Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Scientists Penetrate Mystery of Raging Black Hole Beams

Artist's impression of the V404 Cygni black hole jet. Credit: G Pérez Díaz (IAC)

They are nature’s very own Death Star beams – ultra-powerful jets of energy that shoot out from the vicinity of black holes like deadly rays from the Star Wars super-weapon. Now a team of scientists led by the University of Southampton has moved a step closer to understanding these mysterious cosmic phenomena – known as relativistic jets – by measuring how quickly they ‘switch on’ and start shining brightly once they are launched.

KoreaSat 5A Marks 16th Successful Flight of 2017 for SpaceX

SpaceX launched KoreaSat 5A at 3:34 p.m. EDT (19:34 GMT) Oct. 30, 2017, from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, marking the 16th flight the NewSpace company has conducted in 2017. Photo Credit: Vikash Mahadeo / SpaceFlight Insider

KoreaSat 5A was lofted into orbit at 3:34 p.m. EDT (19:34 GMT) Oct. 30, 2017, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket under clear skies from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A). This marked the third SpaceX launch this month (October) alone, continuing an ambitious 2017 launch schedule for the Hawthorne, California-based company.

Monster Colliding Black Holes Might Lurk on the Edge of Spiral Galaxies

RIT researchers propose that the outer gas disk of spiral galaxies could be teeming with black holes that emit gravitational waves as they collide. Shown here is the Southern Pinwheel galaxy seen in ultraviolet light and radio wavelengths. The radio data, colored here in red, reveal the boondocks of the galaxy where orbiting black holes might exist. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/VLA/MPIA

The outskirts of spiral galaxies like our own could be crowded with colliding black holes of massive proportions and a prime location for scientists hunting the sources of gravitational waves, said researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology in an upcoming paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Newly Discovered House-Sized Asteroid Passes by Earth

A house-sized asteroid named 2017 UA6 missed the Earth on Sunday, October 29 at a safe distance of about 4 lunar distances (LD), what corresponds to 1.54 million kilometers. The object flew by our planet at approximately 4:17 UTC with a relative velocity of 15 km/s.

Jupiter’s X-Ray Auroras Pulse Independently

Jupiter’s south pole, as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft from an altitude of 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers) (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Betsy Asher Hall/Gervasio Robles)

Jupiter’s intense northern and southern lights pulse independently of each other according to new UCL-led research using ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatories. The study, published today in Nature Astronomy, found that very high-energy X-ray emissions at Jupiter’s south pole consistently pulse every 11 minutes. Meanwhile those at the north pole are erratic: increasing and decreasing in brightness, independent of the south pole.

Oldest Recorded Solar Eclipse Helps Date the Egyptian Pharaohs

Annular eclipse photographed at sunset in eastern New Mexico.  Credit: Kevin Baird

Researchers have pinpointed the date of what could be the oldest solar eclipse yet recorded. The event, which occurred on 30 October 1207 BC, is mentioned in the Bible and could have consequences for the chronology of the ancient world.

Chinese Scientists Measure Universe with 'Magic Ruler'

The cosmic distance ladder, symbolically shown here in this artist’s concept, is a series of stars and other objects within galaxies that have known distances. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

There's a giant "ruler" hidden among millions of galaxies in the universe. With it, scientists can measure how fast the universe is expanding. This will help them explore dark energy, the mysterious power behind cosmic expansion, and so speculate on the universe's destiny.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Asteroid Mining Could Start 10-20 Years from Now, Says Industry Expert

Artist's depiction of a near-Earth asteroid. Image Credit NASA

Mining space rocks for valuable resources can become reality within two decades, according to J.L. Galache of Aten Engineering. However, still many challenges must be overcome to make it happen that soon.

NanoRacks Deploys Second Kaber-Class Microsatellite This Week

Artist's concept of the SIMPL satellite. Credit: NovaWurks

NanoRacks successfully deployed NovaWurks’ SIMPL satellite via the Company’s Kaber Microsatellite Deployer (KABER) from the International Space Station (ISS) early this morning. This is the second Kaber-class deployment that NanoRacks completed this week.

GRACE Mission Comes to an End After 15 Years

The U.S./German GRACE satellite mission has ended science operations after providing 15 years of unprecedented insights into how our planet is changing. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On March 17, 2002, the twin satellites of the NASA/German Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) were launched in order to make precise measurements of the Earth´s gravity field. GRACE has lasted three times as long as originally planned for more than 15 years. Now it has ended science operations.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Russia May Select First Crew for Its Federation Spacecraft Next Year

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

Russia may reveal soon the names of cosmonauts assigned to the first space mission of the country’s next-generation spacecraft known as Federation. According to the spacecraft’s manufacturer RKK Energia, the pioneering crew may be selected in the first half of 2018.

Winters on Mars Are Shaping the Red Planet's Landscape

Dendritic furrows formed by basal sublimation of a CO2 ice block in contact with a granular surface. Credit: Lauren Mc Keown and Dr Mary Bourke, Trinity College Dublin

Researchers based millions of kilometers from Mars have unveiled new evidence for how contemporary features are formed on the Red Planet. Their innovative lab-based experiments on carbon dioxide (CO2) sublimation - the process by which a substance changes from a solid to a gas without an intermediate liquid phase - suggest the same process is responsible for altering the appearance of sand dunes on Mars.

Scientists Have Found Flaws in Popular Theories of Gravity

In this illustration, the supermassive black hole at the center is surrounded by matter flowing onto the black hole in what is termed an accretion disk. This disk forms as the dust and gas in the galaxy falls onto the hole, attracted by its gravity. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Taking black holes (as a real object) as a test material, scientists from the Ural Federal university (UrFU, Yekaterinburg) found out that a popular theory of gravity which had seemed to work perfectly at the cosmological level (a subclass of Horndeski theory) is hardly applicable to the real world. They presented their study in the Classical and Quantum Gravity journal.

Hunting for Exoplanets - First Scientific Results from the CARMENES Survey

Upper panel: CARMENES Doppler measurements for GJ 1148 fitted with a two-planet N-body model, which is consistent with two Saturn-mass, eccentric planets with periods of 41.4 days and 532.6 days, respectively. Lower panel: Deviations of the measurements from the best-fit model. The existence of the planetary companions GJ 1148 b and c is supported by independent high-resolution Doppler measurements with HIRES. The eccentric two-planet system around GJ 1148 is dynamically long-term stable and poses a new challenge for theories of the formation and dynamical evolution of planetary systems around low-massive stars. Credit: T. Trifonov/MPIA

CARMENES is a new German-Spanish high-resolution spectrograph operating in both the visible and the infrared wavelength regimes and mounted on the Calar Alto Observatory 3.5m telescope. The main goal of the instrument is it to find Earth-like planets around nearby M-dwarf stars using high-precision stellar radial velocity measurements to reveal the reflex motion of these stars caused by their orbiting planets.

Rosetta Finds Comet Plume Powered from Below

A plume of dust from Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, seen by the OSIRIS wide-angle camera on ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft on 3 July 2016. The shadow of the plume is cast across the basin, in the Imhotep region. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Last year, a fountain of dust was spotted streaming from Rosetta’s comet, prompting the question: how was it powered? Scientists now suggest the outburst was driven from inside the comet, perhaps released from ancient gas vents or pockets of hidden ice. The plume was seen by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft on 3 July 2016, just a few months before the end of the mission and as Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko was heading away from the Sun at a distance of almost 500 million km.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Scientists Detect Comets Outside Our Solar System

An artist’s conception of a view from within the Exocomet system KIC 3542116.  Image: Danielle Futselaar

Scientists from MIT and other institutions, working closely with amateur astronomers, have spotted the dusty tails of six exocomets — comets outside our solar system — orbiting a faint star 800 light years from Earth. These cosmic balls of ice and dust, which were about the size of Halley’s Comet and traveled about 100,000 miles per hour before they ultimately vaporized, are some of the smallest objects yet found outside our own solar system.

Astronomers Discover Sunscreen Snow Falling on Hot Exoplanet

Giant Exoplanet Dwarfs Solar System Family. This is an artist's impression of the gas giant planet Kepler-13Ab as compared in size to several planets in our solar system. The behemoth exoplanet is six times more massive than Jupiter. Kepler-13Ab is also one of the hottest known planets, with a dayside temperature of nearly 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It orbits very close to the star Kepler-13A, which is 1,730 light-years from Earth. Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)

"In many ways, the atmospheric studies we're doing now on these gaseous 'hot Jupiter' kinds of planets are test beds for how we're going to do atmospheric studies of terrestrial, Earth-like planets," said Thomas Beatty, assistant research professor of astronomy at Penn State and the lead author of the study. "Understanding more about the atmospheres of these planets and how they work will help us when we study smaller planets that are harder to see and have more complicated features in their atmospheres." The team's results are published in the October, 2017 issue of The Astronomical Journal.

