Newly Discovered Exoplanet Is The Most Distant Ever Detected


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This artist’s conception shows the newly discovered alien planet also Known as OGLE-2014-BLG-0124Lb , which is about 13,000 light-years from Earth.

Astronomers have found an exoplanet nearly 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known to man. This discovery is important not because of the planet itself, a gas giant about half the size of Jupiter, but because what it means for the future of planetary discovery and mapping.

“For context, most of the planets we do know about are a factor of 10-100 times closer than OGLE-2014-BLG-0124,” Dr. Jennifer Yee, a NASA Sagan Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge

Far, far away.

The microlensing technique has helped astronomers discover about 30 distant alien planets in our Milky Way’s bulge, the galaxy’s central area of mostly old stars, gas, and dust.

The farthest known exoplanet resides some 25,000 light years away in the bulge of our galaxy, Yee said in the email. The bulge is a very different environment from the Milky Way’s disk, where our own solar system is located.

According to Yee, no exoplanets have been found outside of our galaxy, which spans about 100,000 light years.

Like early explorers mapping the continents of our globe, astronomers are busy charting the spiral structure of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Using infrared images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists have discovered that the Milky Way's elegant s

This artist’s map of the Milky Way shows the location of some of the farthest known exoplanets, including OGLE-2014-BLG-0124Lb.

Comparing planets to planets. Astronomers hope not only to gain a better understanding of the distribution of planets in the Milky Way, but also to gather enough detail about distant planets to compare them with those closer to Earth. More than 1,000 exoplanets closer to home have been discovered by the planet-hunting Kepler mission and ground-based observatories, Space.com reported.

“We would really like to know whether planets form in the central bulge of our galaxy the same way that they do here, near the sun, where the overwhelming majority of planets have been found,” Dr. Andrew Gould, professor of math and physical sciences at Ohio State University, and a co-author of the paper describing the newfound exoplanet, told The Huffington Post.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that the Spitzer telescope is scheduled to observe about 120 more “microlensing” events this summer, which could lead to the discovery of even more distant exoplanets.

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This infographic explains how NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope can be used in tandem with a ground-based telescope to measure the distances to planets using the “microlensing” technique.

Source: huffingtonpost

NASA’s Dawn Probe Sees Dwarf Planet Ceres as a Crescent


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After spending several weeks in the shadow of Ceres, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is finally getting a close-up glimpse of the dwarf planet.

For Those Who Don’t Know About CERES : Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt, which lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It is composed of rock and ice, is 950 kilometers (590 miles) in diameter, and comprises approximately one third of the mass of the asteroid belt. It is the only dwarf planet in the inner Solar System and the only object in the asteroid belt known to be unambiguously rounded by its own gravity.

Ceres’ cratered north pole blazes through the darkness in new images captured by Dawn on April 10. The photos are the highest-resolution views of the world that Dawn has gotten since entering Ceres’ orbit on March 6, NASA officials said.

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Dawn was about 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometers) from the dwarf planet when the pictures were taken, and mission team members promise even better views of Ceres in the months to come.

Full science observations begin April 23, when lighting conditions will be better for Dawn and the probe will be even closer to Ceres — just 8,400 miles (13,500 kilometers) above the surface. Dawn will begin moving even lower down on May 9.

In future weeks, NASA hopes the mission will help scientists better understand a key mystery of Ceres: strange bright spots on its surface that, in some cases, have different temperatures than the terrain surrounding them. Mission scientists still don’t know what the spots are made of.

The $466 million Dawn mission, which launched in September 2007, aims to better characterize the solar system’s early days by studying Ceres and Vesta, two intact protoplanets that are the largest denizens of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The probe spent 14 months at the 330-mile-wide (530-kilometer-wide) Vesta in 2011 and 2012, then headed to Ceres.

Mission scientists said they expect that Ceres, which is about 590 miles (950 km) wide, will be wetter than Vesta, and made of different stuff. Some researchers think Ceres may even harbor liquid water beneath its surface, perhaps making the dwarf planet capable of hosting life as we know it.

Source : NBS-news,Sci-news,Wikipedia

This Is The First Ever Color Picture of Pluto


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New Horizons spacecraft is now only three months away from its historic sweep through the Pluto-Charon system in mid-July. First image in color!

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft acquired its first picture of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, in color on April 9. It’s the first color image ever made of the Pluto system by a spacecraft on approach. Neither Pluto nor Charon is well resolved here, but their distinctly different appearances can already be seen. Image via NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft team released this tantalizing first color image of Pluto and its Texas-sized moon Charon. The team called this image a preliminary reconstruction, which they said will be refined later. The spacecraft acquired the image from a distance of about 71 million miles (115 million kilometers)-roughly the distance from the sun to Venus. New Horizons is now only three months from its historic encounter with Pluto. The flyby through the Pluto system will take place on July 14, at which time the spacecraft will deliver color images that eventually show surface features as small as a few miles across.

