Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

FUSE pierces the Veil

04.06.2004


Satellite pins down distance to important exploded star


An image of the entire Cygnus Loop in the light of hydrogen-alpha, 656.3 nm. (Data courtesy of Nancy Levenson.)



The Veil Nebula, a delicate network of glowing gaseous filaments in the northern constellation of Cygnus the Swan, has long been a favorite of both amateur and professional astronomers. Part of a much larger nebula known as the Cygnus Loop, the Veil is comprised of the leftovers of a star that exploded between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago.

For at least half a century, scientists have probed the Cygnus Loop with various techniques, trying to understand its physical characteristics as a model for comprehending a whole class of similar objects that cannot be observed in such detail. Even with intensive study, however, many of the Loop’s basic parameters, such as its distance and the density of its gaseous filaments, have been poorly understood.


But a creative new observation of a star situated behind the Veil Nebula may alter the way scientists think about this supernova remnant. At an American Astronomical Society meeting in Denver this week, astronomers from The Johns Hopkins University will provide confirmation that the Cygnus Loop is closer to Earth than many have thought. These new findings, obtained largely using the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) satellite, have a major impact on the derived properties of this important, prototypical object.

"The key to this result was in finding a background star with sufficient far-ultraviolet output to be observed with FUSE," says William P. Blair, a research professor at The Johns Hopkins University and the principal author of the study.

To identify the candidate star, Blair and his colleagues used an image of the Veil Nebula taken with the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope on a 1995 space shuttle flight. In the far-ultraviolet, most stars visible at optical wavelengths simply fade away.

"It was a real stroke of luck to find an ultraviolet-bright star located behind the Veil," Blair said.

Late last year, Blair and his colleagues trained FUSE -- a NASA satellite designed at and operated by a team at Johns Hopkins -- on the star, known only as KPD2055+311. The resulting spectrum of the star in ultraviolet light shows many absorption lines, or dips, in light intensity. Some of these dips arise in the star’s atmosphere or from cold molecular gas in the interstellar space along the way to the star. But some absorptions, attributable to very hot gas, must arise from the absorption within the Veil Nebula itself.

"Indeed, this confirmed for us that the star is behind the Cygnus Loop," Blair said.

Part two of the story involves the star itself. Blair’s group used the observed properties of the star and a model of the star’s emission to calculate a distance of 1,860 light years to KPD2055+311. (A light year is the distance light travels in one year, about 6 trillion miles.) Until a few years ago, astronomers placed the Cygnus Loop more than 2,500 light years distant.

In 1999, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope revised that estimate to 40 percent closer, or 1,470 light years. Nevertheless, uncertainties and assumptions used in making that estimate left some researchers unpersuaded. Because the star’s distance is well determined and it is located behind the Cygnus Loop, it places an upper boundary on the distance and provides an independent confirmation of the shorter distance scale.

According to Blair, the shorter distance makes "a tremendous difference" in the calculated size, age, energy and average expansion velocity of the supernova remnant compared with previous estimates.

"Since we want to use the Cygnus Loop to scale to similar objects, it is important to have an accurate starting point," Blair said. "This observation goes a long way toward improving our understanding of this important object."

Lisa De Nike | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.jhu.edu/
http://fuse.pha.jhu.edu/~wpb/cyglpstar.html ´

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht On Mars, sands shift to a different drum
24.05.2019 | University of Arizona

nachricht New Boost for ToCoTronics
23.05.2019 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New studies increase confidence in NASA's measure of Earth's temperature

A new assessment of NASA's record of global temperatures revealed that the agency's estimate of Earth's long-term temperature rise in recent decades is accurate to within less than a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, providing confidence that past and future research is correctly capturing rising surface temperatures.

The most complete assessment ever of statistical uncertainty within the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) data product shows that the annual values...

Im Focus: The geometry of an electron determined for the first time

Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.

The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

On Mars, sands shift to a different drum

24.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Piedmont Atlanta first in Georgia to offer new minimally invasive treatment for emphysema

24.05.2019 | Medical Engineering

Chemical juggling with three particles

24.05.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>