ESO: VLT spots planet orbiting most massive star pair so far

The latest report from the European Southern Observatory (ESO):

ESO telescope images planet around most massive star pair to date

This image shows the most massive planet-hosting star pair to date, b Centauri, and its giant planet b Centauri b. This is the first time astronomers have directly observed a planet orbiting a star pair this massive and hot.  The star pair, which has a total mass of at least six times that of the Sun, is the bright object in the top left corner of the image, the bright and dark rings around it being optical artefacts. The planet, visible as a bright dot in the lower right of the frame, is ten times as massive as Jupiter and orbits the pair at 100 times the distance Jupiter orbits the Sun. The other bright dot in the image (top right) is a background star. By taking different images at different times, astronomers were able to distinguish the planet from the background stars.  The image was captured by the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope and using a coronagraph, which blocked the light from the massive star system and allowed astronomers to detect the faint planet.

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) has captured an image of a planet orbiting b Centauri, a two-star system that can be seen with the naked eye. This is the hottest and most massive planet-hosting star system found to date, and the planet was spotted orbiting it at 100 times the distance Jupiter orbits the Sun. Some astronomers believed planets could not exist around stars this massive and this hot — until now.

Finding a planet around b Centauri was very exciting since it completely changes the picture about massive stars as planet hosts,”

explains Markus Janson, an astronomer at Stockholm University, Sweden and first author of the new study published online today in Nature.

Located approximately 325 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus, the b Centauri two-star system (also known as HIP 71865) has at least six times the mass of the Sun, making it by far the most massive system around which a planet has been confirmed. Until now, no planets had been spotted around a star more than three times as massive as the Sun.

Most massive stars are also very hot, and this system is no exception: its main star is a so-called B-type star that is over three times as hot as the Sun. Owing to its intense temperature, it emits large amounts of ultraviolet and X-ray radiation.

The large mass and the heat from this type of star have a strong impact on the surrounding gas, that should work against planet formation. In particular, the hotter a star is, the more high-energy radiation it produces, which causes the surrounding material to evaporate faster.

B-type stars are generally considered as quite destructive and dangerous environments, so it was believed that it should be exceedingly difficult to form large planets around them,”

Janson says.

But the new discovery shows planets can in fact form in such severe star systems.

The planet in b Centauri is an alien world in an environment that is completely different from what we experience here on Earth and in our Solar System,

explains co-author Gayathri Viswanath, a PhD student at Stockholm University.

It’s a harsh environment, dominated by extreme radiation, where everything is on a gigantic scale: the stars are bigger, the planet is bigger, the distances are bigger.

Indeed, the planet discovered, named b Centauri (AB)b or b Centauri b, is also extreme. It is 10 times as massive as Jupiter, making it one of the most massive planets ever found. Moreover, it moves around the star system in one of the widest orbits yet discovered, at a distance a staggering 100 times greater than the distance of Jupiter from the Sun. This large distance from the central pair of stars could be key to the planet’s survival.

This artist’s impression shows a close up of the planet b Centauri b, which orbits a binary system with mass at least six times that of the Sun. This is the most massive and hottest planet-hosting star system found to date. The planet is ten times as massive as Jupiter and orbits the two-star system at 100 times the distance Jupiter orbits the Sun.

These results were made possible thanks to the sophisticated Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument (SPHERE) mounted on ESO’s VLT in Chile. SPHERE has successfully imaged several planets orbiting stars other than the Sun before, including taking the first ever-image of two planets orbiting a Sun-like star.

However, SPHERE was not the first instrument to image this planet. As part of their study, the team looked into archival data on the b Centauri system and discovered that the planet had actually been imaged more than 20 years ago by the ESO 3.6-m telescope, though it was not recognised as a planet at the time.

With ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), due to start observations later this decade, and with upgrades to the VLT, astronomers may be able to unveil more about this planet’s formation and features.

“It will be an intriguing task to try to figure out how it might have formed, which is a mystery at the moment,”

concludes Janson.


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The Space Show this week – Dec.6.2021

The guests and topics of discussion on The Space Show this week:

1. Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021; 7 pm PST (9 pm CST, 10 pm EST): We welcome back Robert Zimmerman for his 2021 summary program with a look ahead for all space news and more.

2. Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021; 1:00 pm PST (3:00 pm CST, 4:00 pm EST) – Hotel Mars: Dr. Jeff Foust talks with John Batchelor and Dr. David Livingston about the first National Space Council Meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris presiding.

3. Friday, Dec.10, 2021; 9:30-11 am PST (11:30 am-1 pm CST, 12:30-2 pm EST): We welcome back Dr. Malcolm LeCompte regarding the possible asteroid strike in the Near East several thousand years ago. Malcolm was a recent Hotel Mars guest.

