October 18, 2018

    A sudden storm covers Mars completely
    Global dust storm engulfs planet Mars - short space science news

    In the past month, astronomers have witnessed planet Mars being completely covered in dust. This is due to a global storm that creates dust clouds so large that they envelop the planet. This phenomenon appears periodically, every 3 – 4 Mars years. Scientists still do not understand how and why these storms are formed. Therefore, the event provides a welcome opportunity for further studies. For the Opportunity rover, this means a sudden drop in visibility from a clear, sunny day to that of an overcast one. Because Opportunity runs on solar energy, scientists had to suspend science activities to preserve the rover’s batteries. As of 18 July, no response has been received from the rover.

    Read the full story: NASA


    HaloSat’s launch for the study of the halo of gas around the Milky Way as part of the search for the universe's missing matter. Image: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani
    Where is the missing matter in the universe? - space science news

    A new NASA-sponsored CubeSat mission, deployed from the International Space Station on July 13, will help astronomers to detect where thus far undetected matter is in the universe. Scientists estimate that this amounts to 50% of all the matter that has formed in the early years of the universe. Half of the matter has formed gas, dust, planets, etc, but what happened to the other half is still unknown. With the new mission, astronomers will look for the missing matter in the space between galaxies or in galactic halos that surround galaxies. Scientists suspect that the missing matter is hidden in the gas in these structures of two million degrees Celcius (3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit).

    Read the full story: NASA


    The moon Io has the company of 78 other moons orbiting Jupiter, and twelve of them have now been discovered
    Twelve new moons around Jupiter discovered - space science news

    While trying to find planet X, that scientists suspect to be located behind Pluto, astronomