30 Oct 2020, 13:05 UTC This ethereal remnant of a long dead star, nestled in the belly of The Whale, bears an uneasy resemblance to a skull floating through space. Captured in astounding detail by ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), the eerie Skull Nebula is showcased in this new image in beautiful bloodshot colours. This planetary nebula is the first known to be associated with a pair of closely bound stars orbited by a third outer star. Next Previous
27 Oct 2020, 15:00 UTC Next Previous
20 Oct 2020, 18:09 UTC NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft unfurled its robotic arm Tuesday, and in a first for the agency, briefly touched an asteroid to collect dust and pebbles from the surface for delivery to Earth in 2023. This well-preserved, ancient asteroid, known as Bennu, is currently more than 200 million miles (321 million kilometers) from Earth. Bennu offers scientists a window into the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and flinging ingredients that could have helped seed life on Earth. If Tuesday’s sample collection event, known as “Touch-And-Go” (TAG), provided enough of a sample, mission teams will command the spacecraft to begin stowing the precious primordial cargo to begin its journey back to Earth in March 2021. Otherwise, they will prepare for another attempt in January. Next Previous
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1 Oct 2020, 14:45 UTC With the help of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have found six galaxies lying around a supermassive black hole when the Universe was less than a billion years old. This is the first time such a close grouping has been seen so soon after the Big Bang and the finding helps us better understand how supermassive black holes, one of which exists at the centre of our Milky Way, formed and grew to their enormous sizes so quickly. It supports the theory that black holes can grow rapidly within large, web-like structures which contain plenty of gas to fuel them. Next Previous
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17 Sep 2020, 22:22 UTC Astronomers using the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) have made the first direct geometric measurement of the distance to a magnetar within our Milky Way Galaxy — a measurement that could help determine if magnetars are the sources of the long-mysterious Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs).Magnetars are a variety of neutron stars — the superdense remains of massive stars that exploded as supernovae — with extremely strong magnetic fields. A typical magnetar magnetic field is a trillion times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field, making magnetars the most magnetic objects in the Universe. They can emit strong bursts of X-rays and gamma rays, and recently have become a leading candidate for the sources of FRBs.A magnetar called XTE J1810-197, discovered in 2003, was the first of only six such objects found to emit radio pulses. It did so from 2003 to 2008, then ceased for a decade. In December of 2018, it resumed emitting bright radio pulses.A team of astronomers used the VLBA to regularly observe XTE J1810-197 from January to November of 2019, then again during March and April of 2020. By viewing the magnetar from opposite sides of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, they were ... Next Previous
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MIT 25 Nov 2020, 14:00 UTC Earlier this month a team of MIT researchers sent samples of various high-tech fabrics, some with embedded sensors or electronics, to the International Space Station. The samples (unpowered for now) will be exposed to the space environment for a year in order to determine a baseline for how well these materials survive the harsh environment of low Earth orbit.
Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe 23 Nov 2020, 19:00 UTC Using Planck data from the cosmic microwave background radiation, an international team of researchers has observed a hint of new physics. The team developed a new method to measure the polarization angle of the ancient light by calibrating it with dust emission from our own Milky Way. While the signal is not detected with enough precision to draw definite conclusions, it may suggest that dark matter or dark energy causes a violation of the so-called “parity symmetry.”
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics 23 Nov 2020, 12:02 UTC An international team of scientists led by the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian, has identified a problem with the growing interest in extractable resources on the moon: there aren’t enough of them to go around. With no international policies or agreements to decide "who gets what from where," scientists believe tensions, overcrowding, and quick exhaustion of resources to be one possible future for moon mining projects. The paper published today in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A.
NASA Breaking News 21 Nov 2020, 17:55 UTC A joint U.S.-European satellite built to monitor global sea levels lifted off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California Saturday at 9:17 a.m. PST (12:17 p.m. EST). About the size of a small pickup truck, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will extend a nearly 30-year continuous dataset on sea level collected by an ongoing collaboration of U.S. and European satellites while enhancing weather forecasts and providing detailed information on large-scale ocean currents to support ship navigation near coastlines.
