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Light Pollution Diorama
Three Greek students have made a very nice diorama showing how light pollution can be improved by simple shielding of street lights.
NASA's Swift satellite was successfully launched aboard a Boeing Delta 2 rocket at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The satellite will pinpoint the location of distant yet fleeting explosions that appear to signal the births of black holes.
"It's a thrill that Swift is in orbit. We expect to detect and analyze more than 100 gamma-ray bursts a year. These are the most powerful explosions in the universe, and I can't wait to learn more about them," said Swift Principal Investigator Dr. Neil Gehrels, at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
Each gamma-ray burst is a short-lived event, lasting only a few milliseconds to a few minutes, never to appear again. They occur several times daily somewhere in the universe, and Swift should detect several weekly.
Swift, a mission with international participation, was designed to solve the 35-year-old mystery of the origin of gamma-ray bursts. Scientists believe the bursts are related to the formation of black holes throughout the universe - the birth cries of black holes.
To track these mysterious bursts, Swift carries a suite of three main instruments. The Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) instrument, built by Goddard, will detect and locate about two gamma-ray bursts weekly, relaying a rough position to the ground within 20 seconds. The satellite will swiftly re-point itself to bring the burst area into the narrower fields of view of the on-board X-ray Telescope (XRT) and the UltraViolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT). These telescopes study the afterglow of the burst produced by the cooling ashes that remain from the original explosion.
The XRT and UVOT instruments will determine a precise arc-second position of the burst and measure the spectrum of its afterglow from visible to X-ray wavelengths. For most of the bursts detected, Swift data, combined with complementary observations conducted with ground-based telescopes, will enable measurements of the distances to the burst sources.
The afterglow phenomenon can linger in X-ray light, optical light, and radio waves for hours to weeks, providing detailed information about the burst. Swift will check in on bursts regularly to study the fading afterglow, as will ground-based optical and radio telescopes. The crucial link is having a precise location to direct other telescopes. Swift will provide extremely precise positions for bursts in a matter of minutes.
Swift notifies the astronomical community via the Goddard-maintained Gamma-ray Burst Coordinates Network. The Swift Mission Operations Center, operated from Penn State's University Park, Pa., campus, controls the Swift observatory and provides continuous burst information.
"Swift can respond almost instantly to any astrophysical phenomenon, and I suspect that we're going to be making many discoveries which are currently unpredicted," said Swift Mission Director John Nousek, Penn State professor of astronomy and astrophysics.
Goddard manages Swift. Swift is a NASA mission with the participation of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council in the United Kingdom.
Swift was built through collaboration with national laboratories, universities and international partners, including General Dynamics, Gilbert, Arizona; Penn State University; Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico; Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, Calif.; Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Dorking, Surrey, England; the University of Leicester, England; ASI-Malindi ground station in Africa; the ASI Science Data Center in Italy; and the Brera Observatory in Milan, Italy.http://www.nasa.gov/swift
A new window to the universe was opened with today's release of the first dazzling images from NASA's newly named Spitzer Space Telescope, formerly known as the Space Infrared Telescope Facility.
The first observations, of a glowing stellar nursery; a swirling, dusty galaxy; a disc of planet-forming debris; and organic material in the distant universe, demonstrate the power of the telescope's infrared detectors to capture cosmic features never before seen.
The Spitzer Space Telescope was also officially named today after the late Dr. Lyman Spitzer, Jr. He was one of the 20th century's most influential scientists, and in the mid-1940s, he first proposed placing telescopes in space.
"NASA's newest Great Observatory is open for business, and it is beginning to take its place at the forefront of science," said NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Science, Dr. Ed Weiler. "Like Hubble, Compton and Chandra, the new Spitzer Space Telescope will soon be making major discoveries, and, as these first images show, should excite the public with views of the cosmos like we've never had before," he said.
"The Spitzer Space Telescope is working extremely well. The scientists who are starting to use it deeply appreciate the ingenuity and dedication of the thousands of people devoted to development and operations of the mission," said Dr. Michael Werner, project scientist for the Spitzer Space Telescope at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Launched Aug. 25 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., the Spitzer Space Telescope is the fourth of NASA's Great Observatories, a program designed to paint a more comprehensive picture of the cosmos using different wavelengths of light.
While the other Great Observatories have probed the universe with visible light (Hubble Space Telescope), gamma rays (Compton Gamma Ray Observatory) and X-rays (Chandra X-ray Observatory), the Spitzer Space Telescope observes the cosmos in the infrared. Spitzer's unprecedented sensitivity allows it to sense infrared radiation, or heat, from the most distant, cold and dust-obscured celestial objects. Today's initial images revealed the versatility of the telescope, and its three science instruments. The images:
Resembling a creature on the run with flames streaming behind it, the Spitzer image of a dark globule in the emission nebula IC 1396 is in spectacular contrast to the view seen in visible light. Spitzer's infrared detectors unveiled the brilliant hidden interior of this opaque cloud of gas and dust for the first time, exposing never-before- seen young stars.
The dusty, star-studded arms of a nearby spiral galaxy Messier 81 are illuminated in a Spitzer image. Red regions in the spiral arms represent infrared emissions from dustier parts of the galaxy where new stars are forming. The image shows the power of Spitzer to explore regions invisible in optical light, and to study star formation on a galactic scale.
Spitzer revealed, in its entirety, a massive disc of dusty planet-forming debris encircling the nearby star Fomalhaut. Such debris discs are the leftover material from the building of a planetary system. While other telescopes have imaged the outer Fomalhaut disc, none was able to provide a full picture of the inner region. Spitzer's ability to detect dust at various temperatures allows it to fill in this missing gap, providing astronomers with insight into the evolution of planetary systems.
