Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Latest Dimming of KIC 8462852 Similar to Previous Ones, Says Tabetha Boyajian

Star KIC 8462852 in infrared (2MASS survey) and ultraviolet (GALEX). Credit: Infrared: IPAC/NASA, Ultraviolet: STScI (NASA)

Yale University astronomer Tabetha Boyajian, who led the team that first detected strange behavior of the star KIC 8462852 (nicknamed “Tabby’s star”) revealed that the latest dimming of this star is similar to the ones previously observed.

Short Spacewalk Complete After Successful Installation Work

Astronaut Jack Fischer waves while attached to the Destiny laboratory during a spacewalk to replace a failed data relay box and install a pair wireless antennas. Credit: NASA

Expedition 51 Commander Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA concluded their spacewalk at 10:06 p.m. EDT. During the spacewalk, which lasted two hours and 46 minutes, the two astronauts successfully replaced a computer relay box, and installed a pair of antennas on station to enhance wireless communication for future spacewalks.

VLA Reveals New Object Near Supermassive Black Hole in Famous Galaxy

2015 VLA radio image (orange) of Cygnus A, overlaid on Hubble Space Telescope image. Credit: Perley, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, NASA

Pointing the Very Large Array (VLA) at a famous galaxy for the first time in two decades, a team of astronomers got a big surprise, finding that a bright new object had appeared near the galaxy’s core. The object, the scientists concluded, is either a very rare type of supernova explosion or, more likely, an outburst from a second supermassive black hole closely orbiting the galaxy’s primary, central supermassive black hole.

Study Shows How Radioactive Decay Could Support Extraterrestrial Life

A University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) team modeled a natural water-cracking process called radiolysis. They applied the model to the icy bodies around our solar system to show how radiation emitted from rocky cores could break up water molecules and support hydrogen-eating microbes. Image Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

In the icy bodies around our solar system, radiation emitted from rocky cores could break up water molecules and support hydrogen-eating microbes. To address this cosmic possibility, a University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) team modeled a natural water-cracking process called radiolysis. They then applied the model to several worlds with known or suspected interior oceans, including Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Jupiter’s moon Europa, Pluto and its moon Charon, as well as the dwarf planet Ceres.

ASKAP Telescope to Rule Radio-Burst Hunt

Dishes of CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder  ©Kim Steele

The discovery came so quickly that the telescope, the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) near Geraldton in Western Australia, looks set to become a world champion in this fiercely competitive area of astronomy. The new fast radio burst finding was published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Synestia, a New Type of Planetary Object

A new type of planetary object, a donut-shaped body of vaporized and molten rock called a synestia, is being proposed by planetary scientists at UC Davis and Harvard University. Synestias form when planet-sized objects crash into each other with high energy and angular momentum. This new object opens up new ways to think about how the moon formed, and they could be spotted in other solar systems. (Figure by Simon Lock.)

There’s something new to look for in the heavens, and it’s called a “synestia,” according to planetary scientists Simon Lock at Harvard University and Sarah Stewart at the University of California, Davis. A synestia, they propose, would be a huge, spinning, donut-shaped mass of hot, vaporized rock, formed as planet-sized objects smash into each other.

Kepler Telescope Spies Details of TRAPPIST-1 System’s Outermost Planet

The ultra-cool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 and its seven planets. Credit: NASA

A University of Washington-led international team of astronomers has used data gathered by the Kepler Space Telescope to observe and confirm details of the outermost of seven exoplanets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1. They confirmed that the planet, TRAPPIST-1h, orbits its star every 18.77 days, is linked in its orbital path to its siblings and is frigidly cold. Far from its host star, the planet is likely uninhabitable — but it may not always have been so.