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Awesomeness Round-up – 10/18/10

  • By Sara Mitchell
  • October 18, 2010
  • Comments Off on Awesomeness Round-up – 10/18/10

This week’s round-up will be a quick one – we just got back from attending the Blogworld & New Media Expo, and our brains are exploding with ideas for new things to do for Blueshift! But plenty of news-worthy things happened while we were gone, because astronomical discoveries wait for no one! We’ll kick off with this dramatic new trailer for the James Webb Space Telescope! It’s going back… to the beginning!

Astronomers get excited when they observe something weird and get to solve a puzzle. As you can see in the video above and photos below, Hubble observed a strange X-shaped object with a trail of material streaming behind it.  They thought they’d observed a fresh asteroid collision… but it turned out that it was actually a year old.  By observing over a period of five months, they’ve been able to observe changes in the debris field and improve future predictions and observations of asteroid collisions.

Hubble Captures Aftermath of Asteroid Collision
Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA)

We’d like to congratulate two scientists in the Astrophysics Science Division on winning the 45th Annual John C. Lindsay Memorial Award. Dr. Julie McEnery and Dr. David Thompson (who has been featured in a few of our podcasts) received the award, which is given to Goddard employees who best exhibit the qualities of broad scientific accomplishments in the area of space science. They won for two amazing years of discovery with the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. We can’t wait to see what Fermi discovers next!

We’d also like to congratulate Drs. Matt Greenhouse, Randy Kimble, and Alex Moiseev for winning the 2010 Robert H Goddard Awards for Science for work on Webb, Hubble, and Fermi respectively.

Sculptor Galaxy Seen as Infrared Rainbow
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

This multi-hued composite of the Sculptor Galaxy comes from Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE, which recently ended its primary mission) and shows views of the galaxy with WISE’s different infrared detectors. The red image captures the active starbirth in the core of the galaxy. The green shows the interaction between young stars (in the core and spirals) and the soot or dust from their birth – and the blue shows stars of all ages, spread throughout the galaxy. By examining these images separately as well as layering them together, astronomers can get the big picture about stellar life cycles and interactions in the galaxy. The Sculptor Galaxy is especially exciting to study because of unusually high levels of starbirth, leading to classification as a “starburst” galaxy. Taste the rainbow!

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt

Small stars live for billions of years… but large stars usually live fast, die young (relatively speaking), and leave a pretty corpse after an explosive ending. But astronomers hunting for active galactic nuclei found a surprising corpse – it showed up as a hot dust cloud, and turned out to be a dead star whose supernova explosion was muffled by the star’s own dust. It’s the first we have found, though astronomers suspect that we’ll find even more with WISE and other satellites. And we might eventually see a similar supernova closer to home – Eta Carinae, a mere 7500 light years away, already has a dusty nebula due to past eruptions of its duo of stars, and more eruptions are expected.

Chandra: What Lies Beneath? Magnetar Enigma Deepens
Credits: CXC/M. Weiss

And finally, this artist’s rendering shows SGR 0418+5729, a neutron star whose magnetic field may be causing it to give off X-rays and gamma rays. Though satellites have only measured a weak magnetic field at the star’s surface, the bursts of high-energy radiation observed by satellites like Chandra may indicate a much more intense magnetic field in the star’s core. The star is classified as a magnetar, due to the presence of a magnetic field, and this one is especially exotic and interesting to observe.

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