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

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

Planets orbiting Kepler 444 suggest there’s ancient life in the Milky Way


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NASA’s exoplanet hunting Kepler space telescope has encountered a few problems as of late, but there’s still a mountain of data for astronomers to dig through from the last four years. Astronomers analyzing Kepler data recently uncovered something unusual — a solar system about 117 light years away in the direction of Lyra called Kepler-444 with at least five Earth-sized planets. That would be unusual enough, but this planetary system is also extraordinarily ancient at roughly 11.2 billion years.

Astronomers are intrigued by this discovery for several reasons. First, that’s a lot of small rocky planets. Kepler detects alien worlds by the transit method. It watches distant suns for slight dips in brightness that indicate a planet has passed between it and the telescope. These events can be used to calculate the characteristics of the planet, but it works best for larger worlds (super Earths and gas giants). Spotting five planets between the size of Mercury and Venus (basically a little smaller than Earth) is unusual.

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Artistic Depiction of Kepler 444 with its Star

The age of Kepler-444 is also something to note. At 11.2 billion years old, the planets orbiting this star were already older than Earth is now when our sun ignited 4.5 billion years ago. The universe itself is only 13.8 billion or so years old, making Kepler-444 one of the oldest stars in the Milky Way. It would have been from the first generation of stars that dotted the sky. Kepler-444 is still very sun-like because it’s 25% smaller and cooler. That means it burns through its nuclear fuel more slowly.

Finding small rocky planets that are billions of years older than Earth suggests that advanced life may have existed in the universe for a very long time. Life on Earth might be very new by comparison. Just think, planets similar to Earth were forming more than 7 billion years before Earth formed, and some of them could have supported life. If other first-generation stars like Kepler-444 have planets, uncountable civilizations could have come into being eons before the first single-cell life appeared on Earth.

The planets orbiting Kepler-444 themselves are not able to support life as we know it. All five planets are packed very close to the parent star with orbits closer than that of Mercury in our solar system. With solar years less than 10 Earth days, they definitely stood out in the Kepler data. The surfaces of these worlds have been baked by the intense heat, reducing any organic material to cinders.

Kepler-444 isn’t a bastion of alien life, but it improves our understanding of planetary formation and points us in a new direction. Astronomers are anxious to find other ancient stars with rocky planets in hopes they might prove more hospitable to life. What if there was still something alive on one of these ancient worlds? That might sound like science fiction right now, but maybe it won’t always be — there’s still a lot of data from Kepler, and future telescopes will improve our ability to spy distant exoplanets.

Source: Geek.com

Wormhole to another galaxy may exist in Milky Way


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A giant doorway to another galaxy may exist at the centre of the Milky Way, a study suggests.

Scientists believe that dark matter at the centre of our galaxy could sustain a wormhole that we could travel through.

Wormholes are areas where space and time are being bent so that distant points are now closer together.

Einstein predicted them in his theory of General Relativity but nobody knows how they could be held open so that someone could travel through. Most scientists believe that It is extremely unlikely they could exist naturally in the universe. It would take a huge mass, like a Neutron star, to create a bend in time which could bend space time enough to meet another tunnel on the other side. No natural examples have ever been detected.

“If we combine the map of the dark matter in the Milky Way with the most recent Big Bang model to explain the universe and we hypothesise the existence of space-time tunnels, what we get is that our galaxy could really contain one of these tunnels, and that the tunnel could even be the size of the galaxy itself,” said Professor Paulo Salucci.

“But there’s more. We could even travel through this tunnel, since, based on our calculations, it could be navigable. Just like the one we’ve all seen in the recent film ‘Interstellar“‘.

He said the research was surprisingly close to what was depicted in director Christopher Nolan’s movie, for which theoretical physicist Kip Thorne provided technical assistance.

“What we tried to do in our study was to solve the very equation that the astrophysicist ‘Murph’ was working on,” said Prof Salucci. “Clearly we did it long before the film came out.”

Wormhole, conceptual artwork

 Wormholes bend space-time to allow distant regions to meet

Any wormholes existing in nature have previously been assumed to be microscopic pinpricks in the fabric of space-time.

But the one possibly lying at the centre of the Milky Way would be large enough to swallow up a spaceship and its crew.

Prof Salucci added: “Obviously we’re not claiming that our galaxy is definitely a wormhole, but simply that, according to theoretical models, this hypothesis is a possibility.”

Other “spiral” galaxies similar to the Milky Way – like its neighbour Andromeda – may also contain wormholes, the scientists believe.

Theoretically it might be possible to test the idea by comparing the Milky Way with a different type of nearby galaxy, such as one of the irregular Magellanic Clouds.

In their paper, the scientists write: “Our result is very important because it confirms the possible existence of wormholes in most of the spiral galaxies ..

“Dark matter may supply the fuel for constructing and sustaining a wormhole. Hence, wormholes could be found in nature and our study may encourage scientists to seek observational evidence for wormholes in the galactic halo region.”

The theory was published in the journal Annals of Physics.

Source : Telegraph

This One Picture Will Make You Realize How Big The Universe Actually Is


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Milky Way Galaxy (Click Image to Download)

We’ve all heard the universe is a very big place, but this image from Alex Grossman really drives that concept home.

