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Superstar Eta Carinae’s Cosmic Rays May Reach Earth: Study

Astronomers know that cosmic rays with energies greater than one billion electron volts (eV) come to us from beyond our solar system.

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Superstar Eta Carinae's Cosmic Rays May Reach Earth: Study
Superstar Eta Carinae's Cosmic Rays May Reach Earth: Study. Pixabay
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Eta Carinae, the most luminous and massive stellar system within 10,000 light years, is accelerating particles to speeds comparable to that of light — some of which may reach Earth as cosmic rays, suggests a new study.

“We know the blast waves of exploded stars can accelerate cosmic ray particles to speeds comparable to that of light, an incredible energy boost,” said the lead author of the study Kenji Hamaguchi, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland.

“Similar processes must occur in other extreme environments. Our analysis indicates Eta Carinae is one of them,” Hamaguchi said.

Astronomers know that cosmic rays with energies greater than one billion electron volts (eV) come to us from beyond our solar system.

But because these particles — electrons, protons and atomic nuclei — all carry an electrical charge, they veer off course whenever they encounter magnetic fields. This scrambles their paths and masks their origins.

For this study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the researchers used data from NASA’s NuSTAR space telescope.

Launched in 2012, NuSTAR can focus X-rays of much greater energy than any previous telescope.

Using both newly taken and archival data, the team examined NuSTAR observations acquired between March 2014 and June 2016, along with lower-energy X-ray observations from the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton satellite over the same period.

“We’ve known for some time that the region around Eta Carinae is the source of energetic emission in high-energy X-rays and gamma rays,” said Fiona Harrison, the principal investigator of NuSTAR.

Carina Nebula
Carina Nebula. Pixabay

“But until NuSTAR was able to pinpoint the radiation, show it comes from the binary and study its properties in detail, the origin was mysterious,” said Harrison, who also serves as a professor of astronomy at California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena.

Eta Carinae, located about 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina, is famous for a 19th century outburst that briefly made it the second-brightest star in the sky.

This event also ejected a massive hourglass-shaped nebula, but the cause of the eruption remains poorly understood.

The system contains a pair of massive stars whose eccentric orbits bring them unusually close every 5.5 years.

Also read: Brain Damage Caused by Cosmic Rays Can be Prevented With this Drug

The stars contain 90 and 30 times the mass of our Sun and pass 225 million km apart at their closest approach — about the average distance separating Mars and the Sun. (IANS)

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India Is Developing Technologies To Launch Manned Mission

The state-run ISRO’s technology demonstrator is the first in a series of tests to qualify as a crew escape system, critical for a manned mission.

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India’s dream to put a man in space
India’s dream to put a man in space. Pixabay

India is developing critical technologies for launching manned missions in space and preparing a document on it, a top official said on Saturday.

“Critical technologies are being developed for our human space programme as it is India’s dream to put a man in space. A mission document is in the making,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman K. Sivan told the media at an aerospace event here.

Citing the space agency’s successful maiden unmanned pad abort test on Thursday at its Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh for the safe escape of the crew in an emergency, Sivan said that very complex technology was used for the trial, with a unique motor for fast-burning.

“The technology is very essential for our manned missions in the future, as the motor’s performance was very good. Using aerodynamics, the module was turned in a favourable direction to open the parachutes,” he said.

The state-run ISRO’s technology demonstrator is the first in a series of tests to qualify as a crew escape system, critical for a manned mission.

“We are only in the preparation stage. We need to develop much more. We are in the process of refining a document on the manned mission for review and interactions with stakeholders, including the Indian Air Force (IAF) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL),” said Sivan.

The crew escape system is an emergency escape measure designed to quickly pull the crew module along with the astronauts to a safe distance from the launch vehicle in the event of a launch abort.

The first pad abort test demonstrated the safe recovery of the crew module in case of any exigency at the launch pad,” ISRO said in a statement earlier.

Admitting that the scientists had to work on the next strategy for the manned mission testing, Sivan said ISRO’s work was two-pronged, with one on approved projects and the other for research and development (R&D).

The first pad abort test demonstrated the safe recovery of the crew module in case of any exigency at the launch pad,” ISRO said in a statement earlier.
The first pad abort test demonstrated the safe recovery of the crew module in case of any exigency at the launch pad,” ISRO said in a statement earlier. Flickr

“The pad abort test for the crew escape system is part of our R&D work,” he noted. The space agency also tested five new technologies during the pad abort test, as part of its strategy to develop long-term technologies.

“We and the government work on a three-year plan, with a seven-year strategy and a 15-year vision,” asserted Sivan.

Noting that space tourism would happen in the near future, the rocket scientist said it would take at least 15 years to develop the vehicle to go to space and return to the earth.

“We are not close to that. We need to work a lot towards achieving the dream of putting a man into space,” added Sivan.

After a five-hour countdown, the crew escape system lifted off with the 12.6 tonne simulated crew module from the spaceport and plunged into the sea (Bay of Bengal) 4 minutes and 19 seconds later with two parachutes, around 2.9 km away from Sriharikota, about 90km northeast of Chennai.

Also read: NASA Scientists Map Water on Moon Using India’s Chandrayaan-1 Spacecraft!

“The crew module soared 2.7 km altitude on thrust of its seven solid motors without exceeding the safe G (gravity) levels,” added the statement. (IANS)