Archive

Archive for the ‘Space Observatories’ Category

Why did a black hole blast star stuff into space at a quarter of light-speed on June 3, 2009? Here is what happened

January 10, 2012 3 comments

On June 3, 2009, in an X-ray binary star system far, far away. . .


We know the what of the extraordinary event that occurred in May 2009 around a distant black hole; we just don’t know the why of it, although the possibilities are pretty amazing.

At the 2012 American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Austin, Texas, Gregory Sivakoff of the University of Alberta in Canada reported some astounding observations he and his colleagues accomplished using a globe-spanning array of radio telescopes and two NASA satellites.

The whole episode was a cosmic stroke of luck: The light from an event that happened some 28,000 years ago reached Earth just days before the global collaboration was scheduled to open for business. Goddard astrophysics writer Francis Reddy explains the details of the science today in a web feature story and animation.

Let’s start with the what: On or about June 3, 2009, enormous blobs of hot electrically charged matter were ejected from a black hole at about a quarter of the speed of light — roughly 75 million meters per second.

Next, the where: These black-hole “bullets,” as Reddy calls them in his web feature, were ejected from a binary star system. Called H1743–322, the  system lies about 28,000 light-years from Earth. NASA’s HEAO-1 satellite discovered it in 1977

In H1743–322, a black hole and a star orbit each other at close quarters, every few days. They are close enough that the black hole’s massive gravity draws a steady stream of material off its companion’s wispy surface. The hot electrically charged gas swirls around the edge of the black hole, forming a whirlpool-like “accretion disc.” As the gas accelerates to high speed, it radiates X-rays that satellites at Earth can detect.

“Some of the infalling matter becomes re-directed out of the accretion disk as dual, oppositely directed jets,” Reddy writes. “Most of the time, the jets consist of a steady flow of particles. Occasionally, though, they morph into more powerful outflows that hurl massive gas blobs at significant fractions of the speed of light.”

Years ago, Sivakoff’s colleague James Miller-Jones, currently based at the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, conceived of a plan to mount a “multiwavelength campaign” to study the periodic outbursts that astronomers observe from X-ray binaries like H1743–322. They got their chance on May 22, 2009.

On that date, renewed activity around the black hole triggered the Burst Alert Telescope on NASA’s Swift satellite. Miller-Jones, Sivakoff, and the other members of the international team of observers were able to marshal three radio telescopes: the Very Long Baseline Array, the Very Large Array, and the Australia Telescope Compact Array. The team also drew on data from NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) satellite (which was just switched off this week, by the way, after 16 years of meritorious service).

Using information from the telescopes and satellites, the scientists were able to reconstruct the events leading up to and following the ejection of black-hole bullets from the binary system. Sivakoff reported those findings today at the AAS meeting.

Now, finally, what about the “how” of this outburst? That’s not very clear yet.

In similar black hole binaries, Miller-Jones says, astronomers have measured ejections traveling 92 percent of the speed of light!  What process can shoot giant blobs of stuff out of the accretion zone of a black hole at such incredible speeds?

Sivakoff sketches out one possible explanation: Imagine knots of mass in the accretion disc, swirling around, getting closer and closer to the black hole. The disc is looped by powerful magnetic fields, which twist and tangle together as the disc rotates. When magnetic flux lines cross and connect, it could release enough energy to boost the black-hole bullets up and out of the disk.

“I think of a fairly stiff rope that is firmly to attached to the accretion disc,” Sivakoff explains. “As the disc spins, the rope is wound up, forming a sort of helix. Of course, there’s not one but many such ropes in an accretion disc. If two of those ropes touch — what astronomers call magnetic reconnection — lots of energy can be released. I like to envision ‘crossing the streams,’ a la Ghost Busters. This energy can accelerate particles, launching the bullet.”

There is another scenario, Miller-Jones says. Some scientists have proposed that what actually happens is that the inner edge of the accretion disc constricts, edging closer to the black hole’s “event horizon,” beyond which matter cannot escape. The magnetic and gravitational forces at this border region are extremely intense.

The forces could unleash a surge of material into the black hole’s paired jets, with a wavelike shock front ahead of it. “This causes particle acceleration,” Miller-Jones says, “and hence bright radio emission at this shock front.” So the bullets may actually be sudden surges in the jets, not discrete blobs.

