Herschel Space Telescope and the Vela C Star Forming Region

Vela
Vela and the Butterfly
Image Credit: ESA / PACS & SPIRE Consortia, T. Hill, F. Motte, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA / IRFU – CNRS / INSU – Uni. Paris Diderot, HOBYS Key Programme Consortium

The European space Agency (ESA) has released images of the Vela Nebula taken by the Herschel Infrared Space Telescope.

The bright butterfly shaped region is a stellar nursery, with a string of bright, hot stars along its body. These massive stars are destined to explode as supernovae within the next 10 million years.

Strung out all along this region of the nebula are wispy filaments with protostars embedded within them.

The image was mapped using Herschel instruments PACS and SPIRE at wavelengths of 70, 160, and 250 microns, corresponding to the blue, green and red channels, respectively. North is to the right and east is up.

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NuSTAR Rides Pegasus to Orbit

NuSTAR
“Stargazer” L-1011 Aircraft with NuSTAR Prior to Take Off – T-105 minutes
Image Credit: NASA TV / UStream

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) spacecraft is scheduled for launch this morning 13 June 2012, after being postponed this Spring. Launch is currently scheduled for 9:00 AM Phoenix time (16:00 UTC), with a window between 8:30 AM and 12:30 PM Phoenix time (15:30-19:30 UTC). Coverage and commentary will be broadcast online beginning 90 minutes before launch at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/nustar/multimedia/index.html.

At 7:25 AM Phoenix time, we are 1 hour and 35 minutes from launch.

NuSTAR X-RAY Observatory Set for Launch on Wednesday

NuSTAR
Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR)
Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) spacecraft is scheduled for launch this coming Wednesday 13 June 2012, after being postponed this Spring. Launch is scheduled for a window between 8:30 AM and 12:30 PM Phoenix time (15:30-19:30 UTV). Coverage and commentary will be broadcast online beginning 90 minutes before launch at http://www.nasa.gov/nustar.

The launch vehicle is an Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL rocket. The Pegasus will be launched from a Lockheed L-1011, named “Stargazer” (below), flying at 40,000 feet. The aircraft has already moved from Vandenberg Air Force base to the Reagan Test Site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The “Stargazer”, Pegasus and NuSTAR will take off and fly to 40,000 feet. Five seconds after drop the Pegasus will ignite and put NuSTAR into a low Earth orbit

Stargazer
Stargazer with Pegasus XL Landing on the Kwajalein Atoll
Image Credit: Orbital Sciences

Check out the NASA Press Release about the NuSTAR mission.

The short summary:

  • First observatory to focus high energy X-rays
  • 10 times the resolution and 100 times the sensitivity of previous spacecraft
  • Coordinate observations with Chandra X-ray Observatory
  • Use new mirror and detector technology that was developed in NASA’s basic research program
  • Study large and small black holes, near and far
  • Focus high energy X-rays images (see below)
  • Use nested shell mirrors with 133 in each of two optic units
  • Use state of the art detectors and a 10-meter mast that connects the detectors to the nested mirrors

Focus
Illustration of the Focusing Power of the NuSTAR X-Ray Observatory
Image Credit: ESA / NASA / JPL-Caltech

Older observations on the upper left versus NuSTAR resolution in the lower right.

Sloan Digital Sky Survey 3D Map And Dark Energy

Baryon Acoustic Vibrations
Baryon Acoustic Vibrations at 5.5 Billion Light Years From SDSS Data
Image Credit: E.M. Huff, the SDSS-III team, and the South Pole Telescope team.
Graphic by Zosia Rostomian.

Dark Energy drives the accelerating expansion of the Universe, and the imprint can be found in the distribution of galaxies.

Now, researchers, including several associated with the University of Arizona in Tucson, have published a series of six papers (see below) concerning the distribution of galaxies 5.5 billion light years from Earth, using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

The papers detail how mapping the position of galaxies can measure how fast the Universe was expanding six billion years ago. The expansion is the result of Dark Energy, which makes up 72% of the universe in which we live (the remainder is Dark Matter (23%) and atoms (5%), found in intergalactic gas and stars).

The image above illustrates how variations in the cosmic microwave background (due to baryon acoustic vibrations during inflation, which followed the Big Bang) are reflected by later distribution of galaxies, and measuring the distribution of galaxies at different times reflects the accelerating expansion of the universe. The original work on the accelerating expansion came from observations of type Ia supernovae in 1998 and and 1999, and led to the Nobel Prize in 2011.

The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) is one of four SDSS surveys, and the team of scientists and engineers that make up the team are the authors of these six papers.

Will Percival, a professor at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, and one of the leaders of the analysis team noted that:

We have only one-third of the data that BOSS will deliver, and that has already allowed us to measure how fast the Universe was expanding six billion years ago — to an accuracy of two percent.

This coupled with the previously released data on the distribution of galaxies at 3.8 billion light years, shows the accelerating expansion: the rate at 3.8 billion light years is more than the earlier rate at 5.5 billion light years.

Due to the original oscillations in the universe, theory predicts that the average distance between galaxies would be 500 million light years. And this is what the BOSS results have shown. They are the best measurements to date.

From the SDSS article we have the references to the arxiv papers:

NuSTAR Launch Postponed

NuSTAR
Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR)
Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Testing of flight software with the new flight computer on the Pegasus XL rocket has pushed the launch of NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) spacecraft beyond the March 2012 window available at the Reagan Test Site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

The next available window is within two or three months, at most, but negotiations are ongoing.

NuSTAR is designed to measure high-energy x-rays, which will allow for more detailed and sensitive study of black holes, high-speed energy jets, neutron stars and supernova remnants. NuSTAR uses advanced optics and detectors to observe some of the hottest, densest and most energetic objects in the universe.