Sunday, 28 January 2018

February – Guide to Mercury


The planet Mercury is the closest world to the Sun, and lies in a region of the solar system inhabited by rocks from comets that that never made a safe passing around our parent star. Also leftover debris from the origin of the Sun's family. In this month's program I present a Guide to Mercury.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Patrick Moore–A celebration

Sir Patrick Moore died on 9 December 2012 age 89. He introduced thousands of ordinary men, women and children to the splendour of the Heavens. Five years on he is still sadly missed by everyone. This program is a celebration of the life of Patrick Moore. Enjoy ...

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Mystery of Gravity

"Gravity bends light"
The most beautiful idea ever.

Well, I know that everyone of you must have heard about gravitation and it's simply fantastic topic to discuss. Being as a student, I think so that, Gravitation is still a mystery because we still don't have results which are responsible for gravity at quantum levels where stuffs are not easy to observe. 

Gravity is an attractive, pervasive, mysterious and the weakest force present in our cosmos.                                                    If we do a slow start then, "From the ages long before, it was speculated that everything would fall to ground because it was natural. If someone simply asked why?, then he was later regarded as senseless. Because of those such suppressions, people had to believe it as universally accepted truth. It was a matter of ages long after somebody tries to think about it to correct. When Galileo came, it was not possible for him to explain all such phenomena yet he clarified that Things fall always at the same rate and with a uniform acceleration that is because of a force which attractive everything to Earth. This was first time in history when this easy phenomenon has become hard by attributing it as a 'force'. Galileo had laid the foundation of gravity. Later on after his death year, birth of an era-changer legend, Issac Newton occurred. He was really a man ahead of his times and a follower of Galileo's experimental science. A very famous incident might have occurred with Newton was fall of an apple on his head which clued himself to make a concept of gravity. He thought that if an Apple is falling towards Earth then it may be possible that moon is also falling on earth. He included all hi ideas and the concept of gravity in his book of three volumes named as Principia Mathematica.  This concept truly revolutionized the scientific society for the first time. Eventually theory of gravitation came into existence in which it was stated that "every object in this universe attract other object with a force which is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to distance between them squared." It was for the first time when we have encountered with a very precise formula that can predict the motions of heavenly bodies and It truly revolutionized the field of astronomy.
Everything's going allright...... Many further discoveries kept on adding with Newtonian Gravitation. But this will wonder you that Newton himself didn't know what's the origin of gravity?  
            Truly it was a matter of long time after something has been added to this gravitation in bulk by another legend of human history, Albert Einstein. Actually it has change the perspective by which we observe the gravitation. Einstein's equations make us to wonder about Cosmos a bit more interestingly. Einstein field equations was magical as it predict the motions of all bodies more precisely than ever. The most wonderful predictions were:

  • The general theory of relativity explained that space and time are one entity and the three dimensions of space plus one dimension of time is 4 dimensional space time.
  • Although we can't visualise four dimension fabric (because our senses are made only to sense 3 dimensional objects), but as a reference it is taken as rubber sheet which can be stretched and depressed in presence of mass in form of energy over speed of light squared.
  • As spacetime can be stressed or depressed so when greater mass the process the space time very much the outcome would be tremendous force of gravity. This theory predicted presence of singularity where force of gravity would be infinite. This predicted the presence of black hole and yeah white holes too.
So it was a brief description and history regarding the concept of gravity you may have been wondering that, Is theory of gravity completed?
           If you really concerned about the scientific discussions then you will say," No, it is not." Your speculation is almost correct but at macro level (that include stuffs like black hole, galaxies, stars, nebulae etc.) GTR equations fit really well. So, What's left? Yeah we know, 
"The mechanism of Gravity according to Quantum Mechanics"

Well, you have reached till here then you may be geeky guy in astrophysics­čśâ!
Well if you are interested enough then you might have enough time to review my video regarding this mysterious force Gravity watch it and be ready to get discussed about those further topics to confronted....

After when Einstein had formulated his general theory of relativity, the theory of gravity seemed to be completed, but it was opinion of short interval of time. In the mean time, developments  in quantum mechanics took place. When it was discovered that particle at Quantum level remain in state of duality and probability,  people begin to realise that gravity must be understood at Quantum level too. Since then, a series of continuous efforts and capital have been invested by us in particle accelerators to predict the existence of a particle which is exchanging the force of gravity, later came to be known as 'gravitons' . 
Gravitons are truly suspected as particles which carries the force of gravity. In the language of particle physics, graviton is a quanta of gravity like photon is to electromagnetic force. Let's have some pseudo relations of gravitons and see what we have got:-
 As we know, photons are quata or energy packets or carrier of electromagnetic force. When James Clerk Maxwell  formulated his equations in which he descripted electric and magnetic fields are same and came to be known as "Electromagnetic waves". He described that light too is an electromagnetic wave. Since then it was speculated that light is a wave. When Einstein published paper regarding photoelectric effect, it now claimed light as particles came to be known as photon. This was a state of duality with light ( that it stay in state of particle as well as wave ) which opened the secret of quantum mechanics. Can't gravitons be like photons? Both are long ranged forces too. If we just looked upon equations of general theory of relativity, it predicts that Gravity is just as disturbance or curvature in fabric of spacetime and when a very massive object collide, they create great disturbances in spacetime fabric causing gravitational waves. Could it be possible that these waves are mediated by gravitons. 
        In my video, I too have tried to let you know about gravitons and also speculated that curvature of spacetime is responsible of presence of gravitons.If we try to relate Higgs boson with graviton, the results would be absurd. As we have encountered with Higgs Boson in recent years and now we have answers why does a particles get mass? And we know, mass causes gravity and this how we can relate them. And one thing, "The General Theory of Relativity is the most marvellous equations and idea which ever propounded by mankind which truly define the nature of the cosmos".
           Still there are much more to discover and needed  to be unravelled. May be just as we have discovered Higgs boson in recent years, we will soon discover graviton too.................Why not?

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Hubble’s Cosmic Search for a Missing Arm

Cosmic search for a missing limbThis new picture of the week, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the dwarf galaxy NGC 4625, located about 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs). The image, acquired with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), reveals the single major spiral arm of the galaxy, which gives it an asymmetric appearance. But why is there only one such spiral arm, when spiral galaxies normally have at least two?

Astronomers looked at NGC 4625 in different wavelengths in the hope of solving this cosmic mystery. Observations in the ultraviolet provided the first hint: in ultraviolet light the disk of the galaxy appears four times larger than on the image depicted here. An indication that there are a large number of very young and hot — hence mainly visible in the ultraviolet — stars forming in the outer regions of the galaxy. These young stars are only around one billion years old, about 10 times younger than the stars seen in the optical centre. At first astronomers assumed that this high star formation rate was being triggered by the interaction with another, nearby dwarf galaxy called NGC 4618.

