NOAO < NOAO Home Page News Archive

NOAO Home Page News Archive

Recent News from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (Page 1 of 19)

Image Credit: T. Lauer and NASA/JPL.

Pluto’s “Washboard Terrain”: Evidence of Ancient Glaciers

Pluto’s terrain shows a “washboard” pattern of fine ridges just north of its great frozen nitrogen sea, Sputnik Planitia. A recent study by the New Horizons team argues that the ridges are deposits of water ice left behind as an ancient frozen nitrogen glacier that once covered the area sublimed away. Water-ice is buoyant in nitrogen ice and is expected to collect in pits formed on the surface of the glacier as the nitrogen sublimes. NOAO Astronomer Tod Lauer is a coauthor on the study.

Read more from the Seti Institute.

Image Credit: Rongpu Zhou; Overlay: Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias.

Cosmic Dance of Tiny Galaxies

Astronomers have discovered that the tiny Sextans dwarf galaxy, which is 100,000 times less massive than the Milky Way, is undergoing a merger with an even smaller companion galaxy. While large galaxies like the Milky Way are thought to form through mergers with smaller galaxies, the new result illustrates how even the smallest galaxies may form that way. The discovery was made with data from the 4-m Blanco Telescope at CTIO.

Read more at phys.org.

Image Credit: R. Hahn & Dark Energy Survey; Overlay: R. M. Candanosa & S. Sheppard, courtesy Carnegie Institution for Science.

Extreme Dwarf Planet Discovered in Search for Planet X

Discovered in part with DECam at CTIO, a new dwarf planet patrols the outer Solar System on a highly elongated orbit: it travels within 65 AU of the Sun at closest approach and as far away as 1000 AU. With its distant orbit, the small planet (300 kilometers in diameter) is sensitive to the dynamics at the edge of the Solar System — and the presence of more massive outer Solar System planets, such as the hypothetical Planet X.

Read more the Carnegie Science press release.

Image Credit: M. Urzúa Zuñiga/Gemini Observatory; Inset: NASA

Ultra-short Period Planet Found by TESS and Confirmed with CHIRON

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered a “hot Earth” in orbit around a star 45 light years away. The planet, which is only 30% larger than Earth, orbits very close to its star, with a period of just 11 hours. The discovery was confirmed using multiple facilities including the CHIRON spectrograph on the SMARTS 1.5m telescope at CTIO.

Read more in the paper posted on arXiv: https://arxiv.org/abs/1809.07242


Video: M.Newhouse, J. Najita & NOAO/AURA/NSF

NSF’s Windows on the Universe Center for Astronomy Outreach at Kitt Peak

A new $4.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will fund the development of a new center for astronomy outreach at Kitt Peak National Observatory. Located in the iconic McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope Facility, the center will provide the public with a new way to experience the cutting-edge research carried out at Kitt Peak and NSF’s other astronomy facilities around the globe, including ground-based optical, radio, and gravitational wave facilities.

View & Share the Trailer Video
Read more in NOAO Press Release 18-03.

Image Credit: DECaLS

DESI Imaging Legacy Surveys Publish Seventh Data Release

The slideshow above highlights images from the Legacy Surveys’ Data Release 7 (DR7), which covers more than a quarter of the sky. More DR7 images of galaxies in Halton Arp’s Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies are available online.

Read more about DR7 in the latest issue of NOAO Currents, which also describes exoplanet observing time available with CHIRON, news from the SOAR and Blanco telescopes, research opportunities for time domain astronomy (ZTF, ANTARES), and more.

Image Credit: R. Hahn & Dark Energy Survey; Inset Credit: NAOJ

Star Sends Clues to its Demise Hours Before its Death

A research team has discovered that supernovae generated by red supergiants are often preceded by a bright flash, created when expanding gas from the supernova collides with a dense stellar wind launched by the star just before it explodes. To make their discovery, the team studied stars at the time of explosion, by scanning the skies rapidly for 14 nights using DECam on the NSF’s CTIO Blanco telescope. The result has been published in Nature Astronomy.

Read more in the press releases from:
CTIO (also en Español)
Universidad de Chile (also en Español)

Image Credit: DECaLS

DESI Imaging Legacy Surveys Publish Seventh Data Release

The slideshow above highlights images from the Legacy Surveys’ Data Release 7 (DR7), which covers more than a quarter of the sky. More DR7 images of galaxies in Halton Arp’s Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies are available online.

Read more about DR7 in the latest issue of NOAO Currents, which also describes exoplanet observing time available with CHIRON, news from the SOAR and Blanco telescopes, research opportunities for time domain astronomy (ZTF, ANTARES), and more.

Background Image Credit: P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF; Overlay Credit: John Livingston

44 Planets Beyond the Solar System

Speckle imaging observations made at the WIYN telescope on Kitt Peak have been used, in combination with data from other facilities, to confirm the existence of 44 exoplanets. Four of the planets have orbital periods shorter than a day. Sixteen have sizes within twice that of the Earth. The graphic illustrates the planetary sizes and surface temperatures and compares their orbital radii to that of Mercury. The discoveries were made by a team that includes NOAO astronomer Mark Everett. The observations were acquired under the NN-EXPLORE program, a joint program of the NSF and NASA for the discovery and characterization of extrasolar planets.

Read more in the Science Daily article

Animation Credit: Gemini Observatory, artwork by Lynette Cook

A Blast from the Past
200 Year Old “Message in a Bottle” from a Star that Survived

Light echoes — starlight reflected toward us by interstellar dust clouds — are the next best thing to time travel. Light echoes from the “Great Eruption” in the mid-1800’s of eta Carinae reveal critical details about a centuries-old event: material ejected from the star at extremely high velocity. The blast released as much energy as a typical supernova explosion, although in this case the star survived! Observations made with the CTIO Blanco and Gemini South telescopes led to the discovery.

Read more in the press release from Gemini Observatory. See also this press release from the Space Telescope Science Institute.