New Horizons is the fastest spacecraft ever launched and may be the only spacecraft to sweep past Pluto in our lifetimes. It has traveled a longer time and farther away – more than nine years and three billion miles (4.8 billion km) – than any space mission in history to reach the Pluto system, which consists of the dwarf planet and its five known moons.

NASA pointed out that New Horizons’ flyby of the Pluto system on July 14 will:

… complete the initial reconnaissance of the classical solar system. This mission also opens the door to an entirely new ‘third’ zone of mysterious small planets and planetary building blocks in the Kuiper Belt, a large area with numerous objects beyond Neptune’s orbit.

Principal investigator Alan Stern said the mission would mark the first up-close look at a binary planet. He called Pluto a binary because its large moon Charon is so nearly like Pluto in size.

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Between now and July 14, New Horizons will get closer and closer to Pluto and its moons, and the image quality will rapidly improve. At closest approach, New Horizons will sweep through the Pluto system at a speed of 30,000 mph (50,000 kilometers per hour).

Source : EarthSky.org

Hubble Space Telescope Views Globular Cluster Messier 22


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This newly released Hubble image shows Messier 22, the brightest globular cluster visible from the northern hemisphere.

A globular cluster is a spherical collection of stars that orbits a galactic core as a satellite. Globular clusters are very tightly bound by gravity, which gives them their spherical shapes and relatively high stellar densities toward their centers.

Messier 22 is located in the constellation Sagittarius, approximately 10,400 light-years away.

It was the first globular cluster to be discovered. German astronomer Johann Abraham Ihle found it on August 26, 1665, while observing Saturn.

The cluster, also known as M22 or NGC 6656, has a diameter of about 70 light-years and half a million solar masses.

According to astronomers, Messier 22 orbits the galactic center once every 200 million years.

The cluster is an easy object for the naked eye to see. Despite its relative proximity to us, the light from the cluster’s stars is not as bright as it should be as it is dimmed by dust and gas located between us and Messier 22.

As they are leftovers from the early Universe, globular clusters are popular study objects for astronomers.

Messier 22 has fascinating additional features: six planet-sized objects that are not orbiting a star have been detected in the cluster; it seems to host two black holes.

The cluster is one of only three ever found to host a planetary nebula – a short-lived gaseous shells ejected by massive stars at the ends of their lives.

Source : Sci-news

Hubble captures green ‘quasar ghosts’ from past radiation blast


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The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has imaged a set of enigmatic quasar ghosts — ethereal green objects which mark the graves of these objects that flickered to life and then faded. The eight unusual looped structures orbit their host galaxies and glow in a bright and eerie goblin-green hue. They offer new insights into the turbulent pasts of these galaxies.

Hubble Space Telescope has discovered manifestations from the remote past, bright streams of gas, which look like immense looped objects glowing green, once ionized by quasars that no longer exist.

The telescope, which will turn 25 in 20 days, has taken photos of eight unusual space objects glowing emerald in the depths of space. Light emitting space areas dubbed ‘Hanny’s Voorwerp’ are tens of thousands of light years across.

The first object of this kind was spotted by Dutch schoolteacher Hanny van Arkel in 2007.

Hubble spies eight green filaments lit up by past quasar blasts

The ethereal wisps in these images were illuminated, perhaps briefly, by a blast of radiation from a quasar — a very luminous and compact region that surrounds a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy. Galactic material falls inwards towards the central black hole, growing hotter and hotter, forming a bright and brilliant quasar with powerful jets of particles and energy beaming above and below the disc of infalling matter.

In each of these eight images a quasar beam has caused once-invisible filaments in deep space to glow through a process called photoionisation. Oxygen, helium, nitrogen, sulphur and neon in the filaments absorb light from the quasar and slowly re-emit it over many thousands of years. Their unmistakable emerald hue is caused by ionised oxygen, which glows green.

hese objects were found in a spin-off of the Galaxy Zoo project, in which about 200 volunteers examined over 16 000 galaxy images in the SDSS to identify the best candidates for clouds similar to Hanny’s Voorwerp. A team of researchers analysed these and found a total of twenty galaxies that had gas ionised by quasars. Their results appear in a paper in the Astronomical Journal.

Source : RT , Spacetelescope.org

A Pair of Black Holes Could Soon Collide And Destroy Their Galaxy


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One black hole is not to be messed with, let alone two. Astronomers have discovered what appears to be two supermassive black holes just one light-year apart, setting up a collision so massive it could be release as much energy as 100 million supernovas and destroy it’s inside galaxy . Yep.