They speculated that NGC 4618 may be the culprit “harassing” NGC 4625, causing it to lose all but one spiral arm. In 2004 astronomers found proof for this claim. The gas in the outermost regions of the dwarf galaxy NGC 4618 has been strongly affected by NGC 4625.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Friday, 10 November 2017

Quantum Era: The Beginning

Quantum Physics Wallpaper

As many times you've have heard about spooky branch of science that's popularly known as Quantum Mechanics ( How stylish name is this!), which is made to deal with smallest paricles' motions and interactions. As I too have puzzled you with my few of the articles in which I must have talked you about the smallest worlds that is Quantum World.  Now this series is especially made for curious people like me and you that will take you to journey  to the roots of Quantum Mechanics and so that we can understand our universe functionality better. That's why we are made...... to explore, to explore and to explore.
 Motion.         Motion is a concept through which a body/object change its position with the passage of time with respect to an observer. But one thing you might have observed that, in certain frame of reference, things never be at rest and you also wonder that we are sitting on chair at rest is not a rest position with respect to our position on Earth because our Earth is revolving around the sun at such enormous rate that one can't imagine so. Everything is in motion but it depends upon your view.  At first sight in ancient times, it is something incredibly uninteresting and trivial to calculate the motion of an object. People have been studying motion for almost thousands of years, but it was not until 1687. When Issac Newton formulated his three laws of motion, it became easy that people finally started to understand it more deeply leading to the birth of a new branch of physics called 'Mechanics'. And Mechanics is all about the motion of an object moving in space. You must have encountered with terms like- 'momentum', 'inertia', 'velocity', 'acceleration', 'jerk' etc..
                 It was going a very smooth journey to obtain favourable results from these calculations of motion as Newton and other scientists had laid the foundation of mechanics. Discovery of Calculus has also provided perfection to Classical Mechanics. It works well at macro levels and with the passage of time, people tried to apply the formulae of Classical Mechanics to the atomic level and eventually, at subatomic levels. When this confusion originated, then people began to realize the limitations of Classical Mechanics and finally, this realization of such incapability to find the motion related concepts of atoms led to formulation of Quantum Mechanics. 
         Now, what is 'Quantum Mechanics'?
Quantum Mechanics.    In this word, 'Quantum' means related to quanta, a term is given by Max Planck which I will explain to you thoroughly further. And the second word is 'Mechanics' which is a branch of physics which deals with the motion of an object with taking account the cause of motion that is the force required by an object to change its position. So the real explanation of Quantum Mechanics would be;
            Quantum Mechanics is a branch of physics which deal with objects from the so-called microworld like atoms. In this world, particles do not behave like macroworld since they do not behave as according to classical mechanics provived by Galileo and Newton. For that paradox, a new type of mechanics was discovered which deals with the particles' motions and interactions. This is only called Quantum Mechanics.
Watch this video for consideration:

How did Quantum theory got originated?

In the ancient history, there were many curious scientists who have predicted the presence of smallest individual particle from which all matter has come into existence but there was no proof until the modern science came into existence leading to the birth of Quantum Mechanics. In the year 1905, Albert Einstein proposed his special theory of Relativity in which he describes the motion of objects moving at very high speeds, that is near speed of light, leading to contraction of length of an object that's so-called, Length Contraction and slowing down of time that's called Time Dilation. But there was another theory originated at the same time that is called Quantum Theory whose cornerstone was laid by famous German physicist, Max Planck. 
                     Finally, we can say "Quantum Mechanics originated from scratch which had been originated from such curious questions especially from problems of thermodynamics, which classical mechanics couldn't solve". But there is still one question..............

How did Max Planck start off his journey to prove his Quantum Theory? How did he lay the foundation of Quantum Mechanics?
                                   There was a great challenge ahead of Max Planck to disprove the classical mechanics which had been tested many times and seemed to describe reality. Not until later when this theory started to fall apart did not come to light how horribly wrong everybody was. The first phenomenon which classical physics failed to explain is called the black body radiation.
              To understand this phenomenon it is necessary to know that all tangible bodies in the universe emit energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation, that is light. The amount of energy emitted by a body depends on several factors -                                 - such as the temperature or colour of the body the higher the temperature of a body, the higher the average frequency of light it emits. The reason we usually can't observe this radiation is that body is at room temperature emit predominately light from the infrared spectrum, which is not visible to the naked eye. Visible light is emitted by metal during melting. For example when their temperature reaches several hundred of degree Celsius, making it possible for us to see them glow.
    Physicists of the 19th century were trying to ascertain the spectral composition emitted by a body in relation to its temperature.                     
     To accomplish that, they used a simplified model of a body - The Black Body
              A black body is a hypothetical body that has to meet the following two conditions:

  • A black body absorbs all the electromagnetic radiation that strikes it (other body absorb merely a certain part of the whole spectrum and reflect the remaining light).
  • A black body stays in thermal equilibrium with its surroundings. (that is, has the same temperature as all bodies located within the same system).
This condition ensures that a spectrum emitted by a black body is determined purely by the temperature of the body. However, when physicists tried to establish the composition of such spectrum using classical physics, they obtained a result that did not coincide with reality whatsoever.        
          According to the Classical Physics, a black body would not emit the same amount of light of each frequency. However the higher the light's frequency, the more energy the light has. A black body would, therefore, emit huge quantities of energy in the form of high-frequency radiation.
        The black body radiation problem was solved by a German physicist Max Planck. He came up with an idea that bodies do not emit electromagnetic radiation continuously, but via small packets called quanta. He thought that electromagnetic wave can essentially be a set of very small energy packets or 'quanta', whose total energy determine the energy of the wave itself. 

        After such a foundation led by Max Planck of Quantum Mechanics seemed bearable to other critics but upcoming predictions of Quantum world were truly unbearable and completely shocking to metaphysics. The famous physicist, Albert Einstein also didn't take a side of Quantum predictions although he is known as God Father of Quantum physics.

      Since then, many physicists involved themselves in such explorations leading to the discovery of some extraordinary results and ideas which we are going to discuss in these Quantum Series.

                               Note to my readers: There is one problem that I am facing that involvement of specific equations of all such great ideas, because of my existing knowledge. I would assure you that soon, you will get all such mathematical interpretations of such ideas.
 But for now,
 "Take mercy on me plz".....LOL

Keep waiting for the next series and I assure there would be something special in that!

Engine for upgraded Falcon 9 rocket explodes on test stand

A Merlin engine designed for the version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket that will carry astronauts into orbit for NASA failed during testing Saturday in Texas, but the company said its upcoming launches will not be affected by the mishap.

