Wednesday March 21, 2018

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory detects mysterious Cosmic Explosion

The X-ray source, located in a region of the sky known as the Chandra Deep Field-South (CDF-S), has remarkable properties

Illustration of Chandra X Observatory

Washington, April 1, 2017: A mysterious flash of X-rays probably resulting from a “completely new type of cataclysmic event” in space has been discovered by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, a study says.

While the scientists believe the flash of X-rays, which stemmed from a faint, small galaxy about 10.7 billion light years from Earth, likely comes from some sort of destructive event, they are not sure what caused it.

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“We may have observed a completely new type of cataclysmic event,” said study co-author Kevin Schawinski, of ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich) in Switzerland.

“Whatever it is, a lot more observations are needed to work out what we’re seeing,” Schawinski added.

The X-ray source, located in a region of the sky known as the Chandra Deep Field-South (CDF-S), has remarkable properties.

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Prior to October 2014, this source was not detected in X-rays, but then it erupted and became at least a factor of 1,000 brighter in a few hours.

After about a day, the source had faded completely below the sensitivity of Chandra.

Thousands of hours of legacy data from the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes helped determine that the event likely came from a faint, small galaxy about 10.7 billion light years from Earth.

For a few minutes, the X-ray source produced a thousand times more energy than all the stars in this galaxy, said the study published online in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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“Ever since discovering this source, we’ve been struggling to understand its origin,” said Franz Bauer of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago.

“It’s like we have a jigsaw puzzle but we don’t have all of the pieces,” Bauer added.

There are three main possibilities to explain the X-ray source, according to scientists.

Two of them invoke gamma-ray burst (GRB) events which are jetted explosions triggered either by the collapse of a massive star or by the merger of a neutron star with another neutron star or a black hole.

If the jet is pointing towards the Earth, a burst of gamma rays is detected. As the jet expands, it loses energy and produces weaker, more isotropic radiation at X-ray and other wavelengths.

Possible explanations for the CDF-S X-ray source, according to the researchers, are a GRB that is not pointed toward Earth, or a GRB that lies beyond the small galaxy.

A third possibility is that a medium-sized black hole shredded a white dwarf star.

“None of these ideas fits the data perfectly, but then again, we’ve rarely if ever seen any of the proposed possibilities in actual data, so we don’t understand them well at all,” study co-author Ezequiel Treister, also of the Pontifical Catholic University, noted. (IANS)

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NASA’s instrument to measure Sun’s energy

For instance, spectral irradiance measurements of the Sun's ultraviolet radiation are critical to understanding the ozone layer -- Earth's natural sunscreen

NASA to release two missions focused on moon soon in 2022. Pixabay
NASA's new instrument can measure incoming solar energy. Pixabay
  • NASA’s new instrument can measure Sun’s incoming energy
  • The instrument is called Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1)
  • This can help bring in an energy revolution in future

To continue long-term measurements of the Sun’s incoming energy, NASA has powered on a new instrument installed on the International Space Station (ISS).

Solar energy is one of the biggest energy sources in the world.

The instrument, Total and Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1), became fully operational with all instruments collecting science data as of this March, NASA said.

“TSIS-1 extends a long data record that helps us understand the Sun’s influence on Earth’s radiation budget, ozone layer, atmospheric circulation, and ecosystems, and the effects that solar variability has on the Earth system and climate change,” said Dong Wu, TSIS-1 project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. TSIS-1 studies the total amount of light energy emitted by the Sun using the Total Irradiance Monitor, one of two sensors onboard.

Also Read: Why is the Sun’s atmosphere much hotter than its surface

This sensor’s data will give scientists a better understanding of Earth’s primary energy supply and provide information to help improve models simulating the planet’s climate.

The second onboard sensor, called the Spectral Irradiance Monitor, measures how the Sun’s energy is distributed over the ultraviolet, visible and infrared regions of light. Measuring the distribution of the Sun’s energy is important because each wavelength of light interacts with the Earth’s atmosphere differently.

Measuring solar energy is one big technological developement. Pixabay

For instance, spectral irradiance measurements of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation are critical to understanding the ozone layer — Earth’s natural sunscreen that protects life from harmful radiation.

“All systems are operating within their expected ranges,” said Peter Pilewskie, TSIS-1 lead scientist at the University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in the US. IANS