Friday, September 30, 2016

ALMA Catches Stellar Cocoon with Curious Chemistry

This figure shows observations of the first hot core to be found outside the Milky Way with ALMA and a view of the region of sky in infrared light.  Left: Distributions of molecular line emission from a hot molecular core in the Large Magellanic Cloud observed with ALMA. Emissions from dust, sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitric oxide (NO), and formaldehyde (H2CO) are shown as examples. Right: An infrared image of the surrounding star-forming region (based on data from the NASA/Spitzer Space Telescope).  Credit: T. Shimonishi/Tohoku University, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

A hot and dense mass of complex molecules, cocooning a newborn star, has been discovered by a Japanese team of astronomers using ALMA. This unique hot molecular core is the first of its kind to have been detected outside the Milky Way galaxy. It has a very different molecular composition from similar objects in our own galaxy — a tantalizing hint that the chemistry taking place across the Universe could be much more diverse than expected.

Curiosity Finds Evidence of Mars Crust Contributing to Atmosphere

Chemistry that takes place in the surface material on Mars can explain why particular xenon (Xe) and krypton (Kr) isotopes are more abundant in the Martian atmosphere than expected. The isotopes – variants that have different numbers of neutrons – are formed in the loose rocks and material that make up the regolith. The chemistry begins when cosmic rays penetrate into the surface material. If the cosmic rays strike an atom of barium (Ba), the barium can lose one or more of its neutrons (n0). Atoms of xenon can pick up some of those neutrons – a process called neutron capture – to form the isotopes xenon-124 and xenon-126. In the same way, atoms of bromine (Br) can lose some of their neutrons to krypton, leading to the formation of krypton-80 and krypton-82 isotopes. These isotopes can enter the atmosphere when the regolith is disturbed by impacts and abrasion and gas escapes from the regolith. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA's Curiosity rover has found evidence that chemistry in the surface material on Mars contributed dynamically to the makeup of its atmosphere over time. It’s another clue that the history of the Red Planet’s atmosphere is more complex and interesting than a simple legacy of loss.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

NASA Solicits Ideas for Innovative Technology That Will Take Us to Mars

This artist’s concept from 1985 depicts hardware which might be involved during manned missions to Mars. Image Credit: NASA

Last week, NASA announced a call for white papers, asking for submissions of innovative ideas that could be essential for future exploration of our solar system, including manned missions Mars. The initiative, known as iTech, engages the public, universities, space industry and U.S. government agencies to offer technology solutions necessary for space exploration.

Fermi Finds Record-breaking Binary in Galaxy Next Door

Observations from Fermi's Large Area Telescope (magenta line) show that gamma rays from LMC P3 rise and fall over the course of 10.3 days. The companion is thought to be a neutron star. Illustrations across the top show how the changing position of the neutron star relates to the gamma-ray cycle. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Using data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and other facilities, an international team of scientists has found the first gamma-ray binary in another galaxy and the most luminous one ever seen. The dual-star system, dubbed LMC P3, contains a massive star and a crushed stellar core that interact to produce a cyclic flood of gamma rays, the highest-energy form of light.

World's First Private Orbital Launch Complex Completed in New Zealand

Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. Photo Credit: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab, a US-New Zealand company that aims to provide commercial rocket launch services, announced on Monday, Sept. 26, the completion of the world’s first private space launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. The facility, named Launch Complex 1, will serve as the primary site for launches of the company’s Electron rocket carrying satellites into space.

The Frontier Fields: Where Primordial Galaxies Lurk

This image of galaxy cluster Abell 2744, also called Pandora's Cluster, was taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope. The cluster is also being studied by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory in a collaboration called the Frontier Fields project. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In the ongoing hunt for the universe's earliest galaxies, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has wrapped up its observations for the Frontier Fields project. This ambitious project has combined the power of all three of NASA's Great Observatories -- Spitzer, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory -- to delve as far back in time and space as current technology can allow.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Elon Musk Shows Off Interplanetary Transport System

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

In a presentation akin to something out of science fiction, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, announced the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). The two-stage rocket would be bigger and send more payloads to orbit (and beyond) than anything in the history of spaceflight. At the 67th International Astronautical Congress held in Guadalajara, Mexico, Musk detailed the components of ITS – a giant booster stage and a giant spaceship totally 400 feet (122 meters) tall. The NewSpace entrepreneur’s discussion was entitled “Making humans a Multiplanetary Species”.

