New Scientist 6 Dec 2019, 19:05 UTC It’s comet 2I/Borisov’s time to shine. The interstellar comet has been steadily getting brighter since it was first spotted in September, and now it’s reaching its brightest moments as it passes close to the sun and Earth.
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.
Starts With a Bang! 5 Dec 2019, 15:01 UTC Of all the things in the Universe to be thankful for — the stars, planets, atoms, molecules, and more that came together and made our existence possible — it seems odd that dark matter would be included. Even here in our own Solar System, dark matter might be present, but even its gravitational effects are totally negligible, contributing less than the dwarf planet Ceres does to all the orbits of the planets, moons, asteroids and Kuiper belt objects. And yet, without dark matter, the Universe as we know it wouldn’t exist the way it does. Stars would be extremely rare entities in the Universe, and large galaxies with Sun-like stars and Earth-like planets would be all but impossible. Dark matter enabled the Universe to give rise to us, and without it, we wouldn’t be here. Here’s the cosmic story that every one of us should be thankful for.
astrobites 5 Dec 2019, 11:00 UTC Gravitational wave astronomy is a field brimming with promise, with LIGO–Virgo discovering new clues to a number of scientific mysteries, such as the origin of heavy elements and the progenitors of short gamma-ray bursts. One such mystery is the lack of observed neutron stars or black holes in the ~3 to 5 solar mass range, i.e. the ‘mass gap‘ which shows up as a conspicuously empty band in the schematic below.
Universe Today 4 Dec 2019, 21:05 UTC Back in November, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano made history by taking command of a rover from the International Space Station (ISS). As part of the Analog-1 experiments, this feat was made possible thanks to a “space internet” command infrastructure and a force-feedback control setup. This allowed Parmitano to remotely operate a rover 10,000 km (6,200 mi) away while orbiting Earth at a speed of 8 km/s (28,800 km/h; 17,900 mph).