NCCR PlanetS 7 Dec 2017, 12:53 UTC Engineers at the University of Bern are developing the CHEOPS space telescope. From Earth´s orbit, this telescope is supposed to measure the diameter of exoplanets which are light-years away from us and pass in front of their host star. Swiss astronomers had the idea for CHEOPS back in 2008.Testing CHEOPS in the thermal vacuum chamber at the University of Bern. (Photo UniBern)Willy Benz, professor at the Physics Institute at the University of Bern, actually wanted to travel during a semester-long sabbatical in 2008. Instead of spending this sabbatical at foreign universities, the astrophysicist sat at his desk at home and worked on a research proposal. The Swiss National Science Foundation had announced that they would be appointing new National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCR) and Willy Benz wanted to submit a proposal for planetary research together with his colleague in Geneva, Didier Queloz.In 1995 the former doctoral student Queloz and his supervising professor Michel Mayor discovered the first exoplanet orbiting a sun-like star. Benz also received his doctorate from Mayor at the University of Geneva nine years earlier. Already in 2000, Benz submitted a proposal for a National Centre of Competence in Research on exoplanetary research to the National ...
NCCR PlanetS 7 Dec 2017, 12:51 UTC On September 15, 2017, the Cassini probe completed its last orbit around Saturn before diving into its atmosphere. A touching end to the mission for the team of planetary scientists, engineers and other researchers who have been following the spacecraft’s feats since its launch 20 years ago.One of Cassini’s last looks at Saturn. (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)“If we let the spacecraft indefinitely orbit Saturn, one day it could hit one of its potentially habitable satellites,” explains Ravit Helled, University of Zurich professor and PlanetS member, ” precipitating Cassini on Saturn we avoid a possible bacteriological pollution of the system of Saturn”.If the ecological concerns of scientists are real, they are certainly not the ones that interest them the most. This last part of the Cassini mission, called “Grand Finale”, may make possible to precisely measure the gravity field of the planet, and from there to deduce its internal structure.Propeller feature in Saturn’s A ring. (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)Just one day before falling into the atmosphere, Cassini photographed for the last time the rings in which it was able to detail six propeller-shaped structures whose orbits were followed for several years and which bear the names of illustrious aviators: Bleriot, Earhart, ...
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory News and Features 6 Dec 2017, 20:12 UTC Scientists have uncovered a rare relic from the early universe: the farthest known supermassive black hole. This matter-eating beast is 800 million times the mass of our Sun, which is astonishingly large for its young age. Researchers report the find in the journal Nature.
MIT 6 Dec 2017, 18:00 UTC A team of astronomers, including two from MIT, has detected the most distant supermassive black hole ever observed. The black hole sits in the center of an ultrabright quasar, the light of which was emitted just 690 million years after the Big Bang. That light has taken about 13 billion years to reach us — a span of time that is nearly equal to the age of the universe. The black hole is measured to be about 800 million times as massive as our sun — a Goliath by modern-day standards and a relative anomaly in the early universe.
NASA's Ames Research Center News and Features 6 Dec 2017, 17:26 UTC On the lava fields of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, a team of NASA researchers and partners have been busy doing science in a most unusual way. They were studying the biology and geology of this remarkable terrain while simulating a realistic mission to the surface of Mars. The conditions were so real that many of the expected challenges of otherworldly exploration were recreated, including a communications delay of several minutes, and limited bandwidth for transmitting data.
NASA's Ames Research Center News and Features 5 Dec 2017, 15:22 UTC
ESA Top News 5 Dec 2017, 10:10 UTC ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli completes some tests in the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, on the International Space Station. The crew routinely monitors the new expandable habitat for its suitability for space. The module was compressed for launch and expanded to its full volume in space, offering lightweight but larger constructions than traditional hulls.
ESA Space Science 4 Dec 2017, 08:15 UTC In a fitting farewell to the planet that had been its home for over 13 years, the international Cassini spacecraft took one last, lingering look at Saturn and the splendid rings during the final leg of its journey and snapped a series of images that has been assembled into this new mosaic.