Leapfrogging backward in time to when the universe was apparently feeling its oats, a group of astronomers reported Tuesday that they had measured a bona fide distance to one of the farthest and thus earliest galaxies known.
The galaxy, more than a few billion light-years on the other side of the northern constellation Boötes, is one of the most massive and brightest in the early universe and goes by the name of EGS-zs8-1.
It flowered into stardom only 670 million years after the Big Bang.
The light from that galaxy has taken 13 billion years to reach telescopes on Earth. By now, however, since the universe has continued to expand during that time, the galaxy is about 30 billion light-years away, according to standard cosmological calculations.
The new measurements allow astronomers to see the galaxy in its infancy. Despite its relative youth, however, it is already about one-sixth as massive as the Milky Way, which is 10 billion years old. And it is getting bigger, making stars 80 times faster than the Milky Way is making them today. The discovery was reported in The Astrophysical Journal by Pascal Oesch of Yale University and his colleagues.
By the rules of the expanding universe, the farther away a galaxy is, the faster it is retreating from us, measured by the “redshift” of its light being broadened to longer wavelengths, the way an ambulance siren seems to lower its pitch as it goes by.
In the past few years, as astronomers have raced one another into the past with instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope, galaxies have been found that appear even more distant. Those measurements, however, were estimates based on the colors of the objects — so-called photometric redshifts.
The new galaxy stuck out in a survey of distant galaxies by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes known as Candels, for Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey. Its redshift was precisely measured with a powerful spectrograph known as Mosfire — Multi-Object Spectrometer for Infrared Exploration — on Keck 1, one of a pair of 10-meter-diameter telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. That makes it the highest redshift confirmed in this way, said Garth Illingworth, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, one of the astronomers in the study.
How galaxies were able to form and grow so rapidly after the lights came on in the universe is a mystery that will be addressed by a coming generation of instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope and the Thirty Meter Telescope, a goliath planned for Mauna Kea, already home to a dozen telescopes.
Recently, however, construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, a $1.4 billion project, has been halted by protests by Hawaii residents who feel their mountain has been abused. An echo of that controversy appears in the new paper, in which Dr. Oesch and his colleagues write: “The authors wish to recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Mauna Kea has always had within the indigenous Hawaiian community. We are most fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct observations from this mountain.”
Moon Express, a Mountain View, California-based company that's aiming to send the first commercial robotic spacecraft to the moon next year, just took another step closer toward that lofty goal.
Earlier this year, it became the first company to successfully test a prototype of a lunar lander at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The success of this test—and a series of others that will take place later this year—paves the way for Moon Express to send its lander to the moon in 2016, said company co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain.
Moon Express conducted its tests with the support of NASA engineers, who are sharing with the company their deep well of lunar know-how. The NASA lunar initiative—known as Catalyst—is designed to spur new commercial U.S. capabilities to reach the moon and tap into its considerable resources.In addition to Moon Express, NASA is also working with Astrobotic Technologies of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California, to develop commercial robotic spacecrafts.
Jain said Moon Express also recently signed an agreement to take over Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral. The historic launchpad will be used for Moon Express's lander development and flight-test operations. Before it was decommissioned, the launchpad was home to NASA's Atlas-Centaur rocket program and its Surveyor moon landers.
"Clearly, NASA has an amazing amount of expertise when it comes to getting to the moon, and it wants to pass that knowledge on to a company like ours that has the best chance of being successful," said Jain, a serial entrepreneur who also founded Internet companies Infospace and Intelius. He believes that the moon holds precious metals and rare minerals that can be brought back to help address Earth's energy, health and resource challenges.
Among the moon's vast riches: gold, cobalt, iron, palladium, platinum, tungsten and Helium-3, a gas that can be used in future fusion reactors to provide nuclear power without radioactive waste. "We went to the moon 50 years ago, yet today we have more computing power with our iPhones than the computers that sent men into space," Jain said. "That type of exponential technological growth is allowing things to happen that was never possible before."
An eye on the Google prize
Helping to drive this newfound interest in privately funded space exploration is the Google Lunar X Prize. It's a competition organized by the X Prize Foundation and sponsored by Google that will award $30 million to the first company that lands a commercial spacecraft on the moon, travels 500 meters across its surface and sends high-definition images and video back to Earth—all before the end of 2016. Moon Express is already at the front of the pack. In January it was awarded a $1 million milestone prize from Google for being the only company in the competition so far to test a prototype of its lander. "Winning the X prize would be a great thing," said Jain. "But building a great company is the ultimate goal with us." When it comes to space exploration, he added, "it's clear that the baton has been passed from the government to the private sector."
