Did an unstable ‘luminous blue variable’ star some 2.5 million times brighter than the Sun in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy collapse into a black hole without producing a supernova. Or, did it become become partially obscured by dust, like the detection of the infamous Tabby’s “alien megastructure star” discovered in 2016 by a group of astronomers at Penn State University that went viral as “the most mysterious star in the universe.”
Revealed by ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT)
Between 2001 and 2011, various teams of astronomers using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) studied the mysterious object. Their observations indicated it was in a late stage of its evolution. Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin and his collaborators in Ireland, Chile and the US wanted to find out more about how very massive stars end their lives, and the object in the Kinman Dwarf seemed like the perfect target.
However when they aimed ESO’s VLT at the distant galaxy in 2019, the telltale signatures of the star had vanished. “Instead, we were surprised to find out that the star had disappeared!” says Allan, who led a study of the star published today in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The Kinman Dwarf Galaxy
Located some 75 million light-years from Earth, the dwarf galaxy is too far away for astronomers to see its individual stars, but they can detect the signatures of some of them. From 2001 to 2011, the light from the galaxy consistently showed evidence that it hosted the unstable object with its occasional dramatic shifts in their spectra and brightness. Even with those shifts, luminous blue variables leave specific traces scientists can identify, but they were absent from the data the team collected in 2019, leaving them to wonder what had happened to the star.
“It would be highly unusual for such a massive star to disappear without producing a bright supernova explosion,” says Allan.
The group first turned the ESPRESSO instrument toward the star in August 2019, using the VLT’s four 8-meter telescopes simultaneously. But they were unable to find the signs that previously pointed to the presence of the luminous star. A few months later, the group tried the X-shooter instrument, also on ESO’s VLT, and again found no traces of the star.
Clues in Old Data
“We may have detected one of the most massive stars of the local Universe going gently into the night,” says team-member , physicist Jose Groh, also of Trinity College Dublin. “Our discovery would not have been made without using the powerful ESO 8-meter telescopes, and the prompt access to those capabilities following the recent agreement of Ireland to join ESO” in September 2018.
The team then turned to older data collected using X-shooter and the UVES instrument on ESO’s VLT, located in the Chilean Atacama Desert, and telescopes elsewhere.“The ESO Science Archive Facility enabled us to find and use data of the same object obtained in 2002 and 2009,” says Andrea Mehner, a staff astronomer at ESO in Chile who participated in the study. “The comparison of the 2002 high-resolution UVES spectra with our observations obtained in 2019 with ESO’s newest high-resolution spectrograph ESPRESSO was especially revealing, from both an astronomical and an instrumentation point of view.”
From Very Large to Extremely Large Telescope
The old data indicated that the star in the Kinman Dwarf could have been undergoing a strong outburst period that likely ended sometime after 2011. Luminous blue variable stars such as this one are prone to experiencing giant outbursts over the course of their life, causing the stars’ rate of mass loss to spike and their luminosity to increase dramatically.
Future studies are needed to confirm what fate befell this star. Planned to begin operations in 2025, ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will be capable of resolving stars in distant galaxies such as the Kinman Dwarf, helping to solve cosmic mysteries such as this one.
The Daily Galaxy, Jake Burba, via ESO
Rocket Lab launch fails during rocket's second stage burn, causing a loss of vehicle and payloads – Yahoo Finance UK
The mission appeared to be progressing as intended, but the launch vehicle appeared to experience unexpected stress during the ‘Max Q’ phase of launch, or the period during which the Electron rocket experiences the most significant atmospheric pressure prior to entering space.
Launch video cut off around six minutes after liftoff during the live stream, and rocket was subsequently shown to be falling from its current altitude before the web stream was cut short. Rocket Lab then revealed via Twitter that the Electron vehicle was lost during the second stage burn, and committed to sharing more information when it becomes available.
This is an unexpected development for Rocket Lab, which has flown 11 uneventful consecutive Electron missions since the beginning of its program.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck posted an apology to Twitter, noting that all satellites were lost, and that he’s "incredibly sorry" to all customer who suffered loss of payload today. That includes Canon, which was flying a new Earth imaging satellite with demonstration imaging tech on board, as well as Planet, which had five satellites for its newest and most advanced Earth imaging constellation on the vehicle.” data-reactid=”23″>Rocket Lab CEO and founder Peter Beck posted an apology to Twitter, noting that all satellites were lost, and that he’s “incredibly sorry” to all customer who suffered loss of payload today. That includes Canon, which was flying a new Earth imaging satellite with demonstration imaging tech on board, as well as Planet, which had five satellites for its newest and most advanced Earth imaging constellation on the vehicle.
We’ll update with more info about the cause and next steps from Rocket Lab when available.
Rocket Lab Electron launch fails – SpaceNews
Updated 6:15 p.m. Eastern.
WASHINGTON — A Rocket Lab Electron rocket failed to reach orbit during a July 4 launch after a problem during the rocket’s second-stage burn.
The Electron rocket lifted off from the company’s Launch Complex 1 at Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, at 5:19 p.m. Eastern. The launch was originally scheduled for July 3 but pushed back two days because of poor weather in the forecast, only for the company to move up the launch to July 4 based on a reassessment of the weather.