Data from Spitzer of the young star HH 46-IR, and from a distant galaxy 3.25 billion light-years away, show the presence of water and small organic molecules not only in the here and now, but, for the first time, far back in time when life on Earth first emerged.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Major partners are Lockheed Martin Corporation, Sunnyvale, Calif., Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation, Boulder, Colo., NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., Boeing North America (now DRS Technologies, Inc.) Anaheim, Calif., the University of Arizona, Tucson, and Raytheon Vision Systems, Goleta, Calif. The instrument principal investigators are Dr. Giovanni Fazio, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass.; Dr. James Houck, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.; and Dr. George Rieke, University of Arizona, Tucson.For information about the Spitzer Space Telescope on the Internet, visit:
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe today announced NASA's Space Infrared Telescope Facility has been renamed the Spitzer Space Telescope. It was named in honor of the late Dr. Lyman Spitzer Jr., one of the 20th century's most distinguished scientists.
Spitzer's pioneering efforts to put telescopes in space led to two successful space missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA also released the telescope's first dazzling observations.
"The Spitzer Space Telescope takes its place at the forefront of astronomy in the 21st century, just as its namesake, Dr. Lyman Spitzer Jr., was at the forefront of astronomy in the 20th," said NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Science Dr. Ed Weiler.
The telescope was launched August 25, 2003, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The Spitzer Space Telescope uses state-of-the-art infrared detectors to pierce the dense clouds of gas and dust that enshroud many celestial objects, including distant galaxies; clusters of stars in formation; and planet forming discs surrounding stars. It is the fourth of NASA's Great Observatories, a program that also includes the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.
The new name was chosen after an international contest sponsored by NASA. More than 7,000 names and supporting essays were submitted, with more than a third coming from outside the United States. Jay Stidolph, 28, a Canadian resident of Fort Nelson, British Columbia, submitted the winning entry.
Spitzer (1914-1997) was the first to propose, in 1946, placing a large telescope in space to avoid the blurring effects of Earth's atmosphere. He then devoted the next 50 years of his career to making this vision a reality. His efforts led to two successful NASA space telescopes: the Copernicus satellite and the Hubble Space Telescope. He also made significant contributions to the fields of stellar dynamics, the interstellar medium and plasma physics.
Spitzer served on the faculty of Princeton University for 50 years. He received numerous awards, including the Catherine Wolfe Bruce gold medal (1973); the National Academy of Sciences' Henry Draper Medal; the first James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics by the American Physical Society (1975); the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society (1978); the National Medal of Science (1979); and the Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy (1985), the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for fields excluded from those awards.
In addition to being an outstanding scientist, Spitzer was an exceptional teacher, well regarded by his colleagues and students. He authored two popular reference books: Physics of Fully Ionized Gases and Diffuse Matter in Space.
Considered to be a man of incredible discipline, diligence and politeness, Spitzer also loved to mountain-climb and ski. He was a member of the American Alpine Club. His wife, Doreen Canaday Spitzer, four children and 10 grandchildren survive him.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.For information about the Spitzer Space Telescope on the Internet, visit:
SANTA CRUZ, CA--The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation awarded $17.5 million to the University of California for collaboration with the California Institute of Technology on a project intended to build the world's most powerful telescope. Coupled with an award by the Foundation to Caltech for the same amount, a total of $35 million is now available for the two institutions to collaborate on this visionary project to build the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). Their next step will be to work together to formulate detailed design plans for the telescope.
A 30-meter-diameter optical and infrared telescope, complete with adaptive optics, would result in images more than 12 times sharper than those of the Hubble Space Telescope. The TMT will have nine times the light-gathering ability of one of the 10-meter Keck Telescopes, which are currently the largest in the world. With such a telescope, astrophysicists will be able to study the earliest galaxies and the details of their formation as well as pinpoint the processes that lead to young planetary systems around nearby stars.
"We are very pleased that the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation has recognized the strengths of the University of California and Caltech to carry out such an important project," said UC President Robert C. Dynes. "The giant telescope will help our astronomy faculty stay at the very forefront of that dynamic field of science."
"The University of California and Caltech will work in close and constant collaboration to achieve the goals of the design effort," said Joseph Miller, director of UC Observatories/Lick Observatory, headquartered at UC Santa Cruz. "We've also entered into collaborations with the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, both of whom are in the process of seeking major funding."
According to Richard Ellis, director of Caltech Optical Observatories and Steele Professor of Astronomy at Caltech, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation's award will provide the crucial funding needed to address the major areas of risk in this large project.
"This next phase is of central importance, because in the course of carrying it out, we will establish the fundamental technologies and methods necessary for the building of the telescope," Ellis said.
Miller and Ellis agree that the TMT is a natural project for UC and Caltech to undertake jointly, given their decades of experience as collaborators in constructing, operating, and conducting science with the world's largest telescopes at the Keck Observatory. The TMT design is a natural evolution of the Keck Telescope design, and many of the same UC and Caltech scientists involved in the creation of the Keck Observatory are deeply involved in the TMT project.
Following the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation-funded design study, the final phase of the project, not yet funded, will be construction of the observatory at an as yet undetermined site. The end of this phase would mark the beginning of regular astronomical observations, perhaps by 2012.The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation was established in November 2000, by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife Betty. The Foundation funds outcome-based projects that will measurably improve the quality of life by creating positive outcomes for future generations. Grantmaking is concentrated in initiatives that support the Foundation's principal areas of concern: environmental conservation, science, higher education, and the San Francisco Bay Area.