The test engine was set for a firing at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas, but it caught fire during a leak check before ignition. The engine was a modified version of the Merlin power plant that powers both stages of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

“SpaceX experienced an anomaly during a qualification test set up of a Merlin engine at our rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas,” said John Taylor, a company spokesperson, in a statement released to Spaceflight Now on Wednesday. “No one was injured and all safety protocols were following during the time of this incident.

“We are now conducting a thorough and fully transparent investigation of the root cause,” Taylor said. “SpaceX is committed to our current manifest and we do not expect this to have any impact on our launch cadence.”

Nine Merlin engines are mounted to the base of the Falcon 9’s first stage, and a single Merlin engine powers the Falcon 9’s second stage.

SpaceX’s next Falcon 9 mission is set for launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida next Wednesday, Nov. 15, with a secretive payload named Zuma for the U.S. government.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Alma's image of red giant star gives a surprising glimpse of the Sun's future

155179_webA Chalmers-led team of astronomers has for the first time observed details on the surface of an aging star with the same mass as the Sun. Alma:s images show that the star is a giant, its diameter twice the size of Earth's orbit around the Sun, but also that the star's atmosphere is affected by powerful, unexpected shock waves. The research is published in Nature Astronomy on 30 October 2017.

A team of astronomers led by Wouter Vlemmings, Chalmers University of Technology, have used the telescope Alma (Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array) to make the sharpest observations yet of a star with the same starting mass as the Sun. The new images show for the first time details on the surface of the red giant W Hydrae, 320 light years distant in the constellation of Hydra, the Water Snake.

W Hydrae is an example of an AGB (asymptotic giant branch) star. Such stars are cool, bright, old and lose mass via stellar winds. The name derives from their position on the famous Hertz sprung-Russell diagram, which classifies stars according to their brightness and temperature.

For us it's important to study not just what red giants look like, but how they change and how they seed the galaxy with the elements that are the ingredients of life. Using the antennas of Alma in their highest-resolution configuration we can now make the most detailed observations ever of these cool and exciting stars, says Wouter Vlemmings.

Stars like the Sun evolve over timescales of many billion years. When they reach old age, they puff up and become bigger, cooler and more prone to lose mass in the form of stellar winds. Stars manufacture important elements like carbon and nitrogen. When they reach the red giant stage, these elements are released into space, ready to be used in subsequent generations of new stars.

Alma’s images provide the clearest view yet of the surface of a red giant with a similar mass to the Sun. Earlier sharp images have shown details on much more massive, red supergiant stars like Betelgeuse and Antares.

The observations have also surprised the scientists. The presence of an unexpectedly compact and bright spot provides evidence that the star has surprisingly hot gas in a layer above the star's surface: a chromosphere.

Our measurements of the bright spot suggest there are powerful shock waves in the star's atmosphere that reach higher temperatures than are predicted by current theoretical models for AGB stars, says Theo Khouri, astronomer at Chalmers and member of the team.

An alternative possibility is at least as surprising: that the star was undergoing a giant flare when the observations were made.

The scientists are now carrying out new observations, both with Alma and other instruments, to better understand W Hydrae's surprising atmosphere. Observations like these with Alma's highest-resolution configuration are challenging, but also rewarding, explains team member Elvire De Beck, also astronomer at Chalmers.

It's humbling to look at our image of W Hydrae and see its size compared to the orbit of the Earth. We are born from material created in stars like this, so for us it's exciting to have the challenge of understanding something which so tells us both about our origins and our future, she says.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Astronomers Find Enormous Planet In the Galaxy's Core

0_1cd4a6_f0682b94_origScientists have discovered thousands of exoplanets—planets orbiting other stars—in the last few years, but pretty much all of them have been spotted in our galactic backyard. All of the planets discovered by the Kepler spacecraft, for instance, are within a few thousand light-years of our own sun, which is practically next door on a galactic scale. There's a whole galaxy, about 100,000 light-years across, filled with exoplanets for us to find, and we've yet to make it outside our cosmic neighbourhood.

That's why a recent announcement from the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute is so exciting: they've discovered an exoplanet that appears to be inside the galactic bulge. The bulge is the central core of our galaxy where most of the stars reside, but it's also a chaotic place that's not very hospitable to planets. If our sun fell into the bulge, the planets in our solar system would likely be ripped away by other stars pretty quickly.

RyuEtAl-1710_09974_f2But this new planet discovered by the researchers isn't an ordinary exoplanet. The planet, named OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb, is over 13 times bigger than Jupiter, and is as big as a planet can possibly be before it triggers nuclear fusion reactions and ignites into a star. In fact, it's so close to the boundary that there's a chance OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb is really a brown dwarf star instead of a planet.

The researchers discovered the planet using the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Polish Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE). Gravitational lensing, or micro lensing, occurs when a massive object, in this case a star, passes in front of another star. The foreground star's gravity magnifies the light of the star in the background, and if there is a planet orbiting the closer star, astronomers can detect its presence by measuring the light of the magnified star behind. The size and mass of the planet can be measured based on how much light is blocked and for how long.

Of course, micro lensing requires a distant star for the planet to block, which can be a slow and inefficient way to search for exoplanets. Researchers have only found a handful of planets using micro lensing, but astronomers can use the technique to find the most distant worlds we know of, like OGLE-2016-BLG-1190Lb. This newest discovery is not only one of the largest planets ever discovered, it's also one of the farthest away, which means that we can expect future discoveries of giant, distant worlds by Spitzer and other telescopes.

Who knows what strange worlds we've yet to discover.

Astronomers observe one of the oldest galaxies in the universe

Astronomers-observe-one-of-the-oldest-galaxies-in-the-universeAstronomers have observed the second most distant dust-filled, star-forming galaxy in the cosmos. The galaxy was spotted using the Large Millimeter Telescope, the most powerful telescope of its kind.

The LMT is positioned at the top of Sierra Negra, the fifth tallest peak in Mexico, and jointly operated by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Mexico's National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics.

The newly imaged galaxy was likely one of the earliest star-forming galaxies in the universe.

"The Big Bang happened 13.7 billion years ago, and now we are seeing this galaxy from 12.8 billion years ago, so it was forming within the first billion years after the Big Bang," Amherst astrophysicist Min Yun said in a news release. "Seeing an object within the first billion years is remarkable because the universe was fully ionized, that is, it was too hot and too uniform to form anything for the first 400 million years."

The results of the LMT's latest survey isn't so much a revelation as it is a realization of its potential.

"This result is not a surprise, because this is what the LMT was built to do," Yun said.

