Spectacular Images and Video of India From the International Space Station


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Pictures and footage of India taken from space show the country by night and day as seen from the International Space Station, including a spectacular lightning storm.

The images were taken by Terry Virts, the commander of the current project, Expedition 43, at the space station and tweeted from his verified account.

A one-year joint mission between space agencies in the United States, Russia and Europe, began on Mar. 11, 2015 and is in its final days. Astronauts are expected to return to Earth on Wednesday.

The six-member crew have been conducting astrophysics research, physical science investigations and technology demonstrations, but no space walks.

Two of the crew, Scott Kelly and Mikhail Korneinko, have spent the entire year in space and have undergone medical studies to help further scientific advancements on Earth. Other astronauts were rotated in at the end of Expedition 42 in December.

Check out some other Amzing Pictures of India From space taken by Terry Virts

Source: http://blogs.wsj.com

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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 Near-Collision Stretched This Galaxy Like A “Taffy Pull”


Hubble image of NGC 7714

Two galaxies drifted too close together between 100 and 200 million years ago, and began to drag at and disrupt one another’s structure and shape 

At first glance,it looks like a giant rollercoaster loop.

However, this incredible image actually shows a ‘river’ of Sun-like stars that has been pulled deep into space by the gravitational tug of a bypassing galaxy

The golden loop is made of sun-like stars that have been pulled deep into space, far from the galaxy’s centre.

Experts say the galaxy, called NGC 7714, has witnessed some violent and dramatic events in its recent past.

Tell-tale signs of this brutality can be seen in NGC 7714’s strangely shaped arms, and in the smoky golden haze that stretches out from the galactic centre, they say.

The culprit is a smaller companion named NGC 7715, which lies just out of the frame of this image.

As a result, a ring and two long tails of stars have emerged from NGC 7714, creating a bridge between the two galaxies. This bridge acts as a pipeline, funnelling material from NGC 7715 towards its larger companion and feeding bursts of star formation. Most of the star-forming activity is concentrated at the bright galactic centre, although the whole galaxy is sparking new stars.

The galaxy is located approximately 100 million light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Pisces.

Astronomer believe that our Galaxy will also collide with its companion galaxy Andromeda after 4 billion years . Here is the Simulation of Galactic collision

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Source : Dailymail , io9

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

Researchers: Solar system may have Planet X , Planet Y


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The presence of two additional planets might explain the unexpected orbital features of some trans-Neptunian objects.

Scientists have postulated the existence of possibly two undiscovered planets beyond the orbit of Neptune to explain discrepancies in the orbits of extreme trans-Neptunian objects (ETNO). The objects have orbits that take them beyond the orbit of the planet Neptune.

Theory predicts that they be randomly distributed and that their orbits must have a semi-major axis with a value around 150 AU; an orbital inclination of nearly zero degrees; and an angle of perihelion, the point in the object’s orbit at which it is closest to the Sun, of zero to 180 degrees.

However, a dozen ETNO do not fit these orbital criteria. These objects have semi-major axis values of 150 to 525 AU, orbital inclinations of around 20 degrees, and angles of perihelion far from 180 degrees.

According to a statement, a new study by astrophysicists at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and University of Cambridge have calculated that these orbital discrepancies could be explained by the existence of at least two additional planets beyond the orbits of Neptune and dwarf planet Pluto. Their study suggests that the gravitational pulls of those two planets must be disturbing the orbits of some smaller ETNO.

However, there are two difficulties with the hypothesis. One is that current models of the formation of our solar system do not allow for additional planets beyond Neptune. Secondly, the team’s sample size is very small, only 13 objects. However, additional results are in the pipeline, which will expand the sample.

“This excess of objects with unexpected orbital parameters makes us believe that some invisible forces are altering the distribution of the orbital elements of the ETNO and we consider that the most probable explanation is that other unknown planets exist beyond Neptune and Pluto,” said Carlos de la Fuente Marcos of UCM and lead author on the study.

The new findings have been published in two papers published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters.

Source : thespacereporter

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

A way to explore Venus


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NASA Langley researchers want to get a better idea about conditions on our nearest planetary neighbor, Venus, so they have come up with HAVOC or a High Altitude Venus Operational Concept – a lighter-than-air rocket ship that would help send two astronauts on a 30-day mission to explore the planet’s atmosphere. Exploration of Venus is a challenge not only because its smog-like sulfuric acid-laced atmosphere, but also its extremely hot surface temperature and extremely high air pressure on the surface.

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

ISRO’s Mangalyaan Mars Mission Among Time Magazine’s ’25 Best Inventions of 2014′


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Mangalyaan has been named among the best inventions of 2014 by Time magazine which described it as a technological feat that will allow India to flex its “interplanetary muscles.”
“Nobody gets Mars right on the first try. The US didn’t, Russia didn’t, the Europeans didn’t. But on September 24, India did. That’s when the Mangalyaan… went into orbit around the Red Planet, a technological feat no other Asian nation has yet achieved,” Time said about Mangalyaan, calling it “The Supersmart Spacecraft.”

Mangalyaan is among the 25 ‘Best Inventions of 2014’ listed by Time magazine that are “making the world better, smarter and-in some cases-a little more fun.”

Developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation, the Mars spacecraft cost India just US $74 million (roughly Rs. 457 crores), less than the budget for the multi-Academy Award winning science fiction thriller film Gravity. Time said at that price, the Mangalyaan is equipped with just five onboard instruments that allow it to do simple tasks like measure Martian methane and surface composition.

“More important, however, it allows India to flex its interplanetary muscles, which portends great things for the country’s space programme and for science in general,” Time said.

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(Click Image to Download) Image of mars image  taken from a height of 7300 km by India ‘s Mangalyaan

Continue reading ISRO’s Mangalyaan Mars Mission Among Time Magazine’s ’25 Best Inventions of 2014′

Philae’s Incredible Comet-Landing Sequence Shows Up In Fresh Rosetta Images


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Images from the Rosetta spacecraft show Philae drifting across the surface of its target comet during landing Nov. 12, 2014. Credit: ESA/Rosetta

New images released from the Rosetta spacecraft orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko show the spacecraft coming in for its (first) landing on Wednesday (Nov. 12). “The mosaic comprises a series of images captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera over a 30 minute period spanning the first touchdown,” wrote the European Space Agency in a blog post today (Monday).

This is just the latest in a series of images coming from the orbiting Rosetta spacecraft showing the Philae lander coming in for its rendezvous with 67P. A major next step for the mission will be figuring out where the lander actually came for a rest, but there’s plenty of data from both Rosetta and Philae to comb through for this information, ESA said.

What’s known for sure is Philae made three touchdowns on the comet — making history as humanity’s first soft-lander on such an object — stopping in a shady area that will make recharging its solar panels difficult. The spacecraft is in hibernation as of Friday (Nov. 17) and scientists are really, really hoping it’s able to charge up for another science session soon. Rosetta, meanwhile, is hard at work above and will continue to follow the comet in 2015.

Source : universe today

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