Sunday, December 31, 2017

Progress MS-06 Freighter Undocks From ISS, Re-Enters Atmosphere

The undocked Progress MS-06 spacecraft. Photo Credit: Roscosmos

Closing out visiting vehicle comings-and-goings for 2017, the unpiloted Russian Progress MS-06 cargo spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station in preparation for an eventual deorbit into Earth’s atmosphere. Progress MS-06 pulled into port on June 16, 2017, at the aft end of the Zvezda service module on the Russian Orbital Segment of the space station. Over the last six months, the freighter’s 6,000 pounds (2,700 kilograms) of equipment, food, water, and fuel was emptied and replaced with trash and unneeded equipment that will burn up in the atmosphere with the rest of the one-time use spacecraft.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Newly Discovered Small Asteroid Passes by Earth

Credit: NASA

A newly detected small asteroid, known as 2017 YZ4, flew by the Earth on Thursday, December 28 at 16:50 UTC. The space rock passed by our planet at a distance of about 0.58 lunar distances (LD), what corresponds to 223,000 kilometers.

A New Stellar X-ray 'Reality' Show Debuts

A new project using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes allows people to navigate through real data of the remains of an exploded star for the first time. This three-dimensional virtual reality (VR) project with augmented reality (AR) allows users to explore inside the debris from actual observations of the supernova remnant called Cassiopeia A. Cassiopeia A (Cas A, for short) is the debris field of a massive star that blew itself apart over 340 years ago.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Russia Restores Contact with AngoSat-1 Satellite

Zenit rocket launches with AngoSat-1 satellite. Credit: Roscosmos

Russia has apparently restored contact with the Angola’s first satellite, AngoSat-1, that was launched by a Zenit rocket on Tuesday, December 26, 2017. According to RKK Energia, which manufactured the satellite and controls its operations in space, its experts have received on Thursday telemetry data indicating that the spacecraft’s systems are operating normally.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Minor Geomagnetic Storm May Hit Earth on New Year’s Day

Credit: NASA

A G1-class (minor) geomagnetic storm may hit our planet on Monday, January 1, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This is due to a stream of solar wind expected to strike Earth's magnetic field on that day.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Gallium Nitride Processor: Next-Generation Technology for Space Exploration

Yuji Zhao working to advance fundamental knowledge of selective area doping processes for gallium nitride wide-bandgap semiconductors. Photo Credit: Pete Zrioka/ASU

A material known as gallium nitride (GaN), poised to become the next semiconductor for power electronics, could be also essential for various space applications. Yuji Zhao, an expert in electrical and computer engineering at Arizona State University (ASU), plans to develop the first ever processor from gallium nitride, which could revolutionize future space exploration missions.

Zenit Rocket Launches AngoSat-1 but Ground Control Loses Contact with the Satellite

Zenit rocket launches AngoSat-1 on December 26. Photo Credit: Roscosmos

A Russian-Ukrainian Zenit rocket was launched on Tuesday, December 26 with the aim of delivering into orbit Angola’s first satellite, known as AngoSat-1. However, it appears that the contact with the spacecraft was lost after deployment into space. The booster lifted off at 19:00 GMT (2:00 p.m. EST) from the Site 45/1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Small Asteroid to Fly By Earth on Wednesday

A newly discovered small asteroid, known as 2017 YD2, will pass by Earth on Wednesday, December 27 at 2:37 UTC. The object is expected to miss our planet at a safe distance of about 2.2 lunar distances (LD), what corresponds to 845,000 kilometers.

Long March 2C Sends a Triplet of Yaogan-30 Satellites into Orbit

Long March 2C sends a triplet of Yaogan-30 satellites into orbit. Photo Credit: Xinhua/Liang Keyan

China launched its Long March 2C rocket on Monday, December 25 with a trio of Yaogan-30 satellites into space. Liftoff was conducted at 19:44 GMT (2:44 p.m. EST) from the Launch Complex 3 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC) in China’s Sichuan Province.

