Sunday December 16, 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

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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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Rocket Lab is Set To Launch 10 NASA CubeSats

They will be placed in RailPODs aboard the Electron rocket that will ferry them to space

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Kepler, NASA, tissue
Rocket Lab to launch 10 NASA CubeSats on Sunday. Pixabay

In its first mission for NASA, the American aerospace manufacturer Rocket Lab is set to launch 10 small research satellites, or CubeSats, from New Zealand, the US space agency said.

Owing to bad weather, Rocket Lab was forced to postpone the earlier decided launch on December 12.

Rocket Lab is now targeting the ELaNa-19 launch on December 15 with a launch window opening at 11 p.m. EST from the company’s launch complex on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, NASA said in a statement on Friday.

The CubeSats were built by three NASA centres, seven universities, and a middle school under the NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites, or (ELaNa-19) mission.

ElaNa-19 is NASA’s first to be completely dedicated to launching CubeSats under the agency’s Venture Class Launch Services program for small-satellite launches.

More than 250 students have been involved in the design, development and construction of the CubeSats scheduled to be flown as payloads on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket.

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Owing to bad weather, Rocket Lab was forced to postpone the earlier decided launch on December 12. Flickr

“The major difference between today’s launch and previous #ELaNa missions is that for the first time, NASA will have a launch completely dedicated to CubeSats rather than having the small satellites ride along with a much larger spacecraft that is the primary mission,” NASA Launch Services Program officials wrote on Twitter on December 12.

The 10 CubeSats are named as CubeSail, CeREs, NMTSat, CHOMPTT, ALBus, STF-1, ISX, RSat, Shields-1 and DaVinci, NASA said.

These are built to standard dimensions of one unit (1U), and can be 1U, 2U, 3U or 6U in size. They generally weigh less than 1.33 kg per U — 6U may be up to 12 kg.

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They will be placed in RailPODs aboard the Electron rocket that will ferry them to space.

After the main payload deploys, the CubeSats will separate from their RailPODs. After 45 minutes in orbit, the CubeSat transmitters will turn on and university ground stations will listen for their beacons, determine their small satellites’ functionality and announce operational status.

CubeSat mission durations and orbital life vary but are anticipated to last at least three years. Upon mission completion, the CubeSats fall to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere, NASA noted. (IANS)