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Astronomers use novel technique to find starspots

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New method seen as powerful tool in studying stars

Newswise — COLUMBUS, Ohio – Astronomers have developed a powerful technique for identifying starspots, according to research presented this month at the 241st meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Our sun is at times dotted with sunspots, cool dark regions on the stellar surface generated by strong magnetic fields, which suppress churning motions and impede the free escape of light. On other stars, these phenomena are called starspots, said Lyra Cao, lead author of the study and a graduate student in astronomy at The Ohio State University

“Our study is the first to precisely characterize the spottiness of stars and use it to directly test theories of stellar magnetism,” said Cao. “This technique is so precise and broadly applicable that it can become a powerful new tool in the study of stellar physics.” 

Use of the technique will soon allow Cao and her colleagues to release a catalog of starspot and magnetic field measurements for more than 700,000 stars – increasing the number of these measurements available to scientists by three orders of magnitude.

Since sunspots were first discovered in the 17th century, scientists have typically detected signatures of stellar magnetism indirectly, by looking at stars through different filters or detecting the modulation of spots in a star’s light curve. But by analyzing legacy high-resolution infrared spectra from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Cao was able to develop a technique for identifying starspots in 240 stars from two open star clusters, the Pleiades and M67. 

The study showed that precision starspot measurements are a powerful new class of data which could help researchers understand how stellar magnetic fields work. Due to precision of the technique, Cao was also able to see how age and rotation affected the magnetic fields on these stars. 

“It was lurking in plain sight: Within the spectrum, there was a cooler component corresponding to the starspot which was only visible in the infrared,” Cao said.

As it turns out, younger stars can be enveloped in starspots – some of them more “spot” than star, with 80% of their surfaces covered. During her studies, Cao realized that these larger cooler regions may block so much light, it might have a measurable effect on these stars. Since the light must eventually escape, she said, the star compensates by expanding and cooling enough to make more surface area available for radiation. 

Researchers also found that relying on classical methods to estimate the temperatures of these stars could be wrong by more than 100 degrees. Because scientists often rely on a star’s temperature when trying to estimate its size, astronomers could wrongly assume the radius of the star is smaller than it actually is.

“When this happens, you start seeing large changes in the stars’ structure, which can throw other important astronomical measurements off as well,” said Cao. As scientists use stellar parameters to understand our solar neighborhood and galaxy, and at times, the sizes and habitability prospects of nearby exoplanets, this method could dramatically improve researchers’ ability to test other scientific theories.

Additionally, researchers found a class of stars that are too active for standard theories to explain in the Pleiades cluster. According to Cao, these stars are not only magnetic and rife with starspots, but also overflowing with UV and X-ray radiation.

“You wouldn’t want to live around these stars,” said Cao. “But understanding why these stars are so active could change our models and criteria for exoplanetary habitability.” Further study of these unusual stars could hold the key for understanding why low mass stars are so active, the study notes.

“We can directly study the evolution of stellar magnetism in hundreds of thousands of stars with this new dataset, so we expect this will help develop key insights in our understanding of stars and planets,” said Cao.

Marc Pinsonneault, a professor of astronomy at Ohio State, co-authored the study. This work was supported by NASA.

Contact: Lyra Cao, Cao.861@osu.edu

Written by: Tatyana Woodall, Woodall.52@osu.edu

Source:  Ohio State University

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The Close Encounter of Asteroid 2008 OS7: Understanding Near Earth Objects and Potentially Hazardous Asteroids

Asteroid 2008 OS7, a cosmic visitor, will pass Earth safely, sparking curiosity about our cosmic neighborhood.

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On the afternoon of February 2, 2024, a cosmic visitor will make its closest approach to Earth. Named 2008 OS7, this asteroid will dash past our planet at a staggering speed of about 18.2 km/s, or roughly 40,700 mph. To put this into perspective, this velocity far surpasses that of a speeding bullet, which typically ranges between 600 and 2,000 mph.

Asteroids, remnants from the early formation of our solar system, mostly inhabit the Asteroid Belt, positioned between Mars and Jupiter. While most are relatively small, some, like the colossal Ceres measuring about 600 miles across, are truly massive. Occasionally, due to gravitational forces from Jupiter or collisions, these space rocks find themselves hurtling into the inner solar system, leading to encounters with Earth.

2008 OS7 falls into the category of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and is also labeled a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) due to its size and close proximity to Earth. NEOs are defined as celestial objects within 30 million miles of Earth, encompassing a staggering 31,000 items within our solar system. PHAs, a more critical subset, are those that approach within 4.6 million miles and boast a diameter exceeding 460 feet. Currently, NASA keeps tabs on around 2,350 PHAs.

Read Newsweek’s story.: https://www.newsweek.com/nasa-asteroid-empire-state-building-size-flyby-1865684

Martin Barstow, a professor of astrophysics and space science at the University of Leicester, explained the PHA classification to Newsweek, underlining the potential regional damage such an object could cause if it were to collide with Earth. Despite this classification, 2008 OS7 poses no threat to our planet, as it will not come anywhere near colliding with us.

Minjae Kim, a research fellow at the University of Warwick, emphasized in a statement to Newsweek that although 2008 OS7 has been labeled as a PHA, it won’t enter Earth’s atmosphere. Kim also pointed out the multitude of asteroids in our solar system, with approximately 2,350 classified as PHAs, and highlighted the next significant approach to Earth by a PHA, which will be the 99942 Apophis on April 14, 2029.

