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Cosmic Rays from Distant Binary Star System Eta Carinae, Bombarding Earth

For years, Earth has been bombarded by cosmic rays emanating from a mysterious source astronomers couldn’t identify. Now, new research conducted with the help of NASA’s NuSTAR space telescope has finally tracked down the source of these rays: Eta Carinae, a binary star system just 10,000 light-years away. In an event called the Great Eruption of 1838, the system created a stunning hourglass nebula in a tremendous burst of energy that temporarily made it the second-brightest object in the night sky.

According to Fiona Harrison, the principal investigator of NuSTAR: “We’ve known for some time that the region around Eta Carinae is the source of energetic emission in high-energy X-rays and gamma rays. But until NuSTAR was able to pinpoint the radiation, show it comes from the binary and study its properties in detail, the origin was mysterious.”

The powerful cosmic radiation is caused, in part, by two currents of stellar wind colliding as they swirl around the twin stars. These winds then create shockwaves that boost the strength of the X-rays and gamma rays also being emitted. According to Kenji Hamaguchi, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center: “We know the blast waves of exploded stars can accelerate cosmic ray particles to speeds comparable to that of light, an incredible energy boost. Similar processes must occur in other extreme environments. Our analysis indicates Eta Carinae is one of them.”

Discovering the source of these cosmic rays helps astronomers to understand a bit more about Eta Carinae, which is still something of a mystery: scientists have no idea what caused its famous “eruption” in 1838 which, by all rights, should have ended in a supernova.

Although Earth’s magnetosphere keeps us safe from (most) radiation, cosmic rays might actually be increasing around our planet. This makes space travel more deadly than it already is. And if the amount of radiation keeps increasing, we might find out the limits of our atmosphere the hard way.

Source: A Star’s Echo by OuterPlaces

Chris Mahon
Outer Places
Headline image: © Pixabay Composite

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Space

‘A world with two stars’: a teenager discovers an unusual planet while doing internships at NASA

A 17-year-old teenager from New York (USA) discovered a planet while searching for stars as an intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the space agency reported this week.

Wolf Cukier, a junior in high school, had received the task of examining variations in the brightness of the stars captured by the Traffic Exoplanet Inspection Satellite (TESS). While exploring a star system located 1,300 light years from Earth, he observed what appeared to be a slight spot on one of the suns of the system called TOI 1338.

“At first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet, ”said Cukier.

“The planet blocked the light of those two stars, which caused a small decrease in the amount of light that reached the telescope. That was what I noticed at the beginning, ”he explained later to CBS.

Difficult to detect

Once he communicated the discovery to his mentors, they spent several weeks verifying his observation. They finally concluded that what he had discovered was a planet 6.9 times larger than ours that orbits around two stars, in what is known as a circumbinary planet.

Because these binary stars orbit each other every 15 days, it was not an easy task to distinguish the transit events from the only known planet in such a system, dubbed TOI 1338-b. Planets that orbit two stars are harder to detect than those that orbit only one.

In this case, the largest star is approximately 10% larger than our Sun, while the smallest, approximately one third of that mass, is colder and dimmer.

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Mars is losing its water much faster than previously thought

It turns out that Mars is losing its water much faster than previously thought. It is not clear if there will be any water left when the eventual human colonization of the Red Planet is undertaken.

On January 13, 2020, NASA proudly announced that it had finally selected 13 men and women, some of whom would fly to the moon and / or Mars, as part of the Artemis Program in the 2030s.

Meanwhile, an article has been published in the Science journal that the Martian colonists will have serious problems, combined with deadly space radiation and unresolved difficulties in maintaining the life of the station.

The survival ob the Red Planet is also related to water. In most cases, Mars water is in the form of ice and is not deep below the surface, but is mostly preserved in the form of ice caps at the poles. However, even there, it constantly evaporates and goes into space.

Scientists have known about this evaporation before, but it has recently turned out to be much faster than expected.