US Army's Kestrel Eye IIM Microsatellite Deployed from Space Station

Kestrel Eye IIM (KE2M) microsatellite being deployed via the Kaber Microsatellite Deployer (Kaber) on October 24, 2017. Photo Credit: NanoRacks

NanoRacks LLC successfully deployed on Tuesday, October 24, the Kestrel Eye IIM microsatellite, using its Kaber Microsatellite Deployer (Kaber). The 110-lbs. (50-kilogram) Earth-imaging spacecraft, operated by US Army, is so far the largest satellite deployed by NanoRacks from the International Space Station (ISS).

Thursday, October 26, 2017

New Evidence for Dark Matter Makes It Even More Exotic

Abell S1063, a galaxy cluster, was observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope as part of the Frontier Fields programme. The huge mass of the cluster acts as a cosmic magnifying glass and enlarges even more distant galaxies, so they become bright enough for Hubble to see. Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Lotz (STScI)

Looking at massive galaxy clusters, EPFL astronomers have observed that their brightest galaxies within them “wobble” — an unexpected phenomenon in current models. The discovery, published in MNRAS, adds to the body of evidence of dark matter beyond the Standard Cosmological Model (ΛCDM).

Small Asteroid or Comet 'Visits' from Beyond the Solar System

A/2017 U1 is most likely of interstellar origin. Approaching from above, it was closest to the Sun on Sept. 9. Traveling at 27 miles per second (44 kilometers per second), the comet is headed away from the Earth and Sun on its way out of the solar system. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A small, recently discovered asteroid -- or perhaps a comet -- appears to have originated from outside the solar system, coming from somewhere else in our galaxy. If so, it would be the first "interstellar object" to be observed and confirmed by astronomers.

Dawn Spacecraft Finds Possible Ancient Ocean Remnants at Ceres

Dwarf planet Ceres as seen by NASA's Dawn. The map overlaid at right gives scientists hints about Ceres' internal structure from gravity measurements. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Minerals containing water are widespread on Ceres, suggesting the dwarf planet may have had a global ocean in the past. What became of that ocean? Could Ceres still have liquid today? Two new studies from NASA's Dawn mission shed light on these questions.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Comet Mission Reveals 'Missing Link' in Our Understanding of Planet Formation

Schematic representation of the porous surface structure of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Based on the results of the Rosetta mission, Blum and colleagues conclude that comet 67P is composed of millimetre-sized dust pebbles. It is assumed that the pebbles inside the comet consist of a mixture of dust and ice (light blue spheres in the image) and only the uppermost layers, which are exposed to direct sunlight, do not contain ice (dark grey spheres). Credit: Maya Krause, TU Braunschweig.

The missing link in our understanding of planet formation has been revealed by the first ever spacecraft to orbit and land on a comet, say German scientists. The study is published in a recent edition of the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Revealing Galactic Secrets

Countless galaxies vie for attention in this dazzling image of the Fornax Cluster, some appearing only as pinpricks of light while others dominate the foreground. One of these is the lenticular galaxy NGC 1316. The turbulent past of this much-studied galaxy has left it with a delicate structure of loops, arcs and rings that astronomers have now imaged in greater detail than ever before with the VLT Survey Telescope.  This image was processed with the VST-Tube data reduction program.  Credit: ESO/A. Grado and L. Limatola

Countless galaxies vie for attention in this monster image of the Fornax Galaxy Cluster, some appearing only as pinpricks of light while others dominate the foreground. One of these is the lenticular galaxy NGC 1316. The turbulent past of this much-studied galaxy has left it with a delicate structure of loops, arcs and rings that astronomers have now imaged in greater detail than ever before with the VLT Survey Telescope. This astonishingly deep image also reveals a myriad of dim objects along with faint intracluster light.

Skylab, Shuttle Astronaut Paul Weitz Passes Away

Paul Weitz. Credit: NASA

Former astronaut Paul “P.J.” Weitz, 85, died Sunday, Oct. 22, at his home at Flagstaff. He was a veteran of two spaceflights and a former deputy director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Weitz was selected as part of the fifth class of astronauts, hired in April 1966. He served as pilot on Skylab-2, the first crewed mission to America’s first space station, and commander of space shuttle Challenger’s STS-6 mission, before moving into other leadership positions at NASA. In all, he spent 33 days in space, and 28 years in service at the agency.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Two Truck-Sized Asteroids Fly By Earth

Two newly discovered small asteroids, designated 2017 UU2 and 2017 UK3, missed the Earth today at a safe distance. 2017 UU2 passed by our planet at 19:18 UTC at a distance of about 2.1 lunar distances (LD), or 806,000 kilometers, while 2017 UK3 around 21:08 UTC at approximately 1.38 LD, what corresponds to 530,000 kilometers.