The initial phases of the launch appeared to go as planned, although the vehicle’s passage through “max-q,” or maximum dynamic pressure, appeared to be rougher than what was seen in previous launches. Onboard video taken shortly before first-stage separation showed material appearing to peel from the rocket, although it was not clear if it simply a decal applied to the rocket or something more substantial.
The onboard video from the rocket froze about five minutes and 45 seconds after liftoff, or three minutes into the seconds stage burn. At six and a half minutes after liftoff, a launch controller on the company’s webcast of the launch said, “Initiating mishap response plan.”
Telemetry from the rocket, displayed on the webcast, showed the rocket’s altitude falling from about 194 kilometers to less than 165 kilometers for about 90 seconds before that information was removed from the screen. The company ended the webcast 11 minutes after liftoff, two minutes after the rocket’s second stage should have shut down and the kick stage, carrying its payload of seven satellites, deployed.
“An issue was experienced today during Rocket Lab’s launch that caused the loss of the vehicle. We are deeply sorry to the customers on board Electron,” the company tweeted about 25 minutes after liftoff. “The issue occurred late in the flight during the 2nd stage burn. More information will be provided as it becomes available.”
“We lost the flight late into the mission. I am incredibly sorry that we failed to deliver our customers satellites today,” Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, tweeted after the failure. “Rest assured we will find the issue, correct it and be back on the pad soon.”
The launch was the 13th for the Electron rocket. The vehicle had 11 consecutive successful launches after the rocket’s inaugural launch in May 2017 was terminated because of a telemetry issue involving range safety systems, and not a problem with the rocket itself.
The primary payload for the launch was CE-SAT-1B, a 67-kilogram imaging satellite built by Canon Electronics, whose launch was arranged by Spaceflight Inc. The satellite, capable of taking images with a resolution of 90 centimeters, was intended to demonstrate the spacecraft’s technologies as the company prepared mass production of similar satellites.
“This launch is very critical for Canon Electronics as we are launching a satellite where we have remarkably increased the ratio of in-house development of components compared to the previous launch,” said Nobutada Sako, group executive of the Satellite Systems Lab at Canon Electronics said in a pre-launch release. Canon launched a similar satellite, CE-SAT-1, in 2017.
The rocket carried five SuperDove imaging cubesats developed by Planet. These satellites are upgraded versions of its original Dove line of cubesats, with additional spectral bands to support geospatial applications in fields like architecture.
The seventh satellite on the Electron was Faraday-1, a six-unit cubesat developed by British startup In-Space Missions. The satellite is the first in a series by the company designed to carry hosted payloads. Faraday-1 included payloads for several customers such Airbus Defence and Space, which flew a payload called Prometheus 1 to test a reprogrammable software-defined radio.
This mission, dubbed “Pics or It Didn’t Happen” by Rocket Lab, featured the shortest turnaround time between Electron missions to date. The previous Electron launch, which carried three National Reconnaissance Office satellites and smallsats for American and Australian universities, launched June 13.
After a halt in launch activity caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Rocket Lab had planned to ramp up its launch activity in the second half of the year. The next mission after this was to take place with an even shorter turnaround, Beck said in a June 18 interview. The company was also looking ahead to a first Electron launch from Launch Complex 2 in Virginia that, prior to this failure, was expected to take place before the end of the summer.
'Canada, Canada, Cana…da': Researchers Spot Change To White-Throated Sparrow's Song – NPR
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Experienced birders might be familiar with the sounds of the white-throated sparrow. Some say the end of the call sounds like the word Canada repeated several times.
(SOUNDBITE OF WHITE-THROATED SPARROW CALLING)
KEN OTTER: Canada, Canada, Canada, Canada.
KELLY: That is Dr. Ken Otter. In 2000 he was doing his first field study in northern British Columbia. He was studying area bird populations and made a discovery.
OTTER: I was working on chickadees, but I noticed that there was white-throated sparrows around.
KELLY: White-throated sparrows – they weren’t known to be in the area, but there they were. And they sounded a bit different.
OTTER: They were going, can-a-can-a-can-a-Canada-da (ph), almost like they were stuttering that last phrase.
(SOUNDBITE OF WHITE-THROATED SPARROW CALLING)
KELLY: Otter figured this unusual new tune was maybe specific to this one community of sparrows.
OTTER: It wasn’t until seven or eight years later that we started to realize that the song was actually spreading eastwards.
KELLY: Yeah. In 2004 only around half of the sparrows in Alberta, Canada, were singing the song. By 2014, that had changed. You might say the tweet went viral.
OTTER: All the birds in Alberta were now singing this Western dialect.
KELLY: Now, Otter does not know why exactly this new song has caught on. He imagines this little spark of variation maybe might improve a male sparrow’s chances with the ladies.
OTTER: If there’s a little bit of female preference, which is something we want to test next, then it would be advantageous for males to sing an atypical song. And after a while, it would just take over.
KELLY: In that case, it seems like the white-throated sparrow’s sultry new crooner is here to stay.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE BEATLES’ “FLYING”)
KELLY: You’re listening to All Tweets Considered.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.
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