Yun and his colleague published their discovery in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Because the distant galaxy is so obscured by dust, it is impossible to see in the visible light spectrum. VLT is designed to absorb only radio waves from a small portion of the light spectrum. The telescope has also been outfitted with instruments that help it measure redshifts.

"The way we can tell this object is very distant is by measuring its redshift, which is a measure of the universe's expansion speed," Yun said. "More distant objects have a larger redshift. To measure redshift, you use a spectral line of atoms or molecules, each of which has a recognizable, discrete signature or fingerprint."

The redshift among the spectral lines of carbon monoxide helped astronomers spot the ancient galaxy, dubbed G09 83808. Scientists confirmed their discovery and improved the accuracy of their observations with a follow up survey of the galaxy using the Smithsonian Submillimeter Array telescope located on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

The discovery of G09 83808 was also assisted by gravitational lensing. The light from the distant galaxy was bent around another large galaxy on its 12.8 billion-year journey to Earth, effectively magnifying the light ten-fold.

Though already extremely powerful, LMT is still being built out. The telescope will be even more powerful upon its completion in a couple months. Researchers hope the latest discovery is just a sign of what's to come.

"It could be that there are a whole bunch of them out there and we haven't been able to see them, but with the LMT we have the power to see them. Maybe they'll start popping out," Yun said. "We are in the discovery field. Every time I reduce one of these data sets I'm full of anticipation. I'm always hoping that these things will pop out. You have to be a hopeless optimist to be doing this kind of work, and this time it absolutely paid off."

East Sussex Astronomical Society

IMG_0071In November i visited East Sussex Astronomical Society where I gave a talk about the Sun to there members.

I really enjoyed the two days I spent in Hastings, and I would like to thank Andy Laws and ESAM members for looking after me, and providing hotel accommodation in a room over looking the seafront.

Here are some of the photos I took using my iPhone while in Hastings.



Saturday, 4 November 2017

NuSTAR Probes Black Hole Jet Mystery

blackhole2017103-optBlack holes are famous for being ravenous eaters, but they do not eat everything that falls toward them. A small portion of material gets shot back out in powerful jets of hot gas, called plasma, that can wreak havoc on their surroundings. Along the way, this plasma somehow gets energized enough to strongly radiate light, forming two bright columns along the black hole’s axis of rotation. Scientists have long debated where and how this happens in the jet.

Astronomers have new clues to this mystery. Using NASA's NuSTAR space telescope and a fast camera called ULTRACAM on the William Herschel Observatory in La Palma, Spain, scientists have been able to measure the distance that particles in jets travel before they "turn on" and become bright sources of light. This distance is called the "acceleration zone." The study is published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Scientists looked at two systems in the Milky Way called "X-ray binaries," each consisting of a black hole feeding off of a normal star. They studied these systems at different points during periods of outburst -- which is when the accretion disk -- a flat structure of material orbiting the black hole -- brightens because of material falling in.

One system, called V404 Cygni, had reached nearly peak brightness when scientists observed it in June 2015. At that time, it experienced the brightest outburst from an X-ray binary seen in the 21st century. The other, called GX 339-4, was less than 1 percent of its maximum expected brightness when it was observed. The star and black hole of GX 339-4 are much closer together than in the V404 Cygni system.

Despite their differences, the systems showed similar time delays – about one-tenth of a second -- between when NuSTAR first detected X-ray light and ULTRACAM detected flares in visible light slightly later. That delay is less than the blink of an eye, but significant for the physics of black hole jets.

"One possibility is that the physics of the jet is not determined by the size of the disc, but instead by the speed, temperature and other properties of particles at the jet’s base," said Poshak Gandhi, lead author of the study and astronomer at the University of Southampton, United Kingdom.

nustar_default_social_image-cc7ff08dd5dd420340f03ed6b62f38acThe best theory scientists have to explain these results is that the X-ray light originates from material very close to the black hole. Strong magnetic fields propel some of this material to high speeds along the jet. This results in particles colliding near light-speed, energizing the plasma until it begins to emit the stream of optical radiation caught by ULTRACAM.

Where in the jet does this occur? The measured delay between optical and X-ray light explains this. By multiplying this amount of time by the speed of the particles, which is nearly the speed of light, scientists determine the maximum distance travelled.

This expanse of about 19,000 miles (30,000 kilometres) represents the inner acceleration zone in the jet, where plasma feels the strongest acceleration and "turns on" by emitting light. That's just under three times the diameter of Earth, but tiny in cosmic terms, especially considering the black hole in V404 Cygni weighs as much as 3 million Earths put together.

"Astronomers hope to refine models for jet powering mechanisms using the results of this study," said Daniel Stern, study co-author and astronomer based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Making these measurements wasn't easy. X-ray telescopes in space and optical telescopes on the ground have to look at the X-ray binaries at exactly the same time during outbursts for scientists to calculate the tiny delay between the telescopes' detections. Such coordination requires complex planning between the observatory teams. In fact, coordination between NuSTAR and ULTRACAM was only possible for about an hour during the 2015 outburst, but that was enough to calculate the ground-breaking results about the acceleration zone.

The results also appear to connect with scientists' understanding of supermassive black holes, much bigger than the ones in this study. In one supermassive system called BL Lacertae, weighing 200 million times the mass of our Sun, scientists have inferred time delays millions of times greater than what this study found. That means the size of the acceleration area of the jets is likely related to the mass of the black hole.

"We are excited because it looks as though we have found a characteristic yardstick related to the inner workings of jets, not only in stellar-mass black holes like V404 Cygni, but also in monster supermassive ones," Gandhi said.

The next steps are to confirm this measured delay in observations of other X-ray binaries, and to develop a theory that can tie together jets in black holes of all sizes. 

"Global ground and space telescopes working together were key to this discovery. But this is only a peek, and much remains to be learned. The future is really bright for understanding the extreme physics of black holes," said Fiona Harrison, principal investigator of NuSTAR and professor of astronomy at Caltech in Pasadena.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Tom Pickett: The Elephant's Trunk