Japan Launches H-IIA Rocket with Two Earth-Observing Satellites

An HII-A rocket carrying GCOM-C1 and SLATS satellites launches from Tanegashima Space Center on December 23. Photo Credit: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd./JAXA

An H-IIA rocket took to the skies on Saturday, December 23, carrying GCOM-C1 (nicknamed SHIKISAI) and SLATS (dubbed TSUBAME) Earth-observing satellites. The liftoff occurred at 10:26 a.m. local time (8:26 p.m. EST on December 22) from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Long March 2D Sends China’s Second Land Surveying Satellite to Orbit

A Long March 2D launches at 04:14 UTC on Dec. 23, 2017, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert, northwest China’s Gansu Province. Photo Credit: Zhen Zhe / Xinhua

China launched into space its second Land Surveying Satellite (LKW-2) on Saturday, December 23, 2017, atop a Long March 2D booster. The rocket lifted off from Launch Area 4 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC) in China’s Gansu Province at exactly 04:14 UTC on December 23 (11:14 p.m. EST, Dec. 22). Launch success was confirmed by the state-run Xinhua press agency within an hour later.

Painting the Sky: Iridium Launch Closes Banner Year for SpaceX

SpaceX conducted its final launch of 2017 on Dec. 22, 2017. Photo Credit: Paul Kurimsky Jr. / SpaceFlight Insider

Rounding out 2017 with its 18th flight, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket with 10 more Iridium NEXT satellites. Liftoff took place at 5:27 p.m. PST (8:27 p.m. EST / 01:27 GMT)  on December 22 from Space Launch Complex 4 E (East) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

House-Sized Asteroid to Miss Earth on Christmas Eve

Credit: NASA

A house-sized asteroid, designated 2017 WZ14, is expected to fly by Earth on December 24 at 21:17 UTC. The object will miss our planet at a safe distance of about 7.6 lunar distances (LD), or 2.9 million kilometers, with a relative velocity of 4.9 km/s.

‘Cosmic Lantern’ Could Help Us Further Understand the Fate of the Universe

Nearby emission line galaxies NCG 4038 – 4039. The pink parts in this image are showing the light from the gas heated by newly formed stars. Credit: NASA, ESA and The Hubble Heritage (STScl/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration.

New research has provided a deeper insight into emission line galaxies, used in several ongoing and upcoming surveys, to help us further understand the composition and fate of the Universe. The quest to determine the nature of both dark matter and dark energy has led scientists to adopt new tracers of the large-scale structure of the Universe, such as emission line galaxies. These galaxies present strong emission lines from the gas heated up by newly formed stars.

Mars: Not as Dry as It Seems

Image shows modern Mars (left) dry and barren, compared with the same scene over 3.5 billion years ago covered in water (right). The rocks of the surface were slowly reacting with the water, sequestering it into the Martian mantle leading to the dry, inhospitable scene shown on the left. Image credit: Jon Wade

When searching for life, scientists first look for an element key to sustaining it: fresh water. Although today’s Martian surface is barren, frozen and inhabitable, a trail of evidence points to a once warmer, wetter planet, where water flowed freely. The conundrum of what happened to this water is long standing and unsolved. However, new research published in Nature suggests that this water is now locked in the Martian rocks.

Astronomers Shed Light on Formation of Black Holes and Galaxies

Image of the quasar host galaxy from the UC San Diego research team’s data. The distance to this quasar galaxy is ~9.3 billion light years. The four-color image shows findings from use of the Keck Observatory and ALMA. As seen from Keck Observatory, the green colors highlight the energetic gas across the galaxy that is being illuminated by the quasar. The blue color represents powerful winds blowing throughout the galaxy. The red-orange colors represent the cold molecular gas in the system as seen from ALMA. The supermassive black hole sits at the center of the bright red-orange circular area slightly below the middle of the image. CREDIT: A. VAYNER AND TEAM

Stars forming in galaxies appear to be influenced by the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy, but the mechanism of how that happens has not been clear to astronomers until now. “Supermassive black holes are captivating,” says lead author Shelley Wright, a University of California San Diego Professor of Physics. “Understanding why and how galaxies are affected by their supermassive black holes is an outstanding puzzle in their formation.”

Giant Bubbles on Red Giant Star’s Surface

Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have directly observed granulation patterns on the surface of a star outside the Solar System — the ageing red giant π1 Gruis. This remarkable new image from the PIONIER instrument reveals the convective cells that make up the surface of this huge star. Each cell covers more than a quarter of the star’s diameter and measures about 120 million kilometres across.  Credit: ESO

Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have for the first time directly observed granulation patterns on the surface of a star outside the Solar System — the ageing red giant π1 Gruis. This remarkable new image from the PIONIER instrument reveals the convective cells that make up the surface of this huge star, which has 350 times the diameter of the Sun. Each cell covers more than a quarter of the star’s diameter and measures about 120 million kilometers across. These new results are being published this week in the journal Nature.