Soyuz MS-02 Launch Now Targeted for October 19

Expedition 49 NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, left, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, center, and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos answer questions from the press outside the Soyuz simulator ahead of their Soyuz qualification exams, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia. The trio will fly to the ISS aboard the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Russia has re-scheduled the liftoff of the Soyuz MS-02 crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS), setting Oct. 19 as the new launch date. The spacecraft that will transport a trio of Expedition 49 crew members to the orbiting laboratory, will blast off atop a Soyuz-FG launcher, at 4:03 a.m. EDT (8:03 GMT), from Site 1/5 at the Baikonur Comsodrome in Kazakhstan.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Hubble Spots Possible Water Plumes Erupting on Europa

This composite image includes data from Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, which shows suspected plumes of water vapor erupting at the 7 o'clock position off the limb of Jupiter's moon Europa. The image of Europa, superimposed on the Hubble data, is assembled from data from the Galileo and Voyager missions. Credit: NASA, ESA, W. Sparks (STScI), the USGS Astrogeology Science Center, and Z. Levay (STScI)

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have imaged what may be water vapor plumes erupting off the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. This finding bolsters other Hubble observations suggesting the icy moon erupts with high-altitude water vapor plumes. The observation increases the possibility that missions to Europa may be able to sample Europa's ocean without having to drill through miles of ice.

India’s PSLV Rocket Sends Eight Satellites into Two Different Orbits

PSLV-C35 liftoff. Photo Credit: ISRO

India’s workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has successfully launched on Monday, Sept. 26, with eight satellites, delivering them into two different orbits. The rocket lifted off at exactly 9:12 a.m. local time (03:42 GMT; 11:42 p.m. EDT on Sept. 25) from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota.

New Low-Mass Objects Could Help Refine Planetary Evolution

Artist’s conception courtesy of Robin Dienel.

When a star is young, it is often still surrounded by a primordial rotating disk of gas and dust from which planets can form. Astronomers like to find such disks because they might be able to catch the star partway through the planet-formation process, but it’s highly unusual to find such disks around brown dwarfs or stars with very low masses. New work from a team led by Anne Boucher of Université de Montréal, and including Carnegie’s Jonathan Gagné and Jacqueline Faherty, has discovered four new low-mass objects surrounded by disks. The results will be published by The Astrophysical Journal.

The Incredible Shrinking Mercury is Active After All

It’s small, it’s hot, and it’s shrinking. Surprising new NASA-funded research suggests that Mercury is contracting even today, joining Earth as a tectonically active planet. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/Carnegie Institution of Washington/USGS/Arizona State University

It’s small, it’s hot, and it’s shrinking. New NASA-funded research suggests that Mercury is contracting even today, joining Earth as a tectonically active planet. Images obtained by NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft reveal previously undetected small fault scarps— cliff-like landforms that resemble stair steps. These scarps are small enough that scientists believe they must be geologically young, which means Mercury is still contracting and that Earth is not the only tectonically active planet in our solar system, as previously thought. The findings are reported in a paper in the October issue of Nature Geoscience.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

World's Largest Radio Telescope Begins Operations

Photo taken on Sept. 24, 2016 shows the 500-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in Pingtang County, southwest China's Guizhou Province. The FAST, world's largest radio telescope, measuring 500 meters in diameter, was completed and put into use on Sunday. (Xinhua/Ou Dongqu)

The world's largest radio telescope was put into use on Sunday in a mountainous region of southwest China's Guizhou Province. Shortly after noon, in a karst valley in Pingtang County, hundreds of astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts witnessed the official launch of the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope's (FAST) mission to explore space and hunt for extraterrestrial life.

Cosmology Safe as Universe Has No Sense of Direction

Illustration of the possible patterns an anisotropic universe would leave in the cosmic microwave background, including (clockwise from bottom left) the contribution from quantum fluctuations, and from three different aspects of the anisotropic expansion (credit: Saadeh et al.)

The universe is expanding uniformly according to research led by the University College London (UCL) which reports that space isn’t stretching in a preferred direction or spinning. The new study, published in Physical Review Letters, studied the cosmic microwave background (CMB) which is the remnant radiation from the Big Bang. It shows the universe expands the same way in all directions, supporting the assumptions made in cosmologists’ standard model of the universe.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Summer Fireworks on Rosetta's Comet

Locations of the summer outbursts observed by Rosetta’s OSIRIS (blue dots) and NavCam (red dots) between July and September 2015, superimposed on a regional map of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Insets highlight the topography and terrain for a selection of outbursts (note that some locations can be seen in multiple insets from different angles). Credit: OSIRIS: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Brief but powerful outbursts seen from Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko during its most active period last year have been traced back to their origins on the surface. In the three months centered around the comet’s closest approach to the Sun, on 13 August 2015, Rosetta’s cameras captured 34 outbursts.