4. Sunday, Dec.12, 2021; 12-1:30 pm PST (2-3:30 pm CST, 3-4:30 pm EST): Welcome to the last OPEN LINES program for 2021. Make sure we hear from you. All callers welcome. 1-866-687-7223

Annual fund raising drive.

Support The Space Show: Won’t You Please Help The Space Show This Giving Tuesday? | The Space Show

… The Space Show needs your help to enable us to have another strong year promoting all things space and what we each do to work towards the benefits for all by developing our space resources.

Through our full year of programing in 2021 which is just about to end, we have documented much of what has happened this year in space. Looking forward to 2022, we will, with your help, continue to grow and our focus on space will get sharper as space continues to make all our lives better. In June 2021, we started our 20th year. WOW! I am still awed by that fact and humbled by all of you who participate in what The Space Show does each week and has been doing for more than 20 years. Thank you so much for your support as it is greatly appreciated.

Only with your continued help and dedication, can we continue making available to you a quality forum to promote your interests, your IP, books, products and ideas. The Space Show vision burns as bright as ever as we continue in our 20th anniversary on to our 21st year starting in June 2022.

In keeping with our previous history over the last 20 years, this is the time of year for The Space Show/One Giant Leap Foundation to replenish itself to carry on for the upcoming new year, 2022. To make sure that The Space Show meets the challenges of 2022 , we need partners just like you to help us stay strong and keep going as we are completely listener funded. We can’t go it alone, we need your help and support. We need listeners and supporters just like you to help make it so. Many of you listen to our programs and participate with us without contributing or supporting us. While our content is distributed free of charge, it does come with a high production cost so please continue listening and participating but do financially support us for 2022. Don’t rely on others to keep The Space Show strong for your listening pleasure. Keeping us strong is a group activity and we need your financial support along with your participation in our programming so please donate to The Space Show/One Giant Leap Foundation during our annual campaign which is now underway. We also greatly appreciate our existing supporters and ask you for your continued support. Please don’t forget to inquire about our Advisory Board participation and the sponsorship options available to Space Show supporters. …

Some recent shows:

** Tuesday, Nov.30.2021Dr. Brian Weeden discussed the recent “Russian ASAT test, space traffic management, space weaponization, space liability concerns, consequences for creating space debris and more“.

** Wednesday, Dec.1.2021 –  Hotel Mars – Dr. Andy Rivkin spoke with John Batchelor and Dr. David Livingston about the recently launched NASA DART Mission.

** Sunday, Dec.5.2021Michael Listner discussed “the Russian ASAT test, policy and law issues regarding space for 2021 into 2022, the National Space Council, Artemis and more“.

** See also:
* The Space Show Archives
* The Space Show Newsletter
* The Space Show Shop

The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.

The Space Show - David Livingston
The Space Show – Dr. David Livingston

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Videos: “Space to Ground” & other space habitat reports – Dec.3.2021

Here is the latest episode in NASA’s Space to Ground weekly report on activities related to the International Space Station:

** Expedition 66 Spacewalk 78 Animation – November 29, 2021NASA

This animation discusses U.S. Spacewalk 78 in which NASA Astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Barron will replace a faulty S-band Antenna Subassembly, or SASA, with a spare antenna system already attached to the space station’s exterior. Marshburn and Barron will work at the Port 1 (P1) truss structure, where the antenna is mounted. The antenna recently lost its ability send signals to Earth via NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System in mid-September, but because of several redundancies on station, did not make a significant impact to station operations. This is the first spacewalk to replace a SASA since Joe Tanner and Heidi Stefanyshyn-Piper replaced a SASA on the S1 truss during STS-115 on Sept. 16, 2006.

** NASA Spacewalk to Replace Space Station AntennaNASA

Watch NASA astronauts Kayla Barron and Thomas Marshburn venture outside the International Space Station on Dec. 2 to replace a faulty antenna system. The antenna recently lost its ability to transmit low-rate voice communications and data to flight controllers in mission control, although it has had a limited impact on operations. The two astronauts will replace it with a spare.

The spacewalkers are expected to turn their spacesuits on to battery power at about 7:10 a.m. EST for an excursion slated to last about 6.5 hours. Marshburn will serve as extravehicular crew member 1 (EV 1), wearing a spacesuit with red stripes, and Barron will be extravehicular crew member 2 (EV 2), wearing a spacesuit with no stripes. European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer will provide support from inside the orbiting laboratory, maneuvering the Canadarm2 robotic arm that will carry Marshburn. This will be the fifth spacewalk for Marshburn, and the first for Barron.