Spots on Supergiant Star Drive Spirals in Stellar Wind

Artist's impression of the hot massive supergiant Zeta Puppis. The rotation period of the star indicated by the new BRITE observations is 1.78 d, and its spin axis is inclined by (24 ± 9)° with respect to the line of sight. Credit: Tahina Ramiaramanantsoa

A Canadian-led international team of astronomers recently discovered that spots on the surface of a supergiant star are driving huge spiral structures in its stellar wind. Their results are published in a recent edition of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Curiosity Rover Progresses Toward Resumed Drilling

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover conducted a test on Oct. 17, 2017, as part of the rover team's development of a new way to use the rover's drill. This image from Curiosity's front Hazard Avoidance Camera (Hazcam) shows the drill's bit touching the ground during an assessment of measurements by a sensor on the rover's robotic arm. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity team is working to restore Curiosity's sample-drilling capability using new techniques. The latest development is a preparatory test on Mars. The five-year-old mission is still several months from the soonest possible resumption of drilling into Martian rocks. Managers are enthusiastic about successful Earth-based tests of techniques to work around a mechanical problem that appeared late last year and suspended use of the rover's drill.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Color Sphere of the Sun

Credit: ESA/M. Castillo-Fraile

This colorful image is a ‘chromosphere flash spectrum’ captured during the total solar eclipse that occurred across the United States on August 21, 2017. It was taken by ESA’s expedition team who monitored the eclipse from Casper, Wyoming.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Moderately Strong Geomagnetic Storm Expected to Hit Earth on Wednesday

Credit: NOAA

A G2-class (moderately strong) geomagnetic storm is expected to hit Earth on Wednesday, October 25, according to a warning issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This storm could have noticeable impact on power systems, satellites and could trigger auroras seen as low as New York and Idaho.

Underground Towns on the Moon and Mars: Future Human Habitats Could Be Hidden in Lava Tubes

ESA astronauts training in terrestrial lava tubes in Lanzarote during the PANGEA 2016 course. Photo Credit: ESA/L. Ricci

New research conducted by European scientists shows that underground caves on the Moon and Mars created by volcanic activity could be large enough to house even underground towns. The so-called ‘lava tubes’ could be therefore excellent hidden locations for future human habitats.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Giant Asteroid to Pass By Earth on Sunday

A giant asteroid known as 1999 VP11 is slated to fly by the Earth on Sunday, October 22 at a safe distance of about 5.8 lunar distances (LD), or 2.2 million kilometers. The space rock will swoosh by our planet with a velocity of 21.2 km/s at approximately 11:02 UTC.

Astronauts Complete Third Spacewalk in Two Weeks

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba working on the robotic Canadarm2 on October 20, 2017. Photo Credit: NASA TV

International Space Station Expedition 53 astronauts Randy Bresnik and Joe Acaba stepped outside for the third spacewalk this month dedicated toward outpost maintenance activities. U.S. Extravehicular activity (EVA) 46 lasted 6 hours, 49 minutes. It started at 7:47 a.m. EDT (11:47 GMT) October 20, 2017, once the NASA duo switched their spacesuits to battery power.

NASA Research Suggests Significant Atmosphere in Lunar Past and Possible Source of Lunar Water

A time sequence of lunar mare -- lava plain -- flows in 0.5 billion year time increments, with red areas in each time step denoting the most recently erupted lavas. The timing of the eruptions, along with how much lava was erupted, helped scientists determine that the Moon once had an atmosphere and that the lunar atmosphere was thickest about 3.5 billion years ago. Credits: NASA/MSFC/Debra Needham; Lunar and Planetary Science Institute/David Kring

Looking up at the Moon at night, Earth’s closest neighbor appears in shades of gray and white; a dry desert in the vacuum of space, inactive and dead for billions of years. Like many things, though, with the Moon, there is so much more than what meets the eye.

In Search of the Ninth Planet

Artist's concept of the "Planet Nine". Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Robert Hurt

A University of Michigan doctoral student has logged two pieces of evidence that may support the existence of a planet that could be part of our solar system, beyond Neptune. Some astronomers think this alleged planet, called Planet Nine, exists because of the way some objects in space, called "Trans-Neptunian Objects," or TNOs, behave. These TNOs are rocky objects smaller than Pluto that orbit the sun at a greater average distance than Neptune. But the orbits of the most distant of these TNOs—those whose average distance from the sun is more than 250 times as far as Earth's distance—seem to point in the same direction. This observation first led astronomers to predict the existence of Planet Nine.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Polar Geomagnetic Storms Could Hit Earth This Weekend

Artist illustration of events on the sun changing the conditions in Near-Earth space. Image Credit: NASA

Polar geomagnetic storms could hit Earth when a new solar stream wind will arrive at our planet this weekend, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In result, weak power grid fluctuations can occur and auroras may be visible at high latitudes such as Canada and Alaska.

