Hubble Discovers Moon Orbiting the Dwarf Planet Makemake

Hubble Discovers Moon Orbiting the Dwarf Planet Makemake

Peering to the outskirts of our solar system, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a small, dark moon orbiting Makemake, the second brightest icy dwarf planet — after Pluto — in the Kuiper Belt.

The moon — provisionally designated S/2015 (136472) 1 and nicknamed MK 2 — is more than 1,300 times fainter than Makemake. MK 2 was seen approximately 13,000 miles from the dwarf planet, and its diameter is estimated to be 100 miles across. Makemake is 870 miles wide. The dwarf planet, discovered in 2005, is named for a creation deity of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island.

The Kuiper Belt is a vast reservoir of leftover frozen material from the construction of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago and home to several dwarf planets. Some of these worlds have known satellites, but this is the first discovery of a companion object to Makemake. Makemake is one of five dwarf planets recognized by the International Astronomical Union.

[SOURCE: hubblesite.org]

Fast Radio Burst “Afterglow” Was Actually a Flickering Black Hole

Fast Radio Burst

Last February a team of astronomers reported detecting an afterglow from a mysterious event called a fast radio burst, which would pinpoint the precise position of the burst’s origin, a longstanding goal in studies of these mysterious events. These findings were quickly called into question by follow-up observations. New research by Harvard astronomers Peter Williams and Edo Berger shows that the radio emission believed to be an afterglow actually originated from a distant galaxy’s core and was unassociated with the fast radio burst.

“Part of the scientific process is investigating findings to see if they hold up. In this case, it looks like there’s a more mundane explanation for the original radio observations,” says Williams.

The new work has been accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

[SOURCE: www.cfa.harward.edu]

Hubble captures birthday bubble

Hubble captures birthday bubble

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, released to celebrate Hubble’s 26th year in orbit, captures in stunning clarity what looks like a gigantic cosmic soap bubble. The object, known as the Bubble Nebula, is in fact a cloud of gas and dust illuminated by the brilliant star within it. The vivid new portrait of this dramatic scene wins the Bubble Nebula a place in the exclusive Hubble hall of fame, following an impressive lineage of Hubble anniversary images.

[SOURCE: spacetelescope.org]

Behemoth Black Hole Found in an Unlikely Place

Behemoth Black Hole Found in an Unlikely Place

Astronomers have uncovered a near-record-breaking supermassive black hole, weighing 17 billion suns, in an unlikely place: in the center of a galaxy in a sparsely populated area of the universe. The observations, made by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini telescope in Hawaii, could indicate that these monster objects may be more common than once thought.

Until now, the biggest supermassive black holes — those roughly 10 billion times the mass of our sun — have been found at the cores of very large galaxies in regions of the universe packed with other large galaxies. In fact, the current record holder tips the scale at 21 billion suns and resides in the crowded Coma galaxy cluster, which consists of over 1,000 galaxies.

“The newly discovered supersized black hole resides in the center of a massive elliptical galaxy, NGC 1600, located in a cosmic backwater, a small grouping of 20 or so galaxies,” said lead discoverer Chung-Pei Ma, a University of California-Berkeley astronomer and head of the MASSIVE Survey, a study of the most massive galaxies and supermassive black holes in the local universe. While finding a gigantic black hole in a massive galaxy in a crowded area of the universe is to be expected — like running across a skyscraper in Manhattan — it seemed less likely they could be found in the universe’s small towns.

[SOURCE: hubblesite.org]

NASA and STScI Select Hubble Fellows for 2016

NASA and STScI Select Hubble Fellows for 2016

NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) have announced the selection of 17 new Hubble Fellows. STScI in Baltimore, Maryland, administers the Hubble Fellowship Program for NASA.

The Hubble Fellowship Program supports outstanding postdoctoral scientists whose research is broadly related to the mission of NASA’s Cosmic Origins (COR) Program, which examines the origins of galaxies, stars, and planetary systems, and the evolution of these structures with cosmic time. The COR Program consists of a suite of operating science missions that includes the Herschel Space Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the James Webb Space Telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), and the Spitzer Space Telescope, and possible future missions that focus on specific aspects of these questions.

Each year, the current Hubble Fellows convene for a three-day symposium to present the results of their recent research and to meet face-to-face with other Hubble Fellows and with the scientific and administrative staff who manage the program. The 2016 symposium was held at STScI on March 14-16.

[SOURCE: hubblesite.org]

Hubble Team Breaks Cosmic Distance Record

Hubble Team Breaks Cosmic Distance Record

By pushing NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to its limits, an international team of astronomers has shattered the cosmic distance record by measuring the farthest galaxy ever seen in the universe. This surprisingly bright, infant galaxy, named GN-z11, is seen as it was 13.4 billion years in the past, just 400 million years after the big bang. GN-z11 is located in the direction of the constellation of Ursa Major.