** ISSRDC 2021: The Next Decade of ISS ResearchISS National Lab – YouTube

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) will be developing the next Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences Research in Space 2023-2032, which will serve as a critical framework to shape the upcoming vision and strategic plan for research efforts in the areas of biological and physical sciences in space. In this session, representatives from NASEM, NASA, the ISS National Lab, and the European Space Agency will discuss the future of space-based research on the ISS that can expand scientific knowledge while benefiting both space exploration and life on Earth.

Moderator: Jeff Foust: Senior Space Writer, Space News

Panelists: Krystyn J. Van Vliet, Ph.D.: Michael and Sonja Koerner Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, MIT and co-chair of the Decadal Survey on Biological and Physical Sciences Research in Space Doug Matson, Ph.D.: Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering, Tufts and ISSNL User Advisory Committee, Chair Tara Ruttley, Ph.D.: Associate Chief Scientist for Microgravity Research, NASA Thomas Driebe, Ph.D.: Head of Physical and Material Sciences Group in the Research & Exploration Department, DLR Space Agency, (German Aerospace Center) Richard Hughson, Ph.D.: Schlegel Research Chair in Vascular Aging and Brain Health, Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging, and Fellow, Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

** ISSRDC 2021: In Space Production Applications in the Low Earth Orbit Economy (Part 1)ISS National Lab – YouTube

To build a vibrant economy in space, it is critical that we identify products and services, advance technology development, and prove manufacturing processes for a sustainable and scalable market. The ISS is the only crewed orbital laboratory to be leveraged as a proving ground for in-space production leading to the future space-based economy. How might we best leverage the ISS toward that future? In the first session, we will discuss why this area is important to the nation and to the future of spaceflight.

Moderator: Alex MacDonald: Chief Economist, NASA and ISS National Lab Program Executive Panelists: Olivier de Weck, Ph.D.: Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems, MIT Ken Savin, Ph.D.: Senior Program Director of In-Space Production, CASIS (manager of the ISS National Lab) Christian Maender: Director, In-Space Manufacturing & Research, Axiom Space Ryan Prouty: Manager, Research Integration Office, International Space Station Program, NASA

** ISSRDC 2021: In Space Production Applications in the Low Earth Orbit Economy (Part 2)ISS National Lab – YouTube

To build a vibrant economy in space, it is critical that we identify products and services, advance technology development, and prove manufacturing processes for a sustainable and scalable market. The ISS is the only crewed orbital laboratory to be leveraged as a proving ground for in-space production leading to the future space-based economy. How might we best leverage the ISS toward that future? In the second session, we will dive into the perspectives from trailblazers in this area. What has to happen for more people to join the effort in shaping a robust and sustainable economy in low Earth orbit?

Moderator: Meagan Crawford: Managing Partner, SpaceFund Panelists: Rich Boling: Vice President of Corporate Advancement, Techshot, Kevin DiMarzio: Vice President, Business Development, Redwire Space Yusuf Erkul, M.D., CEO Co-Founder, Kernal Biologics

** Chinese space station living! Exercise, puzzle games & an Earth time-lapseVideoFromSpace / CCTV Video News Agency

Chinese taikonauts Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu are currently serving aboard the Tiangong space station in low-Earth orbit. Along with their space station duties they find time for exercise and puzzle games. Full Story:…

** Tiangong space station flies over china in amazing real-time & time-lapsed footageVideoFromSpace / CCTV Video News Agency

See the China’s Tiangong space station fly over several locations in China in these views captured in October 2021.

** NASA Selects Companies to Develop Commercial Destinations in Space | NASA


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Night sky highlights for December 2021

** What’s Up: December 2021 Skywatching Tips from NASA – NASA JPL

What are some skywatching highlights in December 2021? See three planets after sunset, but say goodbye to Venus as the “Evening Star” at the end of the month. Then have a hunt for newly discovered Comet Leonard in the early morning through mid-month. Finally, get up early on Dec. 14 to watch for Geminid meteors after local moonset, around 2 a.m. Additional information about topics covered in this episode of What’s Up, along with still images from the video, and the video transcript, are available at….

** Tonight’s Sky: DecemberSpace Telescope Science InstituteTonight’s Sky

Step outside on a cold December night when the stars shine bright to find the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, and Cepheus. They will help you locate a binary star system, a fan-shaped open star cluster, and a variable star. Stay tuned for space-based views of a ragged spiral galaxy, an open star cluster, and an edge-on galaxy.