Testing in stages
Jain said Moon Express has been putting its lunar lander through a series of tests at the space center. The successful outing earlier this year involved tethering the vehicle—which is the size of a coffee table—to a crane in order to safely test its control systems. "The reason we tethered it to the crane is because the last thing we wanted was the aircraft to go completely haywire and hurt someone," he said.
At the end of March, the company will conduct a completely free flight test with no tethering. The lander will take off from the pad, go up and sideways, then land back at the launchpad. "This is to test that the vehicle knows where to go and how to get back to the launchpad safely," Jain explained. Once all these tests are successfully completed, Jain said the lander—called MX-1—will be ready to travel to the moon. The most likely scenario is that it will be attached to a satellite that will take the lander into a low orbit over the Earth. From there the MX-1 will fire its own rocket, powered by hydrogen peroxide, and launch from that orbit to complete its travel to the moon's surface.
The lander's first mission is a one-way trip, meaning that it's not designed to travel back to the Earth, said Jain. "The purpose is to show that for the first time, a company has developed the technology to land softly on the moon," he said. "Landing on the moon is not the hard part. Landing softly is the hard part."
That's because even though the gravity of the moon is one-sixth that of the Earth's, the lander will still be traveling down to the surface of the moon "like a bullet," Jain explained. Without the right calculations to indicate when its rockets have to fire in order to slow it down, the lander would hit the surface of the moon and break into millions of pieces. "Unlike here on Earth, there's no GPS on the moon to tell us this, so we have to do all these calculations first," he said.
Looking ahead 15 or 20 years, Jain said he envisions a day when the moon is used as a sort of way station enabling easier travel for exploration to other planets. In the meantime, he said the lander's second and third missions could likely involve bringing precious metals, minerals and even moon rocks back to Earth. "Today, people look at diamonds as this rare thing on Earth," Jain said. He added, "Imagine telling someone you love her by giving her the moon." View Article Here Read More
A reprocessed image of ice covered Europa, the sixth-closest moon to the planet Jupiter, and the smallest of its four satellites, but still the sixth-largest moon in our solar system. Remarkably, Europa was first discovered by the astronomer Galileo Ga...
The planet orbits one member of a binary star system 25,000 light-years from Earth.
space.gotnewswire.com According to an Ohio State University (OSU) statement, a team led by OSU researcher Radek Poleski has discovered the first exoplanet that resembles the planet Uranus in our own solar system. The exoplanet falls into the category of ‘ice giants’, and adds another type of world to the exoplanet roster, which already includes rocky planets similar to Earth and gas giants akin to Jupiter. The exoplanet is located in a binary star system approximately 25,000 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. One of the member stars is about two-thirds the mass of the Sun, while the other is about one-sixth as massive. The exoplanet itself is four times the mass of Uranus and orbits the larger of the two stars at nearly the same distance as Uranus revolves around the Sun. The exoplanet and its home star system were found with the 1.3-meter Warsaw Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, in the course of the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE). The star system was discovered in light magnified by an intervening gravitational microlens, and object between Earth and the star system; the light from the more distant object, the binary system in this case, is magnified by the gravity of the microlensing object. It was actually two separate microlensing events, one in 2008 and the other in 2010, that revealed the existence of the binary system and its ice giant planet. OGLE’s database currently includes 13,000 microlensing events; Poleski is designing software to scrutinize the database for indications of additional exoplanets in other solar systems. “Only microlensing can detect these cold ice giants that, like Uranus and Neptune, are far away from their host stars. This discovery demonstrates that microlensing is capable of discovering planets in very wide orbits,” Poleski explained. “We were lucky to see the signal from the planet, its host star, and the companion star. If the orientation had been different, we would have seen only the planet, and we probably would have called it a free-floating planet.” The new research has been published online in The Astrophysical Journal.View Article Here Read More
by Trish LeSageThose who are on the path of ascension may eventually possess the ability of clairvoyance. Clairvoyance is the ability to see beyond that which is perceived with the physical eyes. Clairvoyance includes seeing with the third eye, also known as the psychic eye, the inner eye, or the mind's eye.For example, words, symbols, or other information may appear in the mind's eye of a person who possesses the ability of clairvoyance. This may happen as a form of guidance unexpectedly [...]
