SciTech Daily 13 Mar 2019, 02:38 UTC Glycolonitrile is an important molecule for life as it is thought to be a precursor to adenine, one of the four constituent bases of nucleic acids. Mechanisms for the formation of glycolonitrile in the cold interstellar medium of space have been theorised, but the molecule itself had never been directly detected in space until now.
Universe Today 12 Mar 2019, 19:59 UTC Astronomers keep trying to measure the mass of the Milky Way and they keep coming up with different numbers. But it’s not that they’re bad at math. Measuring the mass of something as enormous as the Milky Way is confounding. Plus, we’re embedded in it; it takes some very clever maneuvering to constrain its mass.
The Planetary Society Blog 12 Mar 2019, 16:02 UTC A great quest is underway to discover Earth-size worlds in their stars’ habitable zones. Along the way, astronomers have been surprised to learn that the most typical size of planet in our galaxy is one with no counterpart in our own solar system. These planets are called super-Earths or mini-Neptunes. They populate an unfamiliar regime of worlds. They are larger than Earth, the Sun’s biggest rocky world, yet smaller than Neptune or Uranus, which are about 4 Earths in diameter. In fact, an exoplanet detected as it transits across the disk of its host star is 4 times more likely to have a size in the super-Earth/mini-Neptune regime than to be bigger than Neptune. These discovery statistics are telling us something—but what?
Bad Astronomy 12 Mar 2019, 13:00 UTC Every once in a great while, an astronomical image will come down that is so arresting, so soul-touchingly beautiful, that it stops you in your tracks. It almost doesn’t matter what kind of object it is — planet, nebula, star cluster, galaxy — it’s the artistry of it that somehow reaches out to you. NGC 3256 is one such object. This Hubble Space Telescope image of it is one such work of art.
The Planetary Society Blog 12 Mar 2019, 04:22 UTC The President's budget request for NASA (released on 11 March) defies easy characterization. It includes many welcome proposals: $109 million for a new Mars Sample Return mission, an accelerated launch timeline for Europa Clipper, and funding increases for future human deep-space efforts, to name a few. Yet it also includes a frustrating litany of cuts previously and resoundingly rejected by Congress, attempting again to kill the WFIRST space telescope, multiple Earth Science missions, and the entirety of NASA's Education/STEM outreach division.
SciTech Daily 12 Mar 2019, 01:07 UTC Astronomers have discovered a binary star system with the closest high-mass young stellar objects ever measured, providing a valuable “laboratory” to test theories on high mass binary star formation.
The Planetary Society Blog 11 Mar 2019, 18:22 UTC Planetary color can be highly subjective. The human eye is less sensitive to color in faintly lit environments. This is of particular importance when processing images of Uranus, or Neptune, where the sunshine is almost 1,000 times fainter than it is on Earth.