Our star is five billion years younger than most in the Milky Way


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Our sun is nearly 4.5 billion years — which means it missed the charming initial years of the Milky Way galaxy. If you were standing on a planet nearly about 10 billion years ago, when the Milky Way was pretty young, the night sky would have appeared very different. The image below is an artist’s impression of the night sky on a planet in a relatively young Milky Way-type galaxy, the way our galaxy was 10 billion years ago. You can see “the sky are ablaze with star birth. Pink clouds of gas harbor newborn stars, and bluish-white, young star clusters litter the landscape,” as NASA explains.

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Image Credit: NASA/ESA/Z. Levay (STScI)

A recent study of young galaxies like our own demonstrates that as these galaxies slow down creating stars, they also stop developing as quickly in general. Which is quite logical. NASA explains:

“Astronomers don’t have baby pictures of our Milky Way’s formative years to trace the history of stellar growth so they studied galaxies similar in mass to our Milky Way, found in deep surveys of the universe. The farther into the universe astronomers look, the further back in time they are seeing, because starlight from long ago is just arriving at Earth now. From those surveys, stretching back in time more than 10 billion years, researchers assembled an album of images containing nearly 2,000 snapshots of Milky Way-like galaxies. The new census provides the most complete picture yet of how galaxies like the Milky Way grew over the past 10 billion years into today’s majestic spiral galaxies. The multi-wavelength study spans ultraviolet to far-infrared light, combining observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, and ground-based telescopes, including the Magellan Baade Telescope at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.”

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Above is a selection of Hubble Space Telescope photos, displaying how galaxies similar to our own developed over time.

Source : Physics-astronomy

NASA unveils 100-millionth picture of the sun


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An instrument onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory captured NASA’s 100-millionth image of the sun. Four telescopes work parallel to capture eight images of the sun and cycle through 10 different wavelengths every 12 seconds.

A National Aeronautics and Space Administration instrument aboard a sun-viewing spacecraft has captured its 100-millionth image of the sun.

The instrument, on the Solar Dynamics Observatory, is the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly and uses four telescopes. The photo was taken Jan.19, according to NASA.

In the nearly five years since its start in 2010, Solar Dynamics Observatory has captured images of the sun “to help scientists better understand how the roiling corona gets to temperatures some 1,000 times hotter than the sun’s surface, what causes giant eruptions such as solar flares, and why the sun’s magnetic fields are constantly on the move,” NASA says.

Source : USA TODAY

Nasa’s NuSTAR probe takes first spectacular, Christmassy picture of the sun


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Nasa’s NuSTAR probe Picture (Click Image to Download)

Nasa’s NuSTAR probe has taken its first picture of the sun — and the stunning image  shows X-rays streaming off the star.

NuSTAR stands for Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array. It is an X-ray telescope that has been flying around space in Earth’s orbit since 2012.

The image is the first picture that NuSTAR has taken of the sun, and is the most sensitive solar picture ever taken using high-energy X-rays.

The parts of the picture from NuSTAR are the green and blue at the top, which depict solar high-energy emissions. The blue represents more energetic emissions than the green ones.

The picture is overlaid on top of a picture of the sun taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. That took the red part of the photo, which represents ultraviolet light.

NuSTAR was sent out into space to conduct a survey for black holes. By looking for high-energy X-rays, the project hopes to shine new light on how stars collapse and form black holes, and how particles work in active galaxies.

But the new picture is actually a plan formulated in 2007, long before NuSTAR was launched into space. Other telescopes are able to look at the sun because it is too bright, but since NuSTAR looks specifically at higher-energy X-rays, it’s able to take pictures of the star without damaging its sensors.

NuSTAR is going to keep watching the sun, in the hope of seeing nanoflares, which would explain the mystery of why the outer atmosphere of the sun is so hot compared with the surface. Nanoflares have been proposed as the solution to the mystery and if NuSTAR were to catch them it would help solve the puzzle.

“NuSTAR will be exquisitely sensitive to the faintest X-ray activity happening in the solar atmosphere, and that includes possible nanoflares,” said David Smith, a solar physicist and member of the NuSTAR team at University of California, Santa Cruz.

The probe might also be able to spot axions, one of the leading candidates for dark matter. Dark matter refers to the idea that there is heavy matter in the universe that we are unable to see. In the unlikely event that NuSTAR were to spot axions, it would solve another mystery at the heart of astrophysics.