Santa’s Workshop Could Be On Snowy Moon

NASA image of Saturn’s moon, Enceladus

Santa’s winter workshop might be in space, as University of Warwick researchers are exploring whether snowy moons over a billion kilometers away from Earth are potentially habitable. According to Dr David Brown, and colleagues at Warwick’s Centre for Exoplanets and Habitability, life could be supported on moons of ice and snow with vast oceans under their frozen surfaces, orbiting Jupiter and Saturn.

Habitable Planets Around Pulsars Theoretically Possible

Artistic impression of a habitable planet (centre) near a pulsar (right). Such a planet must have an enormous atmosphere that convert the deadly X-rays and high energy particles of the pulsar into heat. (c) Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge

It is theoretically possible that habitable planets exist around pulsars. Such planets must have an enormous atmosphere that convert the deadly X-rays and high energy particles of the pulsar into heat. That is stated in a scientific paper by astronomers Alessandro Patruno and Mihkel Kama, working in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The paper appears today in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Missing Link Between Exploding Stars, Clouds, and Climate on Earth

Cosmic rays interacting with the Earth's atmosphere producing ions that helps turn small aerosols into cloud condensation nuclei -- seeds on which liquid water droplets form to make clouds. A proton with energy of 100 GeV interact at the top of the atmosphere and produces a cascade of secondary particles who ionize molecules when traveling through the air. One 100 GeV proton hits every m2 at the top of the atmosphere every second. Illustration: H. Svensmark/DTU

A breakthrough in the understanding of how cosmic rays from supernovae can influence Earth's cloud cover and thereby climate was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Soyuz MS-07 Spacecraft Docks with ISS

The newly-expanded Expedition 54 crew gathers in the Zvezda service module for ceremonila congratulations from family and mission officials. Credit: NASA TV

NASA’s Scott Tingle, Anton Shkaplerov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency joined Expedition 54 Commander Alexander Misurkin of Roscosmos and crewmates Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA aboard the International Space Station when the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the orbiting laboratory officially opened at 5:55 a.m. EST on December 19.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

ISRO Plans to Develop a Light-Lift Rocket to Launch Small Satellites into Orbit

PSLV rocket. Credit: ISRO

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) eyes the development of a new light-lift booster dedicated for launching smaller payloads into space. According to ISRO, the new rocket will have four stages and will weigh around 100 metric tons. The booster would be capable of launching satellites weighing up to 1,100 lbs (500 kilograms).

A New Twist in the Dark Matter Tale

Composite image of the Perseus galaxy cluster using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, ESA’s XMM-Newton and Hitomi, a Japanese-led X-ray telescope. Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXO/Fabian et al.; Radio: Gendron-Marsolais et al.; NRAO/AUI/NSF Optical: NASA, SDSS

An innovative interpretation of X-ray data from a cluster of galaxies could help scientists fulfill a quest they have been on for decades: determining the nature of dark matter. The finding involves a new explanation for a set of results made with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, ESA's XMM-Newton and Hitomi, a Japanese-led X-ray telescope. If confirmed with future observations, this may represent a major step forward in understanding the nature of the mysterious, invisible substance that makes up about 85% of matter in the universe.

Cygnus Spacecraft Successfully Concludes Eighth Cargo Supply Mission to ISS

S.S. Gene Cernan Cygnus at ISS. Credit: Orbital ATK

Orbital ATK announced that its “S. S. Gene Cernan” Cygnus spacecraft successfully completed its eighth cargo supply mission to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-1) contract.

Ancient Fossil Microorganisms Indicate that Life in the Universe Is Common

This is a 3.465 billion year-old fossil microorganism from Western Australia. Credit: J. William Schopf/UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life

A new analysis of the oldest known fossil microorganisms provides strong evidence to support an increasingly widespread understanding that life in the universe is common. The microorganisms, from Western Australia, are 3.465 billion years old. Scientists from UCLA and the University of Wisconsin–Madison report in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that two of the species they studied appear to have performed a primitive form of photosynthesis, another apparently produced methane gas, and two others appear to have consumed methane and used it to build their cell walls.

A New Approach for Detecting Planets in the Alpha Centauri System

Illustration by Michael S. Helfenbein

Yale astronomers have taken a fresh look at the nearby Alpha Centauri star system and found new ways to narrow the search for habitable planets there. According to a study led by Professor Debra Fischer and graduate student Lily Zhao, there may be small, Earth-like planets in Alpha Centauri that have been overlooked. Meanwhile, the study ruled out the existence of a number of larger planets in the system that had popped up in previous models.