19054955_1389177324463708_6238371311812216973_oHi Everyone.. I hope you are having a good day...:-)
Here is my first image processed by my new rebuild refurbished computer.
This is the Elephant's Trunk Nebula.
While my computer was down I focused a lot of time and attention on this object with my Canon 300mm FD F2.8 SSC Fluorite lens and my 2 Canon modified cameras.
This is over 15hr’s of 150 images stacked at ISO 400 at 6 minutes each plus just under 4 hr of 39 images shot with the Optolong 7nm H-Alpha filter with both images merged in Photoshop using the HA data as a second channel along with the RGB.
I hope all of you like it... :-) The details are below..
Have a good day and clear skies everyone. :-)
The Elephant's Trunk nebula is a concentration of interstellar gas and dust within the much larger ionized gas region IC 1396 located in the constellation Cepheus about 2,400 light years away from Earth. The piece of the nebula shown here is the dark, dense globule IC 1396A; it is commonly called the Elephant's Trunk nebula because of its appearance at visible light wavelengths, where there is a dark patch with a bright, sinuous rim. The bright rim is the surface of the dense cloud that is being illuminated and ionized by a very bright, massive star (HD 206267) that is just to the west of IC 1396A. The entire IC 1396 region is ionized by the massive star, except for dense globules that can protect themselves from the star's harsh ultraviolet rays.
The Elephant's Trunk nebula is now thought to be a site of star formation, containing several very young (less than 100,000 yr) stars that were discovered in infrared images in 2003. Two older (but still young, a couple of million years, by the standards of stars, which live for billions of years) stars are present in a small, circular cavity in the head of the globule. Winds from these young stars may have emptied the cavity.
The combined action of the light from the massive star ionizing and compressing the rim of the cloud, and the wind from the young stars shifting gas from the centre outward lead to very high compression in the Elephant's Trunk nebula. This pressure has triggered the current generation of Protostars.
Equipment Details
Camera: Canon EOS T2i/550D Modified And TEC Cooled
Lens: Canon 300mm FD F2.8 SSC Fluorite Set At F4 Modified For Canon EF Mount
Exposure: 6 Minutes Each
ISO: 400
Number of Stacked Images: 150
Number of Dark Frames: 0
Number of Bias Frames: 0
Filters: Baader UV/IR cut filter
Mount: Takahashi EM-200 Temma 2
Guide Scope: Non
Stacking Software: DeepSkyStacker
Processing Software: Photoshop CS6 And Adobe Camera Raw
Shooting Date/Time 7/15/2017 10:09 PM
Shooting Date/Time 7/18/2017 10:35 PM
Shooting Date/Time 7/19/2017 10:19 PM
Camera: Canon EOS T3i/600D Fully Modified
Lens: Canon 300mm FD F2.8 SSC Fluorite Set At F2.8 Modified For Canon EF Mount
Exposure: 6 Minutes Each
ISO: 800
Number of Stacked Images: 39
Number of Dark Frames: 0
Number of Bias Frames: 0
Filters: Optolong EOS-C 7nm H-Alpha
Mount: Takahashi EM-200 Temma 2
Guide Scope: Non
Stacking Software: DeepSkyStacker
Processing Software: Photoshop CS6 And Adobe Camera Raw
Shooting Date/Time 7/22/2017 11:38 PM

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

New evidence in support of the Planet Nine hypothesis

145333_webLast year, the existence of an unknown planet in our Solar system was announced. However, this hypothesis was subsequently called into question as biases in the observational data were detected. Now Spanish astronomers have used a novel technique to analyse the orbits of the so-called extreme trans-Neptunian objects and, once again, they point out that there is something perturbing them: a planet located at a distance between 300 to 400 times the Earth-Sun separation.

Scientists continue to argue about the existence of a ninth planet within our Solar System. At the beginning of 2016, researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech, USA) announced that they had evidence of the existence of this object, located at an average distance of 700 AU or astronomical units (700 times the Earth-Sun separation) and with a mass ten times that of the Earth.

Their calculations were motivated by the peculiar distribution of the orbits found for the trans-Neptunian objects (TNO) of the Kuiper belt, which apparently revealed the presence of a Planet Nine or X in the confines of the Solar System.

However, scientists from the Canadian-French-Hawaiian project OSSOS detected biases in their own observations of the orbits of the TNOs, which had been systematically directed towards the same regions of the sky, and considered that other groups, including the Caltech group, may be experiencing the same issues. According to these scientists, it is not necessary to propose the existence of a massive perturber (a Planet Nine) to explain these observations, as these are compatible with a random distribution of orbits.

Now, however, two astronomers from the Complutense University of Madrid have applied a new technique, less exposed to observational bias, to study a special type of trans-Neptunian objects: the extreme ones (ETNOs, located at average distances greater than 150 AU and that never cross Neptune's orbit). For the first time, the distances from their nodes to the Sun have been analysed, and the results, published in the journal 'MNRAS: Letters', once again indicate that there is a planet beyond Pluto.

The nodes are the two points at which the orbit of an ETNO, or any other celestial body, crosses the plane of the Solar System. These are the precise points where the probability of interacting with other objects is the largest, and therefore, at these points, the ETNOs may experience a drastic change in their orbits or even a collision.

Like the comets that interact with Jupiter

"If there is nothing to perturb them, the nodes of these extreme trans-Neptunian objects should be uniformly distributed, as there is nothing for them to avoid, but if there are one or more perturbers, two situations may arise," explains Carlos de la Fuente Marcos, one of the authors, to SINC. "One possibility is that the ETNOs are stable, and in this case they would tend to have their nodes away from the path of possible perturbers, he adds, but if they are unstable they would behave as the comets that interact with Jupiter do, that is tending to have one of the nodes close to the orbit of the hypothetical perturber".

CFHT_jpg_cropUsing calculations and data mining, the Spanish astronomers have found that the nodes of the 28 ETNOs analysed (and the 24 extreme Centaurs with average distances from the Sun of more than 150 AU) are clustered in certain ranges of distances from the Sun; furthermore, they have found a correlation, where none should exist, between the positions of the nodes and the inclination, one of the parameters which defines the orientation of the orbits of these icy objects in space.

"Assuming that the ETNOs are dynamically similar to the comets that interact with Jupiter, we interpret these results as signs of the presence of a planet that is actively interacting with them in a range of distances from 300 to 400 AU," says De la Fuente Marcos, who emphasizes: "We believe that what we are seeing here cannot be attributed to the presence of observational bias".

Until now, studies that challenged the existence of Planet Nine using the data available for these trans-Neptunian objects argued that there had been systematic errors linked to the orientations of the orbits (defined by three angles), due to the way in which the observations had been made. Nevertheless, the nodal distances mainly depend on the size and shape of the orbit, parameters which are relatively free of observational bias.

"It is the first time that the nodes have been used to try to understand the dynamics of the ETNOs", the co-author points out, as he admits that discovering more ETNOs (at the moment, only 28 are known) would permit the proposed scenario to be confirmed and subsequently constrain the orbit of the unknown planet via the analysis of the distribution of the nodes.

The authors note that their study supports the existence of a planetary object within the range of parameters considered both in the Planet Nine hypothesis of Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin from Caltech, and in the original one proposed in 2014 by Scott Sheppard from the Carnegie Institute and Chadwick Trujillo from the University of North Arizona; in addition to following the lines of their own earlier studies (the latest led by the Institute de Astrof├şsica de Canarias), which suggested that there is more than one unknown Ashampoo_Snap_2017.07.12_16h01m12s_001_planet in our Solar System.

