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Fri Aug 29, 2014, 09:35 PM

Radio Telescopes Settle Controversy Over Distance to Pleiades (NRAO press release)

Astronomers have used a worldwide network of radio telescopes to resolve a controversy over the distance to a famous star cluster -- a controversy that posed a potential challenge to scientists' basic understanding of how stars form and evolve. The new work shows that the measurement made by a cosmic-mapping research satellite was wrong.

The astronomers studied the Pleiades, the famous "Seven Sisters" star cluster in the constellation Taurus, easily seen in the winter sky. The cluster includes hundreds of young, hot stars formed about 100 million years ago. As a nearby example of such young clusters, the Pleiades have served as a key "cosmic laboratory" for refining scientists' understanding of how similar clusters form. In addition, astronomers have used the measured physical characteristics of Pleiades stars as a tool for estimating the distance to other, more distant, clusters.

Until the 1990s, the consensus was that the Pleiades are about 430 light-years from Earth. However, the European satellite Hipparcos, launched in 1989 to precisely measure the positions and distances of thousands of stars, produced a distance measurement of only about 390 light-years.

"That may not seem like a huge difference, but, in order to fit the physical characteristics of the Pleiades stars, it challenged our general understanding of how stars form and evolve," said Carl Melis, of the University of California, San Diego. "To fit the Hipparcos distance measurement, some astronomers even suggested that some type of new and unknown physics had to be at work in such young stars," he added.

To solve the problem, Melis and his colleagues used a global network of radio telescopes to make the most accurate possible distance measurement. The network included the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), a system of 10 radio telescopes ranging from Hawaii to the Virgin Islands; the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia; the 1,000-foot-diameter William E. Gordon Telescope of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico; and the Effelsberg Radio Telescope in Germany.
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more: https://public.nrao.edu/news/pressreleases/radio-telescopes-settle-controversy




Interesting to note: the "William E. Gordon Telescope". I've never heard it mentioned by that name; it's always just been "the Arecibo dish". cf all the famous optical telescopes ...

Dems of course will note the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope ...

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Reply Radio Telescopes Settle Controversy Over Distance to Pleiades (NRAO press release) (Original post)
eppur_se_muova Aug 2014 OP
BlueJazz Aug 2014 #1
Trajan Aug 2014 #2

Response to eppur_se_muova (Original post)

Fri Aug 29, 2014, 09:59 PM

1. I believe the Pleiades were the first objects I ever saw through my father's 10" reflector.

 

He had a nice low-power, wide-field eyepiece. I think it was a Carl Zeiss.

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Response to eppur_se_muova (Original post)

Fri Aug 29, 2014, 10:17 PM

2. 443 light years ...

 

Ok ... I did it ..

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