Star Mergers: A New Test of Gravity, Dark Energy Theories

Artist’s illustration of two merging neutron stars. The rippling space-time grid represents gravitational waves that travel out from the collision, while the narrow beams show the bursts of gamma rays that are shot out just seconds after the gravitational waves. Swirling clouds of material ejected from the merging stars are also depicted. The clouds glow with visible and other wavelengths of light. (Credit: NSF/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet)

When scientists recorded a rippling in space-time, followed within two seconds by an associated burst of light observed by dozens of telescopes around the globe, they had witnessed, for the first time, the explosive collision and merger of two neutron stars. The intense cosmological event observed on Aug. 17 also had other reverberations here on Earth: It ruled out a class of dark energy theories that modify gravity, and challenged a large class of theories.

Black Hole Pair Born Inside a Dying Star?

Snapshot of gravitational waves propagating from binary black holes merging inside of a star. Credit: Kyoto University, Joseph M. Fedrow

Far from Earth, two black holes orbit around each other propagating waves that bend time and space. The existence of such waves -- gravitational waves -- was first predicted by Albert Einstein over a century ago on the basis of his theory of general relativity. And as always: Einstein was right.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Alien Object 'Oumuama Was a Natural Body Visiting from Another Solar System

This is the interstellar object 'Oumuamua (circled) as seen by the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope on La Palma. Background stars and galaxies appear as streaks due to the telescope following 'Oumuamua as it moved across the sky. Credit: A. Fitzsimmons, QUB/Isaac Newton Group, La Palma.

Scientists at Queen's University Belfast have led worldwide investigations into a mysterious object that passed close to Earth after arriving from deep interstellar space. Since the object was spotted in October, Professor Alan Fitzsimmons and Dr Michele Bannister from the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's University have led an international team of astronomers to piece together a profile of the strange visitor, which has been named `Oumuamua.

Orbital Mayhem Around a Red Dwarf

A stellar regatta around GJ436. Space boaters parked in the equatorial plane of the star wait for the hairy planet to emerge from this plane to 'ride' the planetary wind with the help of kite-surfing vessels. As they rise above the poles of the star, they obtain a breathtaking view of the entire planetary system and can glimpse at the mysterious disruptive planet, which appears as a bright spot in the background. Credit: Denis Bajram

In the collective imagination, planets of a solar system all circle around their star, in the same plane that is also the equatorial plane of the star. The star also spins, and its spin axis is aligned with the spin axes of the planetary orbits, giving the impression of a well-ordered system. But nature is capricious, as an international team led by researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland, just found out: they detected a planetary system turned upside down. This discovery is published this week in the prestigious journal Nature.

NASA Solves How a Jupiter Jet Stream Shifts into Reverse

New observations and modeling by a NASA-led team can help scientists understand a fast and furious jet stream high above Jupiter’s equator. This jet has a counterpart on Earth that seems to influence the transport of ozone, water vapor and pollution in the upper atmosphere, as well as the production of hurricanes. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scientific Visualization Studio/Dan Gallagher

Speeding through the atmosphere high above Jupiter’s equator is an east–west jet stream that reverses course on a schedule almost as predictable as a Tokyo train’s. Now, a NASA-led team has identified which type of wave forces this jet to change direction.

Dragon Attached to Station for Month of Cargo Transfers

The Dragon resupply ship is pictured just 10 meters away from the space station’s Canadarm2. Credit: NASA

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Harmony module of the International Space Station at 8:26 a.m. EST on Sunday, December 17. The 13th contracted commercial resupply mission from SpaceX (CRS-13) delivered more than 4,800 pounds of supplies and payloads to the station.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Minor Geomagnetic Storm Hits Earth

Credit: NOAA

A G1-class (minor) geomagnetic storm hit the Earth today (December 17) due to the arrival of an isolated, positive polarity coronal hole high-speed stream (CH HSS) and potential glancing blow effects from a coronal mass ejection (CME) that erupted on the Sun on Friday (December 15).

Three New Crew Members on Voyage to International Space Station

The Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft is launched with Expedition 54 Soyuz Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos, flight engineer Scott Tingle of NASA, and flight engineer Norishige Kanai of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Shkaplerov, Tingle, and Kanai will spend the next five months living and working aboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Three crew members representing the United States, Russia and Japan are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 2:21 a.m. EST Sunday (1:21 p.m. Baikonur time).