NASA-Funded Sounding Rocket Solves One Cosmic Mystery, Reveals Another

The Diffuse X-ray emission from the Local galaxy, or DXL, sounding rocket launched from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on Dec. 13, 2012, to study the source of certain X-rays observed near Earth. Credits: White Sands Missile Range, Visual Information Branch

In the last century, humans realized that space is filled with types of light we can’t see – from infrared signals released by hot stars and galaxies, to the cosmic microwave background that comes from every corner of the universe. Some of this invisible light that fills space takes the form of X-rays, the source of which has been hotly contended over the past few decades.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Basic Astronomy Dissertation Writing Tips from Experts

Writing about astronomy for your dissertation may seem like a universal endeavor. In fact, your thoughts may feel as if they are being sucked into a black hole rather than pouring out on the page. However, preparing your astronomy dissertation doesn’t have to be as challenging as you think it is. If you will employ these writing tips from experts, you will find this astronomical assignment considerably easier.

PSLV Rocket to Send Eight Satellites into Orbit on Its Longest Flight

Panoromic view of PSLV-C35 at First Launch Pad. Photo Credit: ISRO

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will conduct on Monday, Sept. 26, the longest mission of its PLSV booster that is slated to deliver eight satellites into orbit. The rocket will thunder off from First Launch Pad of Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota, at 9:12 a.m. local time (3:42 GMT, 11:42 p.m. EDT on Sept. 25).

Thursday, September 22, 2016

China’s Tiangong-1 Space Laboratory Will Crash to Earth Next Year

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

China’s first space laboratory called Tiangong-1 (“Heavenly Palace” in Chinese) is expected to re-enter atmosphere in the second half of 2017, according to Chinese officials. While most parts of the spacecraft will burn up during falling, there are worries that some pieces may hit the ground.

Hubble Helps Find Light-Bending World with Two Suns

This artist's illustration shows a gas giant planet circling a pair of red dwarf stars in the system OGLE-2007-BLG-349, located 8,000 light-years away. The Saturn-mass planet orbits roughly 300 million miles from the stellar duo. The two red dwarf stars are 7 million miles apart. Credits: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

A distant planet orbiting two stars, found by its warping of spacetime, has been confirmed using observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The planet’s mass caused what is known as a microlensing event, where light is bent by an object’s gravitational field. The event was observed in 2007, making this the first circumbinary planet to be confirmed following detection of a microlensing event.

ALMA Explores the Hubble Ultra Deep Field

This image combines a background picture taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (blue/green) with a new very deep ALMA view of this field (orange, marked with circles). All the objects that ALMA sees appear to be massive star-forming galaxies.  This image is based on the ALMA survey by J. Dunlop and colleagues, covering the full HUDF area.  Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/NASA/ESA/J. Dunlop et al. and S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team.

International teams of astronomers have used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to explore the distant corner of the Universe first revealed in the iconic images of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). These new ALMA observations are significantly deeper and sharper than previous surveys at millimetre wavelengths. They clearly show how the rate of star formation in young galaxies is closely related to their total mass in stars. They also trace the previously unknown abundance of star-forming gas at different points in time, providing new insights into the “Golden Age” of galaxy formation approximately 10 billion years ago.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Russia Sets New Date for Soyuz MS-02 Mission, Confirms Decision to Cut ISS Crews

Expedition 49 NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, left, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Ryzhikov of Roscosmos, center, and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Borisenko of Roscosmos answer questions from the press outside the Soyuz simulator ahead of their Soyuz qualification exams, Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia. The trio will fly to the ISS aboard the Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft. Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Russia has set Nov. 1 as the new launch date of the next crewed flight to the International Space Station (ISS), designated Soyuz MS-02. The postponement comes just days after the country approved the plan of reducing its space station crew from three to two cosmonauts. These two decisions force reschedules in Russia’s spaceflight program.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

NASA Extends Science Operations of IRIS Solar Observation Spacecraft

NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) with solar panels, seen here in the clean room at the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, where it was designed and built. Photo Credit: NASA/Lockheed Martin

NASA decided to extend science operations of its IRIS space observatory dedicated to study the sun's lower atmosphere. The $19.4 million extension contract awarded by the agency, secures the manufacturer’s support for the mission through September 2018 and provides additional cooperation with ground observatories worldwide.

