Tag Archives: Spitzer Space Telescope

Spitzer spots asteroid collision

A monitoring program of a young star by the Spitzer Space Telescope has paid off with evidence of a major collision between asteroids in the debris disk that surrounds the star.

Scientists had been regularly tracking the star, called NGC 2547-ID8, when it surged with a huge amount of fresh dust between August 2012 and January 2013. “We think two big asteroids crashed into each other, creating a huge cloud of grains the size of very fine sand, which are now smashing themselves into smithereens and slowly leaking away from the star,” said lead author and graduate student Huan Meng of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

While dusty aftermaths of suspected asteroid collisions have been observed by Spitzer before, this is the first time scientists have collected data before and after a planetary system smashup. The viewing offers a glimpse into the violent process of making rocky planets like ours.

Short of money for astrophysics because of the overruns on the James Webb Space Telescope as well as federal budget woes, NASA has decided to shut down the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Short of money for astrophysics because of the overruns on the James Webb Space Telescope as well as federal budget woes, NASA has decided to shut down the Spitzer Space Telescope.

Other missions, such as Kepler, Chandra, Hubble, NuStar, and Swift got extensions, however.

Using images from the Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have assembled a 360 degree zoomable portrait of the plane of the Milky Way galaxy.

Using images from the Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have assembled a 360 degree zoomable portrait of the plane of the Milky Way galaxy.

The image is in infrared, which is why it can see parts of the galaxy obscured by dust in visible wavelengths, and you can explore it at your leisure, from home.

Astronomers have discovered the first exoplanet smaller than Earth.

Astronomers have discovered the first exoplanet smaller than Earth.

The University of Central Florida has detected what could be its first planet, only two-thirds the size of Earth and located right around the corner, cosmically speaking, at a mere 33-light years away. The exoplanet candidate called UCF 1.01, is close to its star, so close it goes around the star in 1.4 days. The planet’s surface likely reaches temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The discoverers believe that it has no atmosphere, is only two-thirds the gravity of Earth and that its surface may be volcanic or molten.

What is especially remarkable about this discovery is that the scientists used the Spitzer Space Telescope to do it, detecting the planet’s transits across the star’s face, just like Kepler. Spitzer was not designed to be able to do this.

It doesn’t exist

Fomalhaut b

In a preprint paper published today on the Los Alamos astro-ph website, astronomers have concluded that the exoplanet orbiting the star Formalhaut might not exist. This planet, the first exoplanet ever thought to be directly imaged in visible light, was first described in a paper published in 2008, and was actually tracked in its orbit over several years, as shown in the image on the right.

The new research used the Spitzer Space Telescope to see if the planet’s heat could be detected in infrared wavelengths. Unfortunately, the scientists found nothing.
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