Archeologists digging at Binchester Roman Fort near Bishop Auckland in County Durham, England have unearthed a treasure trove of Roman artifacts and buildings dating back more than 1,800 years. Lauded as some of the best-preserved Roman ruins this side of Pompeii, the site has produced an ancient bathhouse, an altar to the goddess Fortuna and a piece of jewelry that offers early evidence of Christianity in Roman Britain.
Excavations at the Binchester site (Credit: University of Durham)
Known as “Vinovia” to the Romans, the outpost once commanded the crossroads of the River Wear and Dere Street, an ancient road that linked the Roman headquarters at York with Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall near Edinburgh, Scotland. Researchers with the Binchester excavation project have been digging at the fort since 2009, and they now say the site includes some of the most exquisitely preserved ruins ever unearthed in Britain. “These findings are hugely significant as they are virtually intact and present a graphic illustration of life under the Roman Empire,” said Dr. David Mason, principal archeologist with the Durham County Council, in a press release. “They are so stunning and spectacular that we can claim we have our very own ‘Pompeii of the north’ right on our doorstep.” Chief among the discoveries is an 1,800-year-old Roman bathhouse that would have served as the hub of the fort’s social and recreational life. The baths still feature original floors, windows and doorways, and plaster shards indicate that their seven-foot-high walls were once adorned with colorful designs and drawings. “The most unique feature of these remains is the sheer scale of their preservation,” said Dr. David Petts, archeologist at Durham University. “It is possible to walk through a series of Roman rooms with walls all above head height; this is pretty exceptional for Roman Britain.” Further digging in the bathhouse uncovered evidence of plumbing, including a drain and gaps in the walls that may have once held lead piping to channel water. In an adjacent changing room, the archeologists excavated a carved stone altar to Fortune the Home-Bringer, one of several aspects of Fortuna, the Roman goddess of luck, chance and fate. The altar bears an inscription by a trooper garrisoned at the fort with a unit of Spanish cavalry. The etching identifies his rank as “architectus,” offering some of the first evidence that military architects may have operated on staff at provincial Roman outposts. Excavations at the Binchester site have also yielded a silver ring with an engraving that features two fish dangling from an anchor, often considered an early symbol of Christianity. The design appears widely in Roman artifacts, but the researchers say the ring is only the second time it has cropped up in Britain. Dr. Petts dates the jewelry to the 3rd century A.D.—long before the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in 313. “This is a surprisingly early date for a Christian object in Britain,” he notes on the project’s blog. “Evidence for Roman Christianity is rare in Northern England, and evidence for Pre-Constantinian Christianity is even rarer.” With its commanding views of the nearby road and river, the fort at Binchester was one of the most vital of the five Roman bastions that once operated in County Durham. The site was constructed from timber sometime around A.D. 80. on the orders of Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the Roman Governor of Britain. It was later fortified and rebuilt from stone during the Antonine period in the second century. The newer citadel included a hospital and several barracks, workshops and granaries, but it wasn’t merely a military outpost. From their guard towers, Roman legionaries would have been able to watch a “vicus,” or civilian settlement, emerge alongside their fort. Evidence shows this upstart village continued on long after the fall of the Roman Empire. A nearby 7th century church is even built from looted stone that once belonged to the Binchester fort. References to the ruins date back to the 1500s, but the first organized study of the Binchester fort didn’t take place until the late 19th century, when John Proud and the Reverend R.E. Hoopell unearthed a 4th century praetorium, or officer’s headquarters, and an adjacent bathhouse. The current Binchester excavation is a joint endeavor between the Durham County Council, the University of Durham, the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Northumberland and Durham and several other institutions. Now in its sixth year, the project has focused on excavating a pair of trenches dug at the site. The better preserved of the two trenches houses the altar and the bathhouse, both of which appear to have been converted into a trash heap in the late-Roman period. The other site features a section of the tower wall, a cavalry barracks, horse stables, bread ovens and a latrine. Petts hopes these finds can serve as a window onto the world of both the fort and the village that once flourished beyond its walls. “Our excavations have uncovered parts of one of the best preserved Roman buildings in Britain,” he said in the press release. “The building itself and the wonderful array of artifacts we have recovered from Binchester give us an unparalleled opportunity to better understand life on the northern frontier in the Roman period.” The recent discoveries are not the first significant artifacts associated with the Binchester project. In July 2013, an archeology student working at the site unearthed a 1,800-year-old carved stone head that may be one of the few depictions of the Romano-British god Antenociticus.View Article Here Read More