Category: astronomy

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Astro art prints!:

Updated: I’ve struck a better deal for the printing process and am thrilled to offer a drastically reduced price on this 24"x36" print! I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and am thrilled to finally introduce the first canvas print from Keep Looking Up. I’m working with some incredible craftsmen to create this limited edition run of 24"x36" canvas prints of the iconic Earthrise image from the Apollo 8 mission. I’m looking forward to offering more images in the future and having a full site dedicated to the prints. Check it out, and Keep Looking Up!

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Astro art prints!:

Updated: I’ve struck a better deal for the printing process and am thrilled to offer a drastically reduced price on this 24"x36" print! I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and am thrilled to finally introduce the first canvas print from Keep Looking Up. I’m working with some incredible craftsmen to create this limited edition run of 24"x36" canvas prints of the iconic Earthrise image from the Apollo 8 mission. I’m looking forward to offering more images in the future and having a full site dedicated to the prints. Check it out, and Keep Looking Up!

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In August 2018, our Parker Solar Probe mission launched to space, soon becoming the closest-ever spacecraft from the Sun. Now, scientists have announced their first discoveries from this exploration of our star!

The Sun may look calm to us here on Earth, but it’s an active star, unleashing powerful bursts of light, deluges of particles moving near the speed of light and billion-ton clouds of magnetized material. All of this activity can affect our technology here on Earth and in space.

Parker Solar Probe’s main science goals are to understand the physics that drive this activity — and its up-close look has given us a brand-new perspective. Here are a few highlights from what we’ve learned so far.

1. Surprising events in the solar wind

The Sun releases a continual outflow of magnetized material called the solar wind, which shapes space weather near Earth. Observed near Earth, the solar wind is a relatively uniform flow of plasma, with occasional turbulent tumbles. Closer to the solar wind’s source, Parker Solar Probe saw a much different picture: a complicated, active system. 

One type of event in particular drew the eye of the science teams: flips in the direction of the magnetic field, which flows out from the Sun, embedded in the solar wind. These reversals — dubbed “switchbacks” — last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes as they flow over Parker Solar Probe. During a switchback, the magnetic field whips back on itself until it is pointed almost directly back at the Sun.

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The exact source of the switchbacks isn’t yet understood, but Parker Solar Probe’s measurements have allowed scientists to narrow down the possibilities — and observations from the mission’s 21 remaining solar flybys should help scientists better understand these events. 

2. Seeing tiny particle events

The Sun can accelerate tiny electrons and ions into storms of energetic particles that rocket through the solar system at nearly the speed of light. These particles carry a lot of energy, so they can damage spacecraft electronics and even endanger astronauts, especially those in deep space, outside the protection of Earth’s magnetic field — and the short warning time for such particles makes them difficult to avoid.

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Energetic particles from the Sun impact a detector on ESA & NASA’s SOHO satellite.

Parker Solar Probe’s energetic particle instruments have measured several never-before-seen events so small that all trace of them is lost before they reach Earth. These instruments have also measured a rare type of particle burst with a particularly high number of heavier elements — suggesting that both types of events may be more common than scientists previously thought.

3. Rotation of the solar wind

Near Earth, we see the solar wind flowing almost straight out from the Sun in all directions. But the Sun rotates as it releases the solar wind, and before it breaks free, the wind spins along in sync with the Sun’s surface. For the first time, Parker was able to observe the solar wind while it was still rotating – starting more than 20 million miles from the Sun.

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The strength of the circulation was stronger than many scientists had predicted, but it also transitioned more quickly than predicted to an outward flow, which helps mask the effects of that fast rotation from the vantage point where we usually see them from, near Earth, about 93 million miles away. Understanding this transition point in the solar wind is key to helping us understand how the Sun sheds energy, with implications for the lifecycles of stars and the formation of protoplanetary disks.

4. Hints of a dust-free zone

Parker also saw the first direct evidence of dust starting to thin out near the Sun – an effect that has been theorized for nearly a century, but has been impossible to measure until now. Space is awash in dust, the cosmic crumbs of collisions that formed planets, asteroids, comets and other celestial bodies billions of years ago. Scientists have long suspected that, close to the Sun, this dust would be heated to high temperatures by powerful sunlight, turning it into a gas and creating a dust-free region around the Sun.