NASA Scientists Find ‘Impossible’ Cloud on Titan – Again

Scientists from NASA’s Cassini mission think the appearance of a cloud of dicyanoacetylene (C4N2) ice in Titan’s stratosphere is explained by “solid-state” chemistry taking place inside ice particles. The particles have an inner layer of cyanoacetylene (HC3N) ice coated with an outer layer of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) ice. (Left) When a photon of light penetrates the outer shell, it can interact with the HC3N, producing C3N and H. (Center) The C3N then reacts with HCN to yield (right) C4N2 and H. Another reaction that also yields C4N2 ice and H also is possible, but less likely. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

The puzzling appearance of an ice cloud seemingly out of thin air has prompted NASA scientists to suggest that a different process than previously thought -- possibly similar to one seen over Earth's poles -- could be forming clouds on Saturn's moon Titan. Located in Titan's stratosphere, the cloud is made of a compound of carbon and nitrogen known as dicyanoacetylene (C4N2), an ingredient in the chemical cocktail that colors the giant moon's hazy, brownish-orange atmosphere.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover to Produce Oxygen on the Red Planet

This 2015 diagram shows components of the investigations payload for NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission. Image Credit: NASA

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will not only investigate the Red Planet, searching for evidence of past life on Mars, but it also expected to lay foundations for future human exploration of the planet. One of the mission’s instrument called MOXIE will have a special task, testing technology essential for Mars colonization.

Polish Teams Once Again Dominate European Rover Challenge

Raptors Team from Łódź University of Technology after winning the ERC 2016 title. Photo Credit: ERC

Teams from Poland have once again dominated the European Rover Challenge (ERC) – a competition to design, construct and operate a rover that most successfully complete a number of Mars-exploration themed tasks. This year’s edition was won by the Raptors Team from Łódź University of Technology (Poland). The second place was also awarded to Polish team - the Impuls Team from Kielce University of Technology.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Vega Launcher Sends PerúSAT-1 and Four SkySat Satellites into Orbit

Vega VV07 liftoff. Image Credit: Arianespace

Arianespace has successfully conducted its seventh mission of the year on Thursday, Sept. 15, sending PerúSAT-1 spacecraft and four SkySat micro-satellites into space atop a Vega launcher. The rocket lifted off at 10:43 p.m. local time on Sept. 15 (9:43 p.m. EDT; 1:43 GMT on Sept. 16), from the Vega Launch Complex (SLV) in Kourou, French Guiana.

Hubble Takes Close-up Look at Disintegrating Comet

This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the ancient Comet 332P/Ikeya-Murakami disintegrating as it approaches the sun. The comet debris consists of a cluster of building-size chunks (center) that form a 3,000-mile-long trail. The fragments are drifting away from the comet. The main nucleus of Comet 332P is the bright object at lower left. This observation was made on Jan. 27, 2016, with Hubble's Wide Field Camera. Credits: NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (UCLA)

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured one of the sharpest, most detailed observations of a comet breaking apart, which occurred 67 million miles from Earth. In a series of images taken over a three-day span in January 2016, Hubble revealed 25 building-size blocks made of a mixture of ice and dust that are drifting away from the comet at a leisurely pace, about the walking speed of an adult.

Studies Find Echoes of Black Holes Eating Stars

This illustration shows a glowing stream of material from a star as it is being devoured by a supermassive black hole in a tidal disruption flare. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Supermassive black holes, with their immense gravitational pull, are notoriously good at clearing out their immediate surroundings by eating nearby objects. When a star passes within a certain distance of a black hole, the stellar material gets stretched and compressed -- or "spaghettified" -- as the black hole swallows it.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

China Launches Tiangong-2 Space Laboratory into Orbit

Long March 2F liftoff with Tiangong-2. Photo Credit: Xinhua

On Sept. 15, China successfully launched a Long March 2F rocket carrying the country’s second space lab – Tiangong-2 (meaning “Heavenly Palace” in Chinese). Liftoff took place at 10:04 p.m. local time (14:04 GMT; 10:04 a.m. EDT) from Launch Area 4 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, located in China’s Gansu Province.

X-ray Detection Sheds New Light on Pluto

The first detection of Pluto in X-rays has been made using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in conjunction with observations from NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft. Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/JHUAPL/R.McNutt et al; Optical: NASA/JHUAPL

Scientists using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have made the first detections of X-rays from Pluto. These observations offer new insight into the space environment surrounding the largest and best-known object in the solar system’s outermost regions. While NASA's New Horizons spacecraft was speeding toward and beyond Pluto, Chandra was aimed several times on the dwarf planet and its moons, gathering data on Pluto that the missions could compare after the flyby. Each time Chandra pointed at Pluto – four times in all, from February 2014 through August 2015 – it detected low-energy X-rays from the small planet.

Second Largest Meteorite Found in Argentina

The Campo del Cielo meteorite was found in outside the small Argentinian town of Gancedo. Credit: Facebook: Ministerio de Gobierno

The second-largest meteorite ever found has been exhumed outside the small Argentinian town of Gancedo. The 30-ton rock, named after the town, was discovered on September 10 and dug up by an excavation team which was shocked by its massive size. "While we hoped for weights above what had been registered, we did not expect it to exceed 30 tons," Astronomy Association of Chaco president Mario Vesconi said.

