4 Nov 2020, 16:00 UTC Fast radio bursts are extremely bright flashes of energy that last for a fraction of a second, during which they can blast out more than 100 million times more power than the sun. Since they were first detected in 2007, astronomers have observed traces of fast radio bursts, or FRBs, scattered across the universe, but their sources have been too far away to clearly make out. It has been a mystery, then, as to what astrophysical objects could possibly produce such brief though brilliant radio flares. Now astronomers at MIT, McGill University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and elsewhere report that they have observed fast radio bursts in our own galaxy, for the first time. The radio pulses are the closest FRBs detected to date, and their proximity has allowed the team to pinpoint their source. It appears that the observed radio pulses were produced by a magnetar — a type of neutron star with a hugely powerful magnetic field. Physicists have hypothesized that magnetars might produce FRBs. This is the first time scientists have direct observational proof that magnetars are indeed sources of fast radio bursts. “There’s this great ... Next Previous
30 Oct 2020, 13:05 UTC This ethereal remnant of a long dead star, nestled in the belly of The Whale, bears an uneasy resemblance to a skull floating through space. Captured in astounding detail by ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), the eerie Skull Nebula is showcased in this new image in beautiful bloodshot colours. This planetary nebula is the first known to be associated with a pair of closely bound stars orbited by a third outer star. Next Previous
27 Oct 2020, 15:00 UTC Next Previous
20 Oct 2020, 18:09 UTC NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft unfurled its robotic arm Tuesday, and in a first for the agency, briefly touched an asteroid to collect dust and pebbles from the surface for delivery to Earth in 2023. This well-preserved, ancient asteroid, known as Bennu, is currently more than 200 million miles (321 million kilometers) from Earth. Bennu offers scientists a window into the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and flinging ingredients that could have helped seed life on Earth. If Tuesday’s sample collection event, known as “Touch-And-Go” (TAG), provided enough of a sample, mission teams will command the spacecraft to begin stowing the precious primordial cargo to begin its journey back to Earth in March 2021. Otherwise, they will prepare for another attempt in January. Next Previous
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1 Oct 2020, 14:45 UTC With the help of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers have found six galaxies lying around a supermassive black hole when the Universe was less than a billion years old. This is the first time such a close grouping has been seen so soon after the Big Bang and the finding helps us better understand how supermassive black holes, one of which exists at the centre of our Milky Way, formed and grew to their enormous sizes so quickly. It supports the theory that black holes can grow rapidly within large, web-like structures which contain plenty of gas to fuel them. Next Previous
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17 Sep 2020, 22:22 UTC Astronomers using the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) have made the first direct geometric measurement of the distance to a magnetar within our Milky Way Galaxy — a measurement that could help determine if magnetars are the sources of the long-mysterious Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs).Magnetars are a variety of neutron stars — the superdense remains of massive stars that exploded as supernovae — with extremely strong magnetic fields. A typical magnetar magnetic field is a trillion times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field, making magnetars the most magnetic objects in the Universe. They can emit strong bursts of X-rays and gamma rays, and recently have become a leading candidate for the sources of FRBs.A magnetar called XTE J1810-197, discovered in 2003, was the first of only six such objects found to emit radio pulses. It did so from 2003 to 2008, then ceased for a decade. In December of 2018, it resumed emitting bright radio pulses.A team of astronomers used the VLBA to regularly observe XTE J1810-197 from January to November of 2019, then again during March and April of 2020. By viewing the magnetar from opposite sides of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, they were ... Next Previous
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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 4 Dec 2020, 14:50 UTC This large expanse of space captured with the Hubble Space Telescope features the galaxy SDSS J225506.80+005839.9. Unlike many other extravagant galaxies and stunning nebulae imaged by Hubble, this galaxy does not have a short, popular name, and is only known by its long name given in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which refers to its coordinates in the sky. This galaxy – visible in the center right portion of the image – and its many wondrous neighboring galaxies lie in the constellation of Pisces (the Fish).
HubbleSite NewsCenter -- Latest News Releases 3 Dec 2020, 15:00 UTC Great things take time. This is true when it comes to many processes in the universe. For example, it takes millions of years for stars—the building blocks of the universe—to form. Then, many stars last for billions of years before they die and begin to eject shells of gas that glow against the vastness of space—what we call nebulas. It can be exceedingly rare to capture some of these processes in real time.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 2 Dec 2020, 16:00 UTC The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory launched on December 2, 1995. A joint mission between the European Space Agency and NASA, SOHO’s original operating phase was scheduled for two years – and now, through repeated extensions, it is celebrating a quarter century in orbit. Over the years, its set of groundbreaking instruments became a source for numerous scientific findings, an inspiration for follow-on missions, and an outlet for citizen scientists. SOHO also survived near catastrophe twice and has become the longest-running Sun-surveying spacecraft. What this powerhouse mission has witnessed in its 25 years has changed the way humanity sees the Sun.
McDonald Observatory 1 Dec 2020, 15:37 UTC Three years into its quest to reveal the nature of dark energy, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment (HETDEX) is on track to complete the largest map of the cosmos ever. The team will create a three-dimensional map of 2.5 million galaxies that will help astronomers understand how and why the expansion of the universe is speeding up over time.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 30 Nov 2020, 20:49 UTC At the edge of space, the ever-growing fleet of satellites in low-Earth orbit are locked in a constant, precarious battle with friction.
MIT 25 Nov 2020, 14:00 UTC Earlier this month a team of MIT researchers sent samples of various high-tech fabrics, some with embedded sensors or electronics, to the International Space Station. The samples (unpowered for now) will be exposed to the space environment for a year in order to determine a baseline for how well these materials survive the harsh environment of low Earth orbit.
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Lights in the Dark 4 Dec 2020, 16:10 UTC Captured on January 28, 2020, this is the first image of a sunspot by the National Science Foundation’s Inouye Solar Telescope located near the summit of Haleakalā in Maui, Hawaiʻi. The image reveals striking details of the sunspot’s structure as seen at the Sun’s surface, and has over twice the detail previously achieved by any other observatory!
Universe Today 4 Dec 2020, 13:34 UTC Did comets deliver the elements essential for life on Earth? It’s looking more and more like they could have. At least one comet might have, anyway: 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. A new study using data from the ESA’s Rosetta mission shows that the comet contains the life-critical element phosphorous.
Discover 3 Dec 2020, 14:08 UTC Some 60 million light-years from Earth — by the estimate of one team of researchers, anyway — a pair of strange galaxies is causing a cosmic stir. The bizarre galaxies, named NGC 1052-DF2 and NGC 1052-DF4 (or DF2 and DF4, for short), are the first known galaxies born without any significant amount of dark matter. If confirmed, their existence would throw a wrench into our understanding of how galaxies form and evolve. But, as Carl Sagan liked to say, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And, according to some researchers, the evidence for these dark-matter-deficient galaxies doesn’t hold up.
Bad Astronomy 2 Dec 2020, 14:00 UTC Astronomers have found that a giant cluster of stars orbiting the Andromeda Galaxy is incredibly deficient in heavy elements, so much so that it totally blows away any previous record. This likely means it's terribly ancient, perhaps older than any other such cluster ever seen. It also changes what astronomers think about how such clusters are born.