Chandra & the Jellyfish


IC 443 is more commonly known as the Jellyfish Nebula. What the heck is a nebula? Well, a nebula is a cloud of dust and gas found in outer space. Sometimes, at night, if you find yourself in the perfect spot for stargazing, you may notice a spot in the sky that is brighter or, perhaps, a darker shadow across a brighter patch.

The Jellyfish Nebula is thought to be the gas and dust leftovers of a supernova event that happened in outer space about 5,000 light years from planet Earth. What the heck is a supernova? Sometimes a star suddenly becomes much brighter because of great explosions happening within the gas that it is made up of. When it becomes so explosive and heated that it ejects most of its mass, it has gone supernova. So, in the simplest of terms, a supernova is a star that has exploded BIG TIME.

The gas and dust debris of the Jellyfish Nebula may also be the material that created a strange object found due south of the nebula. This object is officially called CXOU J061705.3+222127. Scientists just call it J0617. These same scientists believe this object to be a pulsar. What the heck is a pulsar? A pulsar is a neutron star that is rapidly spinning around. It also emits pulses of radio waves and electromagnetic radiation.

What the heck is a neutron star? A neutron star usually has a radius less than 18 miles but is densely packed with neutrons. They are most often created when a massive star goes supernova and leaves behind its core. As a massive star runs out of fuel the stage is set for a supernova explosion. When the fuel runs out, the outer layers collapse. When these outer layers come into contact with the core, they then bounce outward creating the supernova explosion. In the end, all that’s left is the core which is now spinning like crazy and emitting pulses of radio waves and radiation.

The post photo of the Jellyfish Nebula has an inset that shows the region surrounding J0617. Scientists are interested in the small ring that appears to surround the pulsar. There is also a feature of something jet-like that passes through the pulsar. The scientists want to determine if this emission is directly related to the pulsar or has a different source. Possibilities are a high speed wind of particles or something like a shock wave.

Nothing definitive has been concluded regarding when the supernova event occurred. Researchers have offered estimates ranging from 3,000 years ago to 30,000 years ago. Needless to say, the scientists have much more to learn about the Jellyfish Nebula and J0617. If the dear reader is interested in more details than what the simple-minded gringa can offer, check out the on-line source “The Astrophysical Journal”.

Research on the Jellyfish Nebula is managed by NASA’s Chandra program. Specifically, Chandra is an X-ray Observatory. It is the most powerful orbiting X-ray telescope in the world. Scientists from all over the world have access to the images generated by this program. The gringa loves how NASA likes to share knowledge and is not stingy with their technology.

Chandra studies cosmic X-rays, or, the effects of matter that has been heated to millions of degrees. High temperatures that create detectable X-rays happen throughout the universe wherever there are strong magnetic fields, powerful forces of gravity, or extreme explosions (like a supernova).

When a supernova happens, charged particles slam into one another. This causes them to produce energy in the form of photons. As photons fly through space, leaving the scene of a supernova event, they actually become light. These are just the sorts of things Chandra has been tracking and recording since 1999 when the Space Shuttle Columbia launched Chandra into outer space.

Chandra has eight mirrors that X-rays slam into, ricochet off, and are focused onto a focal plane that is half as wide as a human hair.  The focal plane captures the image of the X-rays and records the number, position, energy and arrival time. Two spectrometers then analyze the X-ray to determine what form of energy it is and other details of its physical condition.

Chandra is housed in a spacecraft observatory with two sets of thrusters. This observatory was the largest and heaviest payload ever launched by a Space Shuttle, weighing in at liftoff at 50,162 pounds. If you had eyes as powerful as Chandra, you could read a stop sign from twelve miles away. Chandra’s mission duration was originally set for five years. The mission began in August of 1999 and she is still going strong.

If the dear reader would like to delve into more information about Chandra, visit http://chandra.nasa.gov/

 

Source & Photo Credit: www.nasa.gov

 

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How To Get A Job With NASA As A Research Assistant


If you have dreams of outer space like the gringa, just what opportunity is there at NASA? Who are they looking for? What qualifications should upcoming NASA employees plan to pad their resumes with? How much does such an interesting and dynamic job pay?

Over half of the jobs available with NASA are at the professional levels for engineers and scientists. If you plan to have a top notch job application for one of these positions, be sure to take as many classes as possible in mathematics, computer and aerospace engineering, meteorology, and even accounting.

About twenty-five percent of opportunities are for administrative staff. This kind of NASA role involves analytical skills, top notch researching abilities, specialization with information technology, and budgeting experience. These are college graduate level careers and critical for project management.

There is high level competition to get coveted aerospace industry jobs. One of the things to do to secure your best chance of getting hired at NASA is to find a mentor. Many universities have agreements with NASA for research assistants. Check this avenue out to help get a foot in the door for a shot at a job that has earning potential from $11,000 – $30,000 annually.

An example of a NASA research assistant job with a college is one that was recently advertised by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State University. They announced an opening for a Research Assistant in the “Science Planner on the Science Operations Team of the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst” program. This is an ongoing NASA mission that has been operating since 2004.  Such a position requires a college degree in Physics or Astronomy.

Need scientists only apply? Well, not according to Angela Beaman who has a degree in Fine Arts. She got a research assistant position with NASA through the Horticulture Department at Iowa State University. The first thing she did was let a childhood curiosity about plants encourage an adult decision to pursue more knowledge. She showed up at the university’s horticultural center and simply started asking questions. That eventually led to a NASA fellowship studying the cultivation of basil through hydroponics. She explains that the most important trait to have in pursuing career dreams at NASA is determination which will see a person through a lifetime of continuing education.

As the gringa tends to her humble little patio garden, I consider how important these things are that we often take for granted. For space exploration to be possible at the “next level”, it’s not enough to know how to keep humans alive. We also have to know how to keep alive organisms that are life sustaining. Astronauts have to be able to provide some green stuff for long-term missions. This not only feeds their stomachs, but also their lungs as technology advances to create a self-contained biosphere that can sustain life through a long-duration mission. If you want to be a part, take some classes, ask questions, and get involved on any level.

Sources:

www.nasa.gov

https://www.quora.com/How-hard-is-it-to-get-a-research-assistant-position-at-NASA

http://www.careerbliss.com/nasa/salaries/graduate-research-assistant/

http://jobregister.aas.org/node/47927

Photo credit:

http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/plantgrowth/careercorner/Angela_Beaman_Profile.html