Astronomers to Explore the ‘Cosmic Dawn’ of the Universe

The Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array (HERA) radio telescope in South Africa is a key ingredient in an international project, which ASU has joined, to investigate the early universe immediately after its birth in the Big Bang. Photo by Kathryn Rosie

Thirteen billion years ago, nearly every particle in the universe was affected by a new phenomenon: the emergence of starlight from the birth of stars in the first galaxies. Throughout the universe, primordial gas was turned into ionized plasma, setting the conditions for the universe we see today. How did the laws of physics enable the primordial gas that followed from the Big Bang to evolve into today’s complex universe? How is our universe able to support life, stars, galaxies, planets, even black holes?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Arianespace’s Vega Launcher to Orbit Five Satellites on Its Seventh Mission

AVUM upper stage with PerúSAT-1 and four SkySat satellites encapsulated in the payload fairing, being integrated with the launch vehicle. Photo Credit: Arianespace

Arianespace is gearing up for the seventh launch of Vega rocket in history, that will orbit PerúSAT-1 and four SkySat satellites. The launcher is scheduled to lift off from the Vega Launch Complex (SLV) in Kourou, French Guiana, at 10:43 p.m. local time on Sept. 15 (9:43 p.m. EDT, 1:43 GMT on Sept. 16).

Gaia's Billion-Star Map Hints at Treasures to Come

An all-sky view of stars in our Galaxy – the Milky Way – and neighbouring galaxies, based on the first year of observations from ESA’s Gaia satellite, from July 2014 to September 2015.  This map shows the density of stars observed by Gaia in each portion of the sky. Brighter regions indicate denser concentrations of stars, while darker regions correspond to patches of the sky where fewer stars are observed. Credit: ESA/Gaia/DPAC

The first catalog of more than a billion stars from ESA’s Gaia satellite was published today – the largest all-sky survey of celestial objects to date. On its way to assembling the most detailed 3D map ever made of our Milky Way galaxy, Gaia has pinned down the precise position on the sky and the brightness of 1142 million stars.

Pluto 'Paints' its Largest Moon Red

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured this high-resolution, enhanced color view of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, just before closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft's Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC); the colors are processed to best highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. Scientists have learned that reddish material in the north (top) polar region – informally named Mordor Macula – is chemically processed methane that escaped from Pluto’s atmosphere onto Charon. Charon is 754 miles (1,214 kilometers) across; this image resolves details as small as 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers). Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

In June 2015, when the cameras on NASA's approaching New Horizons spacecraft first spotted the large reddish polar region on Pluto's largest moon, Charon, mission scientists knew two things: they'd never seen anything like it elsewhere in our solar system, and they couldn't wait to get the story behind it.

Astronomers Observe Star Reborn in a Flash

This image of the Stingray nebula, a planetary nebula 2700 light-years from Earth, was taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) in 1998. In the centre of the nebula the fast evolving star SAO 244567 is located. Observations made within the last 45 years showed that the surface temperature of the star increased by almost 40 000 degree Celsius. Now new observations of the spectra of the star have revealed that SAO 244567 has started to cool again. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

An international team of astronomers using Hubble have been able to study stellar evolution in real time. Over a period of 30 years dramatic increases in the temperature of the star SAO 244567 have been observed. Now the star is cooling again, having been reborn into an earlier phase of stellar evolution. This makes it the first reborn star to have been observed during both the heating and cooling stages of rebirth.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

China to Launch Its Second Space Lab into Space

Long March 2F rocket with the Tiangong 2 space lab, being transferred from the assembling center to the launch site. Photo Credit:

China will launch on Thursday, Sept. 15, its second space laboratory called Tiangong 2 (meaning “Heavenly Palace”), to test technology for the country’s future space station. The orbital lab will ride into space atop a Long March 2F rocket, lifting off from Launch Area 4 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, located in China’s Gansu Province.

