / Science 2017: DOI 10.1126/science.aan4338

Now, the Pierre Auger Collaboration reports that they see more of the speediest cosmic rays coming from one side of the sky than the other.

The Pierre Auger Observatory uses 1,600 tanks, each filled with 12 tons of water, spread across 3,000 square kilometers (1,200 square miles) in Argentina to detect cosmic rays and the showers of particles they create in Earth’s atmosphere. Over 14 years, the collaboration detected 30,000 cosmic rays with energies above 8 million trillion eV. Tracing back each particle to its origin on the sky, the team found a dipole pattern — one side has more than the other.

The effect isn’t much: For the same size patch of sky and per square kilometer of tank-covered ground receiving the particles, there are 0.08 more particles per year detected coming from one side versus the other. (For comparison, on average about one particle hits per square kilometer per year.) But the difference is there.

On the sky, the center of the dipole lies in the vicinity of Canis Major, just below the galactic plane. The team notes in the same issue of Science that more galaxies lie on this side of the sky, too, so perhaps there’s a connection to the cosmic structure surrounding the Milky Way. However, the match-up isn’t exact; it’s still unclear whether there’s any correlation.

Regardless, the distribution is not what’s expected if these cosmic rays come from the Milky Way. The two-tone effect is also 10 times stronger than what would be caused by Earth’s motion with respect to cosmic structures. Therefore, the result strongly favors the long-standing idea that the most energetic cosmic rays come from outside our galaxy.

 

References:

The Pierre Auger Collaboration. “Observation of a large-scale anisotropy in the arrival directions of cosmic rays about 8 × 1018 eV.” Science. September 22, 2017.

John S. Gallagher III and Francis Halzen. “New angle on cosmic rays.” Science. September 22, 2017.

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The post Some Cosmic Rays Come from Outside the Galaxy appeared first on Sky & Telescope.

Hope to discover sure signs of life on Mars? New research says look for the element vanadium

sciencedaily.com - 2017. szeptember 21. 17:06
A new article suggests NASA and others hunting for proof of Martian biology in the form of 'microfossils' could use the element vanadium in combination with Raman spectroscopy to confirm traces of extraterrestrial life.

Solar eruption ‘photobombed’ Mars encounter with Comet Siding Spring

sciencedaily.com - 2017. szeptember 21. 15:50
When Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) passed just 140,000 kilometers from Mars on 19th October 2014, depositing a large amount of debris in the Martian atmosphere, space agencies coordinated multiple spacecraft to witness the largest meteor shower in recorded history. It was a rare opportunity, as this kind of planetary event occurs only once every 100,000 years.
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