Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

+ - Kepler's 'Superflare' Stars Sport Huge, Angry Starspots->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: Astronomers studying stars like our sun that are known to generate powerful “superflares” have also discovered that these superflares are likely associated with monster “starspots.” In 2012, using Kepler Space Telescope data — which is usually associated with the detection of exoplanets as they drift (or transit) in front of their host stars — astronomers were able to identify several hundred superflare events on a number of sun-like stars. These gargantuan events kicked out flares 10-10,000 times more energy than our sun is able to muster. Keeping in mind that these stars are sun-like stars, what makes them such superflare powerhouses? Why is our sun such a featherweight in comparison? In an effort to understand the dynamics of superflare stars and perhaps answer these questions, astronomers from Kyoto University, University of Hyogo, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) and Nagoya University turned to the High Dispersion Spectrograph on the Subaru Telescope, located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii, to carry out spectroscopic measurements of 50 of Kepler’s superflare targets. And they found that all the superflare stars possessed huge starspots that completely dwarf our sun's sunspots.
Link to Original Source

+ - ISS Crew Stuck in Orbit While Russia Assesses Rocket->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: Wednesday’s planned homecoming of three space station crewmembers is being delayed while Russian engineers assess if the rocket problem that doomed a cargo ship last month could surface on a similar booster used for human spaceflights. Results of a preliminary investigation into the failed Progress cargo ship show that the third stage of its Soyuz launcher separated early, leaving the capsule about 13 miles short of its intended altitude, the Russian space agency Roscosmos said in a statement on Tuesday.
Link to Original Source

+ - Doomed Russian Spacecraft Re-Enters Atmosphere Over Pacific Ocean->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: A Russian cargo ship that failed to reach the International Space Station following launch April 28 fell out of orbit Thursday night and burned up in the atmosphere, the Russian space agency Roscosmos reported. The capsule and more than three tons of cargo intended for the station crew re-entered the atmosphere at 10:04 p.m. EDT as it flew over the central Pacific Ocean, Roscosmos said in a statement posted on its website 15 minutes later. Any debris that survived the fiery descent through the atmosphere would have splashed down in the ocean, much like a routine cargo ship re-entry.
Link to Original Source

+ - Extreme Exoplanet Volcanism Possibly Detected on 55 Cancri e->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: Using data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have revealed wild atmospheric changes on a well studied exoplanet — changes that they suspect are driven by extreme volcanic activity. Over a period of 2 years, the team, led by University of Cambridge researchers, noted a 3-fold change in temperature on the surface of 55 Cancri e. The super-Earth planet orbits a sun-like star 40 light-years away in the constellation of Cancer. It is twice the size of Earth and 8-times our planet’s mass. 55 Cancri e is well-known to exoplanet hunters as the “diamond planet” — a world thought to be carbon-rich, possibly covered in hydrocarbons. But this new finding, published today in the arXiv pre-print service, has added a new dimension to the planet’s weird nature. “This is the first time we’ve seen such drastic changes in light emitted from an exoplanet, which is particularly remarkable for a super-Earth,” said co-author Nikku Madhusudhan, of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, in a press release. “No signature of thermal emissions or surface activity has ever been detected for any other super-Earth to date.”
Link to Original Source

+ - NASA Probe Spies Possible Polar Ice Cap on Pluto->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: As NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft rapidly approaches Pluto for its historic flyby in July, the dwarf planet is gradually sliding into focus. And in the latest series of observations beamed back from the fringes of the Kuiper belt, surface features are becoming evident including the stunning revelation that Pluto may possess a polar ice cap. “As we approach the Pluto system we are starting to see intriguing features such as a bright region near Pluto’s visible pole, starting the great scientific adventure to understand this enigmatic celestial object,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington D.C. “As we get closer, the excitement is building in our quest to unravel the mysteries of Pluto using data from New Horizons.”
Link to Original Source

