13 Jun 2018, 14:00 UTC Two independent teams of astronomers have used ALMA to uncover convincing evidence that three young planets are in orbit around the infant star HD 163296. Using a novel planet-finding technique, the astronomers identified three disturbances in the gas-filled disc around the young star: the strongest evidence yet that newly formed planets are in orbit there. These are considered the first planets to be discovered with ALMA. Next Previous
7 Jun 2018, 16:54 UTC NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface. The new findings – “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere. Next Previous
6 Jun 2018, 17:14 UTC Ever since NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft flew past Jupiter in March, 1979, scientists have wondered about the origin of Jupiter's lightning. That encounter confirmed the existence of Jovian lightning, which had been theorized for centuries. But when the venerable explorer hurtled by, the data showed that the lightning-associated radio signals didn't match the details of the radio signals produced by lightning here at Earth. Next Previous
4 Jun 2018, 15:00 UTC Astronomers using ALMA and the VLT have discovered that both starburst galaxies in the early Universe and a star-forming region in a nearby galaxy contain a much higher proportion of massive stars than is found in more peaceful galaxies. These findings challenge current ideas about how galaxies evolved, changing our understanding of cosmic star-formation history and the build up of chemical elements. Next Previous
31 May 2018, 19:40 UTC A new study using Gemini data reveals that the ratio of binary stars in Kepler’s K2 exoplanet host stars is similar to that found elsewhere in our neighborhood of the Milky Way. According to lead author Dr. Rachel Matson of NASA’s Ames Research Center, “While we have known that about 50% of all stars are binary, to confirm a similar ratio in exoplanet host stars helps set some important constraints on the formation of potential exoplanets seen by Kepler.” Next Previous
31 May 2018, 14:00 UTC Though it resembles a peaceful rose swirling in the darkness of the cosmos, NGC 3256 is actually the site of a violent clash. This distorted galaxy is the relic of a collision between two spiral galaxies, estimated to have occurred 500 million years ago. Today it is still reeling in the aftermath of this event. Next Previous
30 May 2018, 10:00 UTC Glowing brightly about 160 000 light-years away, the Tarantula Nebula is the most spectacular feature of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to our Milky Way. The VLT Survey Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile has imaged this region and its rich surroundings in exquisite detail. It reveals a cosmic landscape of star clusters, glowing gas clouds and the scattered remains of supernova explosions. This is the sharpest image ever of this entire field. Next Previous
17 May 2018, 17:00 UTC Using the unparalleled sharpness and ultraviolet observational capabilities of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, an international team of astronomers has created the most comprehensive high-resolution ultraviolet-light survey of star-forming galaxies in the local Universe. The catalogue contains about 8000 clusters and 39 million hot blue stars. Next Previous
16 May 2018, 17:00 UTC Astronomers have used observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) to determine that star formation in the very distant galaxy MACS1149-JD1 started at an unexpectedly early stage, only 250 million years after the Big Bang. This discovery also represents the most distant oxygen ever detected in the Universe and the most distant galaxy ever observed by ALMA or the VLT. Next Previous
9 May 2018, 10:00 UTC An international team of astronomers has used ESO telescopes to investigate a relic of the primordial Solar System. The team found that the unusual Kuiper Belt Object 2004 EW95 is a carbon-rich asteroid, the first of its kind to be confirmed in the cold outer reaches of the Solar System. This curious object likely formed in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and has been flung billions of kilometres from its origin to its current home in the Kuiper Belt. Next Previous
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory 18 Jun 2018, 17:00 UTC A team of researchers using data from ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray space observatory, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and NASA's Swift X-Ray Telescope has found evidence for the existence of an intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH).
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 15 Jun 2018, 13:16 UTC This sparkling picture features a massive galaxy cluster named RXC J0232.2-4420. This image was taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3 as part of an observing program called RELICS (Reionization Lensing Cluster Survey). RELICS imaged 41 massive galaxy clusters with the aim of finding the brightest distant galaxies for the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope to study.