A Solar Flare Recorded from Spain in 1886

Drawing by Valderrama of the solar flare he observed on 10 September 1886 on a sunspot (with the penumbra shown with hashed lines and the umbra in black). It shows the tadpole-shaped flare. The original document is held at the Library of the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute. / Credit: IAC

Satellites have detected powerful solar flares in the last two months, but this phenomenon has been recorded for over a century. On 10 September 1886, at the age of just 17, a young amateur astronomer using a modest telescope observed from Madrid one of these sudden flashes in a sunspot. He wrote about what he saw, drew a picture of it, and published the data in a French scientific journal. This is what researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and the Universidad de Extremadura have recently found.

Mars Has a Twisted Tail, MAVEN Finds

Artist's conception of the complex magnetic field environment at Mars. Yellow lines represent magnetic field lines from the Sun carried by the solar wind, blue lines represent Martian surface magnetic fields, white sparks are reconnection activity, and red lines are reconnected magnetic fields that link the surface to space via the Martian magnetotail. Credits: Anil Rao/Univ. of Colorado/MAVEN/NASA GSFC

Mars has an invisible magnetic “tail” that is twisted by interaction with the solar wind, according to new research using data from NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft. NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) spacecraft is in orbit around Mars gathering data on how the Red Planet lost much of its atmosphere and water, transforming from a world that could have supported life billions of years ago into a cold and inhospitable place today. The process that creates the twisted tail could also allow some of Mars’ already thin atmosphere to escape to space, according to the research team.

Potential Human Habitat Located on the Moon

The Marius Hills Skylight, as observed by the Japanese SELENE/Kaguya research team. Image by: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

A study published in Geophysical Research Letters confirms the existence of a large open lava tube in the Marius Hills region of the moon, which could be used to protect astronauts from hazardous conditions on the surface. No one has ever been on the moon longer than three days, largely because space suits alone can’t shield astronauts from its elements: extreme temperature variation, radiation, and meteorite impacts. Unlike Earth, the moon has no atmosphere or magnetic field to protects its inhabitants. The safest place to seek shelter is the inside of an intact lava tube, according to the study.

New NASA Study Improves Search for Habitable Worlds

This illustration shows a star's light illuminating the atmosphere of a planet. Credits: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

New NASA research is helping to refine our understanding of candidate planets beyond our solar system that might support life. “Using a model that more realistically simulates atmospheric conditions, we discovered a new process that controls the habitability of exoplanets and will guide us in identifying candidates for further study,” said Yuka Fujii of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), New York, New York and the Earth-Life Science Institute at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, lead author of a paper on the research published in the Astrophysical Journal Oct. 17.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Scientists Dig into the Origin of Organics on Ceres

SwRI scientists are studying the geology associated with the organic-rich areas on Ceres. Dawn spacecraft data show a region around the Ernutet crater where organic concentrations have been discovered (background image). The color coding shows the surface concentration of organics, as inferred from the visible and near infrared spectrometer. The inset shows a higher resolution enhanced color image of the Ernutet crater acquired by Dawn’s framing camera. Regions in red indicate higher concentration of organics. Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/ASI/INAF/MPS/DLR/IDA

Since NASA’s Dawn spacecraft detected localized organic-rich material on Ceres, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has been digging into the data to explore different scenarios for its origin. After considering the viability of comet or asteroid delivery, the preponderance of evidence suggests the organics are most likely native to Ceres.

Bigelow Aerospace and ULA to Place a B330 Habitat in Low Lunar Orbit

A Bigelow B330 with a United Launch Alliance ACES upper stage in lunar orbit. Image Credit: Bigelow Aerospace

Bigelow Aerospace and United Launch Alliance (ULA) are working together to launch a B330 expandable module on ULA’s Vulcan launch vehicle. The launch would place a B330 outfitted module in Low Lunar Orbit by the end of 2022 to serve as a lunar depot.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Small Asteroid to Swoosh by Earth on Thursday

A newly discovered near-Earth object (NEO), known as 2017 TD6, is slated to pass by our planet on Thursday, October 19 at 18:52 UTC. The asteroid will miss the Earth at a distance of about 0.5 lunar distances (LD), what corresponds to 192,000 kilometers.

