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New Horizons all set to disclose Pluto’s mysteries

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New_Horizons_1By NewsGram Staff-Writer

Washington: The mission team of New Horizons is back in action with the popular spacecraft as they start extracting the extensive data stored in its digital recorders. Seven weeks back New Horizons closely passed by Pluto to study its unexplored mysteries. The whole downlinking process will take around a year to conclude.

Principal investigator for New Horizon, Alan Stern said, “These pictures, spectra and other data types being gained will help us in understanding the evolution and the origin of the Pluto system for the first time.” The data takes around four and a half hour to cover the three billion-mile distance to reach the Earth even while travelling at speed of light.
During NASA’s announcement at Southwest Research Institute, Stern further added, “It has got best data sets, the highest-resolution images and spectra with the most important atmospheric details. It can contain much more than that too,”

During the data downlink phase, the spacecraft transmits science and operations data to NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) of antenna stations, which also provide services to other missions, like Voyager. New Horizon Project scientist Hal Weaver explained, “The New Horizons mission has made us wait for many years, but from the small amount of data we saw around the Pluto flyby, we know the results to come will be well worth the wait.”

Since late July, New Horizons has only been sending back lower data-rate information collected by the energetic particle, solar wind and space dust instruments. The pace picked up considerably on September 5 as it resumed sending flyby images and other data.

The team is also looking forward to post new, unprocessed pictures from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) installed on the New Horizons.

With Inputs from IANS

 

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NASA Telescope Captures Record-Breaking Thermonuclear X-Ray Flash: ’Burst was Outstanding’

The observations reveal many phenomena that have never been seen together in a single burst

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NASA, Telescope, Thermonuclear
The X-ray burst, the brightest seen by NICER so far, came from an object named "J1808". Wikimedia Commons

NASA has detected a massive thermonuclear explosion coming from outer space, caused by a massive thermonuclear flash on the surface of a pulsar — the crushed remains of a star that long ago exploded as a supernova.

The explosion released as much energy in 20 seconds as the Sun does in nearly 10 days.

NASA’s Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) telescope on the International Space Station (ISS) detected a sudden spike of X-rays on August 20, reports the US space agency.

The X-ray burst, the brightest seen by NICER so far, came from an object named “J1808”.

NASA, Telescope, Thermonuclear
The explosion released as much energy in 20 seconds as the Sun does in nearly 10 days. Pixabay

The observations reveal many phenomena that have never been seen together in a single burst.

In addition, the subsiding fireball briefly brightened again for reasons astronomers cannot yet explain.

“This burst was outstanding. We see a two-step change in brightness, which we think is caused by the ejection of separate layers from the pulsar surface, and other features that will help us decode the physics of these powerful events,” said lead researcher Peter Bult, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

The detail NICER captured on this record-setting eruption will help astronomers fine-tune their understanding of the physical processes driving the thermonuclear flare-ups of it and other bursting pulsars.

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“J1808” is located about 11,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius.

It spins at a dizzying 401 rotations each second, and is one member of a binary system. Its companion is a brown dwarf, an object larger than a giant planet yet too small to be a star. A steady stream of hydrogen gas flows from the companion toward the neutron star, and it accumulates in a vast storage structure called an accretion disk.

Astronomers employ a concept called the “Eddington limit”, named after English astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington, to describe the maximum radiation intensity a star can have before that radiation causes the star to expand.

This point depends strongly on the composition of the material lying above the emission source.

NASA, Telescope, Thermonuclear
NASA’s Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) telescope on the International Space Station (ISS) detected a sudden spike of X-rays on August 20, reports the US space agency. Pixabay

“Our study exploits this longstanding concept in a new way,” said co-author Deepto Chakrabarty, a professor of physics at MIT.

“We are apparently seeing the Eddington limit for two different compositions in the same X-ray burst. This is a very powerful and direct way of following the nuclear burning reactions that underlie the event.”

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A paper describing the findings has been published by The Astrophysical Journal Letters. (IANS)