Blue Origin Reveals New Glenn Launch Vehicle Plans

Blue Origin’s New Glenn launch vehicles compared to past and current rockets. Image Credit: Blue Origin

In a recent e-mail, Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos unveiled more details about the company’s family of future orbital launch vehicles, named New Glenn. The new vehicles include two-stage and three-stage versions with a first stage producing 3.85 million pounds (17.1 million newtons) of thrust. The orbital vehicles are named for the first American astronaut to reach orbit – John Glenn.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Chemistry Says Moon Is Proto-Earth’s Mantle, Relocated

Planetary smackdown: An artist's conception of the giant impact that created Earth's moon. New research suggests the impact was even more violent than this image suggests. (Illustration: Dana Berry/SwRI)

Measurements of an element in Earth and moon rocks have just disproved the leading hypotheses for the origin of the moon. Tiny differences in the segregation of the isotopes of potassium between the moon and Earth were hidden below the detection limits of analytical techniques until recently. But in 2015, Washington University in St. Louis geochemist Kun Wang, then the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative Prize postdoctoral fellow, and Stein Jacobsen, professor of geochemistry at Harvard University, developed a technique for analyzing these isotopes that can hit precisions 10 times better than the best previous method.

Cassini Sees Barely Bisected Rings

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Saturn's shadow stretched beyond the edge of its rings for many years after Cassini first arrived at Saturn, casting an ever-lengthening shadow that reached its maximum extent at the planet's 2009 equinox. This image captured the moment in 2015 when the shrinking shadow just barely reached across the entire main ring system.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Meteorite Explodes Over Cyprus

Image of a suspected meteorite that did a close fly-by over Cyprus early on Friday

A suspected meteorite did a close fly-by over Cyprus early on Friday, sending people into consternation over a blitz of bright lights which appeared in the night sky coupled with large bangs. "It had a 45 degree tilt and a bang was heard as it passed over Cyprus," said Ioannis Fakas, the honorary chairman of the Cyprus astronomical society.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Virgin Galactic Makes First Flight Since Fatal Crash

The VMS Eve (Virgin Mother Ship) carrys VSS Unity (Virgin Spaceship) for its first flight ever over Mojave, CA on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. Photo Credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic returned to flight on Thursday, Sept. 8, for the first time since a tragic accident in October 2014, that killed one of the company’s pilot and destroyed the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft. Thursday’s test run, called a captive carry flight, saw the second SpaceShipTwo, flying attached to the WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft for three hours and 43 minutes.

Rosetta's Descent Towards Region of Active Pits

A simplified overview of Rosetta’s last week of maneuvers at Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (comet rotation is not considered). Credit: ESA

Squeezing out unique scientific observations until the very end, Rosetta’s thrilling mission will culminate with a descent on 30 September towards a region of active pits on the comet’s ‘head’. The region, known as Ma’at, lies on the smaller of the two lobes of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. It is home to several active pits more than 100 m in diameter and 50–60 m in depth – where a number of the comet’s dust jets originate.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Third European Rover Challenge Kicks Off in Poland

Image credit: ERC

A small town of Jasionka, near Rzeszów, Poland will serve as a battleground of red-brown sand and dust for Mars rovers trying to complete numerous complex tasks. The event, known as the European Rover Challenge (ERC), accompanied by the first ever European Robotics Congress, will be held on Sept. 10-13.

ULA Atlas V Sends OSIRIS-REx on Its Way Toward Asteroid Bennu

Atlas V lifts off with the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Credit: ULA

The team for NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission cheered as a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 411 powered the asteroid explorer spaceward. Liftoff occurred on time at 7:05 p.m. EDT (23:05 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex (SLC) 41 to send OSIRIS-REx into a hyperbolic orbit to catch up with the asteroid 101955 Bennu.

Avoiding 'Traffic Jam' Creates Impossibly Bright 'Lighthouse'

Artist’s impression of the “New Lighthouse Model.”(Credit: NAOJ)

A supercomputer recreated a blinking impossibly bright “monster pulsar.” The central energy source of enigmatic pulsating Ultra Luminous X-ray sources (ULX) could be a neutron star according to numerical simulations performed by a research group led by Tomohisa Kawashima at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).

'Enterprise' Nebulae Seen by Spitzer

These nebulae seen by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, at left, may resemble two versions of the starship Enterprise from "Star Trek," overlaid at right. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the TV series "Star Trek," which first aired September 8th,1966, a new infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope may remind fans of the historic show. Since ancient times, people have imagined familiar objects when gazing at the heavens. There are many examples of this phenomenon, known as pareidolia, including the constellations and the well-known nebulae named Ant, Stingray and Hourglass.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

GSLV Rocket Blasts Off with INSAT-3DR Weather Satellite

GSLV-F05 carrying INSAT-3DR lifts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. Credit: ISRO

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully conducted on Thursday, Sept. 8, its fifth mission of the year, by lofting its advanced weather satellite named INSAT-3DR. The spacecraft was launched atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), from the second launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India.