Martian Polar Cap

According to most projects, Martian colonists have to extract water from these ice caps, but when it comes time for them to be on Mars, there may no longer be any water on the planet. What will happen to the colonists? They will not be able to live long without water even if they process their urine.

Researchers led by Frank Montmesin, a scientist at the French University of Paris-Sackle, understand this threat by examining data from the Martian atmosphere over the past two years. This data is obtained from the Trace Gas Orbiter apparatus flying in orbit on the Red Planet.

It turns out that the upper atmosphere of Mars contains much more water vapor than the planet’s surface, about 10-100 times more than expected. The difference in values ​​depends on the position of the planet. Particularly rapid evaporation occurs during the Martian perihelion, when the planet is closest to the Sun.

Mars has low gravity, so it is not surprising that residual water quickly evaporates from its surface. At the same time, when getting into the upper atmosphere, under the influence of solar ultraviolet radiation, water vapor decomposes into oxygen and hydrogen atoms, which allows it to leave the Martian atmosphere even faster.

For how long Mars will have water under these conditions is still unknown. Now, however, future colonists will have to consider this Martian anomaly as well.

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NASA Wants To Probe Deeper Into Uranus Than Ever Before

Up until now, NASA has never paid too much attention to Uranus – but now the space agency wants to take a good, long look. And one of the things it might be investigating is all that gas. A NASA group outlined four possible missions to the ice giants Uranus and Neptune.

These missions include three orbiters and a possible fly-by of Uranus. The planned probes would take off in the 2030s, New Scientist reports.

‘The preferred mission is an orbiter with an atmospheric probe to either Uranus or Neptune – this provides the highest science value, and allows in depth study of all aspects of either planet’s system: rings, satellites, atmosphere, magnetosphere,’ says Amy Simon, co-chair of the Ice Giants Pre-Decadal Study group.

One of the proposed missions includes a fly-by of Uranus, which would include a narrow-angle camera – and a probe which would drop into Uranus’s atmosphere to measure gas and heavy elements. There are four proposed missions.

Three orbiters and a fly-by of Uranus, which would include a narrow angle camera to draw out details, especially of the ice giant’s moons. It would also drop an atmospheric probe to take a dive into Uranus’s atmosphere to measure the levels of gas and heavy elements there.

Three orbiters and a fly-by of Uranus, which would include a narrow angle camera to draw out details, especially of the ice giant’s moons. It would also drop an atmospheric probe to take a dive into Uranus’s atmosphere to measure the levels of gas and heavy elements there.

Has Uranus been probed?

NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew closely past distant Uranus, the seventh planet from the Sun, in January 1986.

A map of the outer solar system (Picture AFP/Getty)

At its closest, the spacecraft came within 81,500 kilometres (50,600 miles) of Uranus’s cloudtops on January 24, 1986. Voyager 2 radioed thousands of images and voluminous amounts of other scientific data on the planet, its moons, rings, atmosphere, interior and the magnetic environment surrounding Uranus.

Since launch on August 20, 1977, Voyager 2’s itinerary has taken the spacecraft to Jupiter in July 1979, Saturn in August 1981, and then Uranus. Voyager 2’s next encounter was with Neptune in August 1989. Both Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1, will eventually leave our solar system and enter interstellar space. Voyager 2’s images of the five largest moons around Uranus revealed complex surfaces indicative of varying geologic pasts. The cameras also detected 10 previously unseen moons.

Several instruments studied the ring system, uncovering the fine detail of the previously known rings and two newly detected rings. Voyager data showed that the planet’s rate of rotation is 17 hours, 14 minutes. The spacecraft also found a Uranian magnetic field that is both large and unusual. In addition, the temperature of the equatorial region, which receives less sunlight over a Uranian year, is nevertheless about the same as that at the poles.

So we don’t know how we’re going to break this to you – but you’ve probably been pronouncing it wrong your whole life. Many scientists go with ‘U-rah-nus’ rather than ‘your anus’ – ie with an ‘ah’ sound in the middle.

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