No Signs of Alien Life Found on ‘Oumuamua

Artist’s impression of the interstellar asteroid `Oumuamua. Credit: Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Breakthrough Listen – the initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe – is reporting preliminary results and making initial data available from its observations of the "interstellar visitor" ‘Oumuamua.

Creating a World of Make-Believe to Better Understand the Real Universe

This plot shows a thin slice through a mock galaxies catalog. The blue and green points are “bright” and “faint” galaxies simulated for the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument’s Bright Galaxy Survey, and the red points show galaxies that are brighter than the magnitude limit of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a predecessor sky survey. (Credit: Alex Smith/Durham University)

Seeing is believing, or so the saying goes. And in some cases, a world of make-believe can help you realize what you’re actually seeing, too. Scientists are creating simulated universes, for example – complete with dark matter mock-ups, computer-generated galaxies, quasi quasars, and pseudo supernovae ­– to better understand real-world observations.

A Model of Mars-Like Protoplanets Shed Light on Early Solar Activity

Illustration of two possible scenarios for the formation and evolution of Venus.  Scenario (a) The protoplanet Venus was originally formed inside the gas dust cloud, capturing the hydrogen proto-atmosphere. Then it further increased its mass as a result of the fall of small space bodies onto it.  Scenario (b) Only small planetary embryos were originally formed in a protoplanetary cloud, and then the planet Venus was formed during collisions between embryos. Credit: Nikolai Erkaev

A scientist from Siberian Federal University (SFU) and his colleagues from Austria and Germany constructed a physical and mathematical model of Mars- and Venus-sized planet formation. The team concluded that Mars had no chances to develop a thick atmosphere and biosphere. In the case of Venus it depended on solar activity: according to the scientists, it managed to keep its atmosphere due to the fact that young Sun was not very active. The study was published in Icarus.

Scientific Achievements During the Operation of Lomonosov Satellite

This is the Lomonosov spacecraft. Credit: Mikhail Panasyuk

The Lomonosov Project is a large-scale scientific and educational space project of Lomonosov Moscow State University aimed at studying space phenomena. In the course of operation of Lomonosov satellite on the orbit the team of Skobeltsyn Scientific and Research Institute of Nuclear Physics, MSU received new data on many understudied physical phenomena both in the Universe and in the atmosphere of the Earth. The results of the studies were published in such high-rating magazines as Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics and Space Science Reviews.

Return, Return, Return: CRS-13 Mission Marks Triple-Play in Terms of SpaceX Reuse

Completing its second mission in support of the $1.6 billion contract SpaceX has signed with NASA, the ‘flight-proven’ Falcon 9 first stage comes in for a landing at Cape Canaveral’s Landing Zone 1 in Florida. Photo Credit: Michael John McCabe / SpaceFlight Insider

The 13th SpaceX Commercial Resupply Service (CRS-13) mission roared into the Florida sky aboard a ‘Full Thrust’ Falcon 9 launch vehicle Friday morning. The flight-proven spacecraft and Falcon 9 first stage launched at 10:35 a.m. (15:35 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Report Highlights Social and Economic Impacts of Space Weather

Some experts in the emergency management community believe that the first "trillion-dollar storm" won't come in the form of a tornado, hurricane, or flood, but rather will come from the sun. A new report funded by NOAA's National Weather Service begins to quantify impacts from space weather on the United States economy.

Discovery of New Planet Reveals Distant Solar System to Rival Our Own

With the discovery of an eighth planet, the Kepler-90 system is the first to tie with our solar system in number of planets. NASA/Ames Research Center/Wendy Stenzel

The discovery of an eighth planet circling the distant star Kepler-90 by University of Texas at Austin astronomer Andrew Vanderburg and Google’s Christopher Shallue overturns our solar system’s status as having the highest number of known planets. We're now in a tie.

Dawn of a Galactic Collision

NGC 5256 is a pair of galaxies in its final stage of merging. It was previously observed by Hubble as part of a collection of 59 images of merging galaxies, released on Hubble’s 18th anniversary on 24 April 2008. The new data make the gas and dust being whirled around inside and outside the galaxy more visible than ever before.  This image is composed of data gathered with the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide-Field Camera 3.  Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA

A riot of color and light dances through this peculiarly shaped galaxy, NGC 5256. Its smoke-like plumes are flung out in all directions and the bright core illuminates the chaotic regions of gas and dust swirling through the galaxy’s center. Its odd structure is due to the fact that this is not one galaxy, but two — in the process of a galactic collision.

