Saturday, December 10, 2016

Research Offers Clues About the Timing of Jupiter's Formation

New research finds that the solar system's largest planet was likely near its current size--318 time the mass of Earth--by about 5 million years after the first solids in the solar system formed. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A peculiar class of meteorites has offered scientists new clues about when the planet Jupiter took shape and wandered through the solar system. Scientists have theorized for years now that Jupiter probably was not always in its current orbit, which is about five astronomical units from the sun (Earth's distance from the sun is one astronomical unit). One line of evidence suggesting a Jovian migration deals with the size of Mars. Mars is much smaller than planetary accretion models predict. One explanation for that is that Jupiter once orbited much closer to the sun than it does now. During that time, it would have swept up much of the material needed to create supersized Mars.

Will Earth Still Exist 5 Billion Years from Now? Old Star Offers Sneak Preview of the Future

Composite view of L2 Puppis in visible light | © P. Kervella et al. (CNRS/U. de Chile/Observatoire de Paris/LESIA/ESO/ALMA)

What will happen to Earth when, in a few billion years’ time, the Sun is a hundred times bigger than it is today? Using the most powerful radio telescope in the world, an international team of astronomers has set out to look for answers in the star L2 Puppis. Five billion years ago, this star was very similar to the Sun as it is today.

Amateur Astronomer Helps Uncover Secrets of Unique Pulsar Binary System

Artist’s rendition of a typical millisecond pulsar binary system in which the shape of the companion star (l.) is deformed by the gravitational pull of the pulsar (r.) seen emitting beams of radiation. Credit: NASA

A professional astrophysicist and an amateur astronomer have teamed up to reveal surprising details about an unusual millisecond pulsar (MSP) binary system comprising one of the fastest-spinning pulsars in our Galaxy and its unique companion star. Their observations, to be published in the Astrophysical Journal in December, are the first to identify “star spots” on an MSP’s companion star. Plus, the observations show that the companion has a strong magnetic field, and provide clues into why pulsars in some MSP binaries switch on and off.

Magnetic Reconnection Research Sheds Light on Explosive Phenomena in Astrophysics and Fusion Experiments

Schematic of two-fluid reconnection. Ions decouple from electrons in the ion diffusion region (grey colour). Electrons are frozen to the field lines until they reach the electron diffusion region (orange colour). The electron flow pattern creates a quadrupole out-of-plane magnetic field, a signature of the Hall effect. Credit: Ellen G. Zweibel, Masaaki Yamada

Scientists are closer than ever to unraveling a process called magnetic reconnection that triggers explosive phenomena throughout the universe. Solar flares, northern lights and geomagnetic storms that can disrupt cell phone service and black out power grids are all set off by magnetic field lines that converge, break apart and violently reconnect in ways that are not fully understood.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Japan’s ‘White Stork’ HTV Launches with Crucial Supplies for ISS

H-IIB rocket takes off from southern Japan Friday. Credit: MHI

Japan’s sixth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), also known as “Kounotori” (“White Stork” in Japanese) has successfully launched atop an H-IIB booster carrying essential cargo for the International Space Station (ISS). The rocket lifted off on Friday, Dec. 9, at 10:26 p.m. Japan Standard Time (13:26 GMT / 8:26 a.m. EST) from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center.

Silent Seven: John Glenn, Last Mercury Astronaut, Dies at 95

Former NASA astronaut and Ohio Senator John Glenn has died – he was 95. Image Credit: James Vaughan / SpaceFlight Insider

He was the first American to ride fire to orbit – and the last of his Project Mercury brothers to pass beyond the veil. John Herschel Glenn, a NASA astronaut and former senator from Ohio, died on December 8, 2016. He was 95. He leaves behind a legacy of space exploration that extends 36 years.

‘Hyper-Starburst’ Galaxy Churns Out Stars, Clues to Universe’s Evolution

The distorted galaxy in the simulation results from a collision between two galaxies, followed by them merging. Astronomers think such a merger could be the reason why SPT0346-52 is having such a boom of stellar construction. Once the two galaxies collide, gas near the center of the merged galaxy (shown as the bright region in the center of the simulation) is compressed, producing a burst of new stars. The composite inset shows X-ray data from Chandra (blue), short wavelength infrared data from Hubble (green), infrared light from Spitzer (red) at longer wavelengths, and infrared data from ALMA (magenta) at even longer wavelengths. (The light from SPT0346-52 is distorted and magnified by the gravity of an intervening galaxy, producing three elongated images in the ALMA data located near the center of the image. SPT0346-52 is not visible in the Hubble or Spitzer data, but the intervening galaxy causing the gravitational lensing is detected.) There is no blue at the center of the image, showing that Chandra did not detect any X-rays that could have signaled the presence of a growing black hole. Image courtesy of CXC Press Office.

A recently discovered galaxy is undergoing an extraordinary boom of stellar construction, revealed by a group of astronomers led by University of Florida graduate student Jingzhe Ma using NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory. The galaxy known as SPT 0346‐52 is 12.7 billion light years from Earth, seen at a critical stage in the evolution of galaxies about a billion years after the Big Bang.