Centauri Dreams 31 Oct 2019, 13:54 UTC The spectacular success of New Horizons inevitably leads to questions about what an orbiter at Pluto/Charon might accomplish. It’s heartening that NASA has funded the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) to look further into the matter, the Institute having already examined the question on its own. Now a Pluto orbiter becomes one of ten mission studies NASA is sponsoring as we look toward the next National Academy Planetary Science Decadal Survey. Beginning in 2020, the survey will outline science objectives and recommend missions over a ten year period.
Bad Astronomy 31 Oct 2019, 13:00 UTC Today is Halloween, a traditionally favorite nerd holiday. Boo! In the past I've posted images of many a spooky astronomical object on this day, but today I have one that is both eerie and cute, terrifying and lovable. What could fit this bill but a giant cosmic tardigrade!
Universe Today 31 Oct 2019, 08:45 UTC Though it looks like it to us, Jupiter’s clouds do no form a flat surface. Some of its clouds rise up above the surrounding cloud tops. The two bright spots in the right center of this image are much higher than the surrounding clouds.
New Scientist 30 Oct 2019, 18:00 UTC In about 5 billion years, oursun – a pretty average-sized yellow star – will turn into a red giant, its outer layers expanding and consuming the solar system. Eventually, as the gas is blown off, it will become a planetary nebula and leave behind a very faint, very dense object called a white dwarf. A teaspoon of white dwarf material would weigh 5 tonnes here on Earth. Only quantum pressure between electrons stands between a white dwarf and black hole status.
Starts With a Bang! 30 Oct 2019, 14:01 UTC One of the greatest challenges for a scientist is that every time you make a new advance, it only raises more questions. When we look out at our Universe today, we see galaxies with all sorts of different properties. We see giant ellipticals that haven’t formed stars in billions of years; we see Milky Way-like spirals that are rich in heavy elements; we see irregular galaxies; we see dwarf galaxies; we see ultra-distant galaxies that appear to be forming stars for just the first or second time. But when you put this all together, there are some puzzles. Some galaxies have grown to be so large so early that they’ve defied a coherent explanation. With only small, low-mass galaxies found at great distances by Hubble, the active formation of a large galaxy has long been astronomy’s missing link. With a new discovery of a dark, massive galaxy, astronomers may have just cracked the mystery, and solved a longstanding cosmic puzzle.
AAS Nova 30 Oct 2019, 08:42 UTC Pulsars. Fast Radio Bursts. Magnetars. The world of high-energy stellar astrophysics has no shortage of weird objects that do not always behave like we think they should. From the mysterious workings inside a neutron star to the unknown reason behind why some fast radio bursts repeat, these sources continue to surprise and mystify us. Now, the world of magnetars, stars with incredibly high magnetic fields, just got a little more interesting.
SPACE.com 30 Oct 2019, 08:41 UTC NASA's Curiosity Mars rover performed some rare science work recently, then took a bit of a break to take in the austere beauty of its surroundings. On Sept. 24, Curiosity conducted a "wet chemistry" experiment for just the second time ever during its seven years on the Red Planet, dropping a drilled sample into a special solvent that could help the rover identify carbon-containing organic molecules.
Starts With a Bang! 29 Oct 2019, 14:01 UTC 13.8 billion years ago, all the matter and energy contained within our Universe was concentrated into a volume of space about the size of a soccer ball. Even with all that energy in such a small space, however, we didn’t collapse into a black hole. Instead, the Universe expanded at a rapid rate that balanced the energy density so precisely that, for all of our measured cosmic history, we’ve walked that fine line between expanding and recollapsing. Today, all we can see within the Universe extends for some 46 billion light-years in all directions, and scientists can trace this origin back to a hot, dense, more uniform and more rapidly expanding state. Like many theorists, you might be tempted to extrapolate this back even farther, to an arbitrarily hot and dense state: a singularity. But that temptation is the root of most of our misunderstandings surrounding the birth of the Universe. The Big Bang wasn’t the beginning, after all. Instead, that honor goes to cosmic inflation, and everyone should understand why.
Bad Astronomy 29 Oct 2019, 13:00 UTC Roughly half of all stars you see in the sky are actually part of a binary system, two stars (and sometimes more) orbiting each other. They look like one star by eye because, while the two stars are physically separated from each other by some billions of kilometers, they're also hundreds of trillions of kilometers from Earth, so from that distance they blend together into what looks like a single star.