But these explanations are just informed speculation at the moment. Additional multi-telescope observations could eventually provide enough clues to untangle the extreme physics that power black-hole bullets.

The team can only hope their recent stroke of luck holds out. Sivakoff says that the H1743–322  system conveniently started to flare up in late May 2009 — just as the team was preparing for the official opening of their observing window.

“Technically our observing was supposed to start in June 2009,” Sivakoff says. “But when this outburst went off a few days before our window was supposed to open up, we actually got permission to start observing earlier.”

So the discovery was the team’s inaugural run. “This was quite a trial by fire,” Sivakoff says.


_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.


// < ![CDATA[
// < ![CDATA[
// < ![CDATA[
//

W3Counter

 

Christian Ready's video explainer about exoplanet Kepler 22b

December 22, 2011 3 comments

My friend Christian Ready, a web developer who used to work on the Hubble Space Telescope mission, has made a clear, well-paced, and visually captivating explainer video about “the discovery of Kepler 22b, a planet orbiting a star not unlike our own sun at a distance where life can thrive.” (This is the finding that was announced BEFORE the more recent announcement of Kepler 20e and 20f, Earth-sized planets that are not in the so-called “habitable zone” of their star.) You can see other videos by Christian on his YouTube channel.



_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

w3counter(39986);

W3Counter

That Was the Week that Was, March 7-11, 2011. . . Coolest Goddard People, Science, & Media PLUS Best of the Blogpodcastotwittersphere

March 11, 2011 2 comments


photo of isim on goddard centrifuge

A big chunk of the Webb Telescope goes out for a spin: This week a web feature story came out about ongoing testing of the metal cage that will hold the various scientific instrument on the Webb Telescope – the heir to the Hubble Space Telescope now under construction here at Goddard and elsewhere in NASA.

Webb will undergo significant shaking when it is launched on the large Ariane V rocket. To be sure the telescope’s “chassis” is ready for this “bumpy road,” the ISIM is subjected to some extreme testing.  During the testing process, the ISIM is spun and shaken while many measurements are taken. Afterwards, engineers compare the measurements with their models of the ISIM. If there are discrepancies, then the engineers track down why, and make corrections.


That centrifuge is a pretty impressive piece of hardware, let me tell you. Months ago, I got a chance to film a preliminary spin-up test of the giant centrifuge. This thing, at full throttle, can spin about once every two seconds. The test I saw was a lot tamer than that, spinning at roughly 2 rpm. Check it out:




The centrifuge room is pretty noisy, and the equipment is massive — on the order of a half-million pounds. And so it starts out slow. But gradually it picks up speed. At very high speed, it’s way too dangerous to be in the room. (The engineers work in a separate control room during actual tests.) If even a small bit of hardware were to fly off the centrifuge, it could cause a serious injury. My friend Jay Friedlander (the cameraman) and I were very grateful to the engineers for letting us witness an actual spin-up of the centrifuge — an uncommon site at Goddard.

Here comes the sun on the Goddard Flickr channel: The Goddard Flickr channel was all aglow this week with images of the sun, courtesy of NASA’s solar observing fleet. A web feature by one of Goddard’s newest solar scribes, Karen Fox, announced the 400-year anniversary of the first scientific publication about sunspots. Goddard’s Flickr photomistress, Rebecca Roth, obliged with an entire set of spectacular sun imagery. Here is my favorite, a super-high-resolution image of a sunspot by the Hinode spacecraft. Go to the Flickr set to see the rest.

hinode spacecraft image of sunspot

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

w3counter(39986);

W3Counter

Extra! Extra! NASA's Kepler mission discovers possible 'earthlike' planets. What's that mean anyway?

February 2, 2011 2 comments

artist view of solar system around another star

The big NASA news of the day is that the Kepler mission has discovered planets that are about the size of our own and may have similar conditions for life. Or as the press release explains:

“NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered its first Earth-size planet candidates and its first candidates in the habitable zone, a region where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface. Five of the potential planets are near Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of smaller, cooler stars than our sun.”

