Space Calendar July 4 – July 10 2012

Space related activities and anniversaries for July 4 – July 10 2012. 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.

Hubble, Swift Detect First-Ever Changes in an Exoplanet Atmosphere

Hubble, Swift Detect First-Ever Changes in an Exoplanet Atmosphere

WASHINGTON — An international team of astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made an unparalleled observation, detecting significant changes in the atmosphere of a planet located beyond our solar system.

The scientists conclude the atmospheric variations occurred in response to a powerful eruption on the planet’s host star, an event observed by NASA’s Swift satellite.

“The multiwavelength coverage by Hubble and Swift has given us an unprecedented view of the interaction between a flare on an active star and the atmosphere of a giant planet,” said lead researcher Alain Lecavelier des Etangs at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics (IAP), part of the French National Scientific Research Center located at Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris.

The exoplanet is HD 189733b, a gas giant similar to Jupiter, but about 14 percent larger and more massive. The planet circles its star at a distance of only 3 million miles, or about 30 times closer than Earth’s distance from the Sun, and completes an orbit every 2.2 days. Its star, named HD 189733A, is about 80 percent the size and mass of our Sun.

[SOURCE: hubblesite.org]

Astronomers Spot Rare Arc From Hefty Galaxy Cluster

Astronomers Spot Rare Arc From Hefty Galaxy Cluster

PASADENA, Calif. — Seeing is believing, except when you don’t believe what you see. Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have found a puzzling arc of light behind an extremely massive cluster of galaxies residing 10 billion light-years away. The galactic grouping, discovered by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, was observed as it existed when the universe was roughly a quarter of its current age of 13.7 billion years.

NASA’s Hubble Spots Rare Gravitational Arc from Distant, Hefty Galaxy Cluster

NASA's Hubble Spots Rare Gravitational Arc from Distant, Hefty Galaxy Cluster

Seeing is believing, except when you don’t believe what you see.

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have found a puzzling arc of light behind an extremely massive cluster of galaxies residing 10 billion light-years away. The galactic grouping, discovered by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, was observed when the universe was roughly a quarter of its current age of 13.7 billion years. The giant arc is the stretched shape of a more distant galaxy whose light is distorted by the monster cluster’s powerful gravity, an effect called gravitational lensing.

The trouble is, the arc shouldn’t exist.

“When I first saw it, I kept staring at it, thinking it would go away,” said study leader Anthony Gonzalez of the University of Florida in Gainesville. “According to a statistical analysis, arcs should be extremely rare at that distance. At that early epoch, the expectation is that there are not enough galaxies behind the cluster bright enough to be seen, even if they were ‘lensed’ or distorted by the cluster. The other problem is that galaxy clusters become less massive the farther back in time you go. So it’s more difficult to find a cluster with enough mass to be a good lens for gravitationally bending the light from a distant galaxy.”

[SOURCE: hubblesite.org]

Space Calendar June 27 – July 3 2012

Space related activities and anniversaries for June 27 – July 3 2012. 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.

Planetrise: Alien World Looms Large in its Neighbor’s Sky

Planetrise: Alien World Looms Large in its Neighbor's Sky

Few nighttime sights offer more drama than the full Moon rising over the horizon. Now imagine that instead of the Moon, a gas giant planet spanning three times more sky loomed over the molten landscape of a lava world. This alien vista exists in the newly discovered two-planet system of Kepler-36.

“These two worlds are having close encounters,” said Josh Carter, a Hubble Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

“They are the closest to each other of any planetary system we’ve found,” added co-author Eric Agol of the University of Washington.

Carter, Agol and their colleagues report their discovery in the June 21st Science Express.

They spotted the planets in data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, which can detect a planet when it passes in front of, and briefly reduces the light coming from, its parent star.

[SOURCE: www.cfa.harward.edu]

Most Quasars Live on Snacks, Not Large Meals

Most Quasars Live on Snacks, Not Large Meals

Black holes in the early universe needed a few snacks rather than one giant meal to fuel their quasars and help them grow, according to observations from NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes.

Quasars are the brilliant beacons of light that are powered by black holes feasting on captured material, and in the process, heating some of the matter to millions of degrees. The brightest quasars reside in galaxies distorted by collisions with other galaxies. These encounters send lots of gas and dust into the gravitational whirlpool of hungry black holes.

Now, however, astronomers are uncovering an underlying population of fainter quasars that thrive in normal-looking spiral galaxies. They are triggered by black holes snacking on such tasty treats as a batch of gas or the occasional small satellite galaxy.

A census of 30 quasar host galaxies conducted with two of NASA’s premier observatories, Hubble and Spitzer, has found that 26 of the host galaxies bear no telltale signs of collisions with neighbors, such as distorted shapes. Only one galaxy in the sample shows evidence of an interaction with another galaxy. The galaxies existed roughly 8 billion to 12 billion years ago, during a peak epoch of black-hole growth.

[SOURCE: spitzer.caltech.edu]

Most Quasars Live on Snacks, Not Large Meals

Most Quasars Live on Snacks, Not Large Meals

Black holes in the early universe needed a few snacks rather than one giant meal to fuel their quasars and help them grow, a new study shows.

Quasars are the brilliant beacons of light that are powered by black holes feasting on captured material, and in the process, heating some of the matter to millions of degrees. The brightest quasars reside in galaxies distorted by collisions with other galaxies. These encounters send lots of gas and dust into the gravitational whirlpool of hungry black holes.

Now, however, astronomers are uncovering an underlying population of fainter quasars that thrive in normal-looking spiral galaxies. They are triggered by black holes snacking on such tasty treats as a batch of gas or the occasional small satellite galaxy.

A census of 30 quasar host galaxies conducted with two of NASA’s premier observatories, the Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, has found that 26 of the host galaxies bear no tell-tale signs of collisions with neighbors, such as distorted shapes. Only one galaxy in the sample shows evidence of an interaction with another galaxy. The galaxies existed roughly 8 billion to 12 billion years ago, during a peak epoch of black-hole growth.

[SOURCE: hubblesite.org]

Space Calendar June 20 – June 26 2012

Space related activities and anniversaries for June 20 – June 26 2012. 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.

Alien Earths Could Form Earlier than Expected

Alien Earths Could Form Earlier than Expected

Building a terrestrial planet requires raw materials that weren’t available in the early history of the universe. The Big Bang filled space with hydrogen and helium. Chemical elements like silicon and oxygen – key components of rocks – had to be cooked up over time by stars. But how long did that take? How many of such heavy elements do you need to form planets?

Previous studies have shown that Jupiter-sized gas giants tend to form around stars containing more heavy elements than the Sun. However, new research by a team of astronomers found that planets smaller than Neptune are located around a wide variety of stars, including those with fewer heavy elements than the Sun. As a result, rocky worlds like Earth could have formed earlier than expected in the universe’s history.

[SOURCE: www.cfa.harward.edu]