‘Star With 3 Super-Earth Exoplanets Just 21 Light Years Away’


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Astronomers said Thursday they had found a planetary system with three super-Earths orbiting a bright, dwarf star one of them likely a volcanic world of molten rock.
The four-planet system had been hiding out in the M-shaped, northern hemisphere constellation Cassiopeia, “just” 21 light years from Earth, a team reported in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

It comprises four planets one giant and three super-Earths orbiting a star dubbed HD219134.

Super-Earths have a mass higher than Earth’s but are lighter than gas giants like Neptune, Saturn or Jupiter. They can be made of gas, rock, or both.

The planet with the shortest orbit, HD219134b, zips around every three days, and has now been observed transiting across the face of its star as seen from the vantage point of Earth.

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Measurements from the ground and with Nasa’s Spitzer space telescope showed its mass was 4.5 times higher than Earth’s, and that it was 1.6 times larger.

“Its mean density is close to the density of Earth, suggesting a possibly similar composition as well,” said a press statement from the University of Geneva, whose astronomers took part in the research.

“It’s very close to the star. The temperature is about 700 degrees” Kelvin (427 Celsius, 800 Fahrenheit), study co-author Stephane Udry told AFP.

“Probably the surface is melting… kind of a melted lava world with volcanoes… not good for life.”

It was not in the so-called “habitable zone” of its star, and would not have liquid water necessary for life.

But HD219134b is exciting for another reason: it is the closest transiting planet known to scientists, and thus offers a rare opportunity for further study of its composition and atmosphere against the backdrop of its star.

“These transiting systems are especially interesting in that they allow characterisation of the atmosphere of the planet (by studying) the light of the star going through the atmosphere,” Udry said.

And the system is relatively near at a distance of 21 light years from Earth. By comparison, the closest star to our Sun is three light years away, and the second six light years.

Among HD219134b’s fellow planets, the second furthest from the star weighs 2.7 times as much as Earth and orbits in 6.8 days, the next is 8.7 times more massive than Earth with a 47-day orbit.

A giant planet further out orbits once every three years, the team said.

Source : NDTV

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SpaceX’s rocket just exploded. Here’s why that’s such a big deal.


SpaceX’s unmanned Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Sunday but exploded a few minutes after liftoff. It was on a mission to resupply the International Space Station. (NASA)

An unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket bound for the International Space Station exploded a couple of minutes after liftoff Sunday morning. It was the third cargo mission to the space station to be lost in recent months.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder tweeted that “there was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank.” He added: “That’s all we can say with confidence right now. Will have more to say following a thorough” analysis.

NASA officials said it was not clear what caused the explosion. During an afternoon press conference William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said there was “no negligence here.”

The three failures from three different launch providers show “the challenges facing engineering and the challenges facing space flight in general.”

The rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., at 10:21 a.m., and everything seemed fine until 2 minutes at 19 seconds. Then video of the launch showed harrowing, if now familiar, images of a rocket exploding into a plume of smoke. The Falcon 9 was carrying more than 4,000 pounds of food and supplies to the space station, where American Scott Kelly is spending a year. There were no astronauts onboard.

The explosion also lost many student experiments and a water filtration system. Also onboard was a piece of hardware that would be used to help two new crew vehicles dock to the station.

Source : Wahshington Post

[Video] Space’s 10 Most Gigantic Disasters


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Here are the 10 Most Biggest Explosions and Impacts Ever Known in Space.

Enjoy the video…

Source : Hybrid Librarian (Video Uploader)

Top 10 great space moments in 2014 (pictures)


Source :c|net

It was a big year for space exploration, from rodeo-riding a comet to getting more familiar with Mars, distant planets and the beginning of it all.

1. Rosetta and Philae meet a comet

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Photo by: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR  (Click Image to Image)

The first successful soft landing on a comet wasn’t just the biggest space story of the year. It was probably also the biggest science story of 2014.

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft traveled 10 years to drop the Philae lander onto a comet. The landing was bumpy, but scientists were able to conduct a few days worth of experiments on the comet’s surface that first week.

But neither Rosetta nor Philae may be finished yet.

Look for more great science from both in 2015.

