A Witness To The Accident…In Space.

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted an eruption of dust around a young star, possibly the result of a smashup between large asteroids. This type of collision can eventually lead to the formation of planets.

Scientists had been regularly tracking the star, called NGC 2547-ID8, when it surged with a huge amount of fresh dust between August 2012 and January 2013.

“We think two big asteroids crashed into each other, creating a huge cloud of grains the size of very fine sand, which are now smashing themselves into smithereens and slowly leaking away from the star,” said lead author and graduate student Huan Meng of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

While dusty aftermaths of suspected asteroid collisions have been observed by Spitzer before, this is the first time scientists have collected data before and after a planetary system smashup. The viewing offers a glimpse into the violent process of making rocky planets like ours.

Rocky planets begin life as dusty material circling around young stars. The material clumps together to form asteroids that ram into each other. Although the asteroids often are destroyed, some grow over time and transform into proto-planets. After about 100 million years, the objects mature into full-grown, terrestrial planets. Our moon is thought to have formed from a giant impact between proto-Earth and a Mars-size object.

In the new study, Spitzer set its heat-seeking infrared eyes on the dusty star NGC 2547-ID8, which is about 35 million years old and lies 1,200 light-years away in the Vela constellation. Previous observations had already recorded variations in the amount of dust around the star, hinting at possible ongoing asteroid collisions. In hope of witnessing an even larger impact, which is a key step in the birth of a terrestrial planet, the astronomers turned to Spitzer to observe the star regularly. Beginning in May 2012, the telescope began watching the star, sometimes daily.

A dramatic change in the star came during a time when Spitzer had to point away from NGC 2547-ID8 because our sun was in the way. When Spitzer started observing the star again five months later, the team was shocked by the data they received.

“We not only witnessed what appears to be the wreckage of a huge smashup, but have been able to track how it is changing — the signal is fading as the cloud destroys itself by grinding its grains down so they escape from the star,” said Kate Su of the University of Arizona and co-author on the study. “Spitzer is the best telescope for monitoring stars regularly and precisely for small changes in infrared light over months and even years.”

A very thick cloud of dusty debris now orbits the star in the zone where rocky planets form. As the scientists observe the star system, the infrared signal from this cloud varies based on what is visible from Earth. For example, when the elongated cloud is facing us, more of its surface area is exposed and the signal is greater. When the head or the tail of the cloud is in view, less infrared light is observed. By studying the infrared oscillations, the team is gathering first-of-its-kind data on the detailed process and outcome of collisions that create rocky planets like Earth.

“We are watching rocky planet formation happen right in front of us,” said George Rieke, a University of Arizona co-author of the new study. “This is a unique chance to study this process in near real-time.”

The team is continuing to keep an eye on the star with Spitzer. They will see how long the elevated dust levels persist, which will help them calculate how often such events happen around this and other stars, and they might see another smashup while Spitzer looks on.

The results of this study are posted online Thursday in the journal Science.

Reposted from NASA.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Lost in space.

Who could forget that classic SciFi family drama/sitcom, Lost in Space.

A helpful robot pet, the naive wunderkind, a wascally professor, mom and dad, the eye candy brothers and sisters and the strapping captain to save the day (of course if he really wanted to save the day he would have found a way home, and don’t get me started on Gilligan’s Island).

No, today’s images really do come from space.  New images abound from Spitzer and Hubble and a host of other imaging apparatus that are expanding our understanding of the Universe and ourselves.  Enjoy.

This NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory image shows a highly distorted supernova remnant that may contain the most recent black hole formed in the Milky Way galaxy. The composite image combines X-rays from Chandra (blue and green), radio data from the Very Large Array (pink), and infrared data from the Palomar Observatory (yellow). Most supernova explosions that destroy massive stars are generally symmetrical.  In the W49B supernova, however, it appears that the material near its poles was ejected at much higher speeds than that at its equator.  There is also evidence that the explosion that produced W49B left behind a black hole and not a neutron star like most other supernovas. (Photo by L. Lopez/MIT/CXC/NASA via AFP Photo)

This Chandra X-Ray Observatory image shows a highly distorted supernova remnant, aptly name W49B, that might be home to what scientists believe is the most recent black hole formed in the Milky Way. I don’t see it…no really I don’t.

An infrared portrait from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope which shows generations of stars is seen in this undated NASA handout image released February 14, 2013. In this wispy star-forming region, called W5, the oldest stars can be seen as blue dots in the centers of the two hollow cavities (other blue dots are background and foreground stars not associated with the region). Red shows heated dust that pervades the region's cavities, while green highlights dense clouds. (Photo by NASA/Reuters/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian/Handout)

This new infrared image taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope shows a star-forming region, called W5.  Clearly, we need better names here NASA!

