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Goddard Year In Review: Astrophysics
12.15.11
 
These stories, images and videos represent some of the 2011 highlights in the field of astrophysics. All the content showcased here bears some connection to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Fermi Catches Thunderstorms Hurling Antimatter into Space (01.10.11)

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has detected beams of antimatter launched by thunderstorms. Acting like enormous particle accelerators, the storms can emit gamma-ray flashes, called TGFs, and high-energy electrons and positrons. Scientists now think that most TGFs produce particle beams and antimatter. (Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)
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Hubble Finds Most Distant Galaxy Candidate Ever Seen (01.26.11)

Astronomers have pushed NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to its limits by finding what is likely to be the most distant object ever seen in the universe. The object's light traveled 13.2 billion years to reach Hubble, roughly 150 million years longer than the previous record holder. The age of the universe is approximately 13.7 billion years.

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Object UDFj-39546284



Hubble view of galaxy NGC 5584

NASA's Hubble Rules Out One Alternative to Dark Energy (03.14.11)

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have ruled out an alternate theory on the nature of dark energy after recalculating the expansion rate of the universe to unprecedented accuracy.

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› Related Story: Ambitious Hubble Survey Obtaining New Dark Matter Census




NASA Telescopes Join Forces to Observe Unprecedented Explosion (04.07.11)

NASA's Swift, Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory have teamed up to study one of the most puzzling cosmic blasts yet observed. More than a week after the event, high-energy radiation continued to brighten and fade from its location.

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closeup of GRB110328A



artists depiction of stars colliding

Breakthrough Study Confirms Cause of Short Gamma-Ray Bursts (04.07.11)

A new supercomputer simulation gives the most detailed view to date of the forces driving some of the universe's most energetic explosions: when neutron stars collide.

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Swift and Hubble Probe Asteroid Collision Debris (04.28.11)

Late last year, astronomers noticed an asteroid named Scheila had unexpectedly brightened, and it was sporting short-lived plumes. Data from NASA's Swift satellite and Hubble Space Telescope showed these changes likely occurred after a smaller asteroid collided with Scheila. This was the first time scientists were able to observe the aftermath of such a collision "before the evidence fades away," said Dennis Bodewits, an astronomer at the University of Maryland, College Park, and lead author of the Swift study.

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Asteroid Scheila showing dust plumes from a suspected impact



Crab Nebula

NASA's Fermi Spots 'Superflares' in the Crab Nebula (05.11.11)

The famous Crab Nebula supernova remnant has erupted in an enormous flare five times more powerful than any flare previously seen from the object. On April 12, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope first detected the outburst, which lasted six days.

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› Related Story: High-Energy Surprises in 'Constant' Crab Nebula




Radio Telescopes Capture Best-Ever Snapshot of Black Hole Jets (05.20.11)

An international team, including NASA-funded researchers, using radio telescopes located throughout the Southern Hemisphere has produced the most detailed image of particle jets erupting from a supermassive black hole in a nearby galaxy.

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Centaurus A



Millionth observation by Hubble

Hubble Makes Millionth Science Observation (07.05.11)

On July 4, the 21-year-old Hubble Space Telescope logged its one millionth science observation during a search for water in an exoplanet's atmosphere 1,000 light-years away.

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› Related Story: Hubble Racks Up 10,000 Science Papers
› Related Story: Hubble Contributes to Nobel Prize in Physics




Hubble Discovers Another Moon Around Pluto (07.20.11)

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope discovered a fourth moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The tiny, new satellite – temporarily designated P4 -- was uncovered in a Hubble survey searching for rings around the dwarf planet.

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› Related Story: Planets Found in Decade-Old Hubble Data

Combination of two Hubble WFC3/UVIS images of the pluto system from June 28 and July 3, 2011 showing known moons and their orbits and new moon P4.



How a Black Hole Devoured a Star (08.24.11)

On March 28, 2011, NASA's Swift detected intense X-ray flares thought to be caused by a black hole devouring a star. In one model, illustrated here, a sun-like star on an eccentric orbit plunges too close to its galaxy's central black hole. About half of the star's mass feeds an accretion disk around the black hole, which in turn powers a particle jet that beams radiation toward Earth. (Video credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab)
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› Download this video and other multimedia in broadcast quality from NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio



artist concept of a pulsar

Fermi Finds Youngest Millisecond Pulsar (11.03.11)

An international team of scientists using NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has discovered a surprisingly powerful millisecond pulsar that challenges existing theories about how these objects form. Another team has located nine new gamma-ray pulsars in Fermi data, using improved analytical techniques.

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› Related Story: Fermi's Latest Gamma-ray Census Highlights Cosmic Mysteries




Swift Observatory Catches Asteroid Flyby (11.10.11)


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This gallery showcases imagery and video highlights from NASA Goddard in the field of astrophysics.