Sunday February 17, 2019

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

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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 Twins Study Claims, Long-term Spaceflight Not Linked to Major Health Risks

"It's almost as if the body's on high alert," said Christopher Mason, Associate Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine.

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NASA
Spending nearly a year in orbit increased NASA astronaut Scott Kelly's immune system response, as if, at the cellular level, his body felt under attack as compared to his Earth-bound twin brother, the Washington Post reported on Friday. Pixabay

While it was previously thought that long duration spaceflight can affect the human body, even at the molecular level, new results from NASAs “Twins Study” has showed that there are no major warning signs and no reason to think humans cannot survive a two-and-a-half-year round-trip journey to Mars.

As part of the “Twins Study”, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly spent a year in space while Mark, his identical twin, stayed on Earth as a control subject to look at the effects of space travel on the human body.

Spending nearly a year in orbit increased NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s immune system response, as if, at the cellular level, his body felt under attack as compared to his Earth-bound twin brother, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

NASA
According to report, the biggest concern is radiation as such a mission would expose astronauts to levels of radiation greater than permitted under current guidelines. That would not necessarily prevent a mission, but it remains a concern. Pixabay

These comparisons, however, has not raised any red flags about long-term spaceflight on the International Space Station (ISS), NASA officials were quoted as saying at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science here.

“It’s almost as if the body’s on high alert,” said Christopher Mason, Associate Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine.

The space sojourn also changed the activity of some of his genes.

“It’s mostly really good news,” Mason said, adding, “the body has extraordinary plasticity and adaptation to being in zero gravity, at least for a year”.

NASA
“It’s almost as if the body’s on high alert,” said Christopher Mason, Associate Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine. Pixabay

According to Craig Kundrot, Director of NASA’s space life and physical sciences division, so far the space agency’s research found nothing that would make a Mars mission impossible.

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According to report, the biggest concern is radiation as such a mission would expose astronauts to levels of radiation greater than permitted under current guidelines. That would not necessarily prevent a mission, but it remains a concern.

However, Kundrot cautioned that the twin study has only two people as samples. “We don’t regard any of this as conclusive, but on the whole it’s encouraging,” he said, adding, “there are no new major warning signs”. (IANS)