Is there also a Planet Ten?

De la Fuente Marcos explains that the hypothetical Planet Nine suggested in this study has nothing to do with another possible planet or planetoid situated much closer to us, and hinted at by other recent findings. Also applying data mining to the orbits of the TNOs of the Kuiper Belt, astronomers Kathryn Volk and Renu Malhotra from the University of Arizona (USA) have found that the plane on which these objects orbit the Sun is slightly warped, a fact that could be explained if there is a perturber of the size of Mars at 60 AU from the Sun.

"Given the current definition of planet, this other mysterious object may not be a true planet, even if it has a size similar to that of the Earth, as it could be surrounded by huge asteroids or dwarf planets," explains the Spanish astronomer, who goes on to say: "In any case, we are convinced that Volk and Malhotra's work has found solid evidence of the presence of a massive body beyond the so-called Kuiper Cliff, the furthest point of the trans-Neptunian belt, at some 50 AU from the Sun, and we hope to be able to present soon a new work which also supports its existence."

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

What is Dark Energy? A continued mystery....

The more observations we do, the more corrections we bring and when we start making absurd concepts about something we come more close to the truth. So keep making concepts because it's a blessing to us that we can think.

Posted by Adityadhar Dwivedi

Ya, as you may have heard about Dark Energy, so if you're knowing anything about this, forget those because you're going to make a new concept on the theory of dark energy. I know these words are seeming to be rude but lighten your mind so that you will reach upon this concept of Dark Energy.
Before I start discussion about Dark energy, you might have studied in high schools' books that everything in this universe is made up of atoms and that's simply called matter. So questions arises, Is only normal or baryonic matter present in whole universe? The simple answer I.e. based on our current studies tells No. It's only tiny amount of the energy or mass occupying whole universe that's only little ~5%. That's too crazy and horrible that all matter we see, we touch, feel and observe is only 5%.            Then what's more?                                  Actually, it is 95% of energy density of universe unexplained. In previous post I had discussed about Dark Matter which should not be called matter because it's gravity that is invisible so simply can be called Dark Gravity.                       [Chech out previous one]                                    So, what about Dark Energy? I am here and you are also here to start the discussion. So, let's start!
Dark Energy is a mysterious energy which is an anti-gravitational energy which is only responsible for the expansion of our universe which is much more than the speed of light. Here you'll try to contradict this statement by telling that Einstein had set a limit of the speed of light. Means nothing could travel faster than light. But, it's the expansion rate of our universe, not an object but again one question arises, Our Universe is expanding into what? What is it?

Most physicists think of 11-dimensional Hyperspace in which there are universes are floating like soap bubbles and each soap bubble represents each universe of different dimensions and they are vibrating like membrane [called M-brane Theory]. So, this theory is really hypothetical but o understand this theory well, you have to make your imagination of Hyperspace of 11 dimensions. Now let's move further.

Ok, Dark Energy, which type of feelings do you create while hearing this word? Maybe, mysterious or something unknown or strange phenomenon. Well, you're quite right. Dark Energy is named after a mysterious force which is accelerating up the expansion of our universe which is present in our universe having almost ~70% of the energy density of the universe. So what is something strange about this?
My friend, the whole concept is so strange because it's much more mysterious than Dark Matter [really should be called as Dark Gravity ] because we neither have detected it nor we have any strong causes to support its existence. So you may suppose, how strange the Dark Energy is!

Unravelling the secrets of Dark Energy

Actually, I am now forwarding you my concepts and theories regarding the mystery unravelling Dark Energy.

[Follow this link:]

Think of a universe at the age of a Singularity which was ultra-dense form of the cosmos, at the Planck scale of time and measurement. At that time, that is about 10 power to -43 second, sudden quantum fluctuations took place and that created a vast explosion or Bang in which everything got originated in the form of grand unified force which ultimately got separated into 4 fundamental forces. At the time when universe was a baby, there was an equal amount of soup of particles equals to space itself. Everything was in a dense soup of particles that could be termed as, Quark-Gluon Plasma. At that time, it was possible that both matter and antimatter could have originated and by probability, matter got victory over the influence of antimatter [It is also a mystery but wait for the upcoming posts regarding this]. So where is the existence of Dark Energy in the earliest phases of universe?                                                                                            Think of that time when sudden quantum fluctuations took place in Singularity and it banged with such a greatest flow or shockwave in the fabric of the cosmos/space-time which could really have powered the expansion of space. At that time, that shockwave of the Big Bang would have reached to the edges and it must have powered the expansion with an unimaginable rate that has helped the particles ( and antiparticles) to annihilated together to form pure energy as well as expansion of space provided enough temperature to bind to form atoms and further collapse into stars.
      That's only concept.........  :)

Time to answer strange questions

  • Let suppose whole matter as x and whole antimatter as y. We are made up of baryons which means we are part of x then how could we have formed if x and y would become already 0.
Actually, it is not the simple answer to answer easily but as the whole universe works on principle of probability [ I am talking about the behaviour of particles at quantum level ]. If possible let add a very few percent say, 0.0000000001% to x. Then annihilation would occur now and energy will get released in form (x+y) but there is now 0.0000000001% of x will be remained as remainder and that would be sufficient for the normal matter to exist as 5 percent of total energy density in the universe till the billions and billions of years.
  • So you could imagine 0.0000000001% of x equals to 5% of energy density of the universe then what about the total volume of x and y. Suppose if x and y are non-annihilating then it wouldn't become 0 and Is this possible that so far the expansion of our universe is less space for both x and y to bind together and form atoms?
Ya, that would be dreadful imagination because you can think how much great the values of x and y are. It would take almost 50 billions years later to form first atom because after about 50 billions years later the expansion could be enough to particles bind to form atoms. And life in that universe would exist after about its 1 trillion years after the big bang. OMG!

Forget those Imaginations becoz they are the spooky one, we are happy in our universe. :)

My name is Aditya and if you're having difficulties to understand any concept, contact me at:
Visit my blog also to encourage my efforts.

Thank you! Goodbye!

Monday, 10 July 2017

NASA receives more than $19.6 billion in 2017 omnibus spending bill

718089main_SLS-Ground-View_25BB29_3000x1800WASHINGTON — A long-overdue fiscal year 2017 spending bill unveiled early May 1 will provide NASA with $19.65 billion, more than $600 million above the original request for the agency by the previous administration.

The omnibus spending bill, released by congressional appropriators after extended negotiations, provides more money overall for the agency than earlier House and Senate bills, including significant increases for exploration programs and planetary science. It also funds programs that the Trump administration seeks to cancel or restructure in its 2018 budget proposal.

