Astro News Briefs: February 4–10

Quasar Takes an X-ray of a Galaxy

February 7, 2002 | Jill Bechtold (University of Arizona) and a team of astronomers have used the quasar PKS 1127–145 to take an X-ray of a galaxy. The X-rays that stream from the quasar shine through the galaxy on their path to Earth, and certain elements in the galaxy (such as oxygen) absorb the radiation and create an X-ray shadow. The effect is similar to how our skeleton absorbs X-rays when a doctor takes a picture to look for a broken bone.

In another study of the same object, Aneta Siemiginowska (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and colleagues have analyzed the jet itself and found it to be at least one million light-years long and close to 10 billion years old. These results will provide more information about the nature of the black hole causing the quasar while also proving that energetic jets can be imaged from billions of light-years away. Both teams published their results in the Astrophysical Journal.

For more information, visit the Chandra mission Web site:
http://chandra.harvard.edu/


Hobby-Eberly Gets Air Conditioning

February 6, 2002 | The dome of the McDonald Observatory's 9.2-meter Hobby-Eberly Telescope is undergoing major renovations to deal with internal seeing problems. Engineers are cutting 26 garage-door-size holes all around the structure and fitting them with steel louvers that open and close like huge venetian blinds. The new design will allow for more efficient cooling of the dome and will increase the scope's resolving power by helping to reduce thermal currents.

More information is on McDonald Observatory's home page:
http://mcdonaldobservatory.org/news/


No Two Solar Flares Are Alike. . . Or Are They?

February 5, 2002 | Last November, a team from Stanford using the Yohkoh satellite and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) observed a series of nearly identical solar flares and associated coronal mass ejections. These "cookie-cutter" events may help astronomers understand the intricate relationship between flares and CMEs. The work is published in Geophysical Research Letters.

More information is available in the following press release:
http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/topstory/20011108cookieflare.html


HESSI Launch Successful

February 5, 2002 | NASA's High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (HESSI) successfully reached Earth orbit today. The craft, which is designed to observe the Sun's atmosphere in X-ray and gamma-ray wavelengths, was delayed for more than year due to problems with the aircraft-deployed Pegasus launch vehicle and an accident during the craft's vibration testing.

Read more on the HESSI mission Web page:
http://hesperia.gsfc.nasa.gov/hessi/


President Bush Announces His 2003 Budget

February 4, 2002 | The Bush Administration has released its proposed 2003 NASA budget. It calls for termination of the Outer Planets Program, which includes the New Horizons mission to Pluto and a Europa
orbiter. In its place is a budgeted new series of $650 million missions called "New Frontiers."

Details can be found on NASA's Web site:
http://www.nasa.gov/budget/budget2003_index.html