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Hubble precisely measures distance to globular star cluster

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have for the first time precisely measured the distance to one of the oldest objects in the universe -- a collection of stars born shortly after the Big Bang

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Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have for the first time precisely measured the distance to one of the oldest objects in the universe — a collection of stars born shortly after the Big Bang. This stellar assembly, a globular star cluster called “NGC 6397”, is one of the closest such clusters to Earth. The new measurement sets the cluster’s distance at 7,800 light-years away, with just a three per cent margin of error.

This new distance yardstick provides an independent estimate for the age of the universe, the US space agency said in a statement on Thursday. The new measurement will also help astronomers improve models of stellar evolution.

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Countless galaxies exist in the universe, each hiding secrets that humankind is yet to unearth. Pixabay

Star clusters are the key ingredient in stellar models because the stars in each grouping are at the same distance, have the same age, and have the same chemical composition. The new measurement uses straightforward trigonometry, the same method used by surveyors, and as old as classical Greek science. The research team calculated NGC 6397’s age at 13.4 billion years old. “The globular clusters are so old that if their ages and distances deduced from models are off by a little bit, they seem to be older than the age of the universe,” said Tom Brown of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland

The researchers say they could reach an accuracy of one per cent if they combine the Hubble distance measurement of NGC 6397 with the upcoming results obtained from the European Space Agency’s Gaia space observatory.

Also Read: NASA to intensify focus on Earth’s frozen regions

“Getting to one per cent accuracy will nail this distance measurement forever,” Brown said. The findings appeared in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. IANS

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New Boss of NASA Gets Hearty Congratulations

NASA's new boss is already getting cheers from space.

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Vice President Mike Pence, left, shakes hands with the new NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, right, on stage during a swearing-in ceremony, April 23, 2018, at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Vice President Mike Pence, left, shakes hands with the new Administration of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Jim Bridenstine, right, on stage during a swearing-in ceremony, Monday, April 23, 2018, at NASA Headquarter in Washington. VOA

NASA’s new boss is already getting cheers from space.

Immediately after being sworn into office Monday by Vice President Mike Pence, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine took a call from the three U.S. astronauts at the International Space Station who offered “hearty congratulations.” The Oklahoma congressman became the 13th administrator of NASA, filling a position that had been vacant for more than a year.

“America loves what you guys are doing,” Bridenstine, a former naval aviator, told the astronauts. He promised to do his best “as we reach for new heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.”

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NASA office.
NASA. (Wikimedia Commons)

Bridenstine is the first elected official to lead NASA, something that had bogged down his nomination last year by President Donald Trump. The Senate approved his nomination last week by a narrow vote of 50-49. Monday’s swearing-in ceremony took place at NASA headquarters in Washington.

Pence noted that the space agency, under Bridenstine’s direction, will work to get astronauts back to the moon and then, with help from commercial space and international partners, on to Mars.

Also Read: NASA’s Planet-Hunting Telescope Lifts Off In U.S.

“NASA will lead the way,” said Pence, who heads the newly resurrected National Space Council.

Charles Bolden Jr., a former space shuttle commander and major general in the Marines, was NASA’s last official administrator. The space agency was led by Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot in the interim. Lightfoot retires from NASA at the end of this month.  VOA

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