Space

This week, Astronomy & Astrophysics is publishing new observations with AMBER/VLTI of the gas component in the vicinity of young stars. An international team of astronomers led by E. Tatulli (Grenoble, France) and S. Kraus (Bonn, Germany) [1] used the VLT near-infrared interferometer, coupled with spectroscopy, to probe the gaseous environment of Herbig Ae/Be stars. These are young stars of intermediate mass (approximately 2 to 10 solar masses), which are still contracting and often show strong line emissions.


Juno Spacecraft to Study Jupiter, we are informed by space.com. Don't people think before they give names, or choose songs? They select for weddings "I will always love you" by Whitney Houston, which is a song of irreversible parting, and I have even heard of a Church of England vicar choosing John Lennon's "Imagine there's no heaven" for something or other. I live on the eastern side of the Pond, which makes me a European, and the name of our continent is taken from that of Europa in Greek mythology.
Astronomers studying new images of a nearby galaxy cluster have found evidence that high-speed collisions between large elliptical galaxies may prevent new stars from forming, according to a paper in the November 2008 Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Led by Jeffrey Kenney, professor and chair of astronomy at Yale, the team saw a spectacular complex of warm gas filaments 400,000 light-years-long connecting the elliptical galaxy M86 and the spiral galaxy NGC 4438 in the Virgo galaxy cluster, providing striking evidence for a previously unsuspected high-speed collision between the galaxies. The view was constructed using the wide-field Mosaic imager on the National Science Foundation telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Arizona.


COROT has discovered a massive planet-sized object orbiting its parent star closely, unlike anything ever spotted before. It is so exotic, that scientists are unsure as to whether this oddity is actually a planet or a failed star.

The object, named COROT-exo-3b, is about the size of Jupiter, but packs more than 20 times the mass. It takes only 4 days and 6 hours to orbit its parent star, which is slightly larger than the Sun.

As a planet, COROT-exo-3b would be the most massive and the densest found to date - more than twice as dense as lead. Studying it will help them better understand how to categorise such objects. The mystery is how such a massive object formed so close to its parent.


For several decades, scientists have thought that the Solar System formed as a result of a shock wave from an exploding star — a supernova — that triggered the collapse of a dense, dusty gas cloud that contracted to form the Sun and the planets.

Models of this formation process have only worked under the simplifying assumption that the temperatures during the violent events remained constant but astrophysicists at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) say their new model says that a supernova could indeed have triggered the Solar System’s formation under the more likely conditions of rapid heating and cooling.


The “birth rate” for stars is certainly not easy to determine. Distances in the universe are far too great for astronomers to be able to count all the newly formed celestial bodies with the aid of a telescope so it is fortunate that emerging stars give themselves away by a characteristic signal known as “H-alpha” emissions.

The larger the number of stars being formed in a particular region of the firmament, the more H-alpha rays are emitted from that region.

More newborn stars are apparently emerging around the universe than previously assumed, say researchers at Bonn University who published a paper in “Nature” explaining that a systematic error in the method of estimation has resulted in a lower number.

The detailed study, called the ACS Nearby Galaxy Survey Treasury (ANGST) program, explored a region called the Local Volume, where galaxy distances range from 6.5 million light-years to 13 million light-years from Earth.

A typical galaxy contains billions of stars but looks smooth when viewed through a conventional telescope because the stars appear blurred together. In contrast, the galaxies observed in this new survey are close enough to Earth that the sharp view provided by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 can resolve the brightness and colour of some individual stars. This allows scientists to determine the history of star formation within a galaxy and tease out subtle features in a galaxy's shape.


Plenty of sun and some ice for water sounds like a lovely place for a moon base, doesn't it?

Three-dimensional views of the mountainous terrain surrounding a “peak of eternal light” near the Moon’s south pole have been released by the European Space Agency. Dr Detlef Koschny will present the images at the European Planetary Science Congress in Münster on Friday 26th September. Images taken by the AMIE camera carried by ESA’s SMART-1 mission have been used to create digital elevation model of the peak, which is almost continuously exposed to sunlight.

“AMIE is not a stereo camera, so producing a 3-D model of the surface has been a challenge,” said Dr Koschny. “We’ve used a technique where we use the brightness of reflected light to determine the slope and, by comparing several images, put together a model that produces a shadow pattern that matches those observed by SMART-1.”


I'm obsessed with the apocalypse. No joke.

I always carry a mini-emergency kit stuffed in an Altoids tin, and I know that if the apocalypse comes, my husband and I are supposed to meet at our apartment, grab our pre-packed bags, maybe the cat, and head for the hills. 

We own a Grundig self-powered radio with hand crank and charger for cell phones with various adapters. Survival manuals. Canned food. Bottled water. Check. Check. Check.

Zombies, watch out! We're armed. Nuclear attack? No prob--we've got pills for that.

But what if the apocalypse isn't zombies? What if it's not radiation poisoning we've got to be worried about? What if it's simply some giant celestial object bearing down on us?--I'd need several pills to handle that. 

Sounds improbable? Think again.

Illustration by LYNETTE R COOK

Over a decade after it exploded, one of the nearest supernovae in the last 25 years has been identified. This result was made possible by combining data from the vast online archives from many of the world’s premier telescopes.

The supernova, called SN 1996cr, was first singled out in 2001 by Franz Bauer. Bauer noticed a bright, variable source in the Circinus spiral galaxy, using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Although the source displayed some exceptional properties Bauer and his Penn State colleagues could not identify its nature confidently at the time.

It was not until years later that Bauer and his team were able to confirm that this object was a supernova. Clues from a spectrum obtained by ESO’s Very Large Telescope led the team to start the real detective work of searching through data from 18 different telescopes, both ground- and space-based, nearly all of which existed. Because this object was found in an interesting nearby galaxy, the public archives of these telescopes contained abundant observations.