Young Magnetar Likely the Slowest Pulsar Ever Detected

A neutron star located in the center of the RCW 103 supernova remnant about 10,700 light years from Earth. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/University of Amsterdam/N.Rea et al; Optical: DSS

Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other X-ray observatories, astronomers have found evidence for what is likely one of the most extreme pulsars, or rotating neutron stars, ever detected. The source exhibits properties of a highly magnetized neutron star, or magnetar, yet its deduced spin period is thousands of times longer than any pulsar ever observed.

Bus-Size Asteroid Flies By Earth

Asteroid 2016 RB1’s close approach to Earth was imaged by astronomer Gianluca Masi on the evening of Sept. 6, 2016, using the Virtual Telescope located in Ceccano, Central Italy. Credits: VT/Masi

A small asteroid designated 2016 RB1 safely flew past Earth on Sept. 7 at 10:20 a.m. PDT (1:20 p.m. EDT / 17:20 UTC) at a distance of about 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers, or just less than 1/10th the distance of Earth to the moon). Because the asteroid’s orbit carried it below (or over) Earth’s south pole, it did not pass within the orbits of communication or weather satellites. 2016 RB1 is estimated to be between 25 to 50 feet (7 and 16 meters) in diameter. It is the closest the space rock will come to Earth for at least the next half century.

Orbiter Detects Changing Climate on Early Mars

View of CRISM image showing allophane/imogolite unit above the crystalline clays.

The early Martian climate remains hotly debated by scientists because the surface mineralogy and morphology indicate abundant liquid water was present, while atmospheric modeling is challenged to create conditions supportive of liquid water on the surface of early Mars. New results by SETI Institute researcher Dr. Janice Bishop and Houston colleague Dr. Elizabeth Rampe indicate a change in climate from the environment supporting liquid water and formation of clay minerals to an environment where liquid water was no longer abundant on the surface.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Astronomers Discover Rare Fossil Relic of Early Milky Way

Peering through the thick dust clouds of the galactic bulge an international team of astronomers has revealed the unusual mix of stars in the stellar cluster known as Terzan 5. The new results indicate that Terzan 5 is in fact one of the bulge's primordial building blocks, most likely the relic of the very early days of the Milky Way. Credit: ESO/F. Ferraro

Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope and other telescopes a fossilized remnant of the early Milky Way harboring stars of hugely different ages has been revealed by an international team of astronomers. This stellar system resembles a globular cluster, but is like no other cluster known. It contains stars remarkably similar to the most ancient stars in the Milky Way and bridges the gap in understanding between our galaxy’s past and its present.

Reconciling Dwarf Galaxies with Dark Matter

Andrew Wetzel’s simulation shows stars in the Milky Way-like galaxy on the left and the same region’s dark matter on the right. Image is provided courtesy of Andrew Wetzel.

Dwarf galaxies are enigmas wrapped in riddles. Although they are the smallest galaxies, they represent some of the biggest mysteries about our universe. While many dwarf galaxies surround our own Milky Way, there seem to be far too few of them compared with standard cosmological models, which raises a lot of questions about the nature of dark matter and its role in galaxy formation.

Soyuz Trio Blaze Through Atmosphere to Land in Kazakhstan

NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, left, Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, center, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos sit in chairs outside the Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft a few moments after they landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016(Kazakh time). Williams, Ovchinin, and Skripochka are returning after 172 days in space where they served as members of the Expedition 47 and 48 crews onboard the International Space Station. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

After orbiting Earth for 172 days, three members the International Space Station’s (ISS) Expedition 48 crew undocked their Soyuz TMA-20M spacecraft from the outpost and barreled through the atmosphere a couple hours later to land on the Steppe of Kazakhstan. The official landing time was 09:13 p.m. EDT Sept. 6 (01:13 GMT Sept. 7) southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Russian search and recovery teams circling the area in helicopters then landed near the capsule to help NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Aleksey Ovchinin out of the Soyuz after their nearly six-month stay in at the orbiting laboratory.

Titan's Dunes and Other Features Emerge in New Cassini Images

This synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) image was obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on July 25, 2016, during its "T-121" pass over Titan’s southern latitudes. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Université Paris-Diderot

New scenes from a frigid alien landscape are coming to light in recent radar images of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Cassini obtained the views during a close flyby of Titan on July 25, when the spacecraft came as close as 607 miles (976 kilometers) from the giant moon. The spacecraft's radar instrument is able to penetrate the dense, global haze that surrounds Titan, to reveal fine details on the surface.

Brown Dwarfs Hiding in Plain Sight in Our Solar Neighborhood

An illustration showing the relative sizes of brown dwarfs as compared to starts and gas giant planets, courtesy of Carnegie Institution for Science.