Microbes Leave 'Fingerprints' on Martian Rocks

Biotransformed synthetic Martian Regolith after Metallosphaera sedula cultivation. Credit: University of Vienna

Scientists around Tetyana Milojevic from the Faculty of Chemistry at the University of Vienna are in search of unique biosignatures, which are left on synthetic extraterrestrial minerals by microbial activity. The biochemist and astrobiologist investigates these signatures at her own miniaturized "Mars farm" where she can observe interactions between the archaeon Metallosphaera sedula and Mars-like rocks. These microbes are capable of oxidizing and integrating metals into their metabolism. The original research was currently published in the journal "Frontiers in Microbiology".

Noxious Ice Cloud Found on Titan

This view of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is among the last images the Cassini spacecraft sent to Earth before it plunged into the giant planet’s atmosphere. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Researchers with NASA’s Cassini mission found evidence of a toxic hybrid ice in a wispy cloud high above the south pole of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The finding is a new demonstration of the complex chemistry occurring in Titan’s atmosphere—in this case, cloud formation in the giant moon’s stratosphere—and part of a collection of processes that ultimately helps deliver a smorgasbord of organic molecules to Titan’s surface.

Study Shows How Water Could Have Flowed on ‘Cold and Icy’ Ancient Mars

Extensive valley networks spidering through the southern highlands of Mars suggest that the planet was once warmer and wetter, but new research shows that water could still have flowed intermittently on a cold and icy early Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University

For scientists trying to understand what ancient Mars might have been like, the red planet sends some mixed signals. Water-carved valleys and lakebeds leave little doubt that water once flowed on the surface. But climate models for early Mars suggest average temperatures around the globe stayed well below freezing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Small Asteroid Passes Very Close to Earth

A newly discovered small asteroid, designated 2017 TH5, gave Earth a close shave on Monday, October 16, passing by our planet at a relatively close distance of about 0.26 lunar distances (LD), or 99,800 kilometers. The fly-by occurred approximately at 17:15 UTC.

Tiangong-1 Space Laboratory to Crash to Earth within Months

Artist's impression of the Tiangong-1 space laboratory in orbit. Image Credit: CMSA

It could be just a matter of few weeks or months when China’s Tiangong-1 space laboratory will fall to Earth. The spacecraft is continuing its gradual descent towards the surface after control over the mission was lost in early 2016.

Webcam on Mars Express Surveys High-Altitude Clouds

Example of dust clouds imaged by ESA’s Mars Express Visual Monitoring Camera and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Mars Colour Imager (MARCI) in November 2007 over the Utopia region. Arrows indicate the dust front in each image. Credit: MARCI: NASA/JPL/MSSS; VMC: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

An unprecedented catalog of more than 21 000 images taken by a webcam on ESA’s Mars Express is proving its worth as a science instrument, providing a global survey of unusual high-altitude cloud features on the Red Planet. The low-resolution camera was originally installed on Mars Express for visual confirmation that the Beagle-2 lander had separated in 2003. In 2007 it was switched back on and used primarily for outreach, education and citizen science, with images automatically posted to a dedicated Flickr page, sometimes within just 75 minutes of being taken at Mars.

To Keep Saturn’s A Ring Contained, Its Moons Stand United

A team of Saturn moon keeps Saturn's A ring from spreading. This image from NASA's Cassini mission clearly show the ring's density waves created by the small moons. The waves look like the grooves in a vinyl record.

For three decades, astronomers thought that only Saturn’s moon Janus confined the planet’s A ring – the largest and farthest of the visible rings. But after poring over NASA’s Cassini mission data, Cornell astronomers now conclude that the teamwork of seven moons keeps this ring corralled.

Filling the Early Universe with Knots Can Explain Why the World Is Three-Dimensional

Credit: Keith Wood / Vanderbilt

The next time you come across a knotted jumble of rope or wire or yarn, ponder this: The natural tendency for things to tangle may help explain the three-dimensional nature of the universe and how it formed. An international team of physicists has developed an out-of-the-box theory that shortly after it popped into existence 13.8 billion years ago the universe was filled with knots formed from flexible strands of energy called flux tubes that link elementary particles together. The idea provides a neat explanation for why we inhabit a three-dimensional world and is described in a paper titled “Knotty inflation and the dimensionality of space time” accepted for publication in the European Physical Journal C and available on the arXiv preprint server.

Monday, October 16, 2017

First Observations of Merging Neutron Stars Mark a New Era in Astronomy

Artist’s illustration of two merging neutron stars. Credit: NSF/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet

For the first time, scientists have directly detected gravitational waves — ripples in space-time — in addition to light from the spectacular collision of two neutron stars. This marks the first time that a cosmic event has been viewed in both gravitational waves and light. The discovery was made using the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO); the Europe-based Virgo detector; and some 70 ground- and space-based observatories.

