Astrobiology Magazine 18 May 2018, 11:00 UTC Two nearby supernovae that exploded about 2.5 and eight million years ago could have resulted in a staggered depletion of Earth’s ozone layer, leading to a variety of repercussions for life on Earth. In particular, two-and-a-half million years ago the Earth was changing dramatically. The Pliocene, which was a hot and balmy epoch, was ending and the Pleistocene, an era of repeated glaciation known as the Ice Age, was beginning. Natural variations in Earth’s orbit and wobble likely accounted for the change in climate, but the simultaneous event of a supernova could provide insight on the diversification of life during this epoch.
io9 Space 17 May 2018, 17:25 UTC Just this week, scientists reported another strangely moving rock that bolsters the evidence for a ninth planet’s existence. The new object, called 2015 BP519, takes an elliptical journey around the Sun spanning from 35 to 862 times the radius of Earth’s own orbit. But while the eight known planets orbit the Sun on the same plane, like slot cars on concentric tracks, 2015 BP519 orbits at a 54-degree angle to that plane.
Sky and Telescope 17 May 2018, 15:42 UTC It wasn’t long ago that it was astonishing simply to know that planets beyond our own solar system really do exist. Now we know they’re everywhere, orbiting nearly every star. Yet, in a way, exoplanets seem like a cosmic tease. Given their enormous distance and dimness beside the blindingly radiant stars they hug so tightly, it will be hard to learn enough about them to satisfy the profound questions they raise. It’s like coming upon a palace full of doorways we can’t open, though we know behind them lie clues to the mystery of our existence.
Starts With a Bang! 17 May 2018, 14:01 UTC One of the greatest mysteries of modern science is the puzzle of dark matter. If you add up all the normal matter making up planets, stars, gas, plasma, black holes, galaxies, and the space between galaxies — all the matter in the known Universe — it isn’t enough to explain the gravity we see. It can’t explain individual galaxies, clusters of galaxies, colliding groups of galaxies, gravitational lensing, or the large-scale structure of the Universe. Something more must be out there, and it can’t be normal matter.
ESO Announcements 17 May 2018, 09:00 UTC In April 2018, a team composed of scientists and engineers from the Geneva Observatory and ESO were at the La Silla Observatory to commission HELIOS (HARPS Experiment for Light Integrated Over the Sun). This novel device was built under an agreement between ESO, the University of Geneva and the Centro de Astrofísica da Universidade do Porto.
io9 Space 16 May 2018, 13:10 UTC On November 8, 2017, a spinning neutron star inside one of the most studied objects in the sky “glitched” more than it had ever glitched before. Back in the year 1054, Chinese astronomers spotted what looked like a new star, which soon dimmed. They’d actually seen a supernova: a star exploding, ejecting gas and dust and perhaps collapsing. Today, all that’s left of the supernova is a cloud inside the constellation Taurus with a central, rapidly spinning neutron star called a pulsar. Pulsars are extreme objects that have about the mass of our sun but are mere kilometers across. They typically rotate at a constant rate and emit a beam of radiation that appears to us like the regular flashing of a lighthouse. Recently, that pulsar hiccuped.
SPACE.com 16 May 2018, 11:00 UTC The largest-ever parachute bound for Mars, which will land Europe's ExoMars rover on the surface of the Red Planet in 2021, passed the first in a series of tests in Sweden.The ring-slot parachute is 115 feet (35 meters) across, weighs almost 200 lbs. (90 kilograms) and is equipped with 3 miles (5 kilometers) of cords. According to a video by the European Space Agency (ESA), which oversees ExoMars, it takes five working days to prepare and fold the parachute into its correct configuration.