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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 6 Dec 2019, 12:13 UTC Some of the most dramatic events in the universe occur when certain stars die — and explode catastrophically in the process.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 5 Dec 2019, 19:00 UTC Shortly after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu, an unexpected discovery by the mission’s science team revealed that the asteroid could be active, or consistently discharging particles into space. The ongoing examination of Bennu – and its sample that will eventually be returned to Earth – could potentially shed light on why this intriguing phenomenon is occurring.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 4 Dec 2019, 18:00 UTC In August 2018, NASA's Parker Solar Probe launched to space, soon becoming the closest-ever spacecraft to the Sun. With cutting-edge scientific instruments to measure the environment around the spacecraft, Parker Solar Probe has completed three of 24 planned passes through never-before-explored parts of the Sun's atmosphere, the corona. On Dec. 4, 2019, four new papers in the journal Nature describe what scientists have learned from this unprecedented exploration of our star — and what they look forward to learning next.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 3 Dec 2019, 20:00 UTC Using data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), astronomers at the University of Maryland (UMD), in College Park, Maryland, have captured a clear start-to-finish image sequence of an explosive emission of dust, ice and gases during the close approach of comet 46P/Wirtanen in late 2018. This is the most complete and detailed observation to date of the formation and dissipation of a naturally-occurring comet outburst. The team members reported their results in the November 22 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 3 Dec 2019, 15:56 UTC The Chandrayaan 2 Vikram lander was targeted for a highland smooth plain about 600 kilometers from the south pole; unfortunately the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) lost contact with their lander shortly before the scheduled touchdown (Sept. 7 in India, Sept. 6 in the United States). Despite the loss, getting that close to the surface was an amazing achievement. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera team released the first mosaic (acquired Sept. 17) of the site on Sept. 26 and many people have downloaded the mosaic to search for signs of Vikram. Shanmuga Subramanian contacted the LRO project with a positive identification of debris. After receiving this tip, the LROC team confirmed the identification by comparing before and after images. When the images for the first mosaic were acquired the impact point was poorly illuminated and thus not easily identifiable. Two subsequent image sequences were acquired on Oct. 14 and 15, and Nov. 11. The LROC team scoured the surrounding area in these new mosaics and found the impact site (70.8810°S, 22.7840°E, 834 m elevation) and associated debris field. The November mosaic had the best pixel scale (0.7 meter) and lighting conditions (72° incidence angle).
New Horizons 2 Dec 2019, 18:00 UTC Measurements taken by the Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument aboard NASA's New Horizons spacecraft are providing important new insights from some of the farthest reaches of space ever explored. In a paper published recently in The Astrophysical Journal, New Horizons scientists show how the solar wind — the supersonic stream of charged particles blown out by the Sun — evolves at increasing distances from the Sun.
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Centauri Dreams 6 Dec 2019, 17:52 UTC Calling it a ‘chance discovery,’ the University of Warwick’s Boris Gänsicke recently presented the results of his team’s study of some 7,000 white dwarf stars, all of them cataloged by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. One drew particular interest because chemical elements turned up in spectroscopic studies indicating something unusual. Says Gänsicke, “We knew that there had to be something exceptional going on in this system, and speculated that it may be related to some type of planetary remnant.”
ESO Blog 6 Dec 2019, 11:00 UTC Measuring a whopping twelve metres across, APEX is a submillimetre-wavelength telescope operating in the southern hemisphere and has a suite of instruments to find out more about the “cold”, “dusty” and “distant” Universe. APEX is operated by ESO on behalf of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, the Onsala Space Observatory and ESO itself, meaning that many ESO astronomers get to spend time at the telescope each year. ESO Student Katja Fahrion tells us about her recent experience observing with this special machine.
New Scientist 6 Dec 2019, 08:00 UTC Dead stars are exploding all around the universe and we aren’t really sure why – but now a pair of researchers think that minuscule black holes made from dark matter might be to blame. Burnt out stars known as white dwarfs can ignite into a type Ia supernova when they gather matter from a neighbouring star or merge with other astronomical objects. Exactly how this works is still an open question.
Universe Today 5 Dec 2019, 21:43 UTC From the study of meteorite fragments that have fallen to Earth, scientists have confirmed that bacteria can not only survive the harsh conditions of space but can transport biological material between planets. Because of how common meteorite impacts were when life emerged on Earth (ca. 4 billion years ago), scientists have been pondering whether they may have delivered the necessary ingredients for life to thrive.
Many Worlds 5 Dec 2019, 17:31 UTC Just about everything that scientists see as essential for extraterrestrial life — carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and sources of energy — is now known to be pretty common in our solar system and beyond. It’s basically there for the taking by untold potential forms of life.