2. Orion lifts off

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Orion lift Off (Click Image to download)

A new era in space exploration began in December with the successful test flight of the Orion spacecraft, thanks to a big assist from some massive, heavy rockets.

Orion is scheduled to make an unmanned trip to the moon, but it is later expected to carry manned missions to an asteroid and Mars.

3. New Horizons awakens

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Artist ‘s Impression of New Horizons near Pluto and its moon Charon (Click Image to Download)

Rosetta wasn’t the only spacecraft to wake up after a long journey in 2014. In December, NASA’s New Horizons probe switched itself back “on” after a 1,873 day-long hibernation.

Originally launched in 2006, the craft is on track for its mission to survey Pluto and its moons in 2015.

4. India’s Mars Orbiter Mission

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Mars Picture taken by ISRO’s MOM (Click Image to Download)

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan is a spacecraft orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014. It was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is India’s first interplanetary mission and ISRO has become the fourth space agency to reach Mars, after the Soviet space program, NASA, and the European Space Agency. It is also the first nation to reach Mars orbit on its first attempt, and the first Asian nation to do so.

5. Comet buzzes Mars

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In October, we got a rare close look at a comet on a once-in-a-million-years journey. The comet came so close to Mars that humanity’s orbiters circling the Red Planet actually had to hide on the other side to avoid the comet’s debris cloud.

The orbiters and rovers on the surface were still able to capture images of the comet as it whizzed by.

6. Exoplanets everywhere

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In 2014, not only did our knowledge of distant exoplanets grow by leaps and bounds, but so did the evidence that many of them might host the elements to support life as we know it.

As of December 15, 2014, we know of 22 planets beyond our solar system where there is reason to believe they could be habitable.

7. Space is still hard

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2014 was not a year without tragedy in space and near-space exploration. In October, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed, killing one pilot.

This came within days of an explosion that happened after the liftoff of an unmanned Antares rocket carrying a payload to the International Space Station. Also, in August a SpaceX rocket exploded over Texas during a test flight.

In a year when science began to make amazing feats look easy, these were three reminders of the old adage that “space is hard.”

8. ALMA’s Image of Another Solar System

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The best image ever of planet formation around an infant star.

It’s a real image of a planet-forming disk around the infant star, in this case a sunlike star approximately 450 light-years from Earth, known to astronomers as HL Tau.

It is impressive. It reveals in great detail what astronomers just a few decades ago were only theorizing about, and that is that all stars are believed to form within slow-spinning clouds of gas and dust. As the clouds spin, they flatten out into these disks. Over time, the dust particles in the cloud begin to stick together by a process known as acretion, and that process is what ultimately forms the planets like our Earth, and moons like our moon, plus the asteroids, all of which mostly still move (as they did in the original cloud) in this flat space – this disk-like space – encircling the parent star.

9.Aiming for Manned Missions to Mars

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In a year when Mars rovers continued to expand our understanding of the Red Planet, momentum continued to build for a manned mission to our distant neighbor.

NASA is looking seriously at “deep sleep” methods to easily get humans to Mars, likely in the 2030s. Elon Musk started talking about getting mankind to Mars in half that time, and Mars One is already looking for astronauts to blast off in less than a decade’s time, despite potential problems.

10. Racing back to the moon

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Mars is cool, but isn’t there more to do on the moon?

Lunar Mission One is just one of the teams that thinks so — it raised about a million dollars for its plan to drill the moon’s south pole.

Meanwhile, teams competing in the Google Lunar XPrize continued working toward returning to our lone natural satellite.

The moon, Mars, comets, asteroids and beyond — stay tuned to @crave to see where we go in 2015.

Virgin Galactic space rocket crash: Richard Branson’s dream of space tourism suffers setback after Mojave crash kills test pilot


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Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo went down Friday afternoon, killing at least one while highlighting safety concerns that Richard Branson said could kill the space tourism industry.

Investors see private space travel as the market of the future. According to the Space Angels Network, an organization created to connect investors with entrepreneurs in the private space travel business, in 2012 the global space economy was valued at over $300 billion. The network says it is expected to grow to $600 billion by 2030.