A Supermassive Black Hole is the largest type of black hole, on the order of hundreds of thousands to billions of solar masses and are found in the center of almost all massive galaxies.In the case of the Milky Way, the Supermassive black hole is believed to correspond with the location of Sagittarius A*(At the center).

Thankfully, the black holes are far away in a remote galaxy called PG 1302-102. The collision itself, if astronomers have done the calculations right, will happen in the next million years. That’s a pretty unfathomably long time for humans, but just a blink of an eye in cosmic time.

Astronomers are excited about the discovery because a pair of black holes could yield valuable information about theorized but never directly detected gravitational waves. Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time that exist according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity. If the two black holes collide, most of the released energy will be in the form of gravitational waves, literally bending the fabric of space-time.

But for now, the pair of black holes still need to be 100 percent confirmed. When two black holes so far away are close to one another, astronomers on Earth can only see it as a particular flicker of light. Astronomers need to rule the flicker out as a statistical anomaly. Still, in the long history of the universe, black holes have almost certainly collided before. Destroying whole galaxies in one fell swoop is not just science fiction.

Source : gizmodo.com

8 new planets found in ‘Goldilocks zone’, NASA may find Earth’s ‘twin’ very soon


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NASA is closer than ever to finding a twin for the Earth, astronomers said today, announcing the discovery of eight new planets that circle in the habitable zones of their stars.

Two of the eight are the most Earth-like of any known planets found so far outside our solar system, astronomers told the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, Washington.

The pair are likely to have hard, rocky surfaces in addition to being an orbiting distance from their stars that is neither too hot nor too cold for water and possibly life to exist, astronomers said. The discovery doubles the number of known planets that are close in size to the Earth and believed to be in the so-called “Goldilocks zone” of the stars they orbit.

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Representational image. AFP

“We are now closer than we have ever been to finding a twin for the Earth around another star,” said Fergal Mullally of the Kepler Science Office. “These candidates represent the closest analogs to the Earth’s own system found to date.”

The worlds were found with the help of NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler mission, a space telescope which has scoured more than 150,000 stars for planets beyond our solar system since its launch in 2009. The latest trove of candidate planets found by Kepler and announced today was 554, bringing the total potential planets to 4,175.

Scientists have recently verified the existence of the 1,000th planet found by Kepler.

“Three of the newly validated planets are located in their distant suns’ habitable zone, the range of distances from the host star where liquid water might exist on the surface of an orbiting planet,” NASA said in a statement. “Of the three, two are likely made of rock, like Earth.”

While it is intriguing to consider the possibility of life existing on another planet like ours, the two best candidates are so far away that learning more about them presents a big challenge.

Source : firstpost

Large Asteroids to Flyby Earth in January Through March. Should Humans Worry?


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A view of the asteroid Lutetia from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft (Click Image to download)

Asteroids are headed in Earth’s direction and with most of them about as wide as a double-decker bus, a collision would most likely result in significant damage. However, while experts warn against the potential dangers of these asteroids, they also say that it is unlikely that these will veer off course and hit the planet.

According to NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, there will be 43 asteroids flying close to Earth in January and 25 in February. In March, the number further drops to 15. The biggest threat for January is the asteroid 2007 EJ slated to closely approach the planet on Jan. 12. With a maximum diameter of nearly 1 mile, the asteroid is traveling at around 34,500 miles per hour.

The next-biggest asteroid threat for the first month of the year is the 1991 VE. It features a diameter of 0.87 miles and is expected to skim past the planet on Jan. 17. On Jan. 15 and 23, 0.68-mile wide asteroids will be flying by, the 2014 UF206 and the 2062 Aten, respectively.

At 0.75 miles wide, the 2003 YK118 will follow in Feb. 27. On the same day, the biggest asteroid threat for the quarter, the 1.4-mile wide 2000 EE14 can be expected. For March, the biggest an asteroid will get will be the 2002 GM2, which measures 0.68 miles in diameter. It’s scheduled to come close to Earth on March 3.

The 2000 EE14 will also not only be the biggest for the quarter but it will also be flying by the closest, coming in up to nearly 17 million miles within the proximity of the Earth’s center.

Alarmed that about a million undetected asteroids are flying around in space right now, scientists launched Asteroid Day to raise awareness and prevent the disaster that happened 65 million years ago from happening as much as possible.