The $19.653 billion NASA receives in the bill is $628 million above the original request for the agency in the Obama administration’s final budget request in February 2016. It is $368 million above the $19.285 billion NASA received in fiscal year 2016.

The biggest winner in the spending bill is NASA’s exploration program, which gets $4.32 billion, nearly $1 billion more than the original request but similar to what the House and Senate offered in their bills last year. That total includes $2.15 billion for the Space Launch System and $1.35 billion for Orion.

The report accompanying the spending bill allows NASA to use exploration funding to support technologies such as advanced proposal, asteroid deflection and grappling systems intended for use on the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), provided they “not distract from the overarching goal of sending humans to Mars.” The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2018 budget blueprint, released March 16, announced plans to cancel ARM.

Science programs will receive $5.76 billion in the spending bill, above both the requested $5.6 billion and lower levels in the House and Senate bills. Planetary science wins a large increase, to nearly $1.85 billion, well above the 2017 request of $1.52 billion and the $1.63 billion it received in 2016. That total includes $408 million for the Mars 2020 rover mission, including language directing NASA to add a small helicopter technology demonstration to the mission as long as it does not delay the mission’s launch.

That planetary science funding also includes $275 million for Europa missions, both the Europa Clipper multiple flyby spacecraft and a proposed lander. Language in the bill requires NASA to launch Europa Clipper no later than 2022 and the lander no later than 2024, although NASA officials have recently said they don’t expect the lander mission to be ready for launch until at least 2025. The Trump administration’s 2018 budget blueprint supported Europa Clipper but included no funding for a Europa lander.

NASA’s Earth science program, the subject of potential cuts, received $1.92 billion, the same as it received in 2016 but less than the $2.03 billion sought by the Obama administration. That funding includes $90 million for Pre-Aerosol, Clouds, and Ocean Ecosystem, or PACE, mission, which the Trump administration targeted for cancellation in its 2018 budget blueprint.

NASA’s space technology program receives $686.5 million in the bill, the same as it received in 2016 but less than $826.7 million requested by the Obama administration. Of that, $130 million is set aside for the Restore-L satellite servicing project, which the Trump administration said in its 2018 budget blueprint that it seeks to restructure, calling it “duplicative.”

Space operations, which includes the International Space Station and related projects, receives $4.95 billion in the bill, the same as the Senate offered in its bill but $125 million less than requested. Commercial crew, part of space operations, will receive $1.185 billion, the same amount as requested.

The bill also provides $100 million for NASA’s Office of Education, the same as the original request. The Trump administration, in its 2018 budget blueprint, seeks to close the office and focus NASA’s educational activities through programs in the science mission directorate.

The full omnibus appropriations bill, which funds other federal government agencies besides NASA, was released exactly seven months into the 2017 fiscal year. Those agencies had been operating under continuing resolutions (CRs) that funded programs at 2016 levels. The latest CR, passed April 28, provided a one-week extension until May 5 to give appropriators time to finalize the omnibus bill.

A Star is Surprising Circumstances

untitledStellar nurseries, the birthplace of new stars, are not as cozy and colour-coordinated as Pinterest nurseries. Stellar nurseries feature dust and gas rather than lovable characters and perfect shades of blue or pink—cold expanses rather than cozy nooks.

As scientists have pieced together the story of how stars form, a model has emerged that highlights the role of a strong magnetic field. However, research recently published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters reveals that stellar nurseries may have environments that are much more varied and complex than previously thought. This information could help us better understand how stars like our sun form.

Artist impression of chaotic magnetic field lines very near a newly emerging protostar.
Image Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF; D. Berry

Before we get to these results, it helps to visualize where stellar nurseries form. It’s not just emptiness that fills the space between stars systems, this space is filled with a dilute mixture of gas and dust called the interstellar medium. Some areas are denser than others, forming giant interstellar clouds. (As a side note, NASA and the University of Colorado, Boulder launched a new rocket payload just last Tuesday that gathered data on the interstellar cloud between us and the star Beta Scorpii - details here.)

Under certain conditions, the gravity of an interstellar cloud can overcome the pressure of the gas within it and cause the cloud to collapse and break into pieces. These pieces become the birthplace of new stars as gravity pulls in more and more gas, creating increasingly dense, hot objects—Protostars on the path to becoming full-fledged stars. During the protostar phase, a star-to-be is still pulling in mass from the surrounding interstellar cloud and hasn’t started fusion reactions yet.

This isn’t the whole story, however. Many pieces of interstellar clouds that should form stars according to gravity, do not. The process appears to be shaped by things like the turbulence and magnetic fields of the cloud. Although the details of their influence aren’t well understood, typical models suggest that magnetic fields play the dominant role in regulating star formation.
  To better understand the impact of magnetic fields on the birth of stars, scientists in the global ALMA collaboration, the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array, turned their instruments on an object called Ser-emb 8. Ser-emb 8 is about 1,400 light years away. It’s a typical young protostar in a region where many stars are forming.

Located in the Atacama Desert of Chile, ALMA is a collection of ground-based telescopes (very precise antennas) that together study the universe in millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths—the range of light between infrared light and radio waves. This light contains valuable information on things like the origins of galaxies, stars, planets, and the molecules related to life.

untitled2ALMA can’t “see” magnetic fields directly. Instead it maps the polarization of the light given off by warm grains of dust that tend to align with the magnetic field of a region. Using this polarization map, scientists can infer the magnetic field in an area. Thanks to ALMA’s precise instruments, the Ser-emb 8 measurement is the most sensitive measurement scientists have ever made of a small-scale magnetic field around a young protostar.

The result was an unexpected surprise.

This texture represents the magnetic field orientation in the region surrounding the Ser-emb 8 protostar, as measured by ALMA. The Gray region is the millimetre wavelength dust emission.
Image Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); P. Mocz, C. Hull, CfA.

Previous research suggests that stars typically form in regions with strong magnetic fields. When observing a young protostar, this is evidenced by a magnetic field with an hourglass-shape, and astronomers have observed this before. However, the team, which was led by Charles Hull from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, found that Ser-emb 8 didn’t fit the model. Although it is clearly a young protostar, there is no hourglass in sight: The magnetic field of Ser-emb 8 is chaotic, randomly oriented, and doesn’t match up to the large-scale magnetic field of the region.

To better understand this result and its implications, the team ran simulations of an interstellar cloud collapsing and forming a young protostar. Each simulation featured magnetic fields and turbulence of different strengths. From these simulations, the team created mock observations of the magnetic field.
  By comparing the mock observations to the real ones, astronomers found that Ser-emb 8 is likely forming from the collapse of an interstellar cloud with a weak magnetic field. The star formation and the magnetic field of Ser-emb 8 appears to be controlled by turbulence within the cloud, not a strong magnetic field.