+ - Star 'Mass Grave' Surrounds Our Galaxy's Black Hole->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: Astronomers have zoomed into an X-ray emission region immediately surrounding our galaxy’s supermassive black hole, gaining the highest X-ray resolution view to date, and it looks like they’ve stumbled on a mysterious place where stars go to die. Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A*, is the enigmatic compact radio source surrounding the supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy. The black hole, which has a mass 4 million times that of our sun, dominates this region with its extreme gravitational well. Many efforts have been carried out in an attempt to understand the population of stars and other stellar phenomena in the immediate vicinity of Sgr A*, but resolving features from such an extreme environment at a distance of 25,000 light-years is not easy. Through measurements of X-ray spectra from the black hole’s neighborhood, however, astronomers are gradually adding some detail to Sgr A*’s landscape and in new research published in the journal Nature, it seems there’s a strange population of ‘dead’ stars accumulated in the black hole’s shadow.
Link to Original Source

+ - Signs of Subsurface 'Alien' Life Found in Antarctica->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: An airborne survey of a presumably dry Antarctic valley revealed a stunning and unexpected interconnected subsurface briny aquifer deep beneath the frozen tundra, a finding that not only has implications for understanding extreme habitats for life on Earth, but the potential for life elsewhere in the solar system, particularly Mars. The briny liquid — about twice as salty as seawater — was discovered about 200 miles underground in a region known as Taylor Valley. The aquifer is widespread, extending from the Ross Sea’s McMurdo Sound more than 11 miles into the eastern part of valley. A second system was found connecting Taylor Glacier with the ice-cover Lake Bonney. But the survey, which covered 114 square miles, may have just uncovered the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
Link to Original Source

+ - Virtual Telescope Readies to Image Black Hole's 'Ring of Fire'->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: With the addition of a telescope at the southern-most point of Earth, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) now spans the diameter of our planet and, when the vast project goes online, astronomers will get their first glimpse of the bright ring surrounding a supermassive black hole. Using a method known as Very Long Baseline Interferometry, or VLBI, astronomers can combine the observing power of many telescopes situated at distant locations around the planet. The distance between those observatories, known as the “baseline,” then mimics a virtual telescope of that diameter. Now, in an attempt to make direct observations of the supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy, located at a powerful radio emission source called Sagittarius A*, the South Pole Telescope (SPT) at the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station has been linked to the EHT and the stage is set for a historic new era of exploring the most extreme objects in the known universe. “Now that we’ve done VLBI with the SPT, the Event Horizon Telescope really does span the whole Earth, from the Submillimeter Telescope on Mount Graham in Arizona, to California, Hawaii, Chile, Mexico, Spain and the South Pole,” said Dan Marrone of the University of Arizona. “The baselines to SPT give us two to three times more resolution than our past arrays, which is absolutely crucial to the goals of the EHT. To verify the existence of an event horizon, the ‘edge’ of a black hole, and more generally to test Einstein’s theory of general relativity, we need a very detailed picture of a black hole. With the full EHT, we should be able to do this.”
Link to Original Source

+ - Stunning Hubble Silver Anniversary Picture Unveiled-> 1

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: NASA kicked off a series of Hubble anniversary tributes Thursday by unveiling a new image taken by the telescope, which was launched into orbit on April 24, 1990. Managers chose a display of celestial fireworks in a giant cluster of stars known as Westerlund 2, located about 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina. The cluster, comprised of about 3,000 stars, is very young by astronomical standards, just about 2 million years old.
Link to Original Source

+ - Mysterious 'Cold Spot': Fingerprint of Largest Structure in the Universe?-> 1

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: At the furthest-most reaches of the observable universe lies one of the most enigmatic mysteries of modern cosmology: the cosmic microwave background (CMB) Cold Spot. Discovered in 2004, this strange feature etched into the primordial echo of the Big Bang has been the focus of many hypotheses — could it be the presence of another universe? Or is it just instrumental error? Now, astronomers may have acquired strong evidence as to the Cold Spot’s origin and, perhaps unsurprisingly, no multiverse hypothesis is required. But it’s not instrumental error either. It could be a vast "supervoid" around 1.8 billion light-years wide that is altering the characteristics of the CMB radiation traveling through it.
Link to Original Source

