Sky and Telescope 19 Apr 2018, 17:55 UTC The Canary Islands, a Spanish enclave off the coast of North Africa, are famous as a favorite vacationing spot for Sun-deprived northern Europeans. But they’re also a prime location for astronomy, hosting two observatories on mountaintops that benefit from exceptionally clear and dark skies. Taking advantage of such a privileged environment, a small team of two astrophotographers and a professional astronomer have embarked on a project to produce a massive image of the Milky Way using only off-the-shelf photographic equipment.
Centauri Dreams 19 Apr 2018, 14:17 UTC With TESS going into a 60-day period of calibration and testing, I’ll turn this morning to a different kind of survey. GALAH is an acronym for Galactic Archaeology, a term I’ve generally associated with so-called Dysonian SETI, where data is mined in a search for signs of advanced engineering or any anomalies that could signify an extraterrestrial civilization at work. But GALAH has a different object: It has examined some 340,000 stars enroute to 1 million. A just published paper on GALAH states the goal succinctly: The overarching goal of the GALAH survey is to acquire high-resolution spectra of a million stars for chemical tagging, in order to investigate the assembly history of the Galaxy.
Hubble Space Telescope Announcements 19 Apr 2018, 14:00 UTC On 24 April 1990, Hubble was launched into space. To celebrate its 28th year in orbit, some of Hubble’s precious observation time was used to observe the colourful Lagoon Nebula. One of only two star-forming nebulae visible to the unaided eye, this spectacular stellar nursery is not quite the tranquil landscape its name suggests. This new Hubblecast explores the image in more detail and shows some of the delicate features of this cosmic lagoon.
ESO Announcements 19 Apr 2018, 13:00 UTC ESO has signed a contract with VDL ETG Projects B.V. (the Netherlands) for the manufacture, assembly, testing and delivery of the Segment Support Mechanics for the primary mirror of ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT). The segment supports together act as the backbone of the primary mirror, holding each of the 798 mirror segments in place. Sensors and actuators monitor and control each segment’s shape and position to very high accuracy.
Astrobiology Magazine 19 Apr 2018, 12:00 UTC Low-mass stars are currently the most promising targets when searching for potentially habitable planets, but new research has revealed that some of these stars produce significant amounts of ultraviolet (UV) radiation throughout their lifetimes. Such radiation could hinder the development of life on any orbiting planets. M-dwarfs are stars that are cooler and less massive than stars like our Sun, and are the most common type of star in the Galaxy, meaning that it is vital that we better understand them and the influence they have on their planets.
All About Space 19 Apr 2018, 11:17 UTC The ‘dissection’ of two galaxies in the latter stages of merging has revealed how its two central supermassive black holes are hindering star formation throughout the whole galaxy. It also appears that the black holes are responsible for the galaxy’s unusual ‘butterfly’ shape. A study by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder), led by Francisco Müller-Sánchez, examined the galaxy NGC 6240. What makes this galaxy different to other galaxies is that while most galaxies host just one supermassive black hole, NGC 6240 contains two. These two supermassive black holes appear to be orbiting each other, and this will lead to an inevitable collision and merger. This is a prime indicator that the galaxy is the result of a merger, and is in its final stages of merging.
astrobites 19 Apr 2018, 08:14 UTC Good luck getting any sleep on Jupiter! This humongous gas giant rotates faster than any other planet in the Solar System, completing a day in less than 10 hours! If you were to emigrate from Earth to the largest planet in our solar system and still aimed to get the daily 8 hours of sleep recommended for adults, that would leave you with less than two hours per day to eat, exercise, and study astrophysics. That’s not nearly enough time! Future inhabitants of Jupiter’s cloud cities should not complain, though.
ABC 19 Apr 2018, 00:13 UTC NASA's TESS spacecraft has embarked on a quest to find new worlds around neighbouring stars that could support life. TESS rode a SpaceX Falcon rocket through the evening sky, aiming for an orbit stretching all the way to the moon.
Many Worlds 18 Apr 2018, 23:53 UTC On January 5, 2010, NASA issued landmark press release : the Kepler Space Telescope had discovered its first five new extra-solar planets. The previous twenty years had seen the discovery of just over 400 planets beyond the solar system. The majority of these new worlds were Jupiter-mass gas giants, many bunched up against their star on orbits far shorter than that of Mercury. We had learnt that our planetary system was not alone in the Galaxy, but small rocky worlds on temperate orbits might still have been rare. Based on just six weeks of data, these first discoveries from Kepler were also hot Jupiters; the easiest planets to find due to their large size and swiftly repeating signature as they zipped around the star. But expectations were high that this would be just the beginning.