Recently a Kepler team acientist and famous exoplanet hunter, David Charbonneau, stopped by Goddard to give a talk and gogblog got a chanvce to ask a few dumb questions. Starting with: “What do you means by earthlike planet? And what is a super Earth?”



_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

//
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;div&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=”http://www.w3counter.com&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.w3counter.com”&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;img src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; mce_src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; style=”border: 0″ mce_style=”border: 0″ alt=”W3Counter” /&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/div&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;

Hubble hits the Red Limit. Next up: Webb Telescope

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment

hubble space telescope in orbit
The day had to come, and we all knew it. Hubble Space Telescope has been squinting for years, and now it’s reached the limit of its power to see back to the earliest epochs of cosmic time. As in Cosmic Time, or the amount of time elapsed since the Big Bang.

Today, a team of scientists made this exciting announcement:

SANTA CRUZ, CA–Astronomers studying ultra-deep imaging data from the Hubble Space Telescope have found what may be the most distant galaxy ever seen, about 13.2 billion light-years away. The study pushed the limits of Hubble’s capabilities, extending its reach back to about 480 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was just 4 percent of its current age.

A story on Bad Astronomy explains the details, as does a NASA press release and one from the University of California, Santa Cruz. And the First Galaxies website provides even deeper scientific background in plain English.

As light from a distant galaxy speeds toward us, it gets stretched, or “redshifted,” by the expansion of space itself. Astronomers measure redshift with a quantity called “z.” The paper in Nature reports a redshift of z=10. 3. The first galaxies probably formed 200 to 300 million years post-Big Bang, which is more z’s than Hubble can deliver. To get to that redshift, Hubble would need instruments that can see even redder — more redshifted — light than it can now. So, in short, Hubble is at the “red limit” of what it can see.

I asked Jason Tumlinson, a galaxy researcher at the Space Telescope Science Institute to explain:

“My opinion is that we’re very near the limits of what HST can do in terms of pushing back the redshift frontier, and in fact have been operating at HST’s limits for several years. Everything depends on the performance of the cameras, and the major upgrade provided by the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) in 2009 has made a big difference.”

The upgraded WFC3 was installed on Hubble during the final servicing mission in May 2009.

I asked Amber Straughn, a Goddard astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory and a member of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) team, to explain why Hubble has reached the “red limit” of its seeing ability:

“The short answer is, at z~10, we are AT the limit of HST’s ability to look back in time. The reason for this is simply due to HST’s wavelength coverage. The light from these very distant galaxies is very, very red — and HST’s (Wide Field Camera 3) filters cut off at around 1.7 microns. . . .That’s the ‘red limit’ of HST.”

See Dr. Straughn talk to a TV reporter about the Webb Telescope.

Another issue, Tumlinson says, is the amount of Hubble telescope time available. The light-sensing detectors on Hubble contribute a certain amount of electronic “noise” that can swamp the signal from whatever you happen to be observing. To overcome this, astronomers have to schedule enough “Hubble time” to make sure the signal from the astronomical target is sufficiently stronger than the background noise – sort of like the way you have to raise your voice to be heard in a noisy room.

Tumlinson explains:

“The detector itself adds noise to the measurement — called readout noise, generally — which is an important factor in setting the faintest observable source. Of course, HST users could go deeper and push further with longer observations so that they collect more source counts relative to this noise term, but only so much time is available. “

NASA and the scientific community saw Hubble’s red limit coming. So they invented the James Webb Space Telescope. With its huge collecting mirror — 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) in diameter — and ultrasensitive infrared detectors, Webb can see longer, redder wavelengths of light, and “redder” translates to “more distant.”

Tumlinson explains:

“Discovering galaxies at high redshift is one of the top reasons NASA is building JWST. Being much larger and optimized for this sort of work, Webb should make z ~ 10 detections routine, and could push the frontier to z = 12, 15, or even higher.”

Z=15 is around 275 million years after the Big Bang — the sweet spot for observing the first stars and galaxies forming. Stay tuned!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

//
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;div&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=”http://www.w3counter.com&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.w3counter.com”&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;img src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; mce_src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; style=”border: 0″ mce_style=”border: 0″ alt=”W3Counter” /&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/div&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;

How big did you say that massive plasma snake…er, magnetic filament…on the sun was?

