Massimo Luciani

The Center for NEO Studies (CNEOS) website's home page

NASA has activated the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), its program for the detection and tracking of space objects belonging to the NEO (Near-Earth Object) category, meaning the type whose orbit is close to that of Earth. This office is part of the agency’s Planetary Science Division, will be responsible for coordinating all projects connected to NEO-type asteroids and comets and will have a leading role in coordinating efforts with other agencies and governments about potential impact threats.

Gamma ray map of the sky created using the new Fermi Space Telescope catalog (Image NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration)

At the 227th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Kissimmee, Florida there was a presentation of significant improvements that NASA obtained to the performance of its Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The data collected by its Large Area Telescope (LAT) instrument were analyzed again in what was called Pass 8 with a new software. That allowed to discover new gamma ray sources that previously weren’t identified. At the same time it was possible to improve the ability of the LAT to determine the direction of the incoming gamma rays.

Eta Carinae's Homunculus Nebula photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope (Image NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team)

An article published in “The Astrophysical Journal Letters” describes a research that led to the discovery of stars really out of the ordinary. Those are binary systems consisting of two very massive stars where immense eruptions can take place. These systems are twins of Eta Carinae, which became famous for the eruption sighted in the 19th century. Examining observations made using the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes a group of researchers found 5 candidates in other galaxies.

Runaway stars with their bow shocks. On the right one taken by the WISE space telescope, the other two were taken by the Spitzer space telescope

Analyzing the observations made using NASA’s Spitzer WISE space telescopes, many runaway stars were discovered. Those stars are called that way for the remarkable speed they’re moving at in space. One way to identify a potential runaway star is to seek what in jargon is called “bow shock” and indicates the area between a magnetosphere and a surrounding environment. It’s an arc-shaped structure that extends in front of the star and can be very extensive.

Artistic concept of stars in their formation stage (Image courtesy Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF. All rights reserved)

At the American Astronomical Society’s meeting in Kissimmee, Florida, astronomers presented the results of research that aims to understand how come the multiple systems of stars and planets from the material on the disks of dust around new stars. The radio telescope Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) was used to study almost one hundred newborn stars in the Perseus molecular cloud to try to answer these questions.