Source : Independent.co.uk

VIDEO : NASA Asteroid Bennu’s Journey


ALL CREDIT GOES TO NASA

Bennu’s Journey is a 6-minute animated movie about NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, Asteroid Bennu, and the formation of our solar system. Born from the rubble of a violent collision, hurled through space for millions of years, Asteroid Bennu has had a tough life in a rough neighborhood – the early solar system. Bennu’s Journey shows what is known and what remains mysterious about the evolution of Bennu and the planets. By retrieving a sample of Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will teach us more about the raw ingredients of the solar system and our own origins.

NASA rocket to click 1,500 images of Sun in 5 minutes


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This image provided by NASA shows the sun emitting a significant X3.2-class flare erupting from the lower half of the sun, peaking at 5:40 p.m. EDT on Oct. 24, 2014. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly and captured images of the event.

A sounding rocket fitted with technology to gather 1,500 images of the Sun in flat five minutes is set for launch on Monday.

Capturing five images per second, the Rapid Acquisition Imaging Spectrograph Experiment (RAISE) mission will focus in on the split-second changes that occur near active regions on the Sun.

These are areas of intense and complex magnetic fields that can give birth to giant eruptions on the Sun that shoot energy and particles out in all directions, the U.S. space agency said in a statement.

“Even on a five-minute flight, there are niche areas of science we can focus on well. There are areas of the Sun that need to be examined with the high-cadence observations we can provide,” said Don Hassler, solar scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

RAISE will create a kind of data product called a spectrogram which separates the light from the sun into different wavelengths.

“The Sun has been extremely active recently, producing several X-class flares in the past few weeks. The team will aim their instrument at one of these active regions to try to understand better the dynamics that cause these regions to erupt,” Mr. Hassler explained.

The team hopes to see how heat and energy move through such active regions, which, in turn, helps scientist understand what creates the regions and perhaps even what catalyses the sun’s eruptions.

RAISE’s launch time is planned for 2.07 p.m. (EST) from the White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

NASA looks at future exploration of our Solar System


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The new Paramount film “Interstellar” imagines a future where astronauts must find a new planet suitable for human life after climate change destroys the Earth’s ability to sustain us.

Multiple NASA missions are helping avoid this dystopian future by providing critical data necessary to protect Earth. Yet the cosmos beckons us to explore farther from home, expanding human presence deeper into the solar system and beyond.

For thousands of years we’ve wondered if we could find another home among the stars. We’re right on the cusp of answering that question.

If you step outside on a very dark night you may be lucky enough to see many of the 2,000 stars visible to the human eye. They’re but a fraction of the billions of stars in our galaxy and the innumerable galaxies surrounding us.

Multiple NASA missions are helping us extend humanity’s senses and capture starlight to help us better understand our place in the universe.

Largely visible light telescopes like Hubble show us the ancient light permeating the cosmos, leading to groundbreaking discoveries like the accelerating expansion of the universe. Through infrared missions like Spitzer, SOFIA and WISE, we’ve peered deeply through cosmic dust, into stellar nurseries where gases form new stars.

With missions like Chandra, Fermi and NuSTAR, we’ve detected the death throes of massive stars, which can release enormous energy through supernovas and form the exotic phenomenon of black holes.

Yet it was only in the last few years that we could fully grasp how many other planets there might be beyond our solar system. Some 64 million miles (104 kilometers) from Earth, the Kepler Space Telescope stared at a small window of the sky for four years. As planets passed in front of a star in Kepler’s line of view, the spacecraft measured the change in brightness.

Kepler was designed to determine the likelihood that other planets orbit stars. Because of the mission, we now know it’s possible every star has at least one planet. Solar systems surround us in our galaxy and are strewn throughout the myriad galaxies we see.

Though we have not yet found a planet exactly like Earth, the implications of the Kepler findings are staggering—there may very well be many worlds much like our own for future generations to explore.

NASA also is developing its next exoplanet mission, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which will search 200,000 nearby stars for the presence of Earth-size planets.

As of now, the distance between stars is too great for spacecraft to traverse using existing propulsion. Only one spacecraft is poised to leave the solar system in the near future. Voyager 1, launched in 1977, made the historic entry into interstellar space in August of 2012, reaching the region between stars, filled with material ejected by the death of nearby stars millions of years ago. It won’t encounter another star for at least 40,000 years.