The question: How far has humanity’s influence reached?

The very first thing created by humanity that left our tiny planet wasn’t a satellite or space ship, it was the broadcasts from a world obsession with radio. This image shows how far radio broadcasts will have reached in our galaxy, the Milky Way, by the time that technology is 200 years old. Considering we only started broadcasting in 1880, this map actually represents our reach in 2080.

In the vacuum of space radio waves travel at the speed of light, so our entire influence on the universe has now traveled just 135 light years away from Earth (1 “light year” equals the distance light travels in 1 year). That’s right, the tiny blue dot in the image below is how far every single action by humanity has reached. Feel tiny yet?

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How does that compare to our furthest traveling spacecraft? The Voyager 1, which is now traveling almost outside the influence of our Sun, is only about 18 light hours away from the Earth. That’s about 97,000 times smaller than the blue dot in these pictures.

Now for the real kicker.

How many galaxies like our Milky Way are in the entire Universe? No one knows the actual figure because we can’t see to the outside edge (if there is one), but the amount we can see in the observable universe is estimated to be… wait for it…

…more than 170 billion galaxies.

There it is. We are really, really, very, amazingly, incredibly, so, small.
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Milky Way galaxy rendering by Nick Risinger

Source : www.visualnews.com

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

‘Perfect Storm’ Suffocating Star Formation around a Supermassive Black Hole


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High-energy jets powered by supermassive black holes can blast away a galaxy’s star-forming fuel — resulting in so-called “red and dead” galaxies: those brimming with ancient red stars yet little or no hydrogen gas available to create new ones.

Now astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have discovered that black holes don’t have to be nearly so powerful to shut down star formation. By observing the dust and gas at the center NGC 1266, a nearby lenticular galaxy with a relatively modest central black hole, the astronomers have detected a “perfect storm” of turbulence that is squelching star formation in a region that would otherwise be an ideal star factory.

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Fig 1. Artist impression of the central region of NGC 1266. The jets from the central black hole are creating turbulence in the surrounding molecular gas, suppressing star formation in an otherwise ideal environment to form new stars. Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

This turbulence is stirred up by jets from the galaxy’s central black hole slamming into an incredibly dense envelope of gas. This dense region, which may be the result of a recent merger with another smaller galaxy, blocks nearly 98 percent of material propelled by the jets from escaping the galactic center.

“Like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, the molecules in these jets meet so much resistance when they hit the surrounding dense gas that they are almost completely stopped in their tracks,” said Katherine Alatalo, an astronomer with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and lead author on a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal. This energetic collision produces powerful turbulence in the surrounding gas, disrupting the first critical stage of star formation. “So what we see is the most intense suppression of star formation ever observed,” noted Alatalo.

Previous observations of NGC 1266 revealed a broad outflow of gas from the galactic center traveling up to 400 kilometers per second. Alatalo and her colleagues estimate that this outflow is as forceful as the simultaneous supernova explosion of 10,000 stars. The jets, though powerful enough to stir the gas, are not powerful enough to give it the velocity it needs to escape from the system.

Continue reading ‘Perfect Storm’ Suffocating Star Formation around a Supermassive Black Hole

Cool gases ideal for star formation in galaxies


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Horsehead nebula (Click Image to Download)

Astronomers have discovered that a cool cosmic environment is ideal for the creation of new stars.

A surge of warm gas from a nearby galaxy – left over from the devouring of a separate galaxy – eliminates star formation by agitating the available chilled gas, the study says.

Astronomers wanted to understand why galaxies in the local universe fall into two major categories: younger, star-forming spirals (like our own Milky Way) and older ellipticals in which fresh star making has ceased.

The new study observed galaxy NGC 3226, which occupies a transitional middle ground so getting a lead on its star formation was critical.

“We have explored big data archives from NASA and European Space Agency’s space telescopes to pull together a picture of an elliptical galaxy that has undergone huge changes in its recent past due to violent collisions with its neighbours,” said Philip Appleton, project scientist for the NASA Herschel Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

These collisions are modifying the condition of the gas that resides in it, making it hard for the galaxy to form many stars, he added.

NGC 3226 is relatively close, just 50 million light-years away from Earth.

The data from the three telescopes finds that NGC 3226 has a very low rate of star formation.

It appears that in this case, the material falling into NGC 3226 is heating up as it collides with other galactic gas and dust, quenching star formation instead of fueling it.

As the warm gas flooding NGC 3226 cools to star-forming temperatures, the galaxy should get a second wind, the authors said.

The paper appeared on Astrophysical Journal.

Source : ZEE NEWS

Black hole at Milky Way center may be emitting mysterious neutrinos, NASA says


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The massive black hole at the heart of our milky galaxy may be churning out peculiar particles called neutrinos, NASA satellites have revealed. If verified, it would be the first time neutrinos have been traced to the darkest regions of spacetime.

The subatomic activity was first detected by three NASA satellites, which observe in x-ray light: the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Swift gamma-ray mission, and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), the space agency said in a press release.