Progress MS-07 Freighter Docks with International Space Station

Progress MS-07 on final approach to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: Roscosmos

After spending two days catching up with the International Space Station, an automated Russian cargo freighter rendezvoused and docked with the outpost to supply the Expedition 53 crew with food and supplies.

No Aliens Found Yet, But 'Heartbeats' in Universe Heard

Five Hundred Meter Aperture Spherical Telescope  Image Credit & Copyright: Jeff Dai (TWAN)

One is rapid and strong, and the other is slow and weak, like the heartbeats of a youth and an old man passing through a distance of thousands of light years, and then heard by the most sensitive "ear" on Earth. The "ear" is the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), the world's largest radio telescope, with a dish as large as 30 football fields. It is located in a valley deep in southwest China's mountainous Guizhou Province.

Atlas V Successfully Launches NROL-52 Mission for the National Reconnaissance Office

An Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41 with the National Reconnaissance Office's NROL-52 payload. Credit: United Launch Alliance/Jeff Spotts

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 on Oct. 15 at 3:28 a.m. EDT. Designated NROL-52, the mission is in support of national security.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Crash Scene Investigation: Resting Place of ESA’s First Lunar Mission Found

Artist's impression of ESA's SMART-1 mission at the Moon. Image Credit: ESA–J. Huart

By analyzing high-resolution images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), researchers have identified the final resting place of European Space Agency’s (ESA) first lunar mission, known as SMART-1. The spacecraft was deliberately crashed into the Moon 11 years ago.

Progress MS-07 Launches Toward the International Space Station

A Soyuz-2.1a with Progress MS-07 launches on Oct. 14, 2017. Photo Credit: Roscosmos

Russia’s Progress MS-07 cargo craft launched toward the International Space Station (ISS) at 4:46 a.m. EDT (08:46 GMT) Oct. 14, 2017, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome located in Kazakhstan. The cargo vessel was sent aloft atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket with liftoff taking place two days later than originally planned as the first attempt was scrubbed because of an undisclosed issue within the final minute of the countdown.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Meteorite Treasure Hunt Begins After Fireball Sighted in Shangri-La

Fireball seen over China's Yunnan Provinceon Oct. 4. Credit: CGTN/Youtube

Scientists and collectors are arriving in the city of Shangri-La in southwest China's Yunnan Province, to search for meteorites after a fireball was seen in the area on Oct. 4. The fireball was a bright meteor that entered the Earth's atmosphere at a velocity of 14.6 kilometers per second and carried an impact energy equivalent of .54 kilotonnes, according to NASA.

Astronomers Find Potential Solution into How Planets Form

This image shows V1247 Orionis, a young, hot star surrounded by a dynamic ring of gas and dust, known as a circumstellar disc. The disc can be seen in two parts: a clearly defined central ring of matter and a more delicate crescent structure located further out. Credit: Stefan Kraus

A new study by an international team of scientists, led by Stefan Kraus from the University of Exeter, has given a fascinating new insight into one of the most respected theories of how planets are formed. Young stars start out with a massive disk of gas and dust that over time, astronomers think, either diffuses away or coalesces into planets and asteroids.

Asteroid Named After ESA Astronaut

Asteroid (376227, Lucaparmitano), discovered in 1993, is named after ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano by Vincenzo Silvano Casulli, the Italian astronomer who first  identified the object. Credit: S. Casulli

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano has been on Earth since his mission to the International Space Station in 2013, but “Lucaparmitano” is now back in space thanks to an Italian astronomer. The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Centre has confirmed a new name for an asteroid formerly known merely as 1993 TD: (37627) Lucaparmitano.

On the Generation of Solar Spicules and Alfvenic Waves

In the image above obtained with the NASA's spectrograph IRIS, can be seen in the bedge or limbo of the Sun the multitude of jets leaping the surface. In the center image, the numerical model is able to reproduce the jets. In the image below, taken with the Swedish Solar Telescope of the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (La Palma), the jets are observed in the solar disk as filamentous structures of short duration and reflected in the spectrum shifted to blue because they are getting close to the Earth. Credit: Swedish Solar Telescope of the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (La Palma)

At any given moment, as many as 10 million wild snakes of solar material leap from the sun's surface. These are spicules, and despite their abundance, scientists didn't understand how these jets of plasma form nor did they influence the heating of the outer layers of the sun's atmosphere or the solar wind. Now, for the first time, in a study partly funded by NASA, scientists have modeled spicule formation.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Rokot Sends Sentinel‑5P Satellite into Orbit

Sentinel-5P liftoff. Credit: ESA

The first Copernicus mission dedicated to monitoring our atmosphere, Sentinel‑5P, has been launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia. The 820 kg satellite was carried into orbit on a Rockot launcher at 09:27 GMT (11:27 CEST) today.