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

My colleague Frank Reddy at Goddard Space Flight Center has kindly cooked up some quick illustrations to drive home the massive scale of that giant looping filament on the sun that everybody was oooing and ahhhing about in the blogpodcastotwittersphere yesterday, including the ever-blogolicious Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait. There’s a video of the beast out now, too.

To make these images, Frank laid Earth and Jupiter along the filament. In the full-disk illustration, Earth is a mere 15 pixels in diameter! By the way, the Earth image is the famous Apollo 17 photo, much shrunken, and the Jupiter snapshot is from Cassini.


sun_earth_jupiter_whole_600


sun_earth_jupiter_closeup_600


_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA. //
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;div&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=”http://www.w3counter.com&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.w3counter.com”&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;img src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; mce_src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; style=”border: 0″ mce_style=”border: 0″ alt=”W3Counter” /&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/div&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;

Chillaxing in deep space with the James Webb Space Telescope: Stay frosty, little mercury cadmium telluride infrared detector chip!

September 14, 2010 2 comments

webb art
With a 6.5 meter diameter mirror, the James Webb Space Telescope will operate at a temperature of only 35 degrees above absolute zero in a deep space orbit.


Imagine you are a mercury cadmium telluride infrared detector chip, chillaxing in deep space nearly a million miles from Earth.

(OK, I know it’s a stretch, but give it a try.)

You are riding on the James Webb Space Telescope, the most high-tech space observatory ever attempted. But in the end, mission success rides on you, little infrared photon detector chip! You are the retinas of this great observatory. It sees only as well as YOU see.

So you are sitting there, peering out at the darkness, waiting for a photon from the dawn of the universe to pierce your semiconductor crystal matrix and knock an electron out of its comfy valence shell and into the conduction band. This generates the faintest of electric currents. This means data: the stuff of astronomical discoveries.

But 12 times an hour, the humming of electrons in your crystal guts is an illusion, a lie. Infrared telescope scientists call it dark current.

I learned about dark current at a recent colloquium here at Goddard. Three heavy hitters in the Webb Telescope project gave an update on the fabrication and testing of this multi-billion dollar space telescope.

Mark Clampin, the Webb Telescope project scientist, brought us up to speed on the observatory as a whole. He mentioned that 17 percent of Webb’s “flight mass” — the stuff that will blast into space on a giant Arianne launch vehicle — is now built. That represents about a billion dollars in gear.

Randy Kimble also spoke. He is the Webb mission’s Integration & Test Project Scientist. He gave us a progress report on the telescope’s instruments. And it was all good news: The flight versions of the instruments — again, the ones that will actually go into space — will begin arriving at Goddard next summer to be shaken, frozen, and irradiated during a series of grueling tests.

But the first speaker — the one who introduced “dark current” to my vocabulary — was John Mather. He gave a concise summary of the observatory’s science mission.

At one point, he bragged up Webb’s detectors. These are the chips, like the CCD in your digital camera, that turn infrared photons from farthest cosmos into trickley little electric currents and, ultimately, astronomical data.

(You may recall that John C. Mather shared the 2006 the Nobel Prize in Physics with George F. Smoot for their discoveries related to the microwave background glow from the Big Bang, using the COBE satellite.)

The detectors are kept cold by a combination of the ambient chill of deep space and a lot of clever engineering to block the sun’s rays and isolate the instruments from 220 watts of heat radiating from the telescope’s on-board electronics. Mather bragged that Webb’s infrared detectors have “dark currents measured in a few electrons per hour per pixel.”

Huh? Dark what? The phrase “dark current” and the idea of measuring single electrons per hour set off my cool-o-meter.

As the colloquium ended, I hurried to the head of the room hoping to grab Mather’s attention before someone else got to him. “The statistic you mentioned about dark currents. Can you explain?”

He said that each pixel of each detector spontaneously generates about a dozen electrons per hour — that’s the dark current — simply staring off into empty space. Hence the term: dark current. A perfect detector would produce nothing, just total silence, unless an actual infrared photon came in and bonked one of its atoms.

