A team of astronomers has unveiled a striking new image of the Orion Molecular Cloud (OMC) – a bustling stellar nursery teeming with bright, young stars and dazzling regions of hot, glowing gas.
The researchers used the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia to study a 50 light-year long filament of star-forming gas that is wending its way through the northern portion of the OMC known as Orion A.
The GBT rendered this image by detecting the faint radio signals naturally emitted by molecules of ammonia that suffuse interstellar clouds. Scientists study these molecules to trace the motion and temperature of vast swaths of star-forming gas.
These observations are part of the first data release from a large campaign known as the Green Bank Ammonia Survey. Its purpose is to map all the star-forming ammonia and other key tracer molecules in a massive structure known as the Gould Belt.
The Gould Belt is an extended ribbon of bright, massive stars stretching about 3,000 light-years in an arc across the sky. This first release covers four distinct Gould Belt clouds, one located in Taurus, one in Perseus, one in Ophiuchus, and Orion A North in Orion.
Finding a tiny lost space-craft at a distance of 270,000 miles away may seem impossible, but NASA scientists have done just that. Using a new radar technique, they have located India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft which has been lost since August 2009, the last time any communication was received from it. Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to the moon, is a very small cube about five feet (1.5 meters) on each side — about half the size of a smart car. JPL scientists used NASA’s 70-meter (230-foot) antenna at NASA’s Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California to send out a powerful beam of microwaves directed toward the moon. Then the radar echoes bounced back from lunar orbit were received by the 100-meter (330-foot) Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia.
According to the NASA press release, the successful rediscovering of Chandrayaan-1 provides the start for a unique new capability. Ground-based radars using large antennas including the GBT could be used as a collisional hazard assessment tool and as a safety mechanism for spacecraft that encounter navigation or communication issues, in future robotic and human missions to the moon.
Astronomers combined data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope and the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) [and the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope] to find out that there is a peculiar source of radio waves originally thought to be a distant galaxy.
As it turns out, the source is a nearby binary star system with its low-mass star and a black hole. This discovery led the astronomers to believe that there are vast numbers of galaxies that remain undiscovered until today.
The first scientific search for intelligent life in the universe began in 1960 at the Green Bank Observatory, in Pocahontas County, with a four-month effort to detect interstellar radio signals from two stars in a relatively nearby constellation.
It continues today, as the observatory’s 300-foot Green Bank Telescope serves as a key component of Breakthrough Listen, a 10-year international search targeting the one million stars nearest Earth as well as the centers of the 100 galaxies closest to our Milky Way.
This summer, the Green Bank Observatory is hosting a series of behind-the-scenes tours allowing visitors to explore the Pocahontas County radio astronomy facility’s pioneering role in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI, for short) and learn about the key part it plays in Breakthrough Listen, the world’s most comprehensive SETI effort, involving a decade-long, $100 million probe that began in January.
Given scientists’ current understanding of how often galaxies merge, limits point to fewer detectable pairs of supermassive black holes than previously expected.
On the heels of their participation in the historic research that resulted in the detection of gravitational waves, West Virginia University (WVU) astrophysicists continue to plow new ground and build upon their work.
WVU scientists were members of the LIGO team that detected gravitational waves from merging pairs of black holes approximately 29 to 36 times the mass of the Sun, confirming that distortions in the fabric of space-time can be observed and measured.
WVU scientists are also continuing to make discoveries about the universe as members of North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav), which has spent the past decade searching for low-frequency gravitational waves emitted by pairs of black holes with masses many millions of times larger than those seen by LIGO.