Posts Tagged ‘European Southern Observatory’

Star Birth

August 22, 2013

Everybody in Britain was excited about the birth of the new prince. That’s understandable, considering the importance of continuing the royal line, but astronomers have been recording a somewhat more significant birth, the birth of a new star. Here is the story and pictures from Yahoo News.

A huge radio telescope in Chile has captured dazzling new views of a baby star lighting up an interstellar cloud with jets of gas streaking through deep space at record-breaking speeds.

The ALMA radio telescope, a joint project between North America, Europe and Asia, recorded the star birth images. They show the nascent star about 1,400 light-years from Earth unleashing material at nearly 84,477 mph (144,000 km/h), which then crashes into surrounding gas, causing it to glow.

The glowing object spawned by the newborn star is what scientists call a Herbig-Haro object. European Southern Observatory officials used the new views to create a video tour of new star birth images.

These new, detailed images showed that the material is streaking out of the star at about 40 kilometers per second (nearly 25 miles per second), which is about four times faster than any previous observation of carbon monoxide jets, scientists said. The discovery may help researchers understand the complex processes stars undergo during their birth.

The sun is a star, so if we want to understand how our solar system was created, we need to understand how stars are formed,” Héctor Arce, the lead author of the study appearing in the Astrophysical Journal on Aug. 20, said in a statement.

 The new image of Herbig-Haro 46/47 (HH 46/47) produced by the ALMA telescope, its name is short for Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, reveals two jets of material streaming away from the newborn star, one of which was never detected before.

 One jet appears on the left side of the photo in pink and purple streaming partially toward Earth, while the orange and green jet on the right-hand-side show a jet pointed away from Earth.

 “This system is similar to most isolated low mass stars during their formation and birth,” Diego Mardones, a co-author of the study detailing the stellar findings said in a statement. “But it is also unusual because the outflow impacts the cloud directly on one side of the young star and escapes out of the cloud on the other. This makes it an excellent system for studying the impact of the stellar winds on the parent cloud from which the young star is formed.”

ALMA’s sensitive instruments took five hours to get these results. Earlier photos taken with other telescopes did not catch the second (orange and green) jet stream because dust surrounding the star obscured their views.

“ALMA’s exquisite sensitivity allows the detection of previously unseen features in this source, like this very fast outflow,” Arce said. “It also seems to be a textbook example of a simple model where the molecular outflow is generated by a wide-angle wind from the young star.”

 The $1.3 billion ALMA radio telescope is an array of 66 of individual radio telescopes that create one of the most powerful telescopes ever built. Each dish is up to 40 feet wide (12 meters) and can weigh 115 tons. The combined effort of the telescopes allows scientists to see celestial sights invisible in optical light because they are masked by gas and dust.

Here are some baby pictures.

Isn’t he the cutest thing. I think we should name him George.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Planet at Alpha Centauri

October 23, 2012

I have been meaning to write about the planet astronomers have discovered orbiting Alpha Centauri. I think this is quite exciting since Alpha Centauri is the nearest star, except the the Sun of course, only about four light years away. Here is some information from the International Business Times.

A planet with a mass similar to Earth has been discovered in Alpha Centauri System, just right outside our Solar System. What makes this planet stand out among hundreds of exoplanets previously discovered?

Here are 10 Things You Need to Know about Alpha Centauri and this Neighboring Planet:

10. Alpha Centauri is composed of three stars: Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B and Proxima Centauri, which is shining close to the Sun, the star at the center of the Solar System.

9. Alpha Centauri is a complicated system because its stars orbit one another. Further studies were made to confirm whether the orbiting body is indeed a planet.

8. Alpha Centauri is only 4.3 light years away from Earth.

7. The recently discovered unnamed planet in the Alpha Centauri System has the same mass as Earth. It is the nearest planet to Earth compared to other planets – 840 so far – discovered in the past.

6. In contrast to Mercury’s distance to the sun during orbit, the newly-discovered planet is closer to the star it orbits, suggesting extreme temperature on the surface — about 1,500C, according to scientists.

