Sunday, October 21, 2018

Newly Discovered House-Sized Asteroid to Fly By Earth on Wednesday

Credit: NASA

A house-sized asteroid detected just few days ago, designated 2018 UH1, will pass by the Earth on Wednesday, October 24, at around 5:00 UTC. The space rock is expected to fly by our planet with a relative velocity of about 13 km/s at a safe distance of approximately 5.3 lunar distances (LD), or 2.03 million kilometers.

Kes 75: Milky Way's Youngest Pulsar Exposes Secrets of Star's Demise

In this composite image of Kes 75, high-energy X-rays observed by Chandra are colored blue and highlight the pulsar wind nebula surrounding the pulsar, while lower-energy X-rays appear purple and show the debris from the explosion. A Sloan Digital Sky Survey optical image reveals stars in the field. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/NCSU/S. Reynolds; Optical: PanSTARRS

Scientists have confirmed the identity of the youngest known pulsar in the Milky Way galaxy using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. This result could provide astronomers new information about how some stars end their lives.

Measuring the Age of the Universe

An artist's visualization of the merger of a binary neutron star. Gravitational waves from the mergers of binary neutron stars and binary black holes have recently been detected by the LIGO and Virgo facilities. These measurements can be used to calculate the age of the universe in a way that is independent of the two conventional methods previously used. Astronomers have calculated that in the next five years it is probable that fifty such events will be detected; their statistics will enable able an age determination with a precision of 2%, enough to also resolve the current incompatibility between the other two estimates.  Credit: National Science Foundation/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet

The single most important puzzle in today's cosmology (the study of the universe as a whole) can be summarized in one question: How old is it? For nearly a century -- since the discoveries by Einstein, Hubble, LeMaitre and others led to the big bang model of creation -- we have known the answer. It is about 13.8 billion years old (using current data). But in just the past decade the two alternative measurement methods have narrowed the uncertainties in their results to a few percent to reach a stunning conclusion: The two do not agree with each other. Since both methods are based on exactly the same model and equations, our understanding of the universe is somehow wrong -- perhaps fundamentally so.

Surprise Finding: Discovering a Previously Unknown Role for a Source of Magnetic Fields

Physicists Jackson Matteucci and Will Fox with poster displaying their research. Photo by Elle Starkman/Office of Communications

Magnetic forces ripple throughout the universe, from the fields surrounding planets to the gasses filling galaxies, and can be launched by a phenomenon called the Biermann battery effect. Now scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have found that this phenomenon may not only generate magnetic fields, but can sever them to trigger magnetic reconnection – a remarkable and surprising discovery.

Astronomers Catch Red Dwarf Star in a Superflare Outburst

Violent outbursts of seething gas from young red dwarf stars may make conditions uninhabitable on fledgling planets. In this artist's rendering, an active, young red dwarf (right) is stripping the atmosphere from an orbiting planet (left). Scientists found that flares from the youngest red dwarfs they surveyed — approximately 40 million years old — are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when the stars are older. They also detected one of the most intense stellar flares ever observed in ultraviolet light — more energetic than the most powerful flare ever recorded from our Sun. Credits: NASA, ESA and D. Player (STScI)

New observations by two Arizona State University astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have caught a red dwarf star in a violent outburst, or superflare. The blast of radiation was more powerful than any such outburst ever detected from the sun and would likely affect the habitability of any planets orbiting it.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Ariane 5 Rocket Begins BepiColombo’s Journey to Mercury

Ariane 5 ascends from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch complex on Arianespace’s seventh mission of 2018, which deployed Europe’s first mission to Mercury into an Earth escape orbit. Credit: Arianespace

Europe’s powerful Ariane 5 booster took to the skies on Friday, October 19, to launch BepiColombo on a long journey to Mercury. The joint ESA/JAXA mission is expected to be inserted into Mercurian orbit in December of 2025.

Double Dust Ring Test Could Spot Migrating Planets

Dr Farzana Meru. Credit: University of Warwick

New research by a team led by an astrophysicist at the University of Warwick has a way of finally telling whether newly forming planets are migrating within the disc of dust and gas that typically surrounds stars or whether they are simply staying put in the same orbit around the star.