EarthSky Blog 23 Sep 2019, 11:55 UTC Tabby’s Star – aka KIC 8462852 or Boyajian’s Star – has been fascinating astronomers and the public alike for the past few years now, with its weird abrupt dimmings in brightness. Theories have ranged from comets to black holes to alien megastructures to explain the odd dips. On September 16, scientists at Columbia University said they have come up with yet another possibility: a melting exomoon.
SPACE.com 23 Sep 2019, 09:36 UTC Feel like going for a spin around Mars? A new video shows a 3D view of where the European-Russian ExoMars rover may land, in a region that was likely filled with water billions of years ago.
SPACE.com 22 Sep 2019, 12:13 UTC In the most extreme regions of the universe, galaxies are being killed. Their star formation is being shut down and astronomers want to know why. The first ever Canadian-led large project on one of the world’s leading telescopes is hoping to do just that. The new program, called the Virgo Environment Traced in Carbon Monoxide survey (VERTICO), is investigating, in brilliant detail, how galaxies are killed by their environment.
EarthSky Blog 22 Sep 2019, 10:50 UTC Supernova explosions can crush ordinary stars into neutron stars, composed of exotic, extremely dense matter. Neutron stars are on the order of about 12 miles (20 km) across in contrast to hundreds of thousands of miles across for stars like our sun. Yet they contain mass on the order of 1.4 times that of our sun. Neutron stars have strong magnetic fields. They emit powerful blasts of radiation along their magnetic field lines. If, as a neutron star spins, its beams of radiation periodically point towards Earth, we see the star as a pulsing radio or gamma-ray source. Then the neutron star is also called a pulsar, often compared to a cosmic lighthouse. Modern astronomers know of pulsars spinning with mind-boggling rapidity. The second-fastest one – called PSR J0952-0607 – spins some 707 times a second! Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hanover, Germany announced on September 19, 2019, that this pulsar, J0952-0607 – formerly seen only at the radio end of the spectrum – now has been found to pulse also in gamma rays.
Universe Today 21 Sep 2019, 21:04 UTC In 1978, NASA’s Pioneer Venus (aka. Pioneer 12) mission reached Venus (“Earth’s Sister”) and found indications that Venus may have once had oceans on its surface. Since then, several missions have been sent to Venus and gathered data on its surface and atmosphere. From this, a picture has emerged of how Venus made the transition from being an “Earth-like” planet to the hot and hellish place it is today.
Universe Today 20 Sep 2019, 20:20 UTC Radar evidence shows that geysers on Enceladus are ejecting water that turns to snow. The snow not only falls back on Enceladus’ surface, but also makes its way to its neighboring moons, Mimas and Tethys, making them more reflective. Researchers are calling this a ‘snow cannon.’
Starts With a Bang! 20 Sep 2019, 14:01 UTC Whenever you set out to solve a problem, there are a series of steps you have to take in order to arrive at the answer. Assuming your methods are sound and you don’t make any major errors, the answer you get should be correct. It might be a little higher or a little lower that the “true” value, as measurement (and other) uncertainties are real and cannot be eliminated, but the answer you obtain should be independent of the method you use.
New Scientist 20 Sep 2019, 12:56 UTC Stars sometimes bite off more than they can chew. When a star devours a planet, it can have strange effects on the star, including causing it to start falling apart. Understanding those effects could help us figure out how different kinds of planetary systems are formed.
ESO Blog 20 Sep 2019, 10:00 UTC ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) is the world’s most advanced optical and infrared astronomical observatory and observes objects four billion times fainter than the naked eye can see. But what is it like to spend a night deep in the Atacama Desert observing the stars with the VLT? How does it feel to control such a machine? Cyrielle Opitom, an ESO Fellow resident in Chile, describes one of her shifts observing the night sky with this formidable machine.