Astronomers have located an exceptionally massive black hole in orbit around a huge companion star. This result has intriguing implications for the evolution and ultimate fate of massive stars.
The black hole is part of a binary system in M33, a nearby galaxy about 3 million light years from Earth. By combining data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Gemini telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, the mass of the black hole, known as M33 X-7, was determined to be 15.7 times that of the Sun. This makes M33 X-7 the most massive stellar black hole known. A stellar black hole is formed from the collapse of the core of a massive star at the end of its life.
Observations of I Zwicky 18 at the Palomar Observatory around 40 years ago seemed to show that it was one of the youngest galaxies in the nearby Universe. The studies suggested that the galaxy had erupted with star formation billions of years after its galactic neighbours, like our galaxy the Milky Way. Back then it was an important finding for astronomers, since this young galaxy was also nearby and could be studied in great detail; something that is not possible with observations made across great distances when the universe was much younger.
But these new Hubble data have quashed that possibility. The telescope found fainter older red stars contained within the galaxy, suggesting its star formation started at least one billion years ago and possibly as much as 10 billion years ago.
The best views of the hydrocarbon lakes and seas on Saturn's moon Titan taken by the Cassini spacecraft are being released today.
A new radar image comprised from seven Titan fly-bys over the last year and a half shows a north pole pitted with giant lakes and seas, at least one of them larger than Lake Superior in the USA, the largest freshwater lake on Earth. Approximately 60% of Titan's north polar region, above 60° north, has been mapped by Cassini's radar instrument. About 14% of the mapped region is covered by what scientists interpret as liquid hydrocarbon lakes.
"This is our version of mapping Alaska, the northern parts of Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia and Northern Russia," said Rosaly Lopes, Cassini radar scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA.
The voyage of NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft through the Jupiter system earlier this year provided a bird’s-eye view of a dynamic planet that has changed since the last close-up looks by NASA spacecraft.
New Horizons passed Jupiter on Feb. 28, riding the planet’s gravity to boost its speed and shave three years off its trip to Pluto.
Recent observations from NASA and Japanese X-ray observatories have helped clarify one of the long-standing mysteries in astronomy -- the origin of cosmic rays.
Outer space is a vast shooting gallery of cosmic rays. Discovered in 1912, cosmic rays are not actually rays at all; they are subatomic particles and ions (such as protons and electrons) that zip through space in all directions at near-light speed, with energies tens of thousands of times greater than particles produced in Earth’s largest particle accelerators.
There hasn't been an emergency on the launch pad that required the use of an emergency evacuation system for astronauts but, to be safe, NASA has updated earlier systems of escape for Launch Complex 39B, hosting the new Orion spacecraft and Ares I rocket of the Constellation Program, which were basically cables running from the spacecraft’s crew level to an area near a bunker, to one with rails. And linked cars. 380 feet above the ground.
Yes, it is the most spectacular roller coaster around, and we will never get to ride it.
Kelli Maloney, lead designer for the launch pad escape system, said requirements call for astronauts to be able to get out of the spacecraft and into the bunker within 4 minutes.
Otto, the first of the two ALMA antenna transporters, was given its name at a ceremony on the compounds of heavy-vehicle specialist Scheuerle Fahrzeugfabrik GmbH, in Baden-Württemberg. This new colossus is 10 meters wide, 20 meters long and 6 meters high and will be shipped to Chile by the end of the month.
The transporter was named 'Otto' in honor of Otto Rettenmaier, the owner of the Scheuerle company. "The rather unusual move to name a vehicle is a recognition of the remarkable achievement these unique machines represent," said Hans Rykaczewski, the European ALMA Project Manager. "Their sizes alone would justify using superlatives to describe them.
Discovered by Sir John Herschel in 1834, NGC 3603 is known to harbour a blue supergiant star called Sher 25, believed to be on the verge of exploding as a supernova. It is often known as the Milky Way counterpart of the predecessor of the now-famous supernova SN 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
It is located in the Carina spiral arm of the Milky Way, about 20,000 light-years from the Solar System.
The swirling nebula of NGC 3603 contains around 400,000 solar masses of gas. Lurking within this vast cloud are a few Bok globules, named after Bart Bok who first observed them in the 1940s.
Bok globules are dark clouds of dense dust and gas with masses of about ten to fifty times that of the Sun.
Scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory report they have captured the first images of a collision between a comet and a solar hurricane. It is the first time scientists have witnessed such an event on another cosmic body.
The phenomenon was caused by a coronal mass ejection, a large cloud of magnetized gas cast into space by the sun. The collision resulted in the complete detachment of the plasma tail of Encke's comet. Observations of the comet reveal the brightening of its tail as the coronal mass ejection swept by and the tail's subsequent separation as it was carried away by the front of the ejection. The researchers combined the images into a movie.
"We were awestruck when we saw these images," says Angelos Vourlidas, lead author and researcher at NRL.
Comets are made of the most primitive stuff in the solar system. As hunks of rock and ice that never coalesced into more planets, they give researchers clues to the evolution of solar systems.
In February, during its mission to study the sun's polar regions, the spacecraft Ulysses flew through McNaught's ion tail 160 million miles from the comet's core.
Instrument readings showed there was "complex chemistry" at play, said University of Michigan space science professor George Gloeckler. Gloeckler is the principal investigator on the Solar Wind Ion Composition Spectrometer (SWICS) aboard Ulysses, which measured the composition and speed of the comet tail and solar wind.