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 Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab
15.08.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity
15.08.2018 | University of California - Riverside

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: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Diving robots find Antarctic winter seas exhale surprising amounts of carbon dioxide

15.08.2018 | Earth Sciences

Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>