A Star That Devoured Its Own Planets

Planet-eating star HD 240430, nicknamed Kronos, and its binary twin HD240429, nicknamed Krios, are about 350 light-years away from Earth. Astrophysicists estimate that Kronos has consumed around 15 Earth masses of rocky material. Data source: STScI Digitized Sky Survey

A devourer of worlds lurks around 350 light-years away. According to a recent study comparing the chemical composition of a pair of sunlike stars, one of the stars has consumed the rocky equivalent of 15 Earths. “Even if our sun ate the entire inner solar system, it wouldn’t come close to the anomaly we see in this star,” says study coauthor David Hogg, group leader for astronomical data at the Center for Computational Astrophysics (CCA) at the Flatiron Institute.

Intense Storms Batter Saturn’s Largest Moon

Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, photographed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Titan, the largest of Saturn’s more than 60 moons, has surprisingly intense rainstorms, according to research by a team of UCLA planetary scientists and geologists. Although the storms are relatively rare — they occur less than once per Titan year, which is 29 and a half Earth years — they occur much more frequently than the scientists expected.

Astronomers Discover Unusual Spindle-Like Galaxies

An elliptical galaxy in prolate rotation. The galaxy resembles the shape of a cigar, with its stars rotating around the galaxy's long axis, similar to a spindle. the background image is a snapshot of a simulation by A. Tsatsi and colleagues. Image: J. Chang, PMO / T. Müller, HdA

Galaxies are majestic, rotating wheels of stars? Not in the case of the spindle-like galaxies studied by Athanasia Tsatsi (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy) and her colleagues. Using the CALIFA survey, the astronomers found that these slender galaxies, which rotate along their longest axis, are much more common than previously thought. The new data allowed the astronomers to create a model for how these unusual galaxies probably formed, namely out of a special kind of merger of two spiral galaxies. The results have been published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

VLBA Measurement Promises Complete Picture of Milky Way

Astronomers directly measured the distance to a region on the far side of our Milky Way Galaxy, past the Galaxy's center. Credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF; Robert Hurt, NASA.

Astronomers using the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) have directly measured the distance to a star-forming region on the opposite side of our Milky Way Galaxy from the Sun. Their achievement nearly doubles the previous record for distance measurement within our Galaxy.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Minor Geomagnetic Storms Hit Earth

Credit: NOAA

G1 (minor) geomagnetic storms are currently in progress as Earth moves through a stream of fast-moving solar wind. In result, visible auroras are concentrated around Earth's poles and weak power grid fluctuations could occur. The latest storms could also have minor impact on satellite operations.

SpaceX Notches 15th Falcon 9 Launch in 2017 with SES-11 Mission

SpaceX launches the SES-11/EchoStar-105 satellite. Photo Credit: Vikash Mahadeo / SpaceFlight Insider

Hot on the heels of a Falcon 9 launch on the West Coast, SpaceX sent its 15th rocket into space in 2017. The SES-11/EchoStar-105 mission came less than 60 hours after the NewSpace company sent 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into orbit. Liftoff occurred at 6:53 p.m. EDT (22:53 GMT) Oct. 11, 2017, from Launch Complex 39A.

Ring Around a Dwarf Planet Detected

Ringed dwarf: Artistic concept of Haumea and its ring system with correct proportions for the main body and the ring. The ring is located at a distance of 2287 km with respect to the centre of the ellipsoidal main body and it is darker than the surface of Haumea. It was discovered by means of multiple telescopic observations of a stellar occultation in Europe on 21 January 2017. © IAA-CSIC/UHU

Haumea has a narrow and dense ring orbiting the dwarf planet according to the recent observations of a stellar occultation by this dwarf planet. Ten observatories in six European countries were involved in the research campaign. In addition, the astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics and more than 50 further institutions were able to constrain the size, shape and density of Haumea. Their findings are closer to theoretical predictions and less puzzling than previous estimates.

Scientists Discover One of the Most Luminous ‘New Stars’ Ever

Left: the nova system before eruption. Right: the nova system in outburst. Credit: OGLE survey

Astronomers have announced that they have discovered possibly the most luminous ‘new star’ ever – a nova discovered in the direction of one of our closest neighboring galaxies: The Small Magellanic Cloud. Astronomers from the University of Leicester contributed to the discovery by using the Swift satellite observatory to help understand what was likely the most luminous white dwarf eruption ever seen.