Hubble Captures 'Shadow Play' Caused by Possible Planet
Sat, 07 Jan 2017 11:15:00 EST
Eerie mysteries in the universe can be betrayed by simple shadows. The wonder of a solar eclipse is produced by the moon's shadow, and over 1,000 planets around other stars have been cataloged by the shadow they cast when passing in front of their parent star. Astronomers were surprised to see a huge shadow sweeping across a disk of dust and gas encircling a nearby, young star. They have a bird's-eye view of the disk, because it is tilted face-on to Earth, and the shadow sweeps around the disk like the hands moving around a clock. But, unlike the hands of a clock, the shadow takes 16 years to make one rotation.
Hubble has 18 years' worth of observations of the star, called TW Hydrae. Therefore, astronomers could assemble a time-lapse movie of the shadow's rotation. Explaining it is another story. Astronomers think that an unseen planet in the disk is doing some heavy lifting by gravitationally pulling on material near the star and warping the inner part of the disk. The twisted, misaligned inner disk is casting its shadow across the surface of the outer disk. TW Hydrae resides 192 light-years away and is roughly 8 million years old.
Hubble Detects 'Exocomets' Taking the Plunge into a Young Star
Fri, 06 Jan 2017 15:15:00 EST
Interstellar forecast for a nearby star: Raining comets! The comets are plunging into the star HD 172555, which resides 95 light-years from Earth. The comets were not seen directly around the star. Astronomers inferred their presence when they used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to detect gas that is likely the vaporized remnants of their icy nuclei.
The presence of these doomed comets provides circumstantial evidence for "gravitational stirring" by an unseen Jupiter-size planet, where comets deflected by the massive object's gravity are catapulted into the star. These events also provide new insights into the past and present activity of comets in our solar system. It's a mechanism where infalling comets could have transported water to Earth and the other inner planets of our solar system. HD 172555 represents the third extrasolar system where astronomers have detected doomed, wayward comets. All of these systems are young, under 40 million years old.
Hubble Provides Interstellar Road Map for Voyagers' Galactic Trek
Fri, 06 Jan 2017 11:15:00 EST
In 1977, NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft began their pioneering journey across the solar system to visit the giant outer planets. Now, the Voyagers are hurtling through unexplored territory on their road trip beyond our solar system. Along the way, they are measuring the interstellar medium, the mysterious environment between stars that is filled with the debris from long-dead stars. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is providing the road map, by measuring the material along the probes' trajectories as they move through space. Hubble finds a rich, complex interstellar ecology, containing multiple clouds of hydrogen, laced with other elements. Hubble data, combined with the Voyagers, have also provided new insights into how our sun travels through interstellar space.
Festive Nebulas Light Up Milky Way Galaxy Satellite
Tue, 20 Dec 2016 13:00:00 EST
Two glowing nebulas in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy that is a satellite of our Milky Way galaxy, have been observed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Young, brilliant stars at the center of each nebula are heating hydrogen, causing these clouds of gas and dust to glow red. The image is part of a study called Small Magellanic Cloud Investigation of Dust and Gas Evolution (SMIDGE). Astronomers are using Hubble to probe the Milky Way satellite to understand how dust is different in galaxies that have a far lower supply of heavy elements needed to create dust.
Space Telescope Science Institute to Host Data from World's Largest Digital Sky Survey
Mon, 19 Dec 2016 08:00:00 EST
Data from the world's largest digital sky survey is being publicly released today by the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, in conjunction with the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy in Honolulu, Hawaii. Data from the Pan-STARRS1 Surveys will allow anyone to access millions of images and use the database and catalogs containing precision measurements of billions of stars and galaxies. The four years of data comprise 3 billion separate sources, including stars, galaxies, and various other objects. The immense collection contains 2 petabytes of data, which is equivalent to one billion selfies, or one hundred times the total content of Wikipedia.
ExoMars orbiter images Phobos - Read more >
Tue, 06 Dec 2016 15:00:00 +0100
The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has imaged the martian moon Phobos as part of a second set of test science measurements made since it arrived at the Red Planet on 19 October.
STScI Astronomers Nancy Levenson and David Soderblom Elected AAAS Fellows
Mon, 21 Nov 2016 13:00:00 EST
Nancy A. Levenson and David R. Soderblom of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.
