17 Jan 2018, 11:00 UTC Astronomers using ESO’s MUSE instrument on the Very Large Telescope in Chile have discovered a star in the cluster NGC 3201 that is behaving very strangely. It appears to be orbiting an invisible black hole with about four times the mass of the Sun — the first such inactive stellar-mass black hole found in a globular cluster and the first found by directly detecting its gravitational pull. This important discovery impacts on our understanding of the formation of these star clusters, black holes, and the origins of gravitational wave events. Next Previous
10 Jan 2018, 19:18 UTC Next Previous
10 Jan 2018, 07:15 UTC Astronomers have looked back to a time soon after the Big Bang, and have discovered swirling gas in some of the earliest galaxies to have formed in the Universe. These ‘newborns’ – observed as they appeared nearly 13 billion years ago – spun like a whirlpool, similar to our own Milky Way.An international team led by Renske Smit from the Kavli Institute of Cosmology at the University of Cambridge used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to open a new window onto the distant Universe, and have identified normal star-forming galaxies at a very early stage in cosmic history. The results are reported in the journal Nature, and will be presented at the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society.Light from distant objects takes time to reach Earth, so observing objects that are billions of light years away enables us to look back in time and directly observe the formation of the earliest galaxies. The Universe at that time, however, was filled with an obscuring “haze” of neutral hydrogen gas, which makes it difficult to see the formation of the very first galaxies with optical telescopes.Smit and her colleagues used ALMA to observe two small newborn galaxies, as they existed ... Next Previous
9 Jan 2018, 19:15 UTC Today, astronomers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) announced new measurements of the masses of a large sample of supermassive black holes far beyond the local Universe.The results, being presented at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in National Harbor, Maryland and published in the Astrophysical Journal, represent a major step forward in our ability to measure supermassive black hole masses in large numbers of distant quasars and galaxies. Next Previous
9 Jan 2018, 19:15 UTC Astronomers with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) have learned that the chemical composition of a star can exert unexpected influence on its planetary system — a discovery made possible by an ongoing SDSS survey of stars seen by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, and one that promises to expand our understanding of how extrasolar planets form and evolve. Next Previous
14 Dec 2017, 15:00 UTC A riot of colour and light dances through this peculiarly shaped galaxy, NGC 5256. Its smoke-like plumes are flung out in all directions and the bright core illuminates the chaotic regions of gas and dust swirling through the galaxy’s centre. Its odd structure is due to the fact that this is not one galaxy, but two — in the process of a galactic collision. Next Previous
13 Dec 2017, 11:00 UTC The OmegaCAM camera on ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope has captured this glittering view of the stellar nursery called Sharpless 29. Many astronomical phenomena can be seen in this giant image, including cosmic dust and gas clouds that reflect, absorb, and re-emit the light of hot young stars within the nebula. Next Previous
ESA Top News 22 Jan 2018, 08:00 UTC ESA’s Rosetta mission suffered terrible weather for more than two years, as it flew alongside Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko between 2014 and 2016. It endured the endless impacts of dust grains launched by gaseous outpourings as the comet’s surface ices were warmed by the heat of the Sun, evaporating into space and dragging the dust along. This image was taken two years ago, on 21 January 2016, when Rosetta was flying 79 km from the comet. At this time Rosetta was moving closer following perihelion in the previous August, when the comet was nearer to the Sun and as such at its most active, meaning that Rosetta had to operate from a greater distance for safety. As can be seen from the image, the comet environment was still extremely chaotic with dust even five months later. The streaks reveal the dust grains as they passed in front of Rosetta’s camera, captured in the 146 second exposure. Excessive dust in Rosetta’s field of view presented a continual risk for navigation: the craft’s startrackers used a star pattern recognition function to know its orientation with respect to the Sun and Earth. On some occasions flying much closer to the comet, and therefore through denser ...
NASA Kennedy Space Center 19 Jan 2018, 20:03 UTC NASA’s new deep space exploration systems will send crew 40,000 miles beyond the Moon, and return them safely home. After traveling through space at 25,000 miles per hour, the Orion spacecraft will slow to 300 mph after it passes through the Earth’s atmosphere. The spacecraft then slows down to 20 mph before it safely splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 19 Jan 2018, 16:20 UTC This is an image of the Cartwheel Galaxy taken with the NASA/ESA (European Space Agency) Hubble Space Telescope.
MIT 19 Jan 2018, 11:00 UTC The celebrated Great American Eclipse of August 2017 crossed the continental U.S. in 90 minutes, and totality lasted no longer than a few minutes at any one location. The event is well in the rear-view mirror now, but scientific investigation into the effects of the moon's shadow on the Earth's atmosphere is still being hotly pursued, and interesting new findings are surfacing at a rapid pace. These include significant observations by scientists at MIT’s Haystack Observatory in Westford, Massachusetts.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory News and Features 19 Jan 2018, 08:00 UTC Asteroid 2002 AJ129 will make a close approach to Earth on Feb. 4, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. PST (4:30 p.m. EST / 21:30 UTC). At the time of closest approach, the asteroid will be no closer than 10 times the distance between Earth and the Moon (about 2.6 million miles, or 4.2 million kilometers).
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 18 Jan 2018, 18:14 UTC Like the waistband of a couch potato in midlife, the orbits of planets in our solar system are expanding. It happens because the Sun’s gravitational grip gradually weakens as our star ages and loses mass. Now, a team of NASA and MIT scientists has indirectly measured this mass loss and other solar parameters by looking at changes in Mercury’s orbit.
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Sky and Telescope 22 Jan 2018, 11:00 UTC NASA’s Kepler mission gave astronomers a bountiful supply of homework. Checking up on the 4,000-plus candidate exoplanets that it turned up is a daunting task. Among those tackling the list is the Robo-AO team. Robo-AO is an automated laser-guided adaptive optics system, which when hooked up to a large telescope (most recently, the 2.1-meter on Kitt Peak) enables rapid-fire observations of a couple hundred stars each night.
AmericaSpace 22 Jan 2018, 02:13 UTC By a strange quirk of fate, NASA’s Apollo 5 mission—which launched 50 years ago, this week—used the same booster as should have been ridden by the ill-fated Apollo 1 crew of Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. The three astronauts were intended to fly in early 1967, atop a Saturn IB booster, to put the “Block I” variant of the Apollo Command and Service Module (CSM) through its paces in low-Earth orbit. However, all three men died when a flash-fire swept through their spacecraft during a ground test. The Saturn IB itself was unharmed and was reassigned to carry Apollo 5, the first flight of the Grumman-built Lunar Module (LM), which would someday transport humans to the surface of the Moon. It was one of many legacies of the bravery of the Apollo 1 crew.
Astroquizzical 21 Jan 2018, 17:58 UTC The Earth rotates around its own axis once every twenty-four hours. The Moon, on the other hand, rotates once around its own axis every 28 days, and once around the Earth in that same 28 days. The end result of this combination is that the same side of the Moon is always facing the Earth. As the Moon moves to be directly above a different portion of the earth, its face also turns at exactly the same rate, so that only one hemisphere of the Moon is ever visible from our home here.
Astro Bob 20 Jan 2018, 19:28 UTC Tonight, the crescent moon will look about a wide as an unclipped fingernail. You’ll spot it right away in the southwestern sky at dusk, high and bright. Just 2° (four moon diameters) to the moon’s upper right lurks another member of the solar system, the planet Neptune. The two are in conjunction tonight in the dim constellation Aquarius.