ESO Blog 17 Aug 2018, 10:00 UTC A telescope alone is not enough to do advanced astronomical research — the light they capture must be analysed by an instrument. There is a huge range of instruments and techniques that can help astronomers make the most of the information collected with a telescope. Interferometry is one of these techniques and has guided engineers to build highly-developed instruments for precise interferometric measurements. To learn more about these instruments, we catch up with ESO Fellow Joel Sanchez-Bermudez, who was involved with the GRAVITY instrument on the Very Large Telescope Interferometer at Paranal.
Planetaria 17 Aug 2018, 04:30 UTC Rogue planets are free-floating worlds, drifting in space between the stars. A growing number of these odd objects have been discovered in recent years, not gravitationally tethered to any star. Now, a weird new one has been found and observed more closely, as discussed in a new peer-reviewed paper in The Astrophysical Journal on July 31, 2018. This world may be unbound to a star, but it is still energetic, with a powerful magnetic field four million times stronger than Earth’s and auroras more powerful than Earth’s northern lights.
Astrobiology Magazine 16 Aug 2018, 21:00 UTC MIT scientists have uncovered a sprawling new galaxy cluster hiding in plain sight. The cluster, which sits a mere 2.4 billion light years from Earth, is made up of hundreds of individual galaxies and surrounds an extremely active supermassive black hole, or quasar.
The Planetary Society Blog 16 Aug 2018, 19:09 UTC China is all set to attempt the first ever soft-landing on the far side of the Moon, announcing on Wednesday that it will launch the Chang’e-4 lunar lander and rover spacecraft in December.
Starts With a Bang! 16 Aug 2018, 14:01 UTC Every so often, with extreme regularity, comets will plunge from beyond the orbit of Neptune into the inner Solar System. From well beyond the orbit of Saturn, they remain cold, frozen, and in a dormant state; although they’re always moving, nothing about them changes. But when they start to approach the orbit of Jupiter, being in close proximity to the Sun changes things. The outer parts of the comet heat up, the frozen ices on the surface start to sublimate, and the radiation and wind from the Sun start to push the surface molecules away. Before long, your comet glows with not just the reflected light from the Sun, but with two tails — one grey, one blue — and an eerie, green coma around the center. Here’s why that happens.
io9 Space 15 Aug 2018, 17:00 UTC Scientists directly observed the signal of iron and titanium atoms in the atmosphere of an exoplanet 600 light-years from Earth, a new paper reports. KELT-9b is a planet entirely alien to our own Solar System—it’s 2.88 times the mass of Jupiter, with a year lasting just 1.5 Earth days and temperatures over 4,000 Kelvin (6,740 Fahrenheit). It’s the hottest known exoplanet, and the site of the first exoplanetary observation of iron and titanium atoms. It’s a stepping stone that will help astronomers one day characterize the atmospheres of more hospitable planets.
Starts With a Bang! 15 Aug 2018, 14:01 UTC The story of our cosmic history is one of an expanding and cooling Universe. As we progressed from a hot, dense, uniform state to a cold, sparse, clumpy one, a number of momentous events happened throughout our cosmic history. At the moment of the hot Big Bang, the Universe was filled with all sorts of ultra-high energy particles, antiparticles, and quanta of radiation, moving at or close to the speed of light. On the other hand, today, we have a Universe filled with stars, galaxies, gas, dust, and many other phenomena that are too low in energy to have existed in the early Universe. Once things cooled enough so that the Higgs gave mass to the Universe, you might think that protons and neutrons would immediately form. But they couldn’t exist right away. Here’s the story of how they came to be.
The Planetary Society Blog 15 Aug 2018, 11:00 UTC What's new out at Jupiter? We haven't looked in on NASA’s Juno spacecraft since (checks blog archive) May. Juno completed its 14th close flyby of Jupiter on July 15, and as of Tuesday morning, it was 8 million kilometers from Jupiter, gradually working its way back toward the planet following apojove.
Centauri Dreams 14 Aug 2018, 16:50 UTC Speaking of getting really, really close to a star, as we were yesterday in our discussion of the Parker Solar Probe, I couldn’t help but turn to new computer models of the ‘ultrahot Jupiter’ WASP-121b. I still find it delightful that the earliest exoplanet detections involved a category of planet that few scientists had imagined existed. These days we routinely discuss gas giants blisteringly close to their hosts, and even manage to extract information about their atmospheres through transmission spectroscopy, but few people expected such planets when we began to discover them.