Universe Today 28 Apr 2017, 19:10 UTC Back in February of 2017, NASA announced the discovery of a seven-planet system orbiting a nearby star. This system, known as TRAPPIST-1, is of particular interest to astronomers because of the nature and orbits of the planets. Not only are all seven planets terrestrial in nature (i.e. rocky), but three of the seven have been confirmed to be within the star’s habitable zone (aka. “Goldilocks Zone”). But beyond the chance that some of these planets could be inhabited, there is also the possibility that their proximity to each other could allow for life to be transferred between them. That is the possibility that a team of scientists from the University of Chicago sought to address in a new study.
Many Worlds 28 Apr 2017, 16:51 UTC One of the great successes of the Curiosity mission to Mars is that the rover landed at what turned out to be a goldmine of a location. The mission has once and for all determined that the planet was habitable at least during its early days, that it contains the organic building blocks of life, and that liquid water ran and formed lakes. And this leaves out the more basic Mars science that some day will some day produce new headline results.
Astro Bob 28 Apr 2017, 14:15 UTC I apologize for being late in getting this out, but if you have small telescope and and clear skies today, you can spot Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, get covered by the moon in broad daylight. The occultation will be visible across the U.S., parts of Canada, Central America and Europe.
Centauri Dreams 28 Apr 2017, 13:32 UTC I have a special enthusiasm for microlensing as a means of exoplanet discovery. With microlensing, you never know what you’re going to come up with. Transits are easier to detect when the planet is close to its star, and hence transits more frequently. Radial velocity likewise sends its loudest signal when a planet is large and close. Microlensing, detecting the ‘bending’ of light from a background object as it is affected by a nearer star’s gravitational field, can turn up a planet whether near to its star or far, and in a wide range of masses. It can also be used to study planetary populations as distant as the galactic bulge and beyond.
Space Fellowship 28 Apr 2017, 08:07 UTC Some 60 million light-years away in the southerly constellation Corvus, two large galaxies are colliding. Stars in the two galaxies, cataloged as NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, very rarely collide in the course of the ponderous cataclysm that lasts for hundreds of millions of years. But the galaxies’ large clouds of molecular gas and dust often do, triggering furious episodes of star formation near the center of the cosmic wreckage.
AmericaSpace 28 Apr 2017, 01:58 UTC After waiting with bated breath last night, everyone following Cassini’s first-ever dive through the gap between Saturn and its rings let out a collective sigh of relief – the spacecraft made it! This was the first time a probe had ever flown this close to Saturn’s atmosphere and inner rings, and while mission scientists were confident the probe would sail through unharmed, it wasn’t a 100% guarantee, either. But it did, and this is just the first of 22 such dives through this region as part of the “Grand Finale” phase of the mission.
Astronomy Now 28 Apr 2017, 00:30 UTC Astronomers believe that matter in intergalactic space is distributed in a vast network of interconnected filamentary structures known as the cosmic web. Nearly all the atoms in the universe reside in this web, vestigial material left over from the Big Bang. A team led by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy have made the first measurements of small-scale fluctuations in the cosmic web just 2 billion years after the Big Bang. These measurements were enabled by a novel technique using pairs of quasars to probe the cosmic web along adjacent, closely separated lines of sight. They promise to help astronomers reconstruct an early chapter of cosmic history known as the epoch of reionization.
Universe Today 27 Apr 2017, 15:33 UTC One down, twenty-one to go! The Cassini spacecraft survived the first dive through the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings, and is now back communicating with Earth. It was a long day for Cassini scientists and engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory while the spacecraft was out of contact for 20 hours during this first dive, signaling the beginning of the end for Cassini.