Better Way to Weigh Millions of Solitary Stars

Astronomers have come up with a new and improved method for measuring the masses of millions of solitary stars, especially those with planetary systems. Getting accurate measurements of how much stars weigh not only plays a crucial role in understanding how stars are born, evolve and die, but it is also essential in assessing the true nature of the thousands of exoplanets now known to orbit most other stars.

GAMBIT Narrows the Hiding Places for ‘New Physics’

For 80 million working hours, the GAMBIT Collaboration tracked possible clues of ‘new physics’ with the Cracow supercomputer Prometheus, confronting the predictions of several models of supersymmetry with data collected by the most sophisticated contemporary scientific experiments. (Source: KSAF, Maciej Bernas)

The elementary particles of ‘new physics’ must be so massive that their detection in the LHC, the largest modern accelerator, will not be possible. This none- too-optimistic conclusion comes from the most comprehensive review of observational data from many scientific experiments and their confrontation with several popular varieties of supersymmetry theory. The complicated, extremely computationally demanding analysis was carried out by the team of the international GAMBIT Collaboration – and leaves a shadow of hope.

Giant Storms Cause Palpitations in Saturn’s Atmospheric Heartbeat

VLT image of Saturn's giant vortex at mid-infrared wavelengths. Credit: ESA

Immense northern storms on Saturn can disturb atmospheric patterns at the planet’s equator, finds the international Cassini mission in a study led by Dr Leigh Fletcher from the University of Leicester. This effect is also seen in Earth’s atmosphere, suggesting the two planets are more alike than previously thought.

Gaia's View of Our Galactic Neighbors

Gaia's view of the Large Magellanic Cloud. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC

Measuring the positions and motions of more than a billion stars, ESA's Gaia mission will refine our knowledge about our place in the Universe, providing the best ever star chart of our Milky Way and its neighboring galaxies. One of the nearest galaxies to our Galaxy is the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), located around 166 000 light-years away and visible to the naked eye at intermediate and southern latitudes.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mathematicians Propose Alternative Explanation for Cosmic Acceleration

“Dark energy,” a mysterious force that counters gravity, has been proposed to explain why the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate. Mathematicians at UC Davis and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, argue for an alternative. Galaxy cluster image from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Three mathematicians have a different explanation for the accelerating expansion of the universe that does without theories of “dark energy.” Einstein’s original equations for General Relativity actually predict cosmic acceleration due to an “instability,” they argue in paper published recently in Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

How a Student Satellite Solved a Major Space Mystery

A team of more than 65 students designed, built and operated a small CubeSat satellite that helped researchers discover energetic electrons in the inner Van Allen radiation belt, believed to be created by cosmic rays bombarding Earth’s atmosphere. Image courtesy of LASP.

A 60-year-old mystery regarding the source of some energetic and potentially damaging particles in Earth’s radiation belts is now solved using data from a shoebox-sized satellite built and operated by CU Boulder students.

Stellar Nursery Blooms into View

The OmegaCAM imager on ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope has captured this glittering view of the stellar nursery called Sharpless 29. Many astronomical phenomena can be seen in this giant image, including cosmic dust and gas clouds that reflect, absorb, and re-emit the light of hot young stars within the nebula.  Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

The OmegaCAM camera on ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope has captured this glittering view of the stellar nursery called Sharpless 29. Many astronomical phenomena can be seen in this giant image, including cosmic dust and gas clouds that reflect, absorb, and re-emit the light of hot young stars within the nebula.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Expedition 53 Crew Members Return to Earth From Space Station

Russian Search and Rescue teams arrive at the Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft shortly after it landed with Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA and Flight Engineers Paolo Nespoli of ESA (European Space Agency) and Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian space agency Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. Bresnik, Nespoli and Ryazanskiy are returning after 138 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 52 and 53 crews onboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Three crew members who have been living and working aboard the International Space Station returned to Earth on Thursday, landing in Kazakhstan after opening a new chapter in the scientific capability of humanity’s premier microgravity laboratory.

MAVEN Sheds Light on Habitability of Distant Planets

To receive the same amount of starlight as Mars receives from our Sun, a planet orbiting an M-type red dwarf would have to be positioned much closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

How long might a rocky, Mars-like planet be habitable if it were orbiting a red dwarf star? It’s a complex question but one that NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission can help answer. “The MAVEN mission tells us that Mars lost substantial amounts of its atmosphere over time, changing the planet’s habitability,” said David Brain, a MAVEN co-investigator and a professor at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder. “We can use Mars, a planet that we know a lot about, as a laboratory for studying rocky planets outside our solar system, which we don’t know much about yet.”

