Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cosmic Horseshoe Is Not a Lucky Beacon

The Cosmic Horseshoe, as photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA.

A billion years after the big bang, nearly all of the atoms were destroyed (ionized), but astronomers don’t understand what caused it. They assume that nascent galaxies emitted ultraviolet light energetic enough to ionize all of the atoms. However, astronomers don’t fully understand the escape rate of ionizing photons from early galaxies. That escape rate is a crucial, but still a poorly constrained value, meaning there are a wide range of upper and lower limits in the models developed by astronomers.

Australian Desert Telescope Views Sky in Radio Technicolor

A ‘radio color’ view of the sky above a ‘tile’ of the Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope, located in outback Western Australia. The Milky Way is visible as a band across the sky and the dots beyond are some of the 300,000 galaxies observed by the telescope for the GLEAM survey. Red indicates the lowest frequencies, green the middle frequencies and blue the highest frequencies. Credit: Radio image by Natasha Hurley-Walker (ICRAR/Curtin) and the GLEAM Team. MWA tile and landscape by Dr John Goldsmith / Celestial Visions.

A telescope located deep in the West Australian outback has shown what the Universe would look like if human eyes could see radio waves. Published Monday in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the GaLactic and Extragalactic All-sky MWA, or ‘GLEAM’ survey, has produced a catalog of 300,000 galaxies observed by the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), a $50 million radio telescope located at a remote site northeast of Geraldton.

Unexpected Giant Glowing Halos Detected Around Distant Quasars

This mosaic shows 18 of the 19 quasars observed by an international team of astronomers, led by the ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Each observed quasar is surrounded by a bright gaseous halo. It is the first time that a survey of quasars shows such bright halos around all of the observed quasars.  The discovery was made using the MUSE instrument at ESO’s Very Large Telescope.  Credit: ESO/Borisova et al.

An international team of astronomers has discovered glowing gas clouds surrounding distant quasars. This new survey by the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope indicates that halos around quasars are far more common than expected. The properties of the halos in this surprising find are also in striking disagreement with currently accepted theories of galaxy formation in the early Universe.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Roscosmos Boss Confirms 2021 Test Flight of Federation Spacecraft

An artist's concept of the "Federation" spacecraft. Image Credit: Roscosmos

Head of the Roscosmos State Corporation has recently confirmed that the first test flight of Russia’s next-generation spacecraft, called “Federation”, will take place in 2021. The spacecraft’s maiden orbital mission will see its unmanned version launching from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the country’s Far East.

Young Stellar System Caught in Act of Forming Close Multiples

ALMA image of the L1448 IRS3B system, with two young stars at the center and a third distant from them. Spiral structure in the dusty disk surrounding them indicates instability in the disk, astronomers said. Credit: Bill Saxton, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), NRAO/AUI/NSF.

For the first time, astronomers have seen a dusty disk of material around a young star fragmenting into a multiple-star system. Scientists had suspected such a process, caused by gravitational instability, was at work, but new observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) revealed the process in action.

Planet Orbiting Nearest Star Could be Habitable

This artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the solar system. The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image. Proxima b is a little more massive than the Earth and orbits in the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri, where the temperature is suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. Credits: ESO/M. Kornmesser

A rocky extrasolar planet with a mass similar to Earth’s was recently detected around Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to our sun. This planet, called Proxima b, is in an orbit that would allow it to have liquid water on its surface, thus raising the question of its habitability. In a study to be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, an international team led by researchers at the Marseille Astrophysics Laboratory (CNRS/Aix-Marseille Université) has determined the planet’s dimensions and properties of its surface, which actually favor its habitability.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Elon Musk Answers Questions About SpaceX’s Mars Plans in Surprise Reddit AMA

A rendering of what SpaceX expects the Interplanetary Transport System to look like. The rocket will launch from historic Launch Complex 39A, which sent the first humans to the Moon in 1969. Image Credit: SpaceX

In stark contrast to questions SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk encountered following his Mars architecture announcement at the 2016 International Astronautical Congress (IAC) earlier this year, the NewSpace entrepreneur entertained questions from a more informed group in a surprise Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Oct. 23, 2016.