The AAAS cited Dr. Levenson for her exemplary service and distinguished contributions to the field of astrophysics as Deputy Director of the international Gemini Observatory in La Serena, Chile. She is currently STScI's Deputy Director. Soderblom is cited by the AAAS for his distinguished work in the field of astrophysics, with contributions to understanding low-mass stars and exoplanet searches. An Astronomer at STScI since 1984, Soderblom is also a Principal Research Scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In honor of their efforts, Levenson, Soderblom, and the 389 other newly elected Fellows will receive an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on February 18, 2017, at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2017 AAAS annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. For more information about this announcement, visit http://www.aaas.org/news.
Icy surprises at Rosetta's comet - Read more >
Thu, 17 Nov 2016 20:00:00 +0100
As Rosetta’s comet approached its most active period last year, the spacecraft spotted carbon dioxide ice – never before seen on a comet – followed by the emergence of two unusually large patches of water ice.
Dr. Laurent Pueyo Receives 2016 Outstanding Young Scientist Award
Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:00:00 EST
The Maryland Academy of Sciences has selected Dr. Laurent Pueyo of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, as the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Young Scientist award. He will receive the award in a ceremony on Nov. 16 at the Maryland Science Center, located in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
Pueyo joined STScI in 2013 as an associate astronomer after spending three years as a Sagan Fellow at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. His duties at STScI include working on improving the extrasolar-planet imaging capabilities of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in late 2018. The STScI astronomer was a member of the team, led by STScI's Remi Soummer, that discovered that three planets around the nearby star HR 8799 had been hiding in plain sight since 1998 in archival images taken by Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer.
A record of ancient tectonic stress on Mars - Read more >
Thu, 03 Nov 2016 11:00:00 +0100
Sets of ridges and troughs some 1000 km north of the giant Olympus Mons volcano contain a record of the intense tectonic stresses and strains experienced in the Acheron Fossae region on Mars 3.7–3.9 billion years ago.
A Death Star's Ghostly Glow
Thu, 27 Oct 2016 10:00:00 EDT
In writer Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart," a killer confesses his crime after he thinks he hears the beating of his victim's heart. The heartbeat turns out to be an illusion. Astronomers, however, discovered a real "tell-tale heart" in space, 6,500 light-years from Earth. The "heart" is the crushed core of a long-dead star, called a neutron star, which exploded as a supernova and is now still beating with rhythmic precision. Evidence of its heartbeat are rapid-fire, lighthouse-like pulses of energy from the fast-spinning neutron star. The stellar relic is embedded in the center of the Crab Nebula, the expanding, tattered remains of the doomed star.
The nebula was first identified in 1731 and named in 1844. In 1928, Edwin Hubble linked the nebula to a supernova first witnessed in the spring of 1054 A.D. Now, the eerie glow of the burned-out star reveals itself in this new Hubble Space Telescope snapshot of the heart of the Crab Nebula. The green hue, representative of the broad color range of the camera filter used, gives the nebula a Halloween theme.
STScI Appoints Head of Newly Created Data Science Mission Office
Fri, 21 Oct 2016 11:00:00 EDT
Dr. Arfon Smith has been selected to lead the newly created Data Science Mission Office at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. The Data Science Mission Head is responsible for maximizing the scientific returns from a huge archive containing astronomical observations from 17 space astronomy missions and ground-based observatories.
Since 2013, Smith has been a project scientist and program manager at GitHub, Inc., the world's largest platform for open source software. His duties included working to develop innovative strategies for sharing data and software in academia. Smith also helped to define GitHub's business strategy for public data products, and he played a key role in establishing the company's first data science and data engineering teams.
Schiaparelli descent data: decoding underway - Read more >
Thu, 20 Oct 2016 10:40:00 +0200
Essential data from the ExoMars Schiaparelli lander sent to its mothership Trace Gas Orbiter during the module’s descent to the Red Planet’s surface yesterday has been downlinked to Earth and is currently being analysed by experts.
Hubble Reveals Observable Universe Contains 10 Times More Galaxies Than Previously Thought
Thu, 13 Oct 2016 10:00:00 EDT
In Arthur C. Clarke's novel "2001: A Space Odyssey," astronaut David Bowman exclaims, "My God, it's full of stars!" before he gets pulled into an alien-built wormhole in space. When the Hubble Space Telescope made its deepest views of the universe, astronomers might have well exclaimed: "My God, it's full of galaxies!" The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, for example, revealed 10,000 galaxies of various shapes, sizes, colors, and ages, all within an area roughly one-tenth the diameter of the full moon. What's mind-blowing is that these myriad galaxies, though plentiful, may represent merely 10 percent of the universe's total galaxy population. That's according to estimates from a new study of Hubble's deep-field surveys. The study's authors came to the staggering conclusion that at least 10 times more galaxies exist in the observable universe than astronomers thought.
