Sunday, June 17, 2018

Proposed CAESAR Mission to Return a Sample from Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

Artist's rendering of the CAESAR spacecraft acquiring a sample from the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Image Credit: NASA

A proposed space mission known as Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return (CAESAR), could greatly improve our knowledge about the origin and history of the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. If selected by NASA, it will return a sample from this comet to Earth, enabling scientists to study the leftover material from the formation of our Solar System.

China to Orbit Another Pair of BeiDou-3 Navigation Satellites

Long March 3B rocket launches with two BeiDou-3 satellites on March 29, 2018. Photo Credit: Xinhua/Liang Keyan

China is in final preparations to launch another pair of its BeiDou-3 navigation satellites, designated BeiDou-3 M5 and M6, into orbit on Wedensday, June 20. A Long March 3B booster will lift off with the duo from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC), situated in Sichuan Province. The exact time of the launch is yet to be announced.

Study May Help Humans Colonize Mars and Hunt for Alien Life

Jennifer Morton. Credit: ANU

Scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) have contributed to an international study that will potentially help humans to colonize Mars and find life on other planets. The study on an organism that survives in inhospitable and low-light conditions could dramatically improve our understanding of photosynthesis, the process by which plants and other organisms make and store energy from light and produce oxygen.

NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Retires

Peggy Whitson. Credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who holds the U.S. record for most cumulative time in space, is retiring from the agency, effective Friday. “Peggy Whitson is a testament to the American spirit,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Her determination, strength of mind, character, and dedication to science, exploration, and discovery are an inspiration to NASA and America. We owe her a great debt for her service and she will be missed. We thank her for her service to our agency and country.”

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Astronauts Install High-Definition Cameras Outside International Space Station

NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold exits the Quest airlock at the start of U.S. EVA-51. Photo Credit: Oleg Artemyev / Roscosmos

Two NASA astronauts ventured outside the International Space Station to perform the sixth spacewalk of 2018 at the orbiting complex. The nearly seven-hour long outing saw the duo install new cameras in preparation for upcoming commercial crew flights.

Astronomers See Distant Eruption as Black Hole Destroys Star

Artist's conception of Tidal Disruption Event (TDE) in Arp 299. Powerful gravity of supermassive black hole shreds passing star, pulling material into disk rotating around the black hole, and launching jet of particles outward. Artist's conception in pullout -- background is Hubble Space Telescope image of Arp 299, a pair of colliding galaxies. Credit: Sophia Dagnello, NRAO/AUI/NSF; NASA, STScI

For the first time, astronomers have directly imaged the formation and expansion of a fast-moving jet of material ejected when the powerful gravity of a supermassive black hole ripped apart a star that wandered too close to the cosmic monster.

Dust Clouds Can Explain Puzzling Features of Active Galactic Nuclei

An artist’s impression of what an active galactic nucleus might look like close up. The accretion disk produces the brilliant light in the center. The broad-line region is just above the accretion disk and lost in the glare. Dust clouds are being driven upward by the intense radiation. (Image credit: Peter Z. Harrington)

Many large galaxies have a bright central region called an active galactic nucleus (AGN), powered by matter spiraling into a supermassive black hole. Gas clouds in an area around the AGN known as the "broad-line region" emit light at characteristic wavelengths, but the complexity and variability of these emissions has been a longstanding puzzle for astrophysicists.