** What to see in the night sky: December 2021BBC Sky at Night Magazine

What can you see in the night sky tonight? Pete Lawrence and Paul Abel December 2021’s night-sky highlights.

** What’s in the Night Sky December 2021 #WITNS | Comet Leonard | Geminid Meteor Shower | Solar Eclipse Alyn Wallace

** Night Sky Notebook December 2021Peter Detterline

** See also:

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ESO: VLT uncovers closest pair of supermassive black holes yet found

The latest report from  ESO (European Southern Observatory):

ESO telescope uncovers closest pair of supermassive black holes yet

This image shows close-up (left) and wide (right) views of the two bright galactic nuclei, each housing a supermassive black hole, in NGC 7727, a galaxy located 89 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Aquarius. Each nucleus consists of a dense group of stars with a supermassive black hole at its centre. The two black holes are on a collision course and form the closest pair of supermassive black holes found to date. It is also the pair with the smallest separation between two supermassive black holes found to date — observed to be just 1600 light-years apart in the sky.   The image on the left was taken with the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile while the one on the right was taken with ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope.

Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT), astronomers have revealed the closest pair of supermassive black holes to Earth ever observed. The two objects also have a much smaller separation than any other previously spotted pair of supermassive black holes and will eventually merge into one giant black hole.

Located in the galaxy NGC 7727 in the constellation Aquarius, the supermassive black hole pair is about 89 million light-years away from Earth. Although this may seem distant, it beats the previous record of 470 million light-years by quite some margin, making the newfound supermassive black hole pair the closest to us yet.

Supermassive black holes lurk at the centre of massive galaxies and when two such galaxies merge, the black holes end up on a collision course. The pair in NGC 7727 beat the record for the smallest separation between two supermassive black holes, as they are observed to be just 1600 light-years apart in the sky.

“It is the first time we find two supermassive black holes that are this close to each other, less than half the separation of the previous record holder,”

says Karina Voggel, an astronomer at the Strasbourg Observatory in France and lead author of the study published online today in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

“The small separation and velocity of the two black holes indicate that they will merge into one monster black hole, probably within the next 250 million years,”

adds co-author Holger Baumgardt, a professor at the University of Queensland, Australia. The merging of black holes like these could explain how the most massive black holes in the Universe come to be.

Voggel and her team were able to determine the masses of the two objects by looking at how the gravitational pull of the black holes influences the motion of the stars around them. The bigger black hole, located right at the core of NGC 7727, was found to have a mass almost 154 million times that of the Sun, while its companion is 6.3 million solar masses.

Just as people at a busy crossroad may accidentally bump into each other, so too can galaxies in the Universe! But in this case, the outcome is more dramatic than a small nudge. When two galaxies clash, they merge into each other, giving birth to a new, bigger one. One example is the NGC 7727 galaxy, shown in this image from ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST) in Chile. Located 89 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Aquarius, NGC 7727 is believed to be the result of a clash between two galaxies that occurred about one billion years ago. The consequences of this tremendous cosmic bump are still evident in the peculiar, irregular shape of NGC 7727 and the streams of stars in its outer regions.  The image was taken in visible light as part of the VST-ATLAS survey. The goal of the survey is to map a vast region of the Southern Sky — so large you could fit about 19,000 full moons in it! By studying the galaxies in this region, astronomers aim to shed new light on the nature of dark energy, the mysterious force permeating the Universe and causing its accelerating expansion.

It is the first time the masses have been measured in this way for a supermassive black hole pair. This feat was made possible thanks to the close proximity of the system to Earth and the detailed observations the team obtained at the Paranal Observatory in Chile using the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) on ESO’s VLT, an instrument Voggel learnt to work with during her time as a student at ESO. Measuring the masses with MUSE, and using additional data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, allowed the team to confirm that the objects in NGC 7727 were indeed supermassive black holes.

Astronomers suspected that the galaxy hosted the two black holes, but they had not been able to confirm their presence until now since we do not see large amounts of high-energy radiation coming from their immediate surroundings, which would otherwise give them away.

“Our finding implies that there might be many more of these relics of galaxy mergers out there and they may contain many hidden massive black holes that still wait to be found,says Voggel. “It could increase the total number of supermassive black holes known in the local Universe by 30 percent.”

The search for similarly hidden supermassive black hole pairs is expected to make a great leap forward with ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), set to start operating later this decade in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

“This detection of a supermassive black hole pair is just the beginning,” says co-author Steffen Mieske, an astronomer at ESO in Chile and Head of ESO Paranal Science Operations. “With the HARMONI instrument on the ELT we will be able to make detections like this considerably further than currently possible. ESO’s ELT will be integral to understanding these objects.”


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