On Tuesday, an unmanned rocket manufactured by Orbital Sciences, a Virginia company NASA has contracted to resupply the space station, exploded during its launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. This engine used in the flight, the Antares 130, is powered by old Soviet engines.

For years, Richard Branson, who owns a part of Virgin Galactic, has touted the bright future of space tourism. In February, he said that he and his children would be on the first space tourism flight.

Everybody who signs up knows this is the birth of a new space program and understands the risks that go with that,” Branson said in an interview for Weekend magazine. “But every person wants to go on the first flight.”

He even alluded to the fact that accidents could kill the industry. Right now, tickets to space cost a minimum $250,000 each.

“Space is hard, and today was a tough day,” said George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, at a press conference. “We believe we owe to the folks who were flying these vehicles to understand this and to move forward, which is what we’ll do.”

Source : The Independent

Evidence Builds for Dark Matter Explosions at the Milky Way’s Core


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This Fermi map of the Milky Way center shows an overabundance of gamma-rays (red indicates the greatest number) that cannot be explained by conventional sources.

So far, dark matter has evaded scientists’ best attempts to find it. Astronomers know the invisible stuff dominates our universe and tugs gravitationally on regular matter, but they do not know what it is made of. Since 2009, however, suspicious gamma–ray light radiating from the Milky Way’s core—where dark matter is thought to be especially dense—has intrigued researchers. Some wonder if the rays might have been emitted in explosions caused by colliding particles of dark matter. Now a new gamma-ray signal, in combination with those already detected, offers further evidence that this might be the case.

One possible explanation for dark matter is that it is made of theorized “weakly interacting massive particles,” or WIMPs. Every WIMP is thought to be both matter and antimatter, so when two of them meet they should annihilate on contact, as matter and antimatter do. These blasts would create gamma-ray light, which is what astronomers see in abundance at the center of our galaxy in data from the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope. The explosions could also create cosmic-ray particles—high-energy electrons and positrons (the antimatter counterparts of electrons)—which would then speed out from the heart of the Milky Way and sometimes collide with particles of starlight, giving them a boost of energy that would bump them up into the gamma-ray range. For the first time scientists have now detected light that matches predictions for this second process, called inverse Compton scattering, which should produce gamma rays that are more spread out over space and come in a different range of energies than those released directly by dark matter annihilation.

“It looks pretty clear from their work that an additional inverse Compton component of gamma rays is present,” says Dan Hooper, an astrophysicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory who was not involved in the study, but who originally pointed out that a dark matter signal might be present in the Fermi telescope data. “Such a component could come from the same dark matter that makes the primary gamma-ray signal we’ve been talking about all of these years.” University of California, Irvine scientists Anna Kwa and Kevork Abazajian presented the new study October 23 at the Fifth International Fermi Symposium in Nagoya, Japan and submitted their paper to Physical Review Letters.

None of the intriguing gamma-ray light is a smoking gun for dark matter. Other astrophysical processes, such as spinning stars called pulsars, can create both types of signal. “You can make models that replicate all this with astrophysics,” Abazajian says. “But the case for dark matter is the easiest, and there’s more and more evidence that keeps piling up.”

The official Fermi telescope team has long been cautious about drawing conclusions on dark matter from their data. But at last week’s symposium, the group presented its own analysis of the unexplained gamma-ray light and concluded that although multiple hypotheses fit the data, dark matter fits best. “That’s huge news because it’s the first time they’ve acknowledged that,” Abazajian says. Simona Murgia, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Irvine and a member of the Fermi collaboration’s galactic-center analysis team, presented the team’s findings. She says the complexity of the galactic center makes it difficult to know for sure how the excess of gamma rays arose and whether or not the light could come from mundane “background” sources. “It is a very interesting claim,” she says of Abazajian’s analysis. “However, detection of extended excesses in this region of the sky is complicated by our incomplete understanding of the background.”

The dark matter interpretation would look more likely if astronomers could find similar evidence of WIMP annihilation in other galaxies, such as the two dozen or so dwarf galaxies that orbit the Milky Way. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and I think a convincing claim of discovery would probably require a corresponding signal in another location—or by a non-astrophysical experiment—as well as the galactic center,” says Massachusetts Institute of Technology astrophysicist Tracy Slatyer, who has also studied the Fermi data from the Milky Way’s center.

