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Giant comet found hidden in dark energy data

Thursday, July 8th 2021 09:46 AM

Giant comet found hidden in dark energy data   Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein, shown in this artist’s impression, is 10 times larger than most comets and 1,000 times as massive. Astronomers searching through six years of images from one of the best astro-cameras in the world have just made a massive discovery — literally. Pedro Bernardinelli and Gary Bernstein, both of the University of Pennsylvania, have spotted a giant comet traveling inward from the fringes of our solar system, headed for a close encounter with the Sun in 2031. Based on the amount of light it reflects, the pair estimates the comet, called C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein), is some 60 to 120 miles (100 to 200 kilometers) across. That’s roughly 10 times the average diameter of other known comets. The researchers also estimate Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is some 1,000 times more massive than the average comet. That means it's not only the largest comet discovered in modern times, but al...

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Tropical Storm Elsa from the International Space Station As tropical storm Elsa made its way through the Caribbean Sea, NASA astronaut Megan McArthur shared a series of four images of the storm taken from her vantage point aboard the International Space Station on July 4, 2021. She wrote, "Tropical Storm Elsa from the @Space_Station today. Stay safe everyone." Credit: NASA

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Asteroid-Hunting Space Telescope Gets Two-Year Mission Extension   Artist’s concept of NASA’s WISE spacecraft, which was an infrared-wavelength astronomical space telescope active from December 2009 to February 2011. In September 2013 the spacecraft was assigned a new mission as NEOWISE to help find near-Earth asteroids and comets. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech NEOWISE has provided an estimate of the size of over 1,850 near-Earth objects, helping us better understand our nearest solar system neighbors. For two more years, NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) will continue its hunt for asteroids and comets – including objects that could pose a hazard to Earth. This mission extension means NASA’s prolific near-Earth object (NEO) hunting space telescope will continue operations until June 2023. “At NASA, we’re always looking up, surveying the sky daily to find potential hazards and exploring asteroids to help...

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Hubble waylaid by computer fault

Thursday, July 1st 2021 09:31 AM

Hubble waylaid by computer fault   Astronauts repair the Hubble Space Telescope during the first servicing mission to the observatory in 1993, flown by the space shuttle Endeavour. NASA engineers are working to diagnose a computer glitch that has put the Hubble Space Telescope out of commission. The good news is that the core scientific instruments and the telescope itself remain in good health. And there are on-board backups for the systems suspected to be at fault, which are part of an assemblage of components called the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit. But so far, Hubble’s team hasn’t identified which piece of hardware is at the root of the failure. And turning on those backups will be an intricate procedure that is risker than some of the steps tried so far. The issue emerged on June 13 when its payload computer — which manages the science instruments — ground to a halt. This prompted the main computer to put the ins...

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Exceptional Heat Hits Pacific Northwest

Wednesday, June 30th 2021 10:30 AM

Exceptional Heat Hits Pacific Northwest Extraordinary heat events occur around the planet during most summers, but the current heatwave in the Pacific Northwest is truly exceptional. In June 2021, all-time temperature records fell in multiple cities in the U.S. and Canada during a heatwave that the National Weather Service called “historic and dangerous.” The heat began to build up late last week, and the effect is apparent in this map (above) which shows land surface temperatures on June 25 in Washington. The data show that around noon on that day, surface temperatures in Seattle reached 120°F (49°C), and the worst was yet to come. By June 26, excessive heat warnings were in place across Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. Data for the map come from NASA’s ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS), which uses a scanning radiometer to measure thermal infrared energy emitted from Earth’s surface. Note th...

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First You See It, Then You Don’t: Scientists Closer to Explaining Mars Methane Mystery   This image was taken on March 19, 2017, by the Mars Hand Lens Imager camera on the arm of NASA’s Curiosity Rover. The image helped mission team members inspect the condition of Curiosity’s six wheels.   NASA’s Curiosity rover took this selfie on June 15, 2018, the 2,082nd Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission. A dust storm had reduced sunlight and visibility at the rover’s location, which was the “Duluth” drill site.   NASA’s Curiosity rover captured these drifting clouds on May 7, 2019. The 2,400th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Curiosity used its black-and-white Navigation Cameras to take the photo. Why do some science instruments detect the gas on the Red Planet while others don’t? Reports of methane detections at Mars have captivated scientists and non-scientists alike. On Earth, a significant amount...

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Operations Underway to Restore Payload Computer on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope   The Hubble Space Telescope is deployed on April 25, 1990 from the space shuttle Discovery. Avoiding distortions of the atmosphere, Hubble has an unobstructed view peering to planets, stars and galaxies, some more than 13.4 billion light years away. June 25, 2021 - NASA Completes Additional Tests to Diagnose Computer Problem on Hubble Space Telescope NASA is continuing to diagnose a problem with the payload computer on the Hubble Space Telescope after completing another set of tests on June 23 and 24. The payload computer halted on June 13 and the spacecraft stopped collecting science data. The telescope itself and its science instruments remain in good health and are currently in a safe configuration. The spacecraft has two payload computers, one of which serves as a backup, that are located on the Science Instrument and Command and Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit. There are various pieces of...

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Hubble Images a Dazzling Dynamic Duo

Friday, June 25th 2021 09:22 AM

Hubble Images a Dazzling Dynamic Duo A cataclysmic cosmic collision takes center stage in this image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The image features the interacting galaxy pair IC 1623, which lies around 275 million light-years away in the constellation Cetus (the Whale). The two galaxies are in the final stages of merging, and astronomers expect a powerful inflow of gas to ignite a frenzied burst of star formation in the resulting compact starburst galaxy.  This interacting pair of galaxies is a familiar sight; Hubble captured IC 1623 in 2008 using two filters at optical and infrared wavelengths on the Advanced Camera for Surveys. This image incorporates data from Wide Field Camera 3, and combines observations taken in eight filters spanning infrared to ultraviolet wavelengths to reveal the finer details of IC 1623. Future observations of the galaxy pair with the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope will shed more light on the process...

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Observe the Southern Hemisphere's greatest deep-sky gems   The southern Milky Way arcs across the sky at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are visible below the band of our galaxy. A popular old saying claims, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” For me, this describes my love of the southern sky. I’ve spent maybe 50 nights total under it, but each one has been filled with discovery and fascination. For this story, I’ve chosen deep-sky objects in the far south — within 30° of the South Celestial Pole. Once you point a telescope toward that region, you’ll encounter constellations you may not be familiar with: Apus, Ara, Carina, Centaurus, Circinus, Crux, Dorado, Horologium, Hydrus, Indus, Mensa, Musca, Octans, Pictor, Reticulum, Triangulum Australe, Tucana, and Volans. And although Carina, Centaurus, and Crux contain bright stars you can navigate by, luminaries in the other groups are few and far be...

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NASA’s Webb Will Use Quasars to Unlock the Secrets of the Early Universe Quasars are very bright, distant and active supermassive black holes that are millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun. Typically located at the centers of galaxies, they feed on infalling matter and unleash fantastic torrents of radiation. Among the brightest objects in the universe, a quasar’s light outshines that of all the stars in its host galaxy combined, and its jets and winds shape the galaxy in which it resides. This is an artist's concept of a galaxy with a brilliant quasar at its center. A quasar is a very bright, distant and active supermassive black hole that is millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun. Among the brightest objects in the universe, a quasar’s light outshines that of all the stars in its host galaxy combined. Quasars feed on infalling matter and unleash torrents of winds and radiation, shaping the galaxies in which they reside. Using the unique ca...

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