According to the authors, the missing 90 percent of the universe's galaxies are too faint and too far away to be detected by the current crop of telescopes, including Hubble. To uncover them, astronomers will have to wait for much larger and more powerful future telescopes. The researchers arrived at their result by painstakingly converting Hubble deep-field images into 3-D pictures so they could make accurate measurements of the number of galaxies at different epochs in the universe's history.
Buried glaciers on Mars - Read more >
Thu, 13 Oct 2016 11:00:00 +0200
This jumble of eroded blocks lies along the distinctive boundary between the Red Planet’s southern highlands and the northern lowlands, with remnants of ancient glaciers flowing around them.
What to expect from Schiaparelli’s camera - Read more >
Wed, 12 Oct 2016 11:00:00 +0200
As the ExoMars Schiaparelli module descends onto Mars on 19 October it will capture 15 images of the approaching surface. Scientists have simulated the view we can expect to see from the descent camera.
Call for media: ExoMars arrives at the Red Planet - Read more >
Fri, 07 Oct 2016 11:00:00 +0200
The ExoMars 2016 mission will enter orbit around the Red Planet on 19 October. At the same time, its Schiaparelli lander will descend to the surface. Representatives of traditional and social media are invited to attend a two-day event at ESA’s ESOC control centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
Hubble Detects Giant 'Cannonballs' Shooting from Star
Thu, 06 Oct 2016 13:00:00 EDT
Great balls of fire! The Hubble Space Telescope has detected superhot blobs of gas, each twice as massive as the planet Mars, being ejected near a dying star. The plasma balls are zooming so fast through space that they would travel from Earth to the moon in 30 minutes. This stellar "cannon fire" has continued once every 8.5 years for at least the past 400 years, astronomers estimate. The fireballs present a puzzle to astronomers because the ejected material could not have been shot out by the host star, called V Hydrae. The star is a bloated red giant, residing 1,200 light-years away, which has probably shed at least half of its mass into space during its death throes.
The current best explanation is that the plasma balls were launched by an unseen companion star in an elliptical orbit around the red giant. The elongated orbit carries the companion every 8.5 years to within the puffed-up atmosphere of V Hydrae, where it gobbles up material from the bloated star. This material then settles into a disk around the companion, and serves as the launching pad for blobs of plasma, which travel at roughly a half-million miles per hour. This star system could explain a dazzling variety of glowing shapes uncovered by Hubble that are seen around dying stars, called planetary nebulae, researchers say.
How to follow Rosetta’s grand finale - Read more >
Wed, 28 Sep 2016 14:30:00 +0200
Rosetta is set to complete its historic mission in a controlled descent to the surface of its comet on 30 September, with the end of mission confirmation predicted to be within 20 minutes of 11:20 GMT (13:20 CEST).
Hubble Spots Possible Water Plumes Erupting on Jupiter's Moon Europa
Mon, 26 Sep 2016 14:00:00 EDT
New findings from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show suspected water plumes erupting from Jupiter's icy moon Europa. These observations bolster earlier Hubble work suggesting that Europa is venting water vapor. A team of astronomers, led by William Sparks of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, observed these finger-like projections while viewing Europa's limb as the moon passed in front of Jupiter. The team was inspired to use this observing method by studies of atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars.
The plumes are estimated to rise about 125 miles before, presumably, raining material back down onto Europa's surface. This is exciting because Europa is a plausible place for life to have developed beyond the Earth. If the venting plumes originate in a subsurface ocean, they could act as an elevator to bring deep-sea life above Europa's surface, where it could be sampled by visiting spacecraft. This offers a convenient way to access the chemistry of that ocean without drilling through miles of ice. To view NASA's Europa plumes summary video, visit the YouTube link at https://youtu.be/4QJS9LcB66g.
Hubble Finds Planet Orbiting Pair of Stars
Thu, 22 Sep 2016 10:00:00 EDT
Two is company, but three might not always be a crowd, at least in space. When astronomers found an extrasolar planet orbiting a neighboring star, a detailed analysis of the data uncovered a third body. But astronomers couldn't definitively identify whether the object was another planet or another star in the system.
