time lapse 12 ans NASA ciel nocturne complet couv

A time-lapse (VIDEO) from NASA shows 12 years of space evolution as seen by the WISE space telescope

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New feats and images continue to be revealed by NASA, after James Webb’s sublime images of the pillars of creation, it is the turn of an unprecedented panorama, of our entire sky, to be revealed. This is a 12-year time-lapse showing the changes millions of stars across the Universe have undergone, thanks to data from the NEOWISE project. The study of the maps resulting from these data provides us with valuable information on the evolution of the Universe over a decade.

NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission uses a space telescope to monitor asteroids and comets, including those that could pose a threat to Earth. It follows the WISE Telescope project, launched in December 2009, which surveyed the entire sky in four bands of infrared wavelengths until the frozen hydrogen cooling the telescope ran out in September 2010.

However, observations resumed in December 2013, when the telescope came out of hibernation and was reused for the NEOWISE project. During its primary mission, NEOWISE rapidly identified and characterized near-Earth objects, collecting data on their size and other key measurements. Thus, it has provided the scientific community with infrared detections of more than 158,000 minor planets, including more than 34,000 new discoveries.

It was from images captured during those years that NASA made a 12-year time-lapse of the entire night sky. Yes, still images of the sky reveal cosmic wonders, but movies can bring them to life. This is how video montages of observations with the NEOWISE space telescope reveal the location of hundreds of millions of objects and the amount of infrared light each one emits. This information can be analyzed to understand the behavior of celestial objects.

contemplate the whole sky

You should know that every six months, the NEOWISE spacecraft circles the Sun, taking images in all directions. Together, these images form an “all-sky” map showing the location and brightness of hundreds of millions of objects.

Specifically, it is from these data that NASA has constructed 18 maps of the entire sky (the 19me and 20me will be published in March 2023). These have allowed scientists to create what is essentially a time-lapse movie of the sky, revealing changes spanning a decade.

VIDEO — Time-lapse images from NASA’s NEOWISE mission, giving astronomers a chance to see previously hidden brown dwarfs, a feeding black hole, a dying star, a star-forming region, and a charging star life (© NASA):

Each card taken individually represents a source of important data, but the goal here is to view these cards in sequence as a “time lapse”. So they constitute an even stronger resource to try to better understand the Universe. Map matching can reveal distant objects that have changed position or brightness over time, known as time-domain astronomy.

Amy Mainzer, principal investigator for NEOWISE at the University of Arizona in Tucson, said in a statement: If you go out and look at the night sky, it may seem like nothing changes, but it doesn’t. The stars shine and explode. Asteroids pass by at full speed. Black holes destroy stars. The universe is a very busy and active place. “.

Understanding stars and black holes

Watching the sky change for more than a decade has also contributed to studies of star formation. NEOWISE can peer through dusty blankets that engulf protostars (new stars) or balls of hot gas that are on their way to becoming stars. The protostars then flicker and light up as they gather more mass from the surrounding dust clouds. Scientists are conducting long-term follow-up of nearly 1,000 protostars with NEOWISE to better understand the early stages of star formation.

NEOWISE data have also improved our understanding of black holes. The original WISE project discovered millions of supermassive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies. In a recent study, scientists used data from NEOWISE and a technique called “echo mapping” to measure the size of disks of hot, glowing gas surrounding distant black holes, which are too small and too far away to be photographed. through a telescope.

Study the evolution of brown dwarfs

As mentioned above, despite the project change, the WISE infrared telescope continued to scan the sky every six months, and astronomers continued to use the data to study objects outside our solar system. Some maps sequenced in the NASA post are from the second iteration, in 2020, of a project called CatWISE: an object “catalogue” of 12 all-sky maps.

The maps are particularly useful for studying brown dwarfs. These are objects that don’t have the mass needed to start merging into a bright star, although they do start to form the same way. Those closest to Earth appear to move faster in the sky than objects further away, allowing NEOWISE to more easily detect them among the billions of objects on the map.

A companion project to CatWISE, called “Backyard Worlds: Planet 9,” invites citizen scientists to analyze NEOWISE data to find moving objects that computer searches might have missed.

Originally, with the first two WISE maps, scientists found about 200 brown dwarfs just 65 light-years from our sun. Additional maps, released recently, revealed another 60 and doubled the number of known Y-dwarfs, the coolest brown dwarfs.

These discoveries contribute to the understanding of objects in the vicinity of the Sun and Earth. Also, a more complete count of brown dwarfs near the Sun helps estimate when star formation began in the Milky Way.

Peter Eisenhardt, astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and WISE project scientist, concludes: We never expected the spacecraft to run this long, and I don’t think we could have anticipated the science we could do with this amount of data. “.


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