Non-astrophysical experiments include the handful of so-called direct-detection experiments on Earth, which aim to catch WIMPs on the extremely rare occasions when they bump into atoms of normal matter. So far, however, none of these has found any evidence for dark matter. Instead they have steadily whittled away at the tally of possible types of WIMPs that could exist.

Other orbiting experiments, such as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) on the International Space Station, which detects cosmic rays, have also failed to find convincing proof of dark matter. In fact, the AMS results seem to conflict with the most basic explanations linking dark matter to the Fermi observations. “Most people would agree that there is something rather unexpected happening at the galactic center, and it would be tremendously exciting if it turns out to be a dark matter annihilation signal,” says Christoph Weniger of the University of Amsterdam, another astrophysicist who has studied the Milky Way’s core. “But we have to confirm this interpretation by finding corroborating evidence in other independent observations first. Much more work needs to be done.”

Source : scientificamerican

EXPLOSION OF NASA’S UNMANNED ROCKET ANTARES


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An unmanned Antares rocket exploded seconds after liftoff from a commercial launch pad in Virginia on Tuesday, marking the first accident since NASA turned to private operators to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, but officials said no one was hurt.

The 14-story rocket, built and launched by Orbital Sciences Corp, blasted off its seaside launch pad at the Wallops Flight Facility at 6:22 p.m. EDT carrying a Cygnus cargo ship for the space station. It exploded in a huge fireball moments later.

Orbital Sciences stock was down 12.74 percent after hours, or down $3.87 at $26.50.

The cause of the accident was not immediately known, said NASA mission commentator Dan Huot.

Huot said there were no reports of any personnel in the vicinity of the explosion. An Accomack County Sheriff’s spokeswoman added, “As far as we know, all personnel are accounted for and everyone’s OK.”

Orbital Sciences said in a statement: “We’ve confirmed that all personnel have been accounted for. We have no injuries in the operation today.”

NASA launch control said damage appeared to be limited to the launch facility and rocket. The Antares rocket has been launched successfully on four previous missions.

“This has been a lot of hard work to get to this point,” Orbital Sciences Executive Vice President Frank Culbertson told the launch team just before liftoff.

Launch had been delayed one day after a boat sailed into a restricted safety zone beneath the rocket’s intended flight path.

Virginia-based Orbital Sciences is one of two companies hired by NASA to fly cargo to the station after the space shuttles were retired. Tuesday’s planned flight was to be the third of eight under the company’s $1.9 billion contract with NASA.

The second U.S. supply line to the station is run by privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, which is preparing for its fourth flight under a separate $1.6 billion NASA contract.

Outfitted with a new, more powerful upper-stage engine, the Antares rocket launched on Tuesday carried a Cygnus spacecraft packed with 5,055 pounds (2,293 kg) of supplies, science experiments and equipment, a 15 percent increase over previous missions.

Cygnus was to loiter in orbit until Nov. 2, then fly itself to the station so astronauts can use a robotic crane to snare the capsule and attach it to a berthing port. The station, a $100 billion research laboratory owned and operated by 15 nations, flies about 260 miles (418 km) above Earth.

In addition to food, supplies and equipment, the Cygnus spacecraft was loaded with more than 1,600 pounds (725 kg) of science experiments, including an investigation to chemically analyze meteors as they burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

The Cygnus also carried a prototype satellite owned by Redmond, Washington-based startup Planetary Resources Inc., which is developing technology to mine asteroids. The satellite, designated A3, was to be released into space by a commercially owned small spacecraft launcher aboard the station.

Source : Reuters

Amazing picture of Supernova 1987A


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Real image SN 1987A located at 1,68,000 light years from earth in Large Magellanic Cloud (Another Galaxy)

you can imagine the power of this supernova by understanding that even it was located at another galaxy it was visible to the naked eye. It was the first supernova that modern astronomers had to observe a SN and to use modern technology in that observation allowing them to gather much more data.

Supernovae are extremwely rare events. About 1 every 200 years is visible and they only last for a month or two.

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image of SN 1987A