Spitzer mission updates

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EarthlingX

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Wiki : Spitzer Space Telescope
The Spitzer Space Telescope (formerly the Space Infrared Telescope Facility, SIRTF) is an infrared space observatory launched in 2003. It is the fourth and final of NASA's Great Observatories.
http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu : Spitzer Spies a 'Flying Dragon' Smoldering with Secret Star Birth
07.07.10

By Adam Hadhazy



NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed a cosmic cloud shaped like a flying dragon that has a secret burning behind its dark scales.

Though appearances deceive, stars are forming in this cloud about as fast as in a neighboring, dazzling nebula illuminated by giant stars. But no similar stellar behemoths have yet emerged to set the dragon's dusty innards aglow.

"We believe we've managed to observe this cloud in a very early phase of star formation before its most massive stars have ignited," says Matt Povich, an astronomer at Penn State and lead author of a study published April 21 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

This strange starry absence in the dark cloud, dubbed M17 SWex, speaks to the mysteries surrounding the birth of the heftiest stars in the universe.

Perhaps these rare, massive stars form after typical stars do, or when these smaller cousins infrequently collide - or maybe an outside "trigger" of some sort is needed. To wit, a wave of massive star formation, possibly caused by the crossing of a grand spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy, appears to be rippling through M17 SWex's entire region.

This surge, however, has not yet reached the beastly cloud, establishing M17 SWex as a compelling place to explore the origin of giant stars. "This flying dragon of M17 SWex might carry with it important clues about how massive stars ever come into being," says paper co-author Barbara Whitney, a Senior Research Scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
 
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kk434

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Spitzer (formaly SIRTF) is quite a dissapointment, as part of the great obearvstory program it was supposed to be launched aboard the shuttle(like the 3 others) and have a huge primary mirror, now it ended up as a small satelite and is not even near the size and capability of the ESA herchel observatory(largest space telescope) and its now out of helium coolant as well. I pin my hopes to Herschel, its modern large and a true 4'th part of the otherwise fantastic treo(Hubble, GRO, Chandra)
 
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MeteorWayne

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So you're pretty much against everything launched into space unless it's perfect and the mission has an unlimited budget (which I assume you wouldn't want to pay for)

Sheesh....
 
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EarthlingX

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[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Cp4uNnUrCo[/youtube]
 
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EarthlingX

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[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQ7tyBqga-c[/youtube]
ScienceMagazine | September 15, 2010
It's the Milky Way as you've never seen it before! Two and a half billion infrared pixels are exposing our own Galaxy in this new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope! Science is all about getting the big picture, but some pictures are definitely bigger than others.
http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu : Spitzer Finds Clarity in the Inner Milky Way
 
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EarthlingX

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More or less recent news :

SDC : Alien Planet's Missing Methane Stumps Scientists
By Mike Wall
SPACE.com Senior Writer
posted: 15 September 2010
02:59 pm ET



A big, hot alien planet with almost no methane in its atmosphere continues to stump astronomers, who have long thought the gas was a common feature of such worlds.

In our solar system, the gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are all rich in methane. But when astronomers trained NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope on the extrasolar planet GJ 436b, a Neptune-sized world around a star 33 light-years from Earth, they found almost none of the stuff.

"Methane should be abundant on a planet of this temperature and size, but we found 7,000 times less methane than what the models predict," said Kevin Stevenson of the University of Central Florida in a new NASA statement released Monday. Stevenson was lead author of a study on the planet published in April.

www.spitzer.caltech.edu : Spitzer Finds a Flavorful Mix of Asteroids
09.02.10

New research from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope reveals that asteroids somewhat near Earth, termed near-Earth objects, are a mixed bunch, with a surprisingly wide array of compositions. Like a piñata filled with everything from chocolates to fruity candies, these asteroids come in assorted colors and compositions. Some are dark and dull; others are shiny and bright. The Spitzer observations of 100 known near-Earth asteroids demonstrate that the objects' diversity is greater than previously thought.

www.spitzer.caltech.edu : Pulverized Planet Dust May Lie Around Double Stars
08.23.10

PASADENA, Calif. -- Tight double-star systems might not be the best places for life to spring up, according to a new study using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The infrared observatory spotted a surprisingly large amount of dust around three mature, close-orbiting star pairs. Where did the dust come from? Astronomers say it might be the aftermath of tremendous planetary collisions.
 
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http://www.jpl.nasa.gov : Shining Starlight on the Dark Cocoons of Star Birth
September 23, 2010


This series of images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows a dark mass of gas and dust, called a core, where new stars and planets will likely spring up. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Observatoire de Paris/CNRS

Astronomers have discovered a new, cosmic phenomenon, termed "coreshine," which is revealing new information about how stars and planets come to be.

The scientists used data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to measure infrared light deflecting off cores -- cold, dark cocoons where young stars and planetary systems are blossoming. This coreshine effect, which occurs when starlight from nearby stars bounces off the cores, reveals information about their age and consistency. In a new paper, to be published Friday, Sept. 24, in the journal Science, the team reports finding coreshine across dozens of dark cores.
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This series of images from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows a dark mass of gas and dust, called a core, where new stars and planets will likely spring up. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Observatoire de Paris/CNRS
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Pagani and his team first observed one case of the coreshine phenomenon in 2009. They were surprised to see that starlight was scattering off a dark core in the form of infrared light that Spitzer could see. They had thought the grains of dust making up the core were too small to deflect the starlight; instead, they expected the sunlight would travel straight through. Their finding told them that the dust grains were bigger than previously thought -- about 1 micron instead of 0.1 micron (a typical human hair is about 100 microns).

That might not sound like a big difference, but it can significantly change astronomers' models of star and planet formation. For one thing, the larger grain size means that planets -- which form as dust circling young stars sticks together -- might take shape more quickly. In other words, the tiny seeds for planet formation may be forming very early on, when a star is still in its pre-embryonic phase.

But this particular object observed in 2009 could have been a fluke. The researchers did not know if what they found was true of other dark clouds -- until now. In the new study, they examine 110 dark cores, and find that about half of them exhibit coreshine.

The finding amounts to a new tool for not only studying the dust making up the dark cores, but also for assessing their age. The more developed star-forming cores will have larger dust grains, so, using this tool, astronomers can better map their ages across our Milky Way galaxy. Coreshine can also help in constructing three-dimensional models of the cores -- the deflected starlight is scattered in a way that is dependent on the cloud structures.
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SDC : Recently Discovered Phenomenon Could Reveal How Stars Are Born
By Charles Q. Choi
SPACE.com Contributor
posted: 23 September 2010
02:01 pm ET



Light from the cosmic clouds where stars and planets are born could soon reveal secrets about these mysterious formative regions, a new study suggests.

Cold molecular clouds are the cradles of stars and planets, where dense clusters of gas collapse to form protostars and immense clumps of dust grains can become Earth-like worlds. But just how this happens is largely unknown, in part because the clouds shroud what’s going on, so astronomers can’t see the action in visible light.

Now light dubbed "coreshine" that emerges from the center of these clouds might reveal clues about how the stars and planets develop over time, researchers say.
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EarthlingX

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researchnews.osu.edu : Giant star goes supernova -- and is smothered by its own dust
by Pam Frost Gorder

Last updated 10/11/10



COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A giant star in a faraway galaxy recently ended its life with a dust-shrouded whimper instead of the more typical bang.

Ohio State University researchers suspect that this odd event -- the first one of its kind ever viewed by astronomers – was more common early in the universe.

It also hints at what we would see if the brightest star system in our galaxy became a supernova.

In a paper published online in the Astrophysical Journal, Christopher Kochanek, a professor of astronomy at Ohio State, and his colleagues describe how the supernova appeared in late August 2007, as part of the Spitzer Space Telescope Deep Wide Field Survey.
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Better large image in the JPL article
 
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EarthlingX

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http://www.jpl.nasa.gov : Astronomers Find Weird, Warm Spot on an Exoplanet
October 19, 2010


NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has found that the hottest part of a distant planet, named upsilon Andromedae b, is not under the glare of its host star as might be expected. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

PASADENA, Calif. -- Observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope reveal a distant planet with a warm spot in the wrong place.

The gas-giant planet, named upsilon Andromedae b, orbits tightly around its star, with one face perpetually boiling under the star's heat. It belongs to a class of planets termed hot Jupiters, so called for their scorching temperatures and large, gaseous constitutions.

One might think the hottest part of these planets would be directly under the sun-facing side, but previous observations have shown that their hot spots may be shifted slightly away from this point. Astronomers thought that fierce winds might be pushing hot, gaseous material around.

But the new finding may throw this theory into question. Using Spitzer, an infrared observatory, astronomers found that upsilon Andromedae b's hot spot is offset by a whopping 80 degrees. Basically, the hot spot is over to the side of the planet instead of directly under the glare of the sun.

"We really didn't expect to find a hot spot with such a large offset," said Ian Crossfield, lead author of a new paper about the discovery appearing in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal. "It's clear that we understand even less about the atmospheric energetics of hot Jupiters than we thought we did."
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Related, but older :

http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu : First Map of an Exoplanet Atmosphere
05.09.07



This is the first-ever map of the surface of an exoplanet, or a planet beyond our solar system. The map, which shows temperature variations across the cloudy tops of a gas giant called HD 189733b, is made from infrared data taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Hotter temperatures are represented in brighter colors.

HD 189733b is what is known as a hot-Jupiter planet. These sizzling, gas planets practically hug their stars, orbiting at distances that are much closer than Mercury is to our sun. They whip around their stars quickly; for example, HD 189733b completes one orbit in just 2.2 days. Hot Jupiters are also thought to be tidally locked to their stars, just as our moon is to Earth. This means that one side of a hot Jupiter always faces its star.

As predicted, the map reveals that HD 189733b has a warm spot on its "sunlit" side, which is always pointed toward the star. But the map also shows that this spot is offset from the high-noon, or sun-facing, point by 30 degrees. According to scientists, ferocious winds traveling up to 6,000 miles per hour (nearly 9,700 kilometers per hour) are probably pushing the hot spot to the east.
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EarthlingX

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http://www.jpl.nasa.gov : Space Buckyballs Thrive, Finds NASA Spitzer Telescope
October 27, 2010


An infrared photo of the Small Magellanic Cloud taken by Spitzer is shown here in this artist's illustration, with two callouts. The middle callout shows a magnified view of an example of a planetary nebula, and the right callout shows an even further magnified depiction of buckyballs, which consist of 60 carbon atoms arranged like soccer balls. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

PASADENA, Calif. -- Astronomers have discovered bucket loads of buckyballs in space. They used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to find the little carbon spheres throughout our Milky Way galaxy -- in the space between stars and around three dying stars. What's more, Spitzer detected buckyballs around a fourth dying star in a nearby galaxy in staggering quantities -- the equivalent in mass to about 15 of our moons.

Buckyballs, also known as fullerenes, are soccer-ball-shaped molecules consisting of 60 linked carbon atoms. They are named for their resemblance to the architect Buckminster Fuller's geodesic domes, an example of which is found at the entrance to Disney's Epcot theme park in Orlando, Fla. The miniature spheres were first discovered in a lab on Earth 25 years ago, but it wasn't until this past July that Spitzer was able to provide the first confirmed proof of their existence in space. At that time, scientists weren't sure if they had been lucky to find a rare supply, or if perhaps the cosmic balls were all around.

"It turns out that buckyballs are much more common and abundant in the universe than initially thought," said astronomer Letizia Stanghellini of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Ariz. "Spitzer had recently found them in one specific location, but now we see them in other environments. This has implications for the chemistry of life. It's possible that buckyballs from outer space provided seeds for life on Earth."

Stanghellini is co-author of a new study appearing online Oct. 28 in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. Anibal García-Hernández of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Spain, is the lead author of the paper. Another Spitzer study about the discovery of buckyballs in space was also recently published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. It was led by Kris Sellgren of Ohio State University, Columbus.

The García-Hernández team found the buckyballs around three dying sun-like stars, called planetary nebulae, in our own Milky Way galaxy. These cloudy objects, made up of material shed from the dying stars, are similar to the one where Spitzer found the first evidence for their existence.

The new research shows that all the planetary nebulae in which buckyballs have been detected are rich in hydrogen. This goes against what researchers thought for decades -- they had assumed that, as is the case with making buckyballs in the lab, hydrogen could not be present. The hydrogen, they theorized, would contaminate the carbon, causing it to form chains and other structures rather than the spheres, which contain no hydrogen at all. "We now know that fullerenes and hydrogen coexist in planetary nebulae, which is really important for telling us how they form in space," said García-Hernández.
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The other new study, from Sellgren and her team, demonstrates that buckyballs are also present in the space between stars, but not too far away from young solar systems. The cosmic balls may have been formed in a planetary nebula, or perhaps between stars. A feature story about this research is online at http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/news/1212-feature10-18 .
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Spitzer feature stories :

http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu : Spitzer Goes Buck Wild and Finds Buckyballs Floating Between the Stars
10.27.10

By Adam Hadhazy

Fresh after finding buckyballs around an aging star, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has now detected these intriguing, miniature-soccer-ball-shaped molecules in interstellar space for the first time.

With these new results, the buckyball claims the record for the largest molecule ever discovered floating between the stars. The unique properties of buckyballs that have made these rounded particles such a hot area of research here on Earth also offer up some exciting possibilities for cosmic chemistry.
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http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu : Space Buckyballs Thrive, Finds NASA Spitzer Telescope
10.27.10

PASADENA, Calif. -- Astronomers have discovered bucket loads of buckyballs in space. They used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to find the little carbon spheres throughout our Milky Way galaxy -- in the space between stars and around three dying stars. What's more, Spitzer detected buckyballs around a fourth dying star in a nearby galaxy in staggering quantities -- the equivalent in mass to about 15 of our moons.
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EarthlingX

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www.spitzer.caltech.edu : Spitzer Reveals a Buried Explosion Sparked by a Galactic Train Wreck
11.18.10

By Adam Hadhazy



Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have found a stunning burst of star formation that beams out as much infrared light as an entire galaxy. The collision of two spiral galaxies has triggered this explosion, which is cloaked by dust that renders its stars nearly invisible in other wavelengths of light.

The starburst newly revealed by Spitzer stands as the most luminous ever seen taking place away from the centers, or nuclei, of merging parent galaxies. It blazes ten times brighter than the nearby Universe's previous most famous "off-nuclear starburst" that gleams in another galactic smashup known as the Antennae Galaxy.

The new findings show that galaxy mergers can pack a real star-making wallop far from the respective galactic centers, where star-forming dust and gases typically pool.

"This discovery proves that merging galaxies can generate powerful starbursts outside of the centers of the parent galaxies," says Hanae Inami, first author of a paper detailing the results in the July issue of The Astronomical Journal. Inami is a graduate student at The Graduate University for Advanced Studies in Japan and the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology. She adds: "The infrared light emission of the starburst dominates its host galaxy and rivals that of the most luminous galaxies we see that are relatively close to our home, the Milky Way."

"No matter how you slice it, this starburst is one of the most luminous objects in the local Universe," agrees Lee Armus, second author of the paper and a senior research astronomer also at the Spitzer Science Center.
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