But, hey, 12 electrons per hour is pretty dark! And out of that darkness, we hope, will come the data to illuminate our understanding of the birth of the first stars, the evolution of galaxies, and the nature of planetary systems around other stars.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

//
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;div&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=”http://www.w3counter.com&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.w3counter.com”&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;img src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; mce_src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; style=”border: 0″ mce_style=”border: 0″ alt=”W3Counter” /&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/div&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;

That Was The Week That Was, August 22-27, 2010. . . A Digest of Goddard People, Science, & Media, PLUS Historical Tidbits and Our Best Stuff in the Blogpodcastotwittersphere

SUNDAY AUGUST 22: Ray Bradbury, author of The Martian Chronicles and other classics, was born this day 100 years ago in Waukegan, Illinois.

The rockets came like drums, beating in the night. The rockets came like locusts, swarming and settling in blooms of rosy smoke. And from the rockets ran men with hammers in their hands to beat the strange world into a shape that was familiar to the eye, to bludgeon away all the strangeness, their mouths fringed with nails so they resembled steel-toothed carnivores, spitting them into their swift hands as they hammered up frame cottages and scuttled over roofs with shingles to blot out the eerie stars, and fit green shades to pull against the night.


MONDAY AUGUST 23: The MODIS Image of the Day shows a plankton bloom off Greenland.

Planet pulverizers: A research team including Goddard’s Marc Kuchner finds evidence of planet-destroying collisions in another star system!

Dog days of summer: On What On Earth, bloggers Patrick Lynch and Adam Voiland of NASA’s Earth Science News Team discuss the warm and erratic summer weather.

Better luck next time: On this day in 1961, Ranger 1 launched. When the experimental satellite separated from its Agena booster stage it went into a low Earth orbit and began tumbling. The satellite re-entered Earth’s atmosphere a week later, on August 30, 1961

Awesomely: Featured in Blueshift’s Weekly Awesomeness Round Up: solar sail, sunspots, special shuttle launch, space colonies, and other highlights in space science and astronomy.


satellite image of hurricane katrina

TUESDAY AUGUST 24: Goddard marks the 5-year anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe:  The Scientific Visualization Studio provides a satellite-eye view of the tempest. See a Katrina Flickr gallery by Public Affairs photo maven Rebecca Roth. Meanwhile, gogblog asks Goddard researcher Siegfried Schubert how supercomputers are improving hurricane forecasting. And Discovery News blogger Michael Reilly comments on the Goddard satellite visualization about Katrina.

This year’s model: Here’s how to build a life-size mock-up of the James Webb Space Telescope.


photo of launch of spitzer space telescopeWEDNESDAY AUGUST 25: Satellite imagery featured today: dust storms in Afghanistan and Pakistan and how satellites can help archeologists preserve hidden cultural treasures.

Koji says: Take a tour of the international observatory on the island of La Palma with NASA Blueshift blogger Koji Mukai.

Hail to the chief. . . of the Goddard Astrochemistry Laboratory, Jason Dworkin, in a new video profile.

Go Spitzer! On this day in 2003, the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) launched into orbit. One of the quartet of NASA Great Observatories, SIRTF was renamed the Spitzer Space Telescope and continues to push the frontiers of space-based astronomy.


robonaut_202THURSDAY AUGUST 26: Earth Observatory spotlights satellite view of fires raging in South America.

FRIDAY AUGUST 27: On this day in 1962, Mariner 2 left for Venus, to become the first spaceship from Earth to visit another planet.

Space rocks: NASA and U2 released a commemorative video highlighting a year’s worth of collaboration in space and on the Irish rock band’s 360 Degree tour.

I, Robonaut! NASA’s humanoid astronaut buddy is being prepared for its history making launch to the International Space Station on STS-133.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________
OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

//

&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;div&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=”http://www.w3counter.com&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.w3counter.com”&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;img src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; mce_src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; style=”border: 0″ mce_style=”border: 0″ alt=”W3Counter” /&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/div&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;

Featured space art: the planet pulverizers of RS Canum Venaticorums, as imagined by visual effects artist Tim Pyle

“. . . now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” Or if Death isn’t handy, exoplanet scientists have discovered the next best thing: planetary collisions.

