In 2018, scientists announced the discovery of a extra-solar planet orbiting Barnard’s star, an M-type (red dwarf) that is just 6 light years away. Using the Radial Velocity method, the research team responsible for the discovery determined that this exoplanet (Barnard’s Star b) was at least 3.2 times as massive as Earth and experienced average surface temperatures of about -170 °C (-274 °F) – making it both a “Super-Earth” and “ice planet”.
Using new data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, researchers believe they have solved a longstanding mystery of solar system science: the length of a day on Saturn. It's 10 hours, 33 minutes and 38 seconds. The figure has eluded planetary scientists for decades, because the gas giant has no solid surface with landmarks to track as it rotates, and it has an unusual magnetic field that hides the planet's rotation rate. The answer, it turned out, was hidden in the rings.
The Moon is a fundamental part of Earth’s past and future - an off-world location that may hold valuable resources to support space activity and scientific treasures that may tell us more about our own planet. Americans first walked on its surface almost 50 years ago, but the next wave of lunar exploration will be fundamentally different.
When exploring other planets and celestial bodies, NASA missions are required to abide by the practice known as “planetary protection“. This practice states that measures must be taken during the designing of a mission to ensure that biological contamination of both the planet/body being explored and Earth (in the case of sample-return missions) are prevented.
Saturn’s moon Titan is a very strange place. It’s surrounded by a dense, opaque atmosphere, the only moon in the solar system with an atmosphere to speak of. It has lakes of liquid methane on its surface, maybe some cryovolcanoes, and some scientists speculate that it could support a form of life. Very weird life.
Our understanding of the universe, and of the Milky Way, is built on an edifice of individual pieces of knowledge, all related to each other. But each of those pieces is only so accurate. The more accurate we can make one of the pieces of knowledge, the more accurate our understanding of the whole thing is.
Astronomers theorize that when our Sun was still young, it was surrounded by a disc of dust and gas from which the planets eventually formed. It is further theorized that the majority of stars in our Universe are initially surrounded in this way by a “protoplanetary disk“, and that in roughly 30% of cases, these disks will go on to become a planet or system of planets.
According to the Chinese space agency CNSA there are plants growing on the Moon for the first time ever. Seedlings of a cotton plant to be precise, the seeds where taking to the moon by the Chang’e-4 probe.
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has discovered the brightest quasar ever seen in the early Universe. After 20 years of searching, astronomers have identified the ancient quasar with the help of strong gravitational lensing. This unique object provides an insight into the birth of galaxies when the Universe was less than a billion years old.
A team of researchers in Japan has discovered a gigantic streak structure in the cloud tops of Venus. The discovery is based on observations of Venus by the Japanese spacecraft Akatsuki. The findings were published in January 9th in the journal Nature Communications.
About fifty years ago, astronomers predicted what the ultimate fate of our Sun will be. According to the theory, the Sun will exhaust its hydrogen fuel billions of years from now and expand to become a Red Giant, followed by it shedding it’s outer layers and becoming a white dwarf. After a few more billion years of cooling, the interior will crystallize and become solid.
Look at a galaxy, what do you see? Probably lots of stars. Nebulae too. And that’s probably it. A whole bunch of stars and gas in a variety of colorful assortments; a delight to the eye. And buried among those stars, if you looked carefully enough, you might find planets, black holes, white dwarves, asteroids, and all sorts of assorted chunky odds and ends. The usual galactic milieu.
Something highly unusual was picked up by the Asteroid Terrestrial Impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) on June 16, 2018. The discovery of a strange flare in the sky – brightening and fading – was reported in an astronomical telegram, which then alerted scientists. The source was named AT2018cow – based on a naming convention for transient sources where the last three letters are randomly assigned. Understandably, though, scientists quickly nicknamed it “the Cow”.
