Space Calendar December 28 – January 3 2009

Space related activities and anniversaries for December 28 – January 3 2009. Fetched live every week from NASA JPL

If you want the complete list going more than a year ahead then see the Space Calendar at NASA JPL.

Space Calendar December 21 – December 27 2009

Space related activities and anniversaries for December 21 – December 27 2009. Fetched live every week from NASA JPL

If you want the complete list going more than a year ahead then see the Space Calendar at NASA JPL.

Space Calendar December 14 – December 20 2009

Space related activities and anniversaries for December 14 – December 20 2009. Fetched live every week from NASA JPL

If you want the complete list going more than a year ahead then see the Space Calendar at NASA JPL.

Space Calendar December 7 – December 13 2009

Space related activities and anniversaries for December 7 – December 13 2009. Fetched live every week from NASA JPL

If you want the complete list going more than a year ahead then see the Space Calendar at NASA JPL.

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Trumpler 14 in the Carina Nebula

The young star cluster Trumpler 14 is revealed in another stunning ESO image. The amount of exquisite detail seen in this portrait, which beautifully reveals the life of a large family of stars, is due to the Multi-conjugate Adaptive optics Demonstrator (MAD) on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Never before has such a large patch of sky been imaged using adaptive optics, a technique by which astronomers are able to remove most of the atmosphere’s blurring effects.

Noted for harbouring Eta Carinae — one of the wildest and most massive stars in our galaxy — the impressive Carina Nebula also houses a handful of massive clusters of young stars. The youngest of these stellar families is the Trumpler 14 star cluster, which is less than one million years old — a blink of an eye in the Universe’s history. This large open cluster is located some 8000 light-years away towards the constellation of Carina (the Keel).

A team of astronomers, led by Hugues Sana, acquired astounding images of the central part of Trumpler 14 using the Multi-conjugate Adaptive optics Demonstrator (MAD, [2]) mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). Thanks to MAD, astronomers were able to remove most of the blurring effects of the atmosphere and thus obtain very sharp images. MAD performs this correction over a much larger patch of the sky than any other current adaptive optics instrument, allowing astronomers to make wider, crystal-clear images.


This image of the Carina Nebula shows the position of the Trumpler 14 cluster of stars.

Thanks to the high quality of the MAD images, the team of astronomers could obtain a very nice family portrait. They found that Trumpler 14 is not only the youngest — with a refined, newly estimated age of just 500 000 years — but also one of the most populous star clusters within the nebula. The astronomers counted about 2000 stars in their image, spanning the whole range from less than one tenth up to a factor of several tens of times the mass of our own Sun. And this in a region which is only about six light-years across, that is, less than twice the distance between the Sun and its closest stellar neighbour!

The most prominent star is the supergiant HD 93129A, one of the most luminous stars in the Galaxy. This titan has an estimated mass of about 80 times that of the Sun and is approximately two and a half million times brighter! It makes a stellar couple — a binary star — with another bright, massive star. The astronomers found that massive stars tend to pair up more often than less massive stars, and preferably with other more massive stars.

The Trumpler 14 cluster is undoubtedly a remarkable sight to observe: this dazzling patch of sky contains several white-blue, hot, massive stars, whose fierce ultraviolet light and stellar winds are blazing and heating up the surrounding dust and gas. Such massive stars rapidly burn their vast hydrogen supplies — the more massive the star, the shorter its lifespan. These giants will end their brief lives dramatically in convulsive explosions called supernovae, just a few million years from now.

A few orange stars are apparently scattered through Trumpler 14, in charming contrast to their bluish neighbours. These orange stars are in fact stars located behind Trumpler 14. Their reddened colour is due to absorption of blue light in the vast veils of dust and gas in the cloud.

The technology used in MAD to correct for the effect of the Earth’s atmosphere over large areas of sky will play a crucial role in the success of the next generation European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).

[SOURCE:European Southern Observatory]

Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer Ready for Launch Dec. 9

The launch of NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 9.

Liftoff will be from NASA’s Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The launch window is approximately 14 minutes in duration, extending from 6:09:33 to 6:23:51 a.m. PST (9:09:33 to 9:23:51 a.m. EST). The spacecraft’s final circular polar orbit will be 326 miles (525 kilometers), orbiting the earth 15 times a day.

WISE will scan the entire sky in infrared light with sensitivity hundreds of times greater than ever before possible, picking up the glow of hundreds of millions of objects and producing millions of images. The mission will uncover objects never seen, including the coolest stars, the universe’s most luminous galaxies and some of the darkest near-Earth asteroids and comets.

The voluminous quantity of images WISE can generate will help scientists answer fundamental questions about the origins of planets, stars and galaxies, and provide data for astronomers for decades to come. During the nine-month survey mission, snapshots can be taken as frequently as every 11 seconds.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, or JPL, Pasadena, Calif., manages WISE for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The mission’s principal investigator, Edward “Ned” Wright, is at UCLA. The mission was competitively selected under NASA’s Explorers Program, managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo.

Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena which manages JPL for NASA. The launch is the responsibility of NASA’s Launch Services Program, headquartered at the Kennedy Space Center. The Delta II launch service is being provided to Kennedy by United Launch Alliance, Denver, Colo.

[SOURCE:NASA]