Blue Origin Returns to Flight with New Shepard Launch

New Shepard Booster landing on the pad in West Texas after a successful Mission 7. Credit: Blue Origin

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ up-and-coming space launch company Blue Origin sent the latest version of the company’s New Shepard sub-orbital rocket on December 12. Liftoff occurred around midday EST from the firm’s launch facility outside of Van Horn, Texas.

Life’s Building Blocks Observed in Spacelike Environment

Low-energy electron impact mediates the creation of new complex organic molecules, such as ethanol, in astrophysical/planetary model ices containing methane and oxygen; while some of the new species desorb as ions, many remain in the surface ices.  CREDIT: The photo of Jupiter’s moon Europa, inserted for the Platinum (Pt) substrate (bottom of the graphic), is credited to NASA, public domain images.

Where do the molecules required for life originate? It may be that small organic molecules first appeared on earth and were later combined into larger molecules, such as proteins and carbohydrates. But a second possibility is that they originated in space, possibly within our solar system. A new study, published this week in The Journal of Chemical Physics by AIP Publishing, shows that a number of small organic molecules can form in a cold, spacelike environment full of radiation.

DLR and Japan Sign Collaboration Agreement on Climate Research

On 12 December 2017, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Japanese National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES) signed a collaboration agreement regarding remote sensing of greenhouse gases. Credit: DLR

Around the time of the Paris climate summit on 12 December 2017, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the Japanese National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES) signed a collaboration agreement regarding remote sensing of greenhouse gases.

Bright Areas on Ceres Suggest Geologic Activity

The bright areas of Occator Crater -- Cerealia Facula in the center and Vinalia Faculae to the side -- are examples of bright material found on crater floors on Ceres. This is a simulated perspective view. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI

If you could fly aboard NASA's Dawn spacecraft, the surface of dwarf planet Ceres would generally look quite dark, but with notable exceptions. These exceptions are the hundreds of bright areas that stand out in images Dawn has returned. Now, scientists have a better sense of how these reflective areas formed and changed over time -- processes indicative of an active, evolving world.

Saturn's Rings Affect the Planet's Ionosphere

An amazing view of all of Saturn and its rings, assembled by Gordan Ugarkovic. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/G. Ugarkovic

Data collected by the Cassini spacecraft, before it was deliberately crashed into Saturn's atmosphere in September 2017, show that the planet's illustrious rings are casting a shadow in ionized particles over the planet. Cassini has transmitted a hoard of valuable data from Saturn since it arrived at the planet in 2004.

Hubble's Celestial Snow Globe

The stars in the globular star cluster Messier 79 look a lot like a blizzard in a snow globe in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image. Credits: NASA and ESA, Acknowledgment: S. Djorgovski (Caltech) and F. Ferraro (University of Bologna)

It’s beginning to look a lot like the holiday season in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of a blizzard of stars, which resembles a swirling snowstorm in a snow globe. The stars are residents of the globular star cluster Messier 79, or M79, located 41,000 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Lepus. The cluster is also known as NGC 1904.

Galileo Launch Brings Navigation Network Close to Completion

Ariane 5 lifts off with Galileo satellites on December 12. Credit: Arianespace

Europe has four more Galileo navigation satellites in the sky following their launch on an Ariane 5 rocket. After Tuesday’s success, only one more launch remains before the Galileo constellation is complete and delivering global coverage.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

China's FAST Radio Telescope Identifies Three New Pulsars

FAST radio telescope

The China-based FAST, the world's largest single-dish radio telescope, has discovered three new pulsars, the National Astronomical Observatories of China (NAOC) said Tuesday. So far, FAST has identified a total of nine pulsars since its trial operations began in September 2016.

Telescopes Team Up to Study Giant Galaxy

The giant radio galaxy Centaurus A as observed by the Murchison Widefield Array telescope. Credit ICRAR/Curtin.

Astronomers have used two Australian radio telescopes and several optical telescopes to study complex mechanisms that are fueling jets of material blasting away from a black hole 55 million times more massive than the Sun. In research published Tuesday, the international team of scientists used the telescopes to observe a nearby radio galaxy known as Centaurus A.

Does New Horizons’ Next Target Have a Moon?