Royal Astronomical Society 14 Jun 2018, 10:54 UTC Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), believe clouds of dust, rather than twin black holes, can explain the features found in active galactic nuclei (AGNs). The team publish their results today (14 June) in a paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center 11 Jun 2018, 14:00 UTC On June 11, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope celebrates a decade of using gamma rays, the highest-energy form of light in the cosmos, to study black holes, neutron stars, and other extreme cosmic objects and events. “Fermi’s first 10 years have produced numerous scientific discoveries that have revolutionized our understanding of the gamma-ray universe,” said Paul Hertz, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
ESA Top News 11 Jun 2018, 07:40 UTC This turbulent celestial palette of purple and yellow shows a bubble of gas named NGC 3199, blown by a star known as WR18 (Wolf-Rayet 18). Wolf-Rayet stars are massive, powerful, and energetic stars that are just about reaching the end of their lives. They flood their surroundings with thick, intense, fast-moving winds that push and sweep at the material found there, carving out weird and wonderful shapes as they do so. These winds can create strong shockwaves when they collide with the comparatively cool interstellar medium, causing them to heat up anything in their vicinity.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory News and Features 9 Jun 2018, 00:17 UTC Science operations for NASA's Opportunity rover have been temporarily suspended as it waits out a growing dust storm on Mars.
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Astro Bob 18 Jun 2018, 22:11 UTC Venus met up with the crescent moon over the weekend. Tonight through Wednesday, it gets cozy with the Beehive star cluster in Cancer the Crab. To see it you have to wait until later in twilight when Venus will be rather low in the western sky and use binoculars. Focus on Venus and look to its left for the star cluster.
Planetaria 18 Jun 2018, 19:58 UTC With the discovery of thousands of exoplanets orbiting other stars, the search for life elsewhere has entered an exciting new phase. So far, most of these worlds have been found many light-years away (largely due to the fact that the Kepler Space Telescope, which has discovered the majority of them so far, has focused on a specific patch of sky which contains very distant stars). But what about closer stars? Including, of course, Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to our Sun, only just over four light-years away. According to Tom Ayres of the University of Colorado Boulder: “Because it is relatively close, the Alpha Centauri system is seen by many as the best candidate to explore for signs of life. The question is, will we find planets in an environment conducive to life as we know it?”
Astrobiology Magazine 18 Jun 2018, 13:34 UTC A little stream in the south of England could guide the way towards finding evidence for ancient life on Mars, in the form of fatty acids preserved in an iron-rich mineral called goethite. Researchers from Imperial College London ventured to the county of Dorset on the UK’s south-coast to sample an acidic stream running into St Oswald’s Bay, which is close to the famous Durdle Door limestone rock formation. The acidity of the stream, which has a pH of 3.5, is believed to be similar to water that flowed on early Mars during its Hesperian epoch over three billion years ago.
Many Worlds 15 Jun 2018, 16:20 UTC Just as the number of planets discovered outside our solar system is large and growing — more than 3,700 confirmed at last count — so too is the number of ingenious ways to find exoplanets ever on the rise. The first exoplanets were found by measuring the “wobble” in their host stars caused by the gravitational pull of the planets, then came the transit technique that measured dips in the light from stars as planets passed in front of them, followed by the direct imaging of moving objects deemed to be planets, and numerous more. A new technique can now be added to the toolkit, one that is useful only in specific galactic circumstances but is nonetheless ingenious and intriguing.
Astronomy Now 15 Jun 2018, 14:31 UTC Wolf-Rayet stars are massive, high-energy suns near the end of their lives, pumping out thick, fast-moving stellar winds that can create vast bubbles in space as they ram into the cooler interstellar medium. Shockwaves heat up any gas in the region, occasionally to temperatures high enough to produce X-rays. But it is a relatively rare phenomenon, and only three such Wolf-Rayet stars have been found. This one, WR18, has extremely powerful winds, and once it exhausts its nuclear fuel it likely will explode in a supernova blast. This image was captured by the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton space telescope. Hot X-ray emitting gas is shown in blue with yellow-green oxygen and red sulphur emissions are seen in optical wavelengths.