A brief and unusual flash spotted in the night sky on June 16, 2018, puzzled astronomers and astrophysicists across the globe. The event — called AT2018cow and nicknamed "the Cow" after the coincidental final letters in its official name — is unlike any celestial outburst ever seen before, prompting multiple theories about its source.
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the most detailed image yet of a close neighbour of the Milky Way — the Triangulum Galaxy, a spiral galaxy located at a distance of only three million light-years. This panoramic survey of the third-largest galaxy in our Local Group of galaxies provides a mesmerising view of the 40 billion stars that make up one of the most distant objects visible to the naked eye.
Could this be the end of the Opportunity rover? There’s been no signal from the rover since last summer, when a massive global dust storm descended on it. But even though the craft has been silent and unreachable for six-and-a-half months, NASA hasn’t given up.
Thanks to a mission extension, NASA’s Juno probe continues to orbit Jupiter, being only the second spacecraft in history to do so. Since it arrived around the gas giant on July 5th, 2016, Juno has managed to gather a great deal of information on Jupiter’s atmosphere, magnetic and gravity environment, and its interior structure.
China became the third country to land a probe on the Moon on Jan. 2. But, more importantly, it became the first to do so on the far side of the moon, often called the dark side. The ability to land on the far side of the moon is a technical achievement in its own right, one that neither Russia nor the United States has pursued.
The New Horizons spacecraft, which flew past Pluto in 2015, successfully completed a flyby of “Ultima Thule”, an object in the Kuiper belt of bodies beyond Neptune on January 1, 2019. The name Ultima Thule, signifying a distant unknown place, is fitting but it is currently just a nickname pending formal naming. The official names of the body and of the features on its surface will eventually be allocated (this could take years) by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), which celebrates its centenary in 2019.
One of the most notable features of the modern space age is the way that new participants are entering the fray. In addition to the traditional contenders – NASA and Roscosmos – China has become a major player in space in recent decades. And in 2022, according tor recent statements, India will join the club too when it becomes the fourth nation to send a crewed mission to space.
In 1961, famed astronomer Frank Drake created a formula for estimating the number of extra-terrestrial intelligences (ETIs) that could exist within our galaxy. Known as the “Drake Equation“, this formula demonstrated that even by the most conservative estimates, our galaxy was likely to host at least a few advanced civilizations at any given time. About a decade later, NASA officially kicked of its search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) program.
Back in August, the crew of the International Space Station (ISS) was surprised to learn that a leak was responsible for a slight loss in air pressure aboard the station. After investigating, they learned that the cause was a small hole in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that had docked with the ISS. While the hole was promptly sealed, the cause of it has remained a mystery ever since.
Late in 2018, the gravitational wave observatory, LIGO, announced that they had detected the most distant and massive source of ripples of spacetime ever monitored: waves triggered by pairs of black holes colliding in deep space. Only since 2015 have we been able to observe these invisible astronomical bodies, which can be detected only by their gravitational attraction. The history of our hunt for these enigmatic objects traces back to the 18th century, but the crucial phase took place in a suitably dark period of human history – World War II.
Astronomers think they know how Uranus got flipped onto its side. According to detailed computer simulations, a body about twice the size of Earth slammed into Uranus between 3 to 4 billion years ago. The impact created an oddity in our Solar System: the only planet that rotates on its side.
The December 2018 close approach by the large, near-Earth asteroid 2003 SD220 has provided astronomers an outstanding opportunity to obtain detailed radar images of the surface and shape of the object and to improve the understanding of its orbit.
ESO’s Director General and the Managing Director of the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) Observatory have signed the agreement needed for CTA’s southern hemisphere array to be hosted near ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. In addition, the Chilean Government and ESO have signed the agreement enabling ESO to host this new telescope within ESO’s Paranal Observatory site. This will allow the world's most ambitious gamma-ray observatory to access not only Chile’s pristine observing conditions, but also ESO’s state-of-the-art infrastructure, expertise, and facilities. ESO will operate the facility on behalf of the CTA Observatory and its Members.