Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What Is NASA's Big Announcement?

On May 8, 2008, NASA scheduled a media teleconference for Wednesday, May 14, 2008, at 1 p.m. EDT, to announce:

"the discovery of an object in our Galaxy astronomers have been hunting for more than 50 years. "

This finding was made by combining data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory with ground-based observations.

Since the release of this media advisory, amateur astronomers across the internet have been wondering, "What is NASA's big announcement?" Let's examine three of the sky watcher's more entertaining guesses:

1. Black Hole - Nope. Been there, done that. Watch how Chandra helped to discover the protecting black hole of the Sagittarius A Star.

Beyond the Light: Black Holes - Chandra X-ray Observatory

2. Osama Bin Laden - Highly unlikely... Unless he's stolen someone's mojo, traveled back in time and is currently in a rocket orbiting the Earth. Not!

3. Class M Planet - Maybe. In January, the Epoxi Mission to Comet Hartley 2 was re-programmed to point the larger of its two telescopes at nearby previously discovered extrasolar planetary systems. Could it have passed on data that needed to be verified by Chandra?

Mums the word at NASA -- until Wednesday, that is.

To participate in the teleconference, reporters must contact the Chandra Press Office at 617-496-7998 or e-mail mwatzke@cfa.harvard.edu.

Live audio of the teleconference will be streamed online at 1 p.m. EDT: http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio (audio finished - link dead for this conference)

A video file about the discovery will air on NASA Television on May 14. NASA TV is carried on an MPEG-2 digital signal accessed via satellite AMC-6, at 72 degrees west longitude, transponder 17C, 4040 MHz, vertical polarization. NASA TV is available in Alaska and Hawaii on AMC-7 at 137 degrees west longitude, transponder 18C, at 4060 MHz, horizontal polarization.

For information about NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory on the Web, visit:

~ ~ ~

The truth is out there. -- And now it's here!

~~~ teleport through time to May 14, 2008 ~~~



Media Telecon:

May 14, 2008 (1 p.m. EDT)

Scientists have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and NRAO's Very Large Array to discover the most recent supernova explosion in our Galaxy, as measured in Earth's time frame.

Press Release

May 14, 2008

JD Harrington
Headquarters, Washington

Jennifer Morcone
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Megan Watzke
Chandra X-ray Center, Cambridge, Mass.

RELEASE: 08-126


WASHINGTON -- The most recent supernova in our galaxy has been discovered by tracking the rapid expansion of its remains. This result, using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array, will help improve our understanding of how often supernovae explode in the Milky Way galaxy.

The supernova explosion occurred about 140 years ago, making it the most recent in the Milky Way. Previously, the last known supernova in our galaxy occurred around 1680, an estimate based on the expansion of its remnant, Cassiopeia A.

Finding such a recent, obscured supernova is a first step in making a better estimate of how often the stellar explosions occur. This is important because supernovae heat and redistribute large amounts of gas, and pump heavy elements out into their surroundings. They can trigger the formation of new stars as part of a cycle of stellar death and rebirth. The explosion also can leave behind, in addition to the expanding remnant, a central neutron star or black hole.

The recent supernova explosion was not seen with optical telescopes because it occurred close to the center of the galaxy and is embedded in a dense field of gas and dust. This made the object about a trillion times fainter, in optical light, than an unobscured supernova. However, the remnant it caused can be seen by X-ray and radio telescopes.

"We can see some supernova explosions with optical telescopes across half of the universe, but when they're in this murk we can miss them in our own cosmic backyard," said Stephen Reynolds of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, who led the Chandra study. "Fortunately, the expanding gas cloud from the explosion shines brightly in radio waves and X-rays for thousands of years. X-ray and radio telescopes can see through all that obscuration and show us what we've been missing."

Astronomers regularly observe supernovae in other galaxies like ours. Based on those observations, researchers estimate about three explode every century in the Milky Way.

"If the supernova rate estimates are correct, there should be the remnants of about 10 supernova explosions that are younger than Cassiopeia A," said David Green of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who led the Very Large Array study. "It's great to finally track one of them down."

The tracking of this object began in 1985, when astronomers, led by Green, used the Very Large Array to identify the remnant of a supernova explosion near the center of our galaxy. Based on its small size, it was thought to have resulted from a supernova that exploded about 400 to 1000 years ago.

Twenty-two years later, Chandra observations revealed the remnant had expanded by a surprisingly large amount, about 16 percent, since 1985. This indicates the supernova remnant is much younger than previously thought.

That young age was confirmed in recent weeks when the Very Large Array made new radio observations. This comparison of data pinpoints the age of the remnant at 140 years - possibly less if it has been slowing down - making it the youngest on record in the Milky Way.

Besides being the record holder for youngest supernova, the object is of considerable interest for other reasons. The high expansion velocities and extreme particle energies that have been generated are unprecedented and should stimulate deeper studies of the object with Chandra and the Very Large Array.

"No other object in the galaxy has properties like this," Reynolds said. "This find is extremely important for learning more about how some stars explode and what happens in the aftermath."

These results are scheduled to appear in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.

Additional information and images about this discovery is available on the Web at:


Instant replays are generally available one hour after a call ends, and will be through MAY-21-08 10:59 PM (CT)
Toll Free :866-501-2957
Toll: 203-369-1825

A video file about the discovery will air on NASA Television on May 14 at noon and 1pm (check the NASA TV schedule for additional times). NASA TV is carried on an MPEG-2 digital signal accessed via satellite AMC-6, at 72 degrees west longitude, transponder 17C, 4040 MHz, vertical polarization. NASA TV is available in Alaska and Hawaii on AMC-7 at 137 degrees west longitude, transponder 18C, at 4060 MHz, horizontal polarization.

Dr. Stephen Reynolds, North Carolina State University
Dr. Dave Green, University of Cambridge
Dr. Robert Kirshner, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Bios Page


Figure 1.1985 VLA and 2007 Chandra images of the supernova remnant G1.9+0.3, with a circle for size comparison.

Figure 1. (Cont'd). Blink between 1985 VLA and 2007 Chandra images.

Figure 2. Optical image of the plane of the Milky Way, with G1.9+0.3 labeled.

Figure 3.1985 VLA (radio) and 2008 VLA (X-ray) images of the supernova remnant G1.9+0.3.

Figure 3. (cont'd). Blink between 1985 and 2008 VLA images.

Figure 4. Chandra images of historical supernova remnants in the Milky Way.

Figure 5. An artist's impression of the Milky Way with positions of historial supernovas and G1.9+0.3.

Supplementary Graphics

Figure 6. A composite image of G1.9+0.3 with Chandra X-ray (2007, orange); VLA Radio (1985, blue)

Figure 7. An artist's close-up view of the supernova that caused G1.9+0.3.

Figure 8. An animation showing a flight into the Milky Way's center and a supernova explosion there. PLAY

Figure 9. A movie showing a large 2MASS image, with zooms to the Galactic Center and G1.9+0.3. PLAY

Figure 10. A Chandra X-ray mosaic of the Milky Way's plane (galaxy center in middle; G1.9+0.3 is outside this two degree wide field).

Figure 11.This extraordinarily deep Chandra image shows Cassiopeia A, the previous record holder for the youngest Galactic supernova remnant.

Figure 12. Landscape photo of the Very Large Array antenna with the moon.

Figure 13. Chandra X-ray Observatory - Spacecraft Illustration with Galactic Center Background.

Additional Information


Full Author List: Stephen P. Reynolds(Department of Physics, North Carolina State University), Kazimierz J. Borkowski (Department of Physics, North Carolina State University), David A. Green (Cavendish Laboratory; Cambridge, UK), Una Hwang (NASA/GSFC), Ilana Harrus (NASA/GSFC) & Robert Petre (NASA/GSFC).

VLA radio confirmation paper:
The radio expansion and brightening of the very young supernova remnant G1.9+0.3 (pdf format), David A. Green et al. 2008, MNRAS Letters

Scientist Contact Information:
Steve Reynolds: reynolds@ncsu.edu, 919-515-7751
Dave Green: dag@mrao.cam.ac.uk, +44 1223 337305
Bob Kirshner: rkirshner@cfa.harvard.edu, 617-495-7519

Image captions
Animation captions
Image release
Press release


covertress said...

New theories just in:

1. Sun-like star igniting
2. Missing mass of the universe
3. The lost astronaut glove
4. Event horizon of a black hole
5. Another civilization

Please add yours. I'd love to see if anyone pegs the true nature of this announcement.

Cybrspin said...

1. Wormhole
2. Stargate
3. Transporter co-ords of D.B Cooper

Anonymous said...

1. my keys

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Breaking News: NASA announces Chandra has previously observed an anomaly emitted from a black hole at more than six times the speed of light. Albert Einstein is presently in U.S. Air Force custody and being de-briefed. He appears to be 42 years younger than when he died.

Anonymous said...

er... there is no such thing as a "class M planet".

Maybe NASA has discovered Tribbles.........

covertress said...

A Class M planet is a fictional classification of a planet in the science fiction franchise Star Trek. The class denotes a planet that is suitable for supporting humanoid life. They usually have oxygen/nitrogen atmospheres, suitable surface temperatures for humanoid life, and are water rich. Earth is considered a textbook example of a Class M planet.

johnnydigit said...

1. a lens of someone looking back at us.

Anonymous said...

dark matter!

Anonymous said...

I know it won't be, but I really hope that they admit to some kind of bug on Mars. At least some photosynthetic lichen-ish slime or something. Prokaryotes even. Anything.
Knowing the inhospitable places microbes colonize here, a Martian summer near the poles would be paradise.

Anonymous said...

"...been searching for for 50 years...."

Hmmmm - SETI was first fired up almost exactly 50 years ago...

Anonymous said...

1. A decent-sized research grant
2. A large black monolith
3. Something to wipe Uranus

covertress said...


Anonymous said...

Nasa has found a new oil facility to relieve the gas prices.

Anonymous said...

Nasa faud only supernova? Nasa serching it from 50 years???
great delusion

Argentian said...

Supernova, eh? Well, I guess we all have our priorities in life. People need to understand that it can still be a cool situation, even if it is OUR cool situation.