+ - Enceladus Spreads Ghostly Ice Tendrils Around Saturn->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: A ghostly apparition has long been known to follow Saturn moon Enceladus in its orbit around the gas giant. But until now, scientists have had a hard time tracking its source. Using images from NASA’s Cassini mission, the source of these tendrils have been tracked down and they originate from the icy moon’s famous geysers. But even better than that, scientists have been able to track the tendril shapes down to the specific geysers that produce them. “We’ve been able to show that each unique tendril structure can be reproduced by particular sets of geysers on the moon’s surface,” said Colin Mitchell, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., and lead author of a paper published int he Astrophysical Journal. The study of these features are helping scientists understand how much ice is being transported into Saturn's E ring from Enceladus as well as helping us understand the evolution of the moon's sub-surface ocean.
Link to Original Source

+ - NASA's MESSENGER Mission to Crash into Mercury in 2 Weeks->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft is in the final days of an unprecedented and unexpectedly long-lived, close-up study of the innermost planet of the solar system, with a crashing finale expected in two weeks. Out of fuel, the robotic Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging, or MESSENGER, probe on April 30 will succumb to the gravitational pull of this strange world that has been its home since March 2011. The purpose of the mission, originally designed to last one year, is to collect detailed geochemical and other data that will help scientists piece together of how Mercury formed and evolved. Mercury is one of four versions of rocky planets in the solar system, along with cloud-shrouded Venus, life-friendly Earth and dry, cold Mars. "MESSENGER is going to create a new crater on Mercury sometime in the near future ... let's not be sad about that," NASA associate administrator John Grunsfeld said Thursday.
Link to Original Source

+ - Hubble and the VLT Uncover Evidence for Self-Interacting Dark Matter->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: A new study carried out by the ESO’s Very Large Telescope and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has revealed for the first time that dark matter may well interact with itself — a discovery that, at first glance, seems to contradict what we thought we knew about the nature of this invisible mass.
Link to Original Source

+ - Briny Water May Pool in Mars' Equatorial Soil->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: Mars may be a frigid desert, but perchlorate salts in the planet’s soil are lowering the freezing temperature of water, setting up conditions for liquid brines to form at equatorial regions, new research from NASA’s Curiosity rover shows. The discovery of subsurface water, even a trickle, around the planets warmer equatorial belt defies current climate models, though spacecraft orbiting Mars have found geologic evidence for transient liquid water, a phenomenon termed “recurring slope lineae.” The findings, published in this week’s Nature Geoscience, are based on nearly two years worth of atmospheric humidity and temperature measurements collected by the roving science laboratory Curiosity, which is exploring an ancient impact basin called Gale Crater near the planet’s equator. The brines, computer models show, form nightly in the upper 2 inches of the planet’s soil as perchlorates absorb atmospheric water vapor. As temperatures rise in the morning, the liquid evaporates. The levels of liquid, however, are too low to support terrestrial-type organisms, the researchers conclude. “It is not just a problem of water, but also temperature. The water activity and temperatures are so low in Mars that they are beyond the limits of cell reproduction and metabolism,” Javier Martin-Torres, with Lulea University of Technology, in Kiruna, Sweden, wrote in an email to Discovery News.
Link to Original Source

+ - Collision with Earth's 'Little Sister' Created the Moon->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine writes: The primordial planet believed to have smashed into baby Earth, creating a cloud of debris that eventually formed into the moon, was chemically a near-match to Earth, a new study shows. The finding, reported in this week’s Nature, helps resolve a long-standing puzzle about why Earth and the moon are nearly twins in terms of composition. Computer models show that most of the material that formed the moon would have come from the shattered impactor, a planetary body referred to as Theia, which should have a slightly different isotopic makeup than Earth.
Link to Original Source

The trouble with doing something right the first time is that nobody appreciates how difficult it was.

Working...