For sky enthusiasts hoping to catch a glimpse of this celestial passerby, 2008 OS7 will be disappointingly difficult to spot. Kim noted that the asteroid’s orbit around the sun takes approximately 962 days, and its estimated diameter ranges from 0.221 to 0.494 kilometers, placing it in the category of a small to moderately-sized asteroid, akin to the size of a football field. Unfortunately, due to their faintness, asteroids are generally challenging to detect using current observational techniques, making them virtually impossible to see with the naked eye.

As we prepare for this celestial event, it serves as a reminder of the intricate dance of celestial bodies around our planet and the ongoing work to monitor and understand the potential impact of near-Earth objects. While 2008 OS7 will shoot past our planet without incident, it underscores the importance of continued vigilance and exploration of our cosmic neighborhood.

Source: Newsweek

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Meteoric Marvel: The Berlin 2024 BX1 Asteroid Encounter

Berlin’s cosmic spectacle: 2024 BX1 asteroid fragments unearthed, igniting global fascination and scientific inquiry.

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Early on January 21, 2024, the tranquil skies over Berlin, Germany, were briefly interrupted by a spectacular celestial event. A small asteroid, now identified as 2024 BX1, made a dramatic entrance into Earth’s atmosphere, captivating local observers with a brilliant burst of light as it exploded upon entry. The aftermath of this cosmic visitation has sparked a flurry of excitement as fragments of the meteorite have been discovered in the countryside west of Berlin.

The Natural History Museum Berlin announced on January 26, 2024, that suspected fragments of the asteroid, approximately the size of a walnut, had been recovered by dedicated hunters. This discovery has ignited a surge of interest and enthusiasm within the scientific community and among enthusiasts of astronomy and space exploration worldwide.



In the wake of this extraordinary event, numerous meteorite hunters have taken to social media to share their own remarkable finds, further fueling the public’s fascination with this cosmic occurrence. The collective effort to recover these celestial fragments underscores the enduring allure of space and the unwavering human curiosity about the mysteries beyond our planet.

The discovery of the 2024 BX1 asteroid fragments not only provides a rare opportunity for scientists to study the composition and origins of these extraterrestrial remnants, but it also serves as a poignant reminder of the profound and unpredictable forces at play in our universe.

As we witness the convergence of scientific inquiry, public engagement, and the magnificence of the cosmos, the Berlin 2024 BX1 asteroid encounter stands as a testament to the enduring enchantment of space exploration and the unyielding spirit of discovery that unites us all.

Stay tuned for further updates as the scientific community delves deeper into the secrets held within these newfound celestial treasures, shedding light on the enigmatic journey of the 2024 BX1 asteroid and offering invaluable insights into the boundless wonders of our universe.

Source: EarthSky

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The Great Solar Eclipse of 2024: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Celestial Spectacle

The 2024 total solar eclipse: a rare event uniting millions, set to create unforgettable memories for generations.

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Photo by Drew Rae on Pexels.com

In just 75 days, North America will bear witness to a rare and awe-inspiring event—the total solar eclipse. This celestial phenomenon will cast parts of 15 U.S. states, alongside sections of Mexico and Canada, into an extraordinary darkness during the day. This upcoming eclipse brings to mind the monumental solar eclipse of January 24, 1925, which left an indelible mark on the U.S. northeast, particularly in New York City.

https://q5i.09c.myftpupload.com/get-ready-to-witness-the-breathtaking-total-solar-eclipse-of-2024-across-north-america/

Back in 1925, the eclipse divided the city, creating a unique dichotomy between those who experienced totality and those who witnessed only a partial eclipse. The boundary of the path of totality, initially predicted to be 83rd Street, was expected to split Manhattan into two distinct viewing experiences. However, the actual boundary was revealed to be 96th Street, and the eclipse arrived four seconds behind schedule, challenging the preconceived notions of the event.

As we eagerly anticipate the upcoming eclipse, it’s essential to reflect on the lessons learned from historical mispredictions. The precision of modern eclipse predictions has significantly improved, yet numerous variables still influence each event. Factors such as the moon’s terrain, observer’s elevation, Earth’s rotation speed, and the apparent size of the sun contribute to the uniqueness of each eclipse. Understanding these variables is crucial, especially for those living on the edge of totality, as seen in cities like San Antonio and Austin, Texas.

The upcoming eclipse provides an opportunity for cities like Rochester, New York, to relive a momentous event that last occurred in 1925. With preparations underway for the ROC the Eclipse festival at the Rochester Museum & Science Center, the community eagerly awaits the chance to witness a 3 minutes 40 seconds totality—a significantly longer duration than in 1925.

The anticipation for this celestial event serves as a unifying force, offering a positive shared experience for millions. As Dan Schneiderman, Eclipse Partnership Manager at the Rochester Museum & Science Center, aptly puts it, “We want people to have that positive shared experience they always remember, so random strangers can ask each other ‘where were you during that total solar eclipse?'”

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiecartereurope/2024/01/24/99-years-ago-today-a-total-solar-eclipse-split-a-major-us-city-and-history-will-repeat-itself-in-75-days/?sh=1d44bb13746f

The forthcoming total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for millions across the 15 fortunate U.S. states. It presents a chance to marvel at the wonders of the universe, uniting communities in an extraordinary shared experience. As we approach this historic event, let us embrace the opportunity to witness the splendor of the cosmos and create lasting memories that will be cherished for generations to come.

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