This National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) image of the Planetary Nebula Sh2-174, which may suggest a rose to some, was obtained with Mosaic 1 camera on the Mayall 4-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona January 8, 2013. A planetary nebula is created when a low-mass star blows off its outer layers at the end of its life. The core of the star remains and is called a white dwarf.  Photo was captured January 8, 2013. (Photo by T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage) and H. Schweiker/NASA/Reuters)

Just in time for Mother’s Day is this image of the Planetary Nebula Sh2-174 (C’mon Man!) taken at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO).  Looks like a lovely rose for mom.

Not to be confused with the Rossetta Nebula (much better than Caldwell 49).

Or stellar region NGC 604 (M33).  I may have to try to take this image, because summer time is galaxy time!  Of course my image will be so much better than this Hubble image that I would not dare post it for fear of embarrassing NASA.

This image by Hubble shows what happens “When World’s Collide!” Actually NGC 6745 is what happens when galaxies collide, but I had to keep up with the old SciFi schtick, my readers demand nothing less than good SciFi schtick.

This image is NGC 6543 known as the Cat's Eye Nebula as it appears to the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and Hubble Telescope. A planetary nebula is a phase of stellar evolution that the sun should experience several billion years from now, when it expands to become a red giant and then sheds most of its outer layers, leaving behind a hot core that contracts to form a dense white dwarf star. This image was released October 10, 2012. (Photo by J. Kastner/NASA/CXC/RIT)

This excellent image of the Cat’s Eye nebula (NGC 6543) is a collaborative effort between Chandra and Hubble.  See what happens when space telescopes play nice with each other.

Next week is all about mom.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +

Norman

 

Can You Help Find Holes?

In the Clouds of dust in the Milky Way of course.  The difficult and complex shapes make it too difficult for computers to analyze images from NASA’s infrared Spitzer Space Telescope.

So far, the human eye is the only thing available that can spot these holes and astronomers are once again turning to citizen scientists for help.


“We were surprised to find that some of these dark clouds were simply not there, appearing dark in Herschel’s images as well,” Derek Ward-Thompson, director of the Jeremiah Horrocks Institute for Astrophysics in England, said in a statement. Finding these unexpected holes is tricky. “The problem is that clouds of interstellar dust don’t come in handy easy-to-recognise shapes,” he added. “The images are too messy for computers to analyze, and there are too many for us to go through ourselves.”

Astronomers who use the Hershel space telescope teamed up with citizen science portal Zooniverse to make images of our galaxy available online for the public to comb through.

Please note that the site to help is not on the Zooninverse projects page, but is located at http://www.milkywayproject.org/clouds.  A tutorial shows how to tell the difference between a hole and a cloud.  The volunteer decides if an image is a glowing cloud, a hole in the sky or something in between.  The site gives examples of each.
The Milky Way Project, which has already created astronomy’s largest catalog of star-forming bubbles since its inception two years ago.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +

Norman

The Eye In The Sky.

Two NASA space telescopes have captured a spectacular new photo of the Helix Nebula that resembles a giant cosmic eye.

This object, called the Helix nebula, lies 650 light-years away, in the constellation of Aquarius.

The Helix Nebula (also known as NGC 7293) represents a dying star known as a planetary nebula.  Planetary nebulas aren’t planets at all, but they were first identified and named in the 18th century because they resembled gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn, and the name stuck.

The new picture combines data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, which takes images in the infrared (the yellow part of the image), and the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), that images in ultraviolet (the blue part of the image) on the opposite side of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The Helix Nebula is about 650 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Aquarius.   The nebula is classified as a planetary nebula.   Stars about the size of the sun, at the end of their lives, run out of hydrogen and helium fuel for fusion in their cores.  When this happens, the stars begin to expel their outer gaseous layers into glowing remnants around them.  When all the gas has been expelled, the stars collapse into a white dwarf star about the size of the Earth.

“The white dwarf is about the size of Earth, but has a mass very close to that of the original star; in fact, a teaspoon of a white dwarf would weigh as much as a few elephants!” NASA scientists stated.

The white dwarf star in the Helix nebula is the tiny white dot in the center.

If you need help with a patent, copyright or trademark matter, or know someone that can use my help, please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at nvantreeck@usip.com or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities.  Connect with me on Google +

Norman