First stuffed animal created in space

A dinosaur is floating around the International Space Station.  NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, a flight engineer orbiting the Earth since May, stitched together the olive green toy, the first stuffed animal created in space, in her spare time.  She made the toy giant lizard from the Velcro-like fabric that lines the Russian food containers found on the space station, and stuffed it with scraps from a used T-shirt.

 

Marty,

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Amateurs discover unique new planet PH1

Kian Jek and Robert Gagliano discovered PH1 while participating in the "Planet Hunter" program led by Yale University.  The program allows amateur astronomers team up with professional scientists to search for new discoveries with data collected from NASA's Kepler space telescope.  "Planet Hunters is a symbiotic project, pairing the discovery power of the people with follow-up by a team of astronomers," said Debra Fischerv, a Yale astronomy professor who helped launch the project.

PH1, the newly discovered planet is roughly 6.2 times the size of Earth.  What's amazing about it is that the planet has two suns!!!  On top of that, it is orbited by two more stars!  "This unique system might have been entirely missed if not for the sharp eyes of the public," said Fischerv.  Only six planets have ever been discovered to have two parent stars.  These types of planets are called "circumbinary planets".  None of the discoveries have ever had two additional stars!  These circumbinary planets were once only in science fiction, the most popular being the planet "Tatooine", Luke Skywalker's home in Star Wars.

"It's a great honor to be a Planet Hunter, citizen scientist, and work hand in hand with professional astronomers, making a real contribution to science," Gagliano said.

"It still continues to astonish me how we can detect, let alone glean so much information, about another planet thousands of light-years away just by studying the light from its parent star," Jek said.

Great job you two!

 

Peace & Love,

Jon

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Star births seen on cosmic scale in distant galaxy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists have found a cosmic supermom. It's a galaxy that gives births to more stars in a day than ours does in a year.

Astronomers used NASA's Chandra X-Ray telescope to spot this distant gigantic galaxy creating about 740 new stars a year. By comparison, our Milky Way galaxy spawns just about one new star each year.

The galaxy is about 5.7 billion light years away in the center of a recently discovered cluster of galaxies that give off the brightest X-ray glow astronomers have seen. It is by far the biggest creation of stars that astronomers have seen for this kind of galaxy. Other types, such as colliding galaxies, can produce even more stars, astronomers said.

But this is the size, type and age of galaxy that shouldn't be producing stars at such a rapid pace, said the authors of a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

"It's very extreme," said Harvard University astronomer Ryan Foley, co-author of the study. "It pushes the boundaries of what we understand."

The unnamed galaxy — officially known by a string of letters and numbers — is about 3 trillion times the size of our sun, said study lead author Michael McDonald of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

There's another strange thing about this galaxy. It's fairly mature, maybe 6 billion years old. Usually, this kind "don't do anything new... what we call red and dead," McDonald said in an interview. "It seems to have come back to life for some reason."

Because of that back-to-life situation, the team of 85 astronomers has nicknamed the galaxy cluster Phoenix, after the bird that rises from the ashes. The galaxy that is producing the stars at a rate of two per day is the biggest and most prominent of many galaxies there.

It's "helping us answer this basic question of how do galaxies form their stars," said Michigan State University astronomer Megan Donahue, who wasn't part of the study but praised it.

There's lots of very hot hydrogen gas between galaxies. When that gas cools to below zero, the gas can form stars, McDonald said. But only 10 percent of the gas in the universe becomes stars, Donahue said.

That's because the energy from black holes in the center of galaxies counteract the cooling. There's a constant "tussle between black holes and star formation," said Sir Martin Rees, a prominent astrophysicist at the University of Cambridge in England. He was not part of the study, but commented on it during a NASA teleconference Wednesday.

In this case, the black hole in the central galaxy seems to be unusually quiet compared to other supermassive black holes, Rees said. "So it's losing the tussle," he said.

But this massive burst of star birth is probably only temporary because there's only so much fuel and limits to how big a galaxy can get, Foley said.

"It could be just a very short-lived phase that every galaxy cluster has and we just got lucky here" to see it, Foley said.

 

Borenstein, Seth. "Star births seen on cosmic scale in distant galaxy" AP. 16 August 2012. Web.

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