Tag Archives: telescope

Astronomers Find Sun’s ‘Long-Lost Brother,’ Pave Way for Family Reunion

AUSTIN, Texas — A team of researchers led by astronomer Ivan Ramirez of The University of Texas at Austin has identified the first “sibling” of the sun — a star almost certainly born from the same cloud of gas and dust as our star. Ramirez’s methods will help astronomers find other solar siblings, which could lead to an understanding of how and where our sun formed, and how our solar system became hospitable for life. The work appears in the June 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

“We want to know where we were born,” Ramirez said. “If we can figure out in what part of the galaxy the sun formed, we can constrain conditions on the early solar system. That could help us understand why we are here.” (more…)

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The Era of Neutrino Astronomy has Begun

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Astrophysicists using a telescope embedded in Antarctic ice have succeeded in a quest to detect and record the mysterious phenomena known as cosmic neutrinos – nearly massless particles that stream to Earth at the speed of light from outside our solar system, striking the surface in a burst of energy that can be as powerful as a baseball pitcher’s fastball. Next, they hope to build on the early success of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory to detect the source of these high-energy particles, said Physics Professor Gregory Sullivan, who led the University of Maryland’s 12-person team of contributors to the IceCube Collaboration.

“The era of neutrino astronomy has begun,” Sullivan said as the IceCube Collaboration announced the observation of 28 very high-energy particle events that constitute the first solid evidence for astrophysical neutrinos from cosmic sources.  (more…)

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A Telescope at the Bottom of the World

Alone in a wilderness of snow and ice, 600 miles from the Earth’s South Pole, a solitary telescope watches the stars, searching for the origins of the colorful nebulae in which stars are born.

The brilliantly colored, sweeping nebulae featured on magazine covers and posters lining museum exhibits are the birthplaces and cradles of the stars in our galaxy.

Out of the blackness of space and swirling gasses and debris, these nebulae take form, coalescing into columns and structures that remind us of Earthly shapes: here a horsehead, there a dragon. (more…)

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A Long Distance Call: Astronaut’s Kids See Dad’s Office from Ladd

Space Station Commander Kevin Ford exchanged Valentine’s Day greetings with his adult kids Heidi and Anthony — he speeding by about 220 miles above Providence and they watching him fly past from Brown’s Ladd Observatory.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Rhode Islanders with their eyes skyward around 6 p.m. last Thursday might have noticed a curiously bright speck speeding across the evening sky. No, it wasn’t a UFO or an asteroid. It was the International Space Station, and for Providence resident Heidi Ford, it was dad’s office.

Heidi’s father Kevin Ford is currently the commander of the ISS. And with the help of Brown’s Ladd Observatory and astronomer Robert Horton, Heidi and her brother Anthony, who was visiting from Houston, got to see last week’s flyby close up while they talked to their dad on the phone. (more…)

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Hungry Black Hole

Astronomers poised for galactic chow-down

The super-massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy has a healthy appetite, frequently snacking on asteroids and comets. Now, a cloud of gas and dust called G2 is on a dangerous course to become its next meal.

Even though Sagittarius A* (pronounced “Sagittarius A-star”) hasn’t been easy to see through the cosmic dust, sitting 25,000 light years away at galaxy central, scientists know it is a black hole — and a hungry one at that. Its weight has been estimated to be more than that of 4 million suns. (more…)

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World’s Most Powerful Digital Camera Begins Hunt for Dark Energy

Eight billion years ago, rays of light from distant galaxies began their long journey to Earth. That ancient starlight has now found its way to a mountaintop in Chile, where the newly constructed Dark Energy Camera, the most powerful sky-mapping machine ever created, has captured and recorded it for the first time.

That light may hold within it the answer to one of the biggest mysteries in physics: Why the expansion of the universe is speeding up. (more…)

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First Stars, Galaxies Formed more Rapidly than Expected

Analysis of data from the National Science Foundation’s South Pole Telescope, for the first time, more precisely defines the period of cosmological evolution when the first stars and galaxies formed and gradually illuminated the universe. The data indicate that this period, called the epoch of reionization, was shorter than theorists speculated — and that it ended early.

“We find that the epoch of reionization lasted less than 500 million years and began when the universe was at least 250 million years old,” said Oliver Zahn, a postdoctoral fellow at the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the study. “Before this measurement, scientists believed that reionization lasted 750 million years or longer, and had no evidence as to when reionization began.” (more…)

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NASA, Texas Astronomers Find First Multi-Planet System Around a Binary Star

FORT DAVIS, Texas — NASA’s Kepler mission has found the first multi-planet solar system orbiting a binary star, characterized in large part by University of Texas at Austin astronomers using two telescopes at the university’s McDonald Observatory in West Texas. The finding, which proves that whole planetary systems can form in a disk around a binary star, is published in today’s issue of the journal Science.

“It’s Tatooine, right?” said McDonald Observatory astronomer Michael Endl. “But this was not shown in Star Wars,” he said, referring to the periodic changes in the amount of daylight falling on a planet with two suns. Measurements of the star’s orbits showed that daylight on the planets would vary by a large margin over the 7.4-Earth-day period as the two stars completed their mutual orbits, each moving closer to, then farther from, the planets (which are themselves moving). (more…)

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