“We’ve taken a major step back in time, beyond what we’d ever expected to be able to do with Hubble. We see GN-z11 at a time when the universe was only three percent of its current age,” explained principal investigator Pascal Oesch of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. The team includes scientists from Yale University, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, and the University of California in Santa Cruz, California.

Astronomers are closing in on the first galaxies that formed in the universe. The new Hubble observations take astronomers into a realm that was once thought to be only reachable with NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.

[SOURCE: hubblesite.org]

NASA Introduces New, Wider Set of Eyes on the Universe: Baltimore’s Space Telescope Science Institute to Partner on New NASA ‘Wide-View’ Space Telescope

NASA Introduces New, Wider Set of Eyes on the Universe: Baltimore's Space Telescope Science Institute to Partner on New NASA 'Wide-View' Space Telescope

After years of preparatory studies, NASA is formally starting an astrophysics mission designed to help unlock the secrets of the universe — the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

With a view 100 times bigger than that of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, WFIRST will aid researchers in their efforts to unravel the secrets of dark energy and dark matter, and explore the evolution of the cosmos. It will also discover new worlds outside our solar system and advance the search for worlds that could be suitable for life.

NASA’s Agency Program Management Council, which evaluates the agency’s programs and projects on content, risk management, and performance, made the decision to move forward with the mission on Wednesday.

“WFIRST has the potential to open our eyes to the wonders of the universe, much the same way Hubble has,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “This mission uniquely combines the ability to discover and characterize planets beyond our own solar system with the sensitivity and optics to look wide and deep into the universe in a quest to unravel the mysteries of dark energy and dark matter.”

[SOURCE: hubblesite.org]

Hubble Directly Measures Rotation of Cloudy ‘Super-Jupiter’

Hubble Directly Measures Rotation of Cloudy 'Super-Jupiter'

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have measured the rotation rate of an extreme exoplanet by observing the varied brightness in its atmosphere. This is the first measurement of the rotation of a massive exoplanet using direct imaging.

“The result is very exciting,” said Daniel Apai of the University of Arizona in Tucson, leader of the Hubble investigation. “It gives us a unique technique to explore the atmospheres of exoplanets and to measure their rotation rates.”

The planet, called 2M1207b, is about four times more massive than Jupiter and is dubbed a “super-Jupiter.” It is a companion to a failed star known as a brown dwarf, orbiting the object at a distance of 5 billion miles. By contrast, Jupiter is approximately 500 million miles from the sun. The brown dwarf is known as 2M1207. The system resides 170 light-years away from Earth.

Hubble’s image stability, high resolution, and high-contrast imaging capabilities allowed astronomers to precisely measure the planet’s brightness changes as it spins. The researchers attribute the brightness variation to complex clouds patterns in the planet’s atmosphere. The new Hubble measurements not only verify the presence of these clouds, but also show that the cloud layers are patchy and colorless.

[SOURCE: hubblesite.org]

Monstrous Cloud Boomerangs Back to Our Galaxy

Monstrous Cloud Boomerangs Back to Our Galaxy

Hubble Space Telescope astronomers are finding that the old adage “what goes up must come down” even applies to an immense cloud of hydrogen gas outside our Milky Way galaxy. The invisible cloud is plummeting toward our galaxy at nearly 700,000 miles per hour.

Though hundreds of enormous, high-velocity gas clouds whiz around the outskirts of our galaxy, this so-called “Smith Cloud” is unique because its trajectory is well known. New Hubble observations suggest it was launched from the outer regions of the galactic disk, around 70 million years ago. The cloud was discovered in the early 1960s by doctoral astronomy student Gail Smith, who detected the radio waves emitted by its hydrogen.

The cloud is on a return collision course and is expected to plow into the Milky Way’s disk in about 30 million years. When it does, astronomers believe it will ignite a spectacular burst of star formation, perhaps providing enough gas to make 2 million suns.

[SOURCE: hubblesite.org]

NASA’s Great Observatories Weigh Massive Young Galaxy Cluster

NASA's Great Observatories Weigh Massive Young Galaxy Cluster

Astronomers have used data from three of NASA’s Great Observatories to make the most detailed study yet of an extremely massive young galaxy cluster. This rare galaxy cluster, which is located 10 billion light-years from Earth, is almost as massive as 500 trillion suns. This object has important implications for understanding how these megastructures formed and evolved early in the universe.

The galaxy cluster, called IDCS J1426.5+3508 (IDCS 1426 for short), is so far away that the light detected is from when the universe was roughly a quarter of its current age. It is the most massive galaxy cluster detected at such an early age.

First discovered by the Spitzer Space Telescope in 2012, IDCS 1426 was then observed using the Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck Observatory to determine its distance. Observations from the Combined Array for Millimeter-wave Astronomy indicated it was extremely massive. New data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory confirm the galaxy cluster mass and show that about 90 percent of the mass of the cluster is in the form of dark matter, a mysterious substance detected so far only through its gravitational pull on normal matter composed of atoms.

[SOURCE: hubblesite.org]