Cool brown dwarfs are a hot topic in astronomy right now. Smaller than stars and bigger than giant planets, they hold promise for helping us understand both stellar evolution and planet formation. New work from a team including Carnegie’s Jonathan Gagné has discovered several ultracool brown dwarfs in our own solar neighborhood. Their findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Detailed Age Map Shows How Milky Way Came Together

Age structure of the Milky Way’s halo. Credit:

Using colors to identify the approximate ages of more than 130,000 stars in the Milky Way’s halo, University of Notre Dame astronomers have produced the clearest picture yet of how the galaxy formed more than 13.5 billion years ago. Astrophysicist Daniela Carollo, research assistant professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Notre Dame, and Timothy Beers, Notre Dame Chair of Astrophysics, along with research assistant professor Vinicius Placco and their colleagues, published their findings in Nature Physics, including a chronographic (age) map that supports a hierarchical model of galaxy formation.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Scientists Predict the Existence of a New Boson

Real CMS proton-proton collisions events in which 2 high energy electrons and two high energy muons are observed. Credit: Taylor L; McCauley T/CERN

Scientists at the High Energy Physics Group (HEP) of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg predict the existence of a new boson that might aid in the understanding of Dark Matter in the Universe. Using data from a series of experiments that led to the discovery and first exploration of the Higgs boson at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in 2012, the group established what they call the Madala hypothesis, in describing a new boson, named as the Madala boson. The experiment was repeated in 2015 and 2016, after a two-and-a-half year shut-down of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.

Scientists Discover What Extraordinary Compounds May Be Hidden Inside Uranus and Neptune

The interior structure of Uranus is illustrated. Credit: MIPT Press office

Using computer modeling, chemists from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) and Skoltech (the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology) have found out which molecules may be present in the interiors of Uranus, Neptune, and the icy satellites of the giant planets. The scientists discovered that at high pressures, which are typical for the interiors of such planets, exotic molecular and polymeric compounds are formed. These compounds include carbonic acid and orthocarbonic acid, the latter also known as 'Hitler's Acid'. The results of the study have been published in the prestigious journal Scientific Reports.

Philae Lander Found Wedged in ‘Dark Crack’ on Comet 67P

This series of photos shows exactly where Philae lnded on Comet 67P. Photo Credit: ESA

After months of poring over images to search for the precise landing location of the lost Philae lander, European Space Agency (ESA) scientists finally located it with the Rosetta orbiter’s high-resolution camera. The tiny spacecraft was seen to be wedged in a “dark crack” on the smaller lobe of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Monday, September 5, 2016

India’s GSLV Booster Set to Launch INSAT-3DR Weather Satellite

The fully integrated GSLV-F05 carrying INSAT-3DR approaching the second launch pad. Photo Credit: ISRO

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) gears up to launch its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), carrying an advanced weather satellite named INSAT-3DR. Liftoff will take place at 4:10 p.m. local time (6:40 a.m. EDT) on Sept. 8, from the second launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

Earth’s Carbon Points to Planetary Smashup

A schematic depiction of early Earth's merger with an embryonic planet similar to Mercury, a scenario supported by new high-pressure, high-temperature experiments at Rice University. Magma ocean processes could lead planetary embryos to develop silicon- or sulfur-rich metallic cores and carbon-rich outer layers. If Earth merged with such a planet early in its history, it could explain how Earth acquired its carbon and sulfur. Credit: Rajdeep Dasgupta

Research by Rice University Earth scientists suggests that virtually all of Earth’s life-giving carbon could have come from a collision about 4.4 billion years ago between Earth and an embryonic planet similar to Mercury. In a new study this week in Nature Geoscience, Rice petrologist Rajdeep Dasgupta and colleagues offer a new answer to a long-debated geological question: How did carbon-based life develop on Earth, given that most of the planet’s carbon should have either boiled away in the planet’s earliest days or become locked in Earth’s core?

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Proxima b Could Be a Life-Friendly Planet, Says One of the Co-Discoverers

This artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the solar system. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

When in late August this year, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) broke the news, announcing the discovery of Proxima b, the closest exoplanet to us, it fueled hopes of finding an Earth-like planet that could support life. Now, Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire, UK, confirms that the newly found alien world could be one of the best currently known extrasolar places to search for microbial organisms.

Russia Postpones Two Rocket Launches

Proton-M rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodorme. Credit: Roscosmos

Russia’s Roscosmos State Corporation announced on Thursday, Sept. 1, the decision to postpone its two rocket launches slated for October this year. According to the corporation’s press service, the liftoff of the Proton-M rocket with the EchoStar 21 satellite was rescheduled from Oct. 10 to Nov. 23, while the launch of Soyuz-2.1a booster carrying the Kanopus-V-IK spacecraft was postponed from October to Dec. 22.