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For the first time, Parker’s imagers saw the cosmic dust begin to thin out a little over 7 million miles from the Sun. This decrease in dust continues steadily to the current limits of Parker Solar Probe’s instruments, measurements at a little over 4 million miles from the Sun. At that rate of thinning, scientists expect to see a truly dust-free zone starting a little more than 2-3 million miles from the Sun — meaning the spacecraft could observe the dust-free zone as early as 2020, when its sixth flyby of the Sun will carry it closer to our star than ever before.

These are just a few of Parker Solar Probe’s first discoveries, and there’s plenty more science to come throughout the mission! For the latest on our Sun, follow @NASASun on Twitter and NASA Sun Science on Facebook.

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Astro art prints!:

Updated: I’ve struck a better deal for the printing process and am thrilled to offer a drastically reduced price on this 24"x36" print! I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and am thrilled to finally introduce the first canvas print from Keep Looking Up. I’m working with some incredible craftsmen to create this limited edition run of 24"x36" canvas prints of the iconic Earthrise image from the Apollo 8 mission. I’m looking forward to offering more images in the future and having a full site dedicated to the prints. Check it out, and Keep Looking Up!

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Astro art prints!:

Updated: I’ve struck a better deal for the printing process and am thrilled to offer a drastically reduced price on this 24"x36" print! I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and am thrilled to finally introduce the first canvas print from Keep Looking Up. I’m working with some incredible craftsmen to create this limited edition run of 24"x36" canvas prints of the iconic Earthrise image from the Apollo 8 mission. I’m looking forward to offering more images in the future and having a full site dedicated to the prints. Check it out, and Keep Looking Up!

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Astro art prints!:

Updated: I’ve struck a better deal for the printing process and am thrilled to offer a drastically reduced price on this 24"x36" print! I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and am thrilled to finally introduce the first canvas print from Keep Looking Up. I’m working with some incredible craftsmen to create this limited edition run of 24"x36" canvas prints of the iconic Earthrise image from the Apollo 8 mission. I’m looking forward to offering more images in the future and having a full site dedicated to the prints. Check it out, and Keep Looking Up!

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Astro art prints!:

Updated: I’ve struck a better deal for the printing process and am thrilled to offer a drastically reduced price on this 24"x36" print! I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and am thrilled to finally introduce the first canvas print from Keep Looking Up. I’m working with some incredible craftsmen to create this limited edition run of 24"x36" canvas prints of the iconic Earthrise image from the Apollo 8 mission. I’m looking forward to offering more images in the future and having a full site dedicated to the prints. Check it out, and Keep Looking Up!

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Astro art prints!:

Updated: I’ve struck a better deal for the printing process and am thrilled to offer a drastically reduced price on this 24"x36" print! I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and am thrilled to finally introduce the first canvas print from Keep Looking Up. I’m working with some incredible craftsmen to create this limited edition run of 24"x36" canvas prints of the iconic Earthrise image from the Apollo 8 mission. I’m looking forward to offering more images in the future and having a full site dedicated to the prints. Check it out, and Keep Looking Up!

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Are you throwing all your money into a black hole today?

Forget Black Friday — celebrate #BlackHoleFriday with us and get sucked into this recent discovery of a black hole that may have sparked star births across multiple galaxies.

If confirmed, this discovery would represent the widest reach ever seen for a black hole acting as a stellar kick-starter — enhancing star formation more than one million light-years away. (One light year is equal to 6 trillion miles.)

A black hole is an extremely dense object from which no light can escape. The black hole’s immense gravity pulls in surrounding gas and dust. Sometimes, black holes hinder star birth. Sometimes — like perhaps in this case — they increase star birth.

Telescopes like our Chandra X-ray Observatory help us detect the X-rays produced by hot gas swirling around the black hole. Have more questions about black holes? Click here to learn more.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

[Updated!] First Product from NASA Fanboy: Astro art prints!:

Updated: I’ve struck a better deal for the printing process and am thrilled to offer a drastically reduced price on this 24"x36" print! I’ve been wanting to do this for quite some time, and am thrilled to finally introduce the first canvas print from Keep Looking Up. I’m working with some incredible craftsmen to create this limited edition run of 24"x36" canvas prints of the iconic Earthrise image from the Apollo 8 mission. I’m looking forward to offering more images in the future and having a full site dedicated to the prints. Check it out, and Keep Looking Up!