Neutrinos, from the Italian “little ones”, live up to their namesake, as they are tiny by even subatomic standards. Carrying no charge, they are unaffected by the electromagnetic forces that affect charged particles such as electrons and protons.

As a result, they can travel across vast expanses of the universe without being absorbed by matter that crosses their path (in fact, billions of them pass through your body every second!) And without an electric charge, they are not deflected by magnetic fields when traveling across the universe.

While the earth is constantly buffeted by neutrinos from the sun, those originating from beyond our solar system can be millions or even billions of times more energetic. Scientists have long puzzled the origin of ultra-high energy and very high-energy neutrinos.

“Figuring out where high-energy neutrinos come from is one of the biggest problems in astrophysics today,” said Yang Bai of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, who co-authored a study about the results published in Physical Review D. “We now have the first evidence that an astronomical source – the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole – may be producing these very energetic neutrinos.”

By tracing neutrinos back to black holes, scientists will be one step closer to understanding how cosmic rays are made. These rays wreak havoc on microelectronics and life outside the protection of an atmosphere and magnetic field. Understanding their origin also provides deeper insight into how the universe works.

Continue reading Black hole at Milky Way center may be emitting mysterious neutrinos, NASA says

Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole Reveals Identity of Strange Object at Center of Our Galaxy


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 What are Supermassive Black Hole ?

Supermassive black hole (SMBH) is the largest type of black hole, on the order of hundreds of thousands to billions of solar masses. Most—and possibly all—galaxies are inferred to contain a supermassive black hole at their centers.In the case of the Milky Way, the SMBH is believed to correspond with the location of Sagittarius A*.

For years, astronomers have been puzzled by a bizarre object in the center of the Milky Way that was believed to be a hydrogen gas cloud headed toward our galaxy’s enormous black hole. Having studied it during its closest approach to the black hole this summer, UCLA astronomers believe that they have solved the riddle of the object widely known as G2.

A team led by Andrea Ghez, professor of physics and astronomy in the UCLA College, determined that G2 is most likely a pair of binary stars that had been orbiting the black hole in tandem and merged together into an extremely large star, cloaked in gas and dust — its movements choreographed by the black hole’s powerful gravitational field. The research is published today in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.
“We are seeing phenomena about black holes that you can’t watch anywhere else in the universe,” Ghez added. “We are starting to understand the physics of black holes in a way that has never been possible before.”

Ghez, who studies thousands of stars in the neighborhood of the supermassive black hole, said G2 appears to be just one of an emerging class of stars near the black hole that are created because the black hole’s powerful gravity drives binary stars to merge into one. She also noted that, in our galaxy, massive stars primarily come in pairs. She says the star suffered an abrasion to its outer layer but otherwise will be fine.

Astronomers had figured that if G2 had been a hydrogen cloud, it could have been torn apart by the black hole, and that the resulting celestial fireworks would have dramatically changed the state of the black hole. “G2 survived and continued happily on its orbit; a simple gas cloud would not have done that,” said Ghez, who holds the Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Chair in Astrophysics. “G2 was basically unaffected by the black hole. There were no fireworks.”

Black holes, which form out of the collapse of matter, have such high density that nothing can escape their gravitational pull — not even light. They cannot be seen directly, but their influence on nearby stars is visible and provides a signature, said Ghez, a 2008 MacArthur Fellow.

The image below shows Sagittarius A* — the giant black hole at the center of our galaxy — appears dim in this composite image because very little material is falling into it.

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Ghez and her colleagues — who include lead author Gunther Witzel, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar, and Mark Morris and Eric Becklin, both UCLA professors of physics and astronomy — conducted the research at Hawaii’s W.M. Keck Observatory, which houses the world’s two largest optical and infrared telescopes.

When two stars near the black hole merge into one, the star expands for more than 1 million years before it settles back down, said Ghez, who directs the UCLA Galactic Center Group. “This may be happening more than we thought. The stars at the center of the galaxy are massive and mostly binaries. It’s possible that many of the stars we’ve been watching and not understanding may be the end product of mergers that are calm now.”

Ghez and her colleagues also determined that G2 appears to be in that inflated stage now. The body has fascinated many astronomers in recent years, particularly during the year leading up to its approach to the black hole. “It was one of the most watched events in astronomy in my career,” Ghez said.

Ghez said G2 now is undergoing what she calls a “spaghetti-fication” — a common phenomenon near black holes in which large objects become elongated. At the same time, the gas at G2’s surface is being heated by stars around it, creating an enormous cloud of gas and dust that has shrouded most of the massive star.

Witzel said the researchers wouldn’t have been able to arrive at their conclusions without the Keck’s advanced technology. “It is a result that in its precision was possible only with these incredible tools, the Keck Observatory’s 10-meter telescopes,” Witzel said.

The telescopes use adaptive optics, a powerful technology pioneered in part by Ghez that corrects the distorting effects of the Earth’s atmosphere in real time to more clearly reveal the space around the supermassive black hole. The technique has helped Ghez and her colleagues elucidate many previously unexplained facets of the environments surrounding supermassive black holes.

The image at the top of the page is a simulation showing the possible behavior of a gas cloud that has been observed approaching the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Source :  daily galaxy