On three occasions in June and July 2017, New Horizons mission team members attempted to track a small, distant Kuiper Belt object, 2014 MU69, as it passed in front of a star – an event known as an occultation. The colored lines mark the path of the star as seen from different telescopes on each day; the blank spaces on those lines indicate the few seconds when MU69 blocked the light from the star. Scientists are using these observations to craft a picture of MU69 and any companion bodies. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/James Tuttle Keane

Scientists were already excited to learn this summer that New Horizons’ next flyby target – a Kuiper Belt object a billion miles past Pluto -- might be either peanut-shaped or even two objects orbiting one another. Now new data hints that 2014 MU69 might have orbital company: a small moon.

Chandra Reveals the Elementary Nature of Cassiopeia A

These images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory show the location of different elements in the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant including silicon (red), sulfur (yellow), calcium (green) and iron (purple). Each of these elements produces X-rays within narrow energy ranges, allowing maps of their location to be created. The blast wave from the explosion is seen as the blue outer ring. Astronomers study supernova remnants to better understand how stars produce and then disseminate many of the elements on Earth and in the cosmos at large. (Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO )

Where do most of the elements essential for life on Earth come from? The answer: inside the furnaces of stars and the explosions that mark the end of some stars' lives. Astronomers have long studied exploded stars and their remains — known as "supernova remnants" — to better understand exactly how stars produce and then disseminate many of the elements observed on Earth, and in the cosmos at large.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Trump Policy Directive Makes Moon NASA’s Official Goal for Human Exploration

Representatives of Congress and the National Space Council joined President Donald J. Trump, Apollo astronaut Jack Schmitt and current NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, for the president’s signing of Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond. Credits: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

In a brief but pointed Dec. 11, 2017, ceremony at the White House, President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1, which officially directs NASA to send astronauts back to the Moon as a precursor effort to exploring Mars.

Breakthrough Listen to Observe Interstellar Object ‘Oumuamua for Signs of Alien Technology

This artist’s impression shows the first interstellar asteroid: `Oumuamua. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Breakthrough Listen, the global astronomical program searching for evidence of civilizations beyond Earth, announced that it is currently focusing its observational efforts on ‘Oumuamua, the mysterious interloper recently spotted moving rapidly through the solar system.

RUAG Space Lands Contract Extension to Develop Crucial Parts for Galileo Satellites

An artist’s rendering of a Galileo satellite in orbit around Earth. Image Credit: Arianespace

OHB System AG, the prime contractor for Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites, has extended its contract with RUAG Space to produce 12 additional Control and Data Units for these spacecraft.

Juno Spacecraft Probes the Depths of Jupiter's Great Red Spot

This graphic shows a new radiation zone Juno detected surrounding Jupiter, located just above the atmosphere near the equator. Also indicated are regions of high-energy, heavy ions Juno observed at high latitudes. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/JHUAPL

Data collected by NASA's Juno spacecraft during its first pass over Jupiter's Great Red Spot in July 2017 indicate that this iconic feature penetrates well below the clouds. Other revelations from the mission include that Jupiter has two previously uncharted radiation zones. The findings were announced Monday at the annual American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans.

Research Shows Why Meteoroids Explode Before They Reach Earth

Our atmosphere is a better shield from meteoroids than researchers thought, according to a new paper published in Meteoritics & Planetary Science. When a meteor comes hurtling toward Earth, the high-pressure air in front of it seeps into its pores and cracks, pushing the body of the meteor apart and causing it to explode.

Unraveling the Mysteries of Extragalactic Jets

This is a jet breakdown. Credit: University of Leeds

University of Leeds researchers have mathematically examined plasma jets from supermassive black holes to determine why certain types of jets disintegrate into huge plumes. Their study, published in Nature Astronomy, has found that these jets can be susceptible to an instability never before considered as important to the jet's flow and is similar to an instability that often develops in water flowing inside a curved pipe or a rotating cylindrical vessel.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Cold Suns, Warm Exoplanets and Methane Blankets

Artist's depiction of what exoplanet Kepler 22b might look like. It was discovered by the Kepler satellite telescope. Kepler 22b likely receives a similar amount of light and heat from its star as our Earth does from our sun. Credit: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

Somewhere in our galaxy, an exoplanet is probably orbiting a star that’s colder than our sun, but instead of freezing solid, the planet might be cozy warm thanks to a greenhouse effect caused by methane in its atmosphere. NASA astrobiologists from the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a comprehensive new model that shows how planetary chemistry could make that happen. The model, published in a new study in the journal Nature Geoscience, was based on a likely scenario on Earth three billion years ago and was actually built around its possible geological and biological chemistry.