Cosmic Log 17 Mar 2021, 01:37 UTC The debate over Oumuamua, the first interstellar visitor observed to pass through our solarsystem, is still raging after it zipped around the sun and headed back into the celestial darkness in 2017. A pair of studies suggest that the flattened chunk of cosmic material consists primarily of solid nitrogen ice, much like the stuff on Pluto’s surface.
Universe Today 16 Mar 2021, 19:32 UTC The gargantuan supermassive black holes at the center of seemingly every galaxy are among the most fascinating and extreme objects known to modern astronomy and cosmology. With masses well in excess of millions, and sometimes billions that of our Sun, it is nearly impossible to comprehend the extraordinary size of these celestial leviathans. One of the great mysteries of modern astrophysics is answering how such enormous objects got started. In a press release published on March 10th, researchers propose that the origins of supermassive black holes may lie with long since extinct, first-generation stars with masses far above the most massive stars in the modern Universe. Not only do they propose such giants existed, but also they suggest that they’ve found a way to detect a particular subset of these stars. This breakthrough is thanks to our old friend, Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.
New Scientist 16 Mar 2021, 15:00 UTC Billions of years ago, Mars had rivers and seas on its surface, but they have all disappeared since then. The planet may have been left dry after its crust irreversibly sucked up most of that ancient water.
Bad Astronomy 16 Mar 2021, 13:00 UTC You'd think that tossing around a supermassive black hole equal to the mass of three million times that of the Sun's would be difficult. But for the galaxy J0437+2456 something did exactly that. The question is, what?
Centauri Dreams 15 Mar 2021, 14:57 UTC Héctor Socas-Navarro (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias) is lead author of a paper on technosignatures that commands attention. Drawing on work presented at the TechnoClimes 2020 virtual meeting, under the auspices of NASA at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science in Seattle, the paper pulls together a number of concepts for technosignature detection. Blue Marble’s Jacob Haqq-Misra is a co-author, as is James Benford (Microwave Sciences), Jason Wright (Pennsylvania State) and Ravi Kopparapu (NASA GSFC), all major figures in the field, but the paper also draws on the collected thinking of the TechnoClimes workshop participants. We’ve already looked at a number of technosignature possibilities in these pages, so let me look for commonalities as we begin, beyond simply listing possibilities, to point toward a research agenda, something that NASA clearly had in mind for the TechnoClimes meeting. The first thing to say is that technosignature work is nicely embedded within more traditional areas of astronomy, sharing a commensal space with observations being acquired for other reasons. Thus the search through archival data will always be a path for potential discovery.
New Scientist 15 Mar 2021, 12:09 UTC An average of seven interstellar objects pass by the sun every year, potentially close enough for us to observe and even visit, according to a new analysis. Some of these could even be from another galaxy.
Parabolic Arc 12 Mar 2021, 17:00 UTC The first readings from the SuperCam instrument aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover have arrived on Earth. Perched atop the rover’s mast, SuperCam’s 12-pound (5.6-kilogram) sensor head can perform five types of analyses to study Mars’ geology and help scientists choose which rocks the rover should sample in its search for signs of ancient microbial life.
Bad Astronomy 12 Mar 2021, 14:00 UTC A nearby rocky planet orbiting very close to its host star may be sporting a second-generation atmosphere: It used to be more like Neptune, but the star blew the planet’s air away, and what we see now are noxious gases released by a magma ocean afterwards. That’s pretty weird. But it’s also expected.
Universe Today 11 Mar 2021, 21:30 UTC Astronomers are struggling to understand the discrepancies when measuring the expansion rate of the universe with different methods, and are desperate for any creative idea to break the tension. A new method involving some of the oldest stars in the universe could just do the trick.