According to NASA, the agency is aware of more than 1,500 PHAs or potentially hazardous asteroids. These are defined using parameters that measure how big of a potential an asteroid has for dangerously coming close to the planet. But just because an asteroid has a high potential doesn’t mean that it will impact Earth. The measure of potential is there to simply gauge just how big the possibility of a threat is. PHAs are constantly monitored to improve predictions for close-approach statistics, which in turn improves predictions for threat and impact.

Source : techtimes , Photo by ESA

Here is a tour of No Man’s Sky’s mathematically generated incredible universe


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When released this year, this amazing new next-gen sci-fi video game, “No Man’s Sky”, will cover about 18 quintillion visit-able planets and it would take about five billion years to visit each of those planets — no breaks allowed.  This is quite a remarkable concept, even if we’ll only get to see a little portion of what No Man’s Sky is set to offer. Presently in development by self-governing UK-based studio, Hello Games, the simulated landscape is procedurally created by an algorithmic programming system that sorts what Hello Games creator, Sean Murray, tells Game Informer in the video below is “a series of very simple formulae laid on top of each other to create something quite complex”.

What this allows for is unbelievable detail and limitless material to discover; zero loading time; and nearly no content kept on a disc, your PC or PS4 console, or even in the cloud. For people among us who have been a little underwhelmed with what next generation consoles, the Playstation 4 and XBox One, have so far provided, this amazing game is well and accurately taking benefit of their exceptional processing power to make something remarkable. Watch the video linked above by Game Informer to perceive exactly how this game is being created. I must say, after learning about this game, I think 2015 is going to be a worthy year for gaming.

Source: Kotaku, Game Informer

The Milky Way’s New Neighbor May Tell Us Things About the Universe


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As part of the Local Group, a collection of 54 galaxies and dwarf galaxies that measures 10 million light years in diameter, the Milky Way has no shortage of neighbors. However, refinements made in the field of astronomy in recent years are leading to the observation of neighbors that were previously unseen. This, in turn, is changing our view of the local universe to one where things are a lot more crowded.

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Dwarf spheroidal galaxies, like this one seen in the constellation Fornax, may exist in greater numbers than previously thought. Credit: ESO/Digital Sky Survey 2 (Click Image to Download)

For instance, scientists working out of the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Karachai-Cherkessia, Russia, recently found a previously undetected dwarf galaxy that exists 7 million light years away. The discovery of this galaxy, named KKs3, and those like it is an exciting prospect for scientists, since they can tell us much about how stars are born in our universe.

The Russian team, led by Prof Igor Karachentsev of the Special Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), used the Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) to locate KKs3 in the southern sky near the constellation of Hydrus. The discovery occurred back in August 2014, when they finalized their observations a series of stars that have only one ten-thousandth the mass of the Milky Way.

Such dwarf galaxies are far more difficult to detect than others due to a number of distinct characteristics. KKs3 is what is known as a dwarf spheroid (or dSph) galaxy, a type that has no spiral arms like the Milky Way and also suffers from an absence of raw materials (like dust and gas). Since they lack the materials to form new stars, they are generally composed of older, fainter stars.

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Image of the KKR 25 dwarf spheroid galaxy obtained by the Special Astrophysical Observatory using the HST. Credit: SAO RAS (Click Image to download)

In addition, these galaxies are typically found in close proximity to much larger galaxies, like Andromeda, which appear to have gobbled up their gas and dust long ago. Being faint in nature, and so close to far more luminous objects, is what makes them so tough to spot by direct observation.

Team member Prof Dimitry Makarov, also of the Special Astrophysical Observatory, described the process: “Finding objects like Kks3 is painstaking work, even with observatories like the Hubble Space Telescope. But with persistence, we’re slowly building up a map of our local neighborhood, which turns out to be less empty than we thought. It may be that are a huge number of dwarf spheroidal galaxies out there, something that would have profound consequences for our ideas about the evolution of the cosmos.”

Painstaking is no exaggeration. Since they are devoid of materials like clouds of gas and dust fields, scientists are forced to spot these galaxies by identifying individual stars. Because of this, only one other isolated dwarf spheroidal has been found in the Local Group: a dSph known as KKR 25, which was also discovered by the Russian research team back in 1999.

But despite the challenges of spotting them, astronomers are eager to find more examples of dSph galaxies. As it stands, it is believed that these isolated spheroids must have been born out of a period of rapid star formation, before the galaxies were stripped of their dust and gas or used them all up.

Studying more of these galaxies can therefore tell us much about the process star formation in our universe. The Russian team expects that the task will become easier in the coming years as the James Webb Space Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope begin service.

Much like the Spitzer Space Telescope, these next-generation telescopes are optimized for infrared detection and will therefore prove very useful in picking out faint stars. This, in turn, will also give us a more complete understanding of our universe and all that it holds.

Source : universe today