5. The neighbor planet was found near Alpha Centauri B, six million kilometers away.

4. The Harps instrument spotted the planet from the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla facility in Chile.

3. Four years of observation revealed the planet orbits Alpha Centauri B in just 3.2 to 3.6 days, a far contrast to earth’s 365 days.

2. Normally, more planets are discovered once a planet and its star have been properly identified. “The prospects are excellent for finding further planets in this system. Everything we know indicates that when you find one planet like this you’re very likely to find additional planets further out, so it’s very exciting in terms of looking forward to further detection,” Greg Laughlin of the University of California at Santa Cruz told The Guardian.

1. The Alpha Centauri planet discovery is ordinary-but-promising in space exploration. “Even if the discovery just stands perfectly normal in the discoveries we have had up to now, it’s a landmark discovery, because it’s very low-mass and it’s our closest neighbor,” Stéphane Udry of Switzerland’s Geneva Observatory told BBC.

With a surface temperature of 1500 degrees Celsius, we won’t be colonizing that planet any time soon, and of course, with our present technology, it would still take thousands of years to get there. Well, if they ever invent warp drive, that that will be our first stop.

 

Super Earth Found

September 12, 2011
HD 189733 has a Jupiter-class planet in a tigh...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve always been a science fiction fan so the idea of planets orbiting other stars seemed perfectly natural to me. I never imagined, though, that astronomers would be able to detect these planets within my life time. I thought we would have to wait centuries until warp drive or something was invented. It turns out,  though that in recent years astronomers have been able to refine their techniques not only to detect such planets, but even to learn quite a bit about them. At first they could only detect massive Jupiter sized planets but now it seems that they can study even Earth sized worlds.

With that in mind, there is this item from Yahoo News. It would seem that some 16 “super-earths” or rocky planets more massive than ours have been detected.

The newfound haul of alien planets includes 16 super-Earths, which are potentially rocky worlds that are more massive than our planet. One in particular – called HD 85512 b – has captured astronomers’ attention because it orbits at the edge of its star’s habitable zone, suggesting conditions could be ripe to support life.

The exoplanet findings came from observations from the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher instrument, or HARPS. The HARPS spectrograph is part of ESO’s 11.8-foot (3.6-meter) telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile. [

“The harvest of discoveries from HARPS has exceeded all expectations and includes an exceptionally rich population of super-Earths and Neptune-type planets hosted by stars very similar to our sun,” HARPS team leader Michel Mayor of the University of Geneva in Switzerland said in a statement. “And even better — the new results show that the pace of discovery is accelerating.”

The potentially habitable super-Earth, officially called HD 85512 b, is estimated to be only 3.6 times more massive than Earth, and its parent star is located about 35 light-years away, making it relatively nearby. HD 85512 b was found to orbit at the edge of its star’s habitable zone, which is a narrow region in which the distance is just right that liquid water could exist given the right conditions.

“This is the lowest-mass confirmed planet discovered by the radial velocity method that potentially lies in the habitable zone of its star, and the second low-mass planet discovered by HARPS inside the habitable zone,” said exoplanet habitability expert Lisa Kaltenegger, of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Boston.

Further analysis of HD 85512 b and the other newfound exoplanets will be able to determine more about the potential existence of water on the surface.

“I think we’re in for an incredibly exciting time,” Kaltenegger told reporters in a briefing today (Sept. 12). “We’re not just going out there to discover new continents — we’re actually going out there to discover brand new worlds.”

 The HARPS spectrograph is designed to detect tiny radial velocity signals induced by planets as small as Earth if they orbit close to their star.

If you find water and if the planet is far enough away from its star for that water to be liquid, than you have a good chance of life. On the other hand a planet 3.6 times as massive as the Earth will have 3.6 times more gravitational pull which wouldn’t make it very pleasant to live on. As the team continues their search and develops better equipment and techniques, maybe they’ll be able to find smaller planets we could live on. We still need warp drive though.

The last one is fun. I miss seeing the Weekly World News in grocery stores, etc.


%d bloggers like this: