By ANI | Updated: 18 August 2021
A study of the Ophiuchus star-forming complex has offered new insights into the conditions in which our own solar system was born.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
A region of active star formation in the constellation Ophiuchus is giving astronomers new insights into the conditions in which our own solar system was born.
In particular, the study showed how our solar system may have become enriched with short-lived radioactive elements.
Evidence of this enrichment process has been around since the 1970s when scientists studying certain mineral inclusions in meteorites concluded that they were pristine remnants of the infant solar system and contained the decay products of short-lived radionuclides.
These radioactive elements could have been blown onto the nascent solar system by a nearby exploding star (a supernova) or by the strong stellar winds from a type of massive star known as a Wolf-Rayet star.
The authors of the new study used multi-wavelength observations of the Ophiuchus star-forming region, including spectacular new infrared data, to reveal interactions between the clouds of star-forming gas and radionuclides produced in a nearby cluster of young stars.
Their findings indicated that supernovas in the star cluster are the most likely source of short-lived radionuclides in the star-forming clouds.
“Our solar system was most likely formed in a giant molecular cloud together with a young stellar cluster, and one or more supernova events from some massive stars in this cluster contaminated the gas which turned into the sun and its planetary system,” said co-author Douglas N. C. Lin, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.
“Although this scenario has been suggested in the past, the strength of this paper is to use multi-wavelength observations and a sophisticated statistical analysis to deduce a quantitative measurement of the model’s likelihood,” he added.
First author John Forbes at the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Astrophysics said data from space-based gamma-ray telescopes enable the detection of gamma rays emitted by the short-lived radionuclide aluminum-26.
“These are challenging observations. We can only convincingly detect it in two star-forming regions, and the best data are from the Ophiuchus complex,” he said.
The Ophiuchus cloud complex contains many dense protostellar cores in various stages of star formation and protoplanetary disk development, representing the earliest stages in the formation of a planetary system.
By combining imaging data in wavelengths ranging from millimetres to gamma rays, the researchers were able to visualise a flow of aluminum-26 from the nearby star cluster toward the Ophiuchus star-forming region.
“The enrichment process we’re seeing in Ophiuchus is consistent with what happened during the formation of the solar system 5 billion years ago,” Forbes said.
“Once we saw this nice example of how the process might happen, we set about trying to model the nearby star cluster that produced the radionuclides we see today in gamma rays,” he added.
Forbes developed a model that accounts for every massive star that could have existed in this region, including its mass, age, and probability of exploding as a supernova, and incorporates the potential yields of aluminum-26 from stellar winds and supernovas.
The model enabled him to determine the probabilities of different scenarios for the production of the aluminum-26 observed today.
“We now have enough information to say that there is a 59 per cent chance it is due to supernovas and a 68 per cent chance that it’s from multiple sources and not just one supernova,” Forbes said.
This type of statistical analysis assigns probabilities to scenarios that astronomers have been debating for the past 50 years, Lin noted.
“This is the new direction for astronomy, to quantify the likelihood,” he added.
The new findings also showed that the amount of short-lived radionuclides incorporated into newly forming star systems can vary widely.
“Many new star systems will be born with aluminum-26 abundances in line with our solar system, but the variation is huge – several orders of magnitude,” Forbes said.
“This matters for the early evolution of planetary systems since aluminum-26 is the main early heating source. More aluminum-26 probably means drier planets,” he added.
The infrared data, which enabled the team to peer through dusty clouds into the heart of the star-forming complex, was obtained by coauthor Joao Alves at the University of Vienna as part of the European Southern Observatory’s VISION survey of nearby stellar nurseries using the VISTA telescope in Chile.
“There is nothing special about Ophiuchus as a star formation region,” Alves said.
“It is just a typical configuration of gas and young massive stars, so our results should be representative of the enrichment of short-lived radioactive elements in star and planet formation across the Milky Way,” he concluded.
The team also used data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Herschel Space Observatory, the ESA’s Planck satellite, and NASA’s Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.
Nobel Prize in Physics 2021 Winners: Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann, and Giorgio Parisi
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 5 October 2021
US-Japanese scientist Syukuro Manabe, Klaus Hasselmann of Germany, and Giorgio Parisi of Italy on Tuesday won the Nobel Physics Prize for climate models and the understanding of physical systems, the jury said.
Manabe and Hasselmann share one half of the prize for their research on climate models, while Parisi won the other half for his work on the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems.
“Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann laid the foundation of our knowledge of the Earth’s climate and how humanity influences it,” the Nobel Committee said.
“Giorgio Parisi is rewarded for his revolutionary contributions to the theory of disordered materials and random processes,” it added.
For the past two years, the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences has honoured findings in the field of astronomy, leading watchers to speculate it was due for a change of field.
“The discoveries being recognised this year demonstrate that our knowledge about the climate rests on a solid scientific foundation, based on a rigorous analysis of observations,” Thors Hans Hansson, chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics said.
In 2019, James Peebles of Canada and the US was given the award for discoveries explaining the universe’s evolution after the Big Bang, together with Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz of Switzerland for the first discovery of an exoplanet.
This was followed in 2020 with a focus on black holes, with Britain’s Roger Penrose, Germany’s Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez of the US being honoured.
The Nobel season continues on Wednesday with the award for chemistry, followed by the much-anticipated prizes for literature on Thursday and peace on Friday before the economics prize winds things up on Monday, October 11.
ISRO’s Commercial Arm NSIL Announces First ‘Demand-Driven’ Satellite Mission
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 2 October 2021
ISRO’s commercial arm, NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) on Friday announced its first “demand-driven” communication satellite mission as part of Space reforms announced by the Government in June last year. NSIL, incorporated in March 2019, got mandated to undertake operational satellite missions on a “demand-driven” model, wherein it has the responsibility to build, launch, own and operate the satellite and provide services to its committed customer.
As part of this initiative, NSIL, a Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE), under the Department of Space (DOS), is now undertaking its “1st demand driven communication satellite mission” named GSAT-24, a four-tonne class Ku- band satellite. NSIL is getting this satellite built by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) and will be launching it using Ariane-5 launcher operated by Arianespace. “The entire satellite capacity on-board GSAT-24 will be leased to its committed customer M/s Tata Sky for meeting their DTH application needs,” an NSIL statement said.
NSIL said it has entered into a necessary agreement with Tata Sky for utilising the satellite capacity on-board GSAT-24 and with Arianespace for seeking the launch services. GSAT-24 satellite will be owned and operated by NSIL on a commercial basis. The GSAT-24 satellite mission will be fully funded by NSIL. NSIL is envisaging the launch of GSAT-24 satellite during first quarter of 2022, it was stated.
Inspiration4 in Space: What Life Is Like Aboard the SpaceX Dragon Capsule
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 18 September 2021
The first space tourism mission by Elon Musk’s SpaceX blasted off from Florida on Wednesday and the four crew members — a billionaire and three other Americans — have already seen more than 25 sunsets and sunrises.
SpaceX has released few details about their adventure since they reached an orbit which is more distant than that of the International Space Station.
Here’s what we know about their life on board:
Nine square meters
The four space tourists are aboard the SpaceX crew capsule called Dragon.
It is 8.1 meters (26.7 feet) tall and has a diameter of four meters (13 feet).
The capsule is composed of a trunk, which is inaccessible to the crew, upon which sits the living quarters.
The entire volume of the capsule is just 9.3 square meters (328 square feet).
Chris Sembroski, a 42-year-old Air Force veteran who is one of the crew members, has compared it to travelling with friends in a van — one you can’t step away from though if you want to take a break.
Toilets with a view
The exact technology behind the toilets aboard the capsule is a SpaceX secret.
But Hayley Arceneaux, one of the four crew members, said in a Netflix documentary that the “bathroom is on the ceiling.”
“Really literally a panel that we take off and there’s like a funnel,” Arceneaux said. “There’s no upside down in space.”
The toilet is located near the clear glass observation dome, or cupola, installed on Dragon, which provides a spectacular 360-degree view of the cosmos.
“When people do inevitably have to use the bathroom, they’re going to have one hell of a view,” billionaire Jared Isaacman, the mission commander, told Business Insider.
Privacy is ensured with a simple curtain.
‘Eating, doing chores’
SpaceX released a video call Friday between the Inspiration4 crew and patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
The 29-year-old Arceneaux, who was treated for bone cancer as a child at St. Jude and works there now as a physician assistant, was asked by a patient what the astronauts do for “fun” in space.
She said they have spent time “eating, doing chores and looking out the window at the world.”
Sembroski said they’ve also been doing “a lot of blood tests and glucose monitoring.”
The astronauts were also asked what is their favorite “space food.”
“My favorite space food is pizza which I had yesterday and I’ll probably have for dinner tonight also,” said Sian Proctor, 51, who teaches geology at a small college in Arizona and was a finalist to become a NASA astronaut.
Musical interludes are also planned. Each passenger drew up a 10-song playlist and Sembroski planned to bring his ukelele.
The instrument and other objects are to be auctioned later with the proceeds going to St Jude.
The goal of the mission is to raise $200 million for the hospital, with Isaacman personally donating $100 million.
SpaceX tweeted on Thursday that the crew had carried out a “first round of scientific research.”
One of the goals of the mission is to collect data on the effects of the environment of space on complete novices.
Their cardiac rhythms, sleep and blood oxygen levels will be monitored along with radiation exposure.
Their cognitive functions were tested before the flight and will be examined again on their return.
Chinese Astronauts Return Safely to Earth After 90-Day Space Station Mission
By Reuters | Updated: 18 September 2021
Three Chinese astronauts returned to earth on Friday after a 90-day visit to an unfinished space station in the country’s first crewed mission since 2016.
In a small return capsule, the three men – Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo – landed safely in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in the north of China at 1:34 pm, state media reported.
The Shenzhou-12 mission was the first of four crewed missions planned for 2021-2022 as China assembles its first permanent space station. The process requires 11 missions, including the launches of the station’s three modules.
Construction kicked off in April with the launch of the Tianhe module, the future living quarters of the space station. Slightly larger than a city bus, Tianhe was where Nie, Liu and Tang have stayed since mid-June, marking China’s longest spaceflight mission.
While in orbit, the astronauts conducted spacewalks, validated Tianhe’s life-support system, tested the module’s robotic arm, and sorted supplies for upcoming crewed missions.
The second crewed mission is planned for October, with the next batch of astronauts expected to stay on Tianhe for six months.
Ahead of that Shenzhou-13 mission, China will send an automated cargo spacecraft – Tianzhou-3 – to Tianhe carrying supplies needed by the next crew.
Tianzhou-3 will be launched in the near future, state media said recently.
Blocked by US law from working with NASA and by extension on the US-led International Space Station (ISS), China has spent the past decade developing technologies to construct its own space station.
China’s space station, expected to be completed by the end of 2022, will be the sole alternative to the 20-year-old ISS, which may be retired in 2024.
© Thomson Reuters 2021
Inspiration4: SpaceX’s All-Civilian Crew Mission Launch Scheduled for September 15
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 13 September 2021
SpaceX is set to launch four people into space Wednesday on a three-day mission that is the first to orbit the Earth with exclusively private citizens on board, as Elon Musk’s company enters the space tourism fray.
The Inspiration4 mission caps a summer that saw billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos cross the final frontier, on Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin spaceships respectively, a few days apart in July.
The SpaceX flight has been chartered by American billionaire Jared Isaacman, the 38-year-old founder and CEO of payment processing company Shift4 Payment. He is also a seasoned pilot.
The exact price he paid SpaceX hasn’t been disclosed, but it runs into the tens of millions of dollars.
The mission itself is far more ambitious in scope than the few weightless minutes Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin customers can buy.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon will be flying further than the orbit of the International Space Station.
“The risk is not zero,” said Isaacman in an episode of a Netflix documentary about the mission.
“You’re riding a rocket at 17,500 miles (28,000 kilometres) per hour around the Earth. In that kind of environment there’s risks.”
SpaceX has already given no fewer than ten astronauts rides to the ISS on behalf of NASA – but this will be the first time taking non-professional astronauts.
Lift-off is scheduled for Wednesday from 8:00 pm Eastern Time (5:30am IST) from launch pad 39A, at NASA’s Kennedy Center in Florida, from where the Apollo missions to the Moon took off.
‘Are we going to the Moon?’
In addition to Isaacman, who is the mission commander, three non-public figures were selected for the voyage via a process that was first advertised at the Super Bowl in February.
Each crew member was picked to represent a pillar of the mission.
As we prepare to start a new week, four civilians are preparing to make history as part of the Inspiration4 mission launching in just a few days. Help us celebrate the @inspiration4x astronauts and wish them luck on their mission! pic.twitter.com/eA33dR22dy— St. Jude (@StJude) September 13, 2021
The youngest, Hayley Arceneaux, is a childhood bone cancer survivor, who represents “hope.”
She will become the first person with a prosthetic to go to space.
“Are we going to the Moon?” she asked, when she was offered her spot.
“Apparently people haven’t gone there in decades. I learned that,” she laughed, in the documentary.
The 29-year-old was picked because she works as a Physician Assistant in Memphis for St. Jude’s Hospital, the charitable beneficiary of Inspiration4.
One of the donors secured the seat of “generosity”: Chris Sembroski, 42, is a former US Air Force veteran who now works in the aviation industry.
The last seat represents “prosperity” and was offered to Sian Proctor, a 51-year-old earth science professor who, in 2009, narrowly missed out on becoming a NASA astronaut.
She will be only the fourth African American woman to go to space.
Months of training
The crew’s training has lasted months and has included experiencing high G force on a centrifuge – a giant arm that rotates rapidly.
They have also gone on parabolic flights to experience weightlessness for a few seconds and completed a high altitude, snowy trek on Mount Rainier in the northwestern United States.
They spent time at the SpaceX base, though the flight itself will be fully autonomous.
Over the three days of orbit, their sleep, heart rate, blood, and cognitive abilities will be analysed.
Tests will be carried out before and after the flight to study the effect of the trip on their body.
The idea is to accumulate data for future missions with private passengers.
The stated goal of the mission is to make space accessible for more people, although space travel remains for the moment only partially open to a privileged few.
“In all of human history, fewer than 600 humans have reached space,” said Isaacman.
“We are proud that our flight will help influence all those who will travel after us.”
‘Flying Dragon’ Dinosaur Roamed the Southern Skies Too, Scientists Say
By Reuters | Updated: 11 September 2021
Scientists in Chile’s Atacama Desert have unearthed the fossil remains of a so-called “flying dragon,” a Jurassic-era dinosaur previously known only to the northern hemisphere.
The flying reptile belonged to a group of early pterosaurs that roamed the earth 160 million years ago. It had a long pointed tail, wings and sharp, outward pointing teeth.
The beast’s fossil remains were discovered by Osvaldo Rojas, director of the Atacama Desert Museum of Natural History and Culture, and then further investigated by scientists at the University of Chile.
Details of the discovery, the first linking such creatures to the Southern Hemisphere, were published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.
“This shows the distribution of the animals in this group was wider than what was known up to now,” said Jhonatan Alarcon, a University of Chile scientist who led the investigation.
The discovery points to close ties and possible migration between the northern and southern hemispheres at a time when most of the globe’s southerly land masses where believed to be linked in a supercontinent called Gondwana.
”There are pterosaurs of this group also in Cuba, which apparently were coastal animals, so most likely they have migrated between the North and the South or maybe they came once and stayed, we don’t know,” Alarcon said.
Chile’s vast Atacama Desert, once largely submerged beneath the Pacific Ocean, is now a moonscape of sand and stone.
The region, parts of which haven’t seen rain for decades, is a hot spot for fossil discoveries, with many remains untouched in remote areas not far beneath the desert surface.
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