A team of scientists — including Goddard’s own Marc Kuchner — have used data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to discover what may be pulverized planets around another star. That’s right — debris from planets that collided and were possibly destroyed in the process. If you want to read all about the science, go to today’s excellent press release by our friends at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Me, I’d like to talk about the pretty pictures. “Pictures” literally, wonderful pieces of space art by visual effects artist Tim Pyle. If you have seen any significant amount of Spitzer related stories and other news emanating from JPL, you probably have seen Pyle’s work. I give you his two latest portraits below.

If you’ve seen “Jimmy Neutron,” you’ve seen Pyle’s animation. (Jimmy Neutron was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.) He also worked on “Starship Troopers: the Series,” as well as “Children of Dune.”

NASA is fortunate to be able to draw on such Hollywood-class talent to bring to life the weird and wonderful worlds that exoplanet scientists are discovering.

B_Destroyer_BinaryDisk_650

Circle of Planetary Ashes: This artist’s concept illustrates a tight pair of stars and a surrounding disk of dust — most likely the shattered remains of planetary smashups. Using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, the scientists found dusty evidence for such collisions around three sets of stellar twins (a class of stars called RS Canum Venaticorum’s or RS CVns for short). The stars, which are similar to our sun in mass and age, orbit very closely around each other. They are separated by just two percent of the Earth-sun distance. As time goes by, the stars get closer and closer, and this causes the gravitational harmony in the systems to go out of whack. Comets and any planets orbiting around the stars could jostle about and collide.

C_Destroyer_CrackedPlanet_650

Before the Smashup: This artist’s concept illustrates an imminent planetary collision around a pair of double stars. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope found evidence that such collisions could be common around a certain type of tight double, or binary, star system, referred to as RS Canum Venaticorums or RS CVns for short. The stars are similar to the sun in age and mass, but they orbit tightly around each other. With time, they are thought to get closer and closer, until their gravitational influences change, throwing the orbits of planetary bodies circling around them out of whack.

Astronomers say that these types of systems could theoretically host habitable planets, or planets that orbit at the right distance from the star pairs to have temperatures that allow liquid water to exist. If so, then these worlds might not be so lucky. They might ultimately be destroyed in collisions like the impending one illustrated here, in which the larger body has begun to crack under the tidal stresses caused by the gravity of the approaching smaller one.

Spitzer’s infrared vision spotted dusty evidence for such collisions around three tight star pairs. In this artist concept’s, dust from ongoing planetary collisions is shown circling the stellar duo in a giant disk.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

//
&lt;/p&gt; &lt;div&gt;&lt;a href=”http://www.w3counter.com&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.w3counter.com”&gt;&lt;img src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; mce_src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; style=”border: 0″ mce_style=”border: 0″ alt=”W3Counter” /&gt;&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/div&gt; &lt;p&gt;

Blogolicious image of the day: As the STEREO (Behind) spacecraft observed in extreme UV light, the Sun popped off no fewer than six eruptions over just two days. . .

August 23, 2010 4 comments

Here’s a dramatic short video from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) “Pick of the Week” website. The images were actually captured by one of the twin STEREO spacecraft.

click me to watch the video!

click me to watch the video!



Here’s the detailed explanation from the Pick of the Week site:

As the STEREO (Behind) spacecraft observed in extreme UV light, the sun popped off no fewer than six eruptions over just two days (Aug. 14-15, 2010). At one point, three were occurring events at the same time. Most these were eruptive prominences in which cooler clouds of gases above the surface break away from the sun. The most powerful of these events, a coronal mass ejection, began around 6:30 UT on Aug. 15. It was harder to see from this spacecraft’s angle since it blasted out from the whiter active region in the lower center, so it had the sun as its backdrop.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________ OH AND DID I MENTION? All opinions and opinionlike objects in this blog are mine alone and NOT those of NASA or Goddard Space Flight Center. And while we’re at it, links to websites posted on this blog do not imply endorsement of those websites by NASA.

//
&lt;/p&gt; &lt;div&gt;&lt;a href=”http://www.w3counter.com&#8221; mce_href=”http://www.w3counter.com”&gt;&lt;img src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; mce_src=”http://w3counter.com/tracker.php?id=39986&#8243; style=”border: 0″ mce_style=”border: 0″ alt=”W3Counter” /&gt;&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/div&gt; &lt;p&gt;