The near-term future of exploration should be cause for much excitement, though, as humans and robotic spacecraft pioneer the path Voyager traveled, deeper into our solar system, where extra-terrestrial life may exist, and where humans could one day thrive.

Life as we know it requires water and heat. On our watery planet, we find life teeming at even the most extreme temperatures. Scientists are eager to know if evidence of microbial life exists on other planets and moons within our reach.

On Jupiter’s moon Europa, for example, there is a temperate ocean caught between a volcanic core and icy surface. Just as life exists in the dark, hot reaches of Earth’s ocean, so too could it exist on Europa, waiting to be discovered. NASA is studying a future mission to the watery moon next decade.

Many scientists question if Earth formed with the water it has now. Comets and asteroid impacts early in the planet’s history may have brought the water and help transform our atmosphere. Upcoming missions to capture samples of asteroids, like OSIRIS-REx, could reveal the building blocks of life embedded in the rock, which could lead to new insights about the origins of life.

Perhaps the most enticing target to search for evidence of life, however, is Mars. A fleet of spacecraft on the surface and orbiting Mars have revealed the Red Planet once had conditions suitable for life.

While the planet’s flowing water and atmosphere have significantly diminished, evidence of past life could still be discovered by future exploration. It could even be a home for future human pioneers.

Martian natural resources like water ice embedded in rock could be extracted to create breathable air, drinkable water, and even components for spacecraft propellant. An ability to live off the land will greatly enable multiple human missions to Mars and forever change the history of humankind.

This Journey to Mars begins aboard the International Space Station where astronauts 250 miles above Earth are learning how to live in space for long durations—key knowledge needed for round trips to Mars, which could take 500 days or more. A new generation of U.S. commercial spacecraft and rockets are supplying the space station and will soon launch astronauts once again from U.S. soil.

As these 21st century spaceflight innovations open low-Earth Orbit in new ways, NASA is building the capabilities to send humans farther from Earth than even before. In December, we’ll conduct the first flight test of the Orion Spacecraft, which will carry astronauts next decade on missions beyond the moon to an asteroid and Mars, launched on the giant Space Launch System rocket.

Many other missions in the near future will expand the frontier of exploration in our solar system. In 2015, New Horizons will fly by Pluto and see the icy world up close for the first time. In 2016, NASA will launch the InSight mission to Mars and asteroid sample return mission OSIRIS-REx.

In 2018, Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, will see light from the universe’s first stars. In about 2019, we’ll launch a robotic spacecraft to capture and redirect an asteroid.

In 2020, we’ll send a new rover to Mars, to follow in the footsteps of Curiosity, search for ancient Martian life, and pave the way for future human explorers.

In 2021, SLS and Orion will launch humans on the first crewed mission of the combined system. In the mid-2020s, astronauts will explore an asteroid redirected to an orbit around the moon, and return home with samples that could hold clues to the origins of the solar system and life on Earth.

In doing so, those astronauts will travel farther into the solar system than anyone has ever been.

It’s an exciting time as NASA reaches new heights to reveal the unknown and benefit humankind. Be a part of the journey and connect with us at www.nasa.gov/connect

X-Class Solar Flare, 4th Major Eruption On The Sun This Week Detected


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It’s been a busy week for earth’s star, with a partial solar eclipse delighting space watchers Thursday, and three earlier solar flares captured on NASA’s cameras.

The NOAA’s space weather tracking detected the X3.1 class flare Friday, beginning just after two in the afternoon, Pacific time, and lasting till after 3 p.m.

Flares of this strength can disrupt radios and navigational equipment, but harmful radiation is absorbed by the earth’s atmosphere.

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One legendary solar flare in 1989 actually shut down power grids in the U.S. and Canada. That was an “X15″ class flare, exponentially more powerful than this week’s flares.

An X1.6 class flare erupted on Tuesday. X is the strongest class, and an X2 is twice as strong as an X1.

An M-class or mid-level solar flare peaked at 6:59 p.m. Tuesday night, as measured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

A third flare, an X1.1 on October 19th also sent radiation toward earth.

These solar eruptions can trigger larger than usual northern lights also known as the Aurora Borealis, sometimes making the glow visible as far south as Northern California.

NOAA Space Weather Scale descriptions can be found at
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/NOAAscales

Source : CBS Local