The implications of this result go beyond describing the environment in Ser-emb 8’s tiny piece of the sky. With this observation, astronomers have demonstrated that stars can form under a wider variety of conditions than previously thought. In other words, stellar nurseries may display more of nature’s creativity than we realized.

China launches rental space telescope

Tkz-1a_expacehe commitment of China and its emerging companies to the sharing economy policy has reached outer space, thanks to the initiative of a company that designs a telescope that can be rented by astronomy buffs.

"We want everyone to be able to access that technology because the satellites are very expensive and are beyond the reach of most people," Feng Yang, president of Chinese company Spacety, a nanosatellites manufacturer, told EFE.

The telescope will be launched into space on a satellite, and its functions can be controlled by users via its website, which will allow them to browse for images they want to obtain.

The company's objective is to bring space to ordinary people as well as to create opportunities for those interested in areas such as astronomy to investigate or simply to enjoy their passion without having to pay the high costs.

"At a dinner with my two friends who are astronomy enthusiasts, I realised that they always spent a lot of money on telescopes and that surprised me a lot. They spent a million yuan for a telescope ($A193,000)," he said.

After the conversation with his friends, he concluded that if he could put a telescope into space, in the style of a mini-Hubble, "the images that can be captured are going to be better."

According to Feng, this is the first company in the world that will introduce such a business model, since "Hubble belongs to the US government."

"There is no telescope that is open for everyone. With ours, anyone in the world can get to our website, control the telescope in space and take a look at wherever they want," he said.

Although the exact amount is currently unknown, the investment in the project is expected to be more than 10 million yuan.

This idea, the entrepreneur said, is in line with China's prominent interest in promoting the "sharing economy" policy, aimed at distributing resources of everyday things to reduce costs and allowing people to enjoy services that were previously unaffordable.

Graphene for space applications

zerogravitygResearchers and students in the Graphene Flagship are preparing for two exciting experiments in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) to test the viability of graphene for space applications. Both experiments will launch between 6-17th November 2017, testing graphene in zero-gravity conditions to determine its potential in space applications including light propulsion and thermal management.

The Graphene Flagship is a pan-European research initiative dedicated to developing new technologies based on graphene, the single-atom-thick allotrope of carbon with excellent electrical, mechanical, thermal and optical properties. A fundamental aspect of the Graphene Flagship is training students and young researchers. These ambitious space-related experiments are an excellent opportunity for Flagship students and researchers to gain new experiences in cutting-edge research. Join the Graphene Flagship as we follow the progress -- from the early stages in the laboratory to the moments of weightlessness!

In a fully student-led experiment, a team of Graphene Flagship graduate students from Delft Technical University (TU Delft; Netherlands) will participate in ESA Education's Drop Your Thesis! programme. Their successful proposal will use microgravity conditions in the ZARM Drop Tower (Bremen, Germany) to test graphene for light sails. By shining laser light on suspended graphene-membranes from Flagship partner Graphene, the experiment will test how much thrust can be generated, which could lead to a new way of propelling satellites in space using light from lasers or the sun.

The PhD student team -- named GrapheneX -- consists of Santiago Cartamil Bueno, Davide Stefani, Vera Janssen, Rocco Gaudenzi, all research students in Herre van der Zant's research group in TU Delft. Santiago Cartamil Bueno, project leader for the GrapheneX team, said "We split tasks between the team and things are working well. We are very ambitious with the quality of the experiments. We really want to do it properly, so we are committed to do real science in this project."

ESA Education's Drop Your Thesis! programme offers students the opportunity to design an experiment for the ZARM Drop Tower in Bremen, Germany, which simulates the low gravity and vacuum conditions of space. The 146 m ZARM Drop Tower creates extreme microgravity conditions down to one millionth of Earth's gravitational force. In vacuum, a capsule containing the experiment is catapulted up and down the tower, providing a total of 9.3 seconds of weightlessness.

depositphotos_35767467-stock-photo-dna-molecules-and-menRunning concurrently is an experiment investigating how graphene can improve efficiency in heat transfer in loop heat pipes -- cooling systems used extensively in satellites and aerospace instruments. The experiment is a collaboration between Graphene Flagship partners at the Microgravity Research Centre, University libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; the Cambridge Graphene Centre, University of Cambridge, UK; Institute for Organic Synthesis and Photo reactivity, National Research Council of Italy (CNR), Italy; and Leonardo Spa, Italy, a global leader in aerospace, producing of a variety of components and systems for space applications.

A significant part of the loop heat pipe is the wick, typically made of porous metal. In this experiment, the wicks will be coated with different types of graphene-related materials to improve the efficiency of the heat pipe. The coated wicks will be tested in a low-gravity parabolic flight operated by ESA in partnership with Novespace, France. During each 3-hour flight, the specially modified plane will make a series of 30 parabolic ascents with around 25 seconds of weightlessness in each parabola.

Involved in the experiment are Graphene Flagship researchers Vanja Miškovi? and Fabio Iermano, both working at the Microgravity Research Centre, and Lucia Lombardi and Yarjan Samad, both at the Cambridge Graphene Centre. As well as the on-ground experiments, the young researchers will experience weightlessness on board the low-gravity flights in November.

"I'm really excited because this will be my first zero gravity experience," said Lombardi. "The idea is to use graphene to improve the thermal conductivity and the capillary pressure by growing a sponge in the pores of the wicks," she added.

1463169297-V7Y"We want to test different kinds of coatings since the graphene and graphene oxide have different properties, but we are hoping to achieve good results with both of the coatings," added Miškovi?. "I'm very excited, I know that not a lot of people get this opportunity."

Andrea Ferrari (University of Cambridge), Science and Technology Officer of the Graphene Flagship and chair of its management panel added "Space is the new frontier for the Graphene Flagship. These initial experiments will test the viability of graphene-enabled devices for space applications. The combined strengths of the Graphene Flagship, Flagship partners and the European Space Agency as well global leader in aerospace applications Leonardo, give a strong basis to reach a high technology readiness level."

Jari Kinaret (Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden), Director of the Graphene Flagship, said "These two projects exemplify the two-fold character of the Graphene Flagship: the loop heat pipe project is targeting a specific application, while the light sail project is firmly linked to basic research and builds upon the unique combination of properties that only graphene can offer. I am particularly proud of the fact that one of these projects was initiated by students working on area completely disconnected from space applications: this demonstrates the creativity of the next generation of researchers, and shows the sometimes surprising links between different parts of our Flagship -- or maybe I should say spaceship?"