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics 19 Nov 2020, 15:10 UTC Sparked by an image uploaded to Twitter, new research indicates that the light produced by black hole accretion may be bright enough to reflect off of dust, illuminating the host galaxy, and creating light and dark rays similar to the effect of crepuscular rays on Earth. The research is published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 18 Nov 2020, 15:56 UTC NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope marked another significant testing milestone with the successful deployment of a critical structure that plays an important role in how the observatory will unfurl and deploy once in space.
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Universe Today 25 Nov 2020, 15:49 UTC The surface of the Sun is a turbulent dance of gravity, plasma, and magnetic fields. Much like the weather on Earth, its behavior can seem unpredictable, but there are patterns to be found when you look closely.
EarthSky Blog 25 Nov 2020, 13:09 UTC Gale Crater on Mars used to contain a lake, or series of lakes, a few billion years ago. Streams once emptied into that lake. Now, new evidence from the Curiosity rover suggests that giant floods also once washed through this region. Computer-generated image via Flickr user Kevin Gill. See more of Kevin’s computer graphics depicting Martian lakes and rivers.NASA’s Curiosity rover has been exploring Gale Crater on Mars since 2012. In that time, it’s confirmed that a lake – or series of lakes, and flowing streams – existed there a few billion years ago. It’s more evidence that Mars was once a wetter and much more habitable environment than it is today. On November 18, 2020, scientists announced a new study based on an analysis of Curiosity’s data that has yielded another glimpse into Gale Crater’s past: megafloods. They are giant floods, likely caused by a meteorite impact, that washed through the crater with incredible power, leaving behind ripples that can still be seen today.The researchers – at Cornell University, Jackson State University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the University of Hawaii – published the new peer-reviewed findings in Scientific Reports on November 5, 2020.EarthSky lunar calendars are back in ...
Air & Space Magazine 24 Nov 2020, 16:00 UTC I've written here before about a proposed mission I helped develop a decade ago that would have explored the hydrocarbon seas of Saturn’s moon Titan. The Titan Mare Explorer (TiME) proposal took four years to prepare, and even though the mission ultimately wasn’t selected by NASA, I’m so proud of that work and that team. It’s not uncommon for dozens of people to put in many years of work before a space mission is green-lit, let alone built and launched.
EarthSky Blog 23 Nov 2020, 17:14 UTC Mars has some of the largest volcanoes in the solar system, but they’ve apparently been inactive for millions of years. No plumes of ash or flowing streams of lava are seen on Mars today. But just how long ago were the last great martian eruptions? That has been a matter of some debate among planetary geologists, and now scientists at the University of Arizona (UA) have announced new evidence for recent – geologically speaking – explosive volcanism in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars. According to the new findings, eruptions there may have occurred as recently as 53 thousand years ago, which is a blink of an eye relative to Mars’ total age of about 4.6 billion years (same as Earth’s). According to these scientists, this finding could mean Mars is still volcanically active even today, at least underground.
SciTech Daily 23 Nov 2020, 06:04 UTC In a surprising discovery, astronomers using two Maunakea Observatories – W. M. Keck Observatory and Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) – have found a globular star cluster in the Andromeda Galaxy that contains a record-breaking low amount of metals. The stars in the cluster, called RBC EXT8, have on average 800 times less iron than our Sun and are three times more iron-poor than the previous globular cluster record-holder. RBC EXT8 is also extremely deficient in magnesium.
New Scientist 23 Nov 2020, 00:01 UTC Goodnight, moon. Earlier this year, astronomers found a minimoon orbiting Earth. It has now drifted away, but we should soon be able to detect more of these miniature companions. When astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona spotted a dim object called 2020 CD3 hurtling across the sky in February, they couldn’t be sure if it was a minimoon or an artificial object like a rocket booster. Over the following few months, Grigori Fedorets at Queen’s University Belfast in the UK and his colleagues used a series of telescopes around the world to take more measurements of the object and figure out what it was.