Two teams of astronomers have used data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes to map the distribution of dark matter in a galaxy cluster known as Abell 383.Abell 383 is located about 2.3 billion light years from Earth. Researchers also able to determine how the dark matter is distributed along the line of sight. The recent work on Abell 383 provides one of the most detailed 3-D pictures yet taken of dark matter in a galaxy cluster. The X-ray data (purple) from Chandra in the composite image show the hot gas, which is by far the dominant type of normal matter in the cluster.
Astronomers have spotted young stars in the Orion nebula changing right before their eyes, thanks to the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The colorful specks are rapidly heating up and cooling down, speaking to the turbulent, rough-and-tumble process of reaching full stellar adulthood. The rainbow of colors represents different wavelengths of infrared light captured by both Spitzer and Herschel. Spitzer is designed to see shorter infrared wavelengths than Herschel.
Pulsars are fast-spinning stars that emit regular beams of light known for their clocklike regularity.More than forty years of study, astronomers still can’t nail down what causes these rapidly rotating stars to pulse. But when one, called PSR J1841, turned off for 580 days, it gave astronomers a glimpse of how pulsars behave when they can’t be seen. In December 2008, Fernando Camilo, of Columbia University in New York, was using the Parkes telescope in Australia to search for a known object when he found a steadily flashing star in his field of view. He quickly identified it as a pulsar that was spinning once every 0.9 seconds, a fairly standard rotation.
The cosmic close encounter featured the comet Garradd and bright globular star cluster M92. It was photographed by astronomer Conrad Jung with the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, Calif. Jung used a 5-inch refractor telescope to snap a 10-minute exposure of comet Garradd as it zipped close by M92 on February 3. Both objects were in the constellation Hercules at the time. While comet Garradd and star cluster appeared close to each other, it was only a trick of perspective. Star cluster M92 is actually about 27,000 light-years from Earth, while comet Garradd is currently zipping through our inner solar system.
Using data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope astronomers, for the first time, have discovered buckyballs in a solid form in space.Prior to this discovery, the microscopic carbon spheres had been found only in gas form in the cosmos. Formally named buckministerfullerene, buckyballs are named after their resemblance to the late architect Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes. They are made up of 60 carbon atoms arranged into a hollow sphere, like a soccer ball. Their unusual structure makes them ideal candidates for electrical and chemical applications on Earth, including superconducting materials, medicines, water purification and armor. In the latest discovery, scientists using Spitzer detected tiny specks of matter, or particles, consisting of stacked buckyballs.
Scientists have discovered a new type of alien planet.The standard-bearer for this new class of exoplanet is called GJ 1214b, which astronomers first discovered in December 2009.GJ1214b is a super-Earth orbiting a red-dwarf star 40 light-years from Earth in the constellation Ophiuchus (The Serpent Bearer). New observations from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope show that it is a waterworld enshrouded by a thick, steamy atmosphere. GJ1214b represents a new type of planet, like nothing seen in our solar system or any other planetary system currently known. To date, astronomers have discovered more than 700 planets beyond our solar system, with about 2,300 more candidates awaiting confirmation by follow-up observations but according to researchers GJ 1214b, is something new altogether. This so-called super-Earth is about 2.7 times Earth’s diameter and weighs nearly seven times as much as our home planet.
NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) is being mated, or attached, to its Pegasus XL rocket on February 17 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California.The mission’s launch is now scheduled for no earlier than March 21 to allow the launch vehicle team an additional week to complete necessary engineering reviews. After the reviews, the team will begin final preparations for the rocket’s delivery to the launch site at Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific. NuSTAR will probe the hottest, densest and most energetic objects in space, including black holes and the remnants of exploded stars. It will be the first space telescope to capture sharp images in high-energy X-rays, giving astronomers a new tool for understanding the extreme side of our universe.
This visible-light image that was taken by the high resolution channel of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys shows planetary nebula Hen 3-1333. Planetary nebulae have nothing to do with planets, they actually represent the death throes of mid-sized stars like the sun. As they puff out their outer layers, large, irregular globes of glowing gas expand around them, which appeared planet-like through the small telescopes that were used by their first discoverers. The star at the heart of Hen 3-1333 is thought to have a mass of around 60% that of the sun, but unlike the sun, its apparent brightness varies substantially over time.
According to new study small newfound galaxy with an oddball shape may be the product of a close encounter with a neighboring galaxy in what scientists are calling a “stealth merger”. The cosmic discovery came as astronomers investigated an isolated dwarf galaxy known as NGC 4449, which is about 12.4 million light-years away and is a “starburst galaxy,” meaning it forms young stars at a furious pace. This galaxy has a distorted shape as well, a look that is wreathed in hydrogen gas abounding with rings, shells and a core spinning the opposite way of the galaxy.