Now, nine years later, astronomers have used ultra-sharp images from the Hubble Space Telescope to determine that the system consists of a Saturn-mass planet circling two diminutive, faint stars in a tight orbit around each other. The system, called OGLE-2007-BLG-349, resides 8,000 light-years away. Astronomers teased the signature of the three objects using an observational technique called gravitational microlensing. This occurs when the gravity of a foreground star bends and amplifies the light of a background star that momentarily aligns with it. The particular character of the light magnification can reveal clues to the nature of the foreground star and any associated planets.
Barry M. Lasker Data Science Fellowship
Fri, 16 Sep 2016 13:00:00 EDT
The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, announces the initiation of the Barry M. Lasker Data Science Postdoctoral Fellowship. The Lasker Fellowship is a STScI-funded program designed to provide up to three years of support for outstanding postdoctoral researchers conducting innovative astronomical studies that involve the use or creation of one or more of the following: large astronomical databases, massive data processing, data visualization and discovery tools, or machine-learning algorithms. The first recipient of the fellowship is Dr. Gail Zasowski of the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Baltimore, Maryland. The fellowship is named in honor of STScI astronomer Barry M. Lasker (1939-1999).
Hubble Takes Close-up Look at Disintegrating Comet
Thu, 15 Sep 2016 13:00:00 EDT
Comet 332P/Ikeya-Murakami survived for 4.5 billion years in the frigid Kuiper Belt, a vast reservoir of icy bodies on the outskirts of our solar system. The objects are the leftovers from our solar system's construction. But within the last few million years, the unlucky comet was gravitationally kicked to the inner solar system by the outer planets. The comet, dubbed 332P, found a new home, settling into an orbit just beyond Mars. But the new home, closer to the sun, has doomed the comet. Sunlight is heating up Comet 332P's surface, causing jets of gas and dust to erupt. The jets act like rocket engines, spinning up the comet's rotation. The faster spin rate loosened chunks of material, which are drifting off the surface and into space.
The Hubble Space Telescope caught the latest cloud of debris ejected by Comet 332P. The images, taken over three days in January 2016, represent one of the sharpest, most detailed observations of a comet breaking apart. Hubble reveals about 25 building-size chunks from the comet floating through space at roughly the walking speed of an adult. Material will continue to break away from Comet 332P. Astronomers estimate that the comet, which has survived for 4.5 billion years, will be gone in another 150 years.
Dr. Nancy A. Levenson Appointed Deputy Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute
Thu, 08 Sep 2016 13:00:00 EDT
Dr. Nancy A. Levenson has been appointed Deputy Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. The Institute is the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Telescope (JWST) that is scheduled to launch in 2018.
Since 2009, Levenson served as Deputy Director and Head of Science at the Gemini Observatory in La Serena, Chile. She also led the Gemini Observatory as Acting Director for several months in 2012.
Hubble Uncovers a Galaxy Pair Coming in from the Wilderness
Thu, 11 Aug 2016 13:00:00 EDT
The galaxies in the early universe were much smaller than our Milky Way and churned out stars at a rapid pace. They grew larger through mergers with other dwarf galaxies to eventually build the magnificent spiral and elliptical galaxies we see around us today. But astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have looked at two small galaxies that were left off the star party list. For many billions of years Pisces A and Pisces B lived in a vast intergalactic wilderness that was devoid of gas, which fuels star formation. They got left out in the cold.
Better late than never. Like Rip van Winkle awakening from a long slumber, the dwarf galaxies have now ended their star-making drought and have joined the party. Astronomers estimate that less than 100 million years ago the galaxies doubled their star-formation rate. For most of the universe's history these puny galaxies dwelled in the Local Void, a region of the universe sparsely populated with galaxies. Now the galaxies have moved into a region crowded with galaxies and full of intergalactic gas. This dense environment is triggering star birth.
NASA's Hubble Looks to the Final Frontier
Thu, 21 Jul 2016 10:00:00 EDT
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the TV series "Star Trek" has captured the public's imagination with the signature phrase, "To boldly go where no one has gone before." The Hubble Space Telescope simply orbits Earth and doesn't "boldly go" deep into space. But it looks deeper into the universe than ever before possible to explore the fabric of time and space and find the farthest objects ever seen. This is epitomized in this Hubble image that is part of its Frontier Fields program to probe the far universe. This view of a massive cluster of galaxies unveils a very cluttered-looking universe filled with galaxies near and far. Some are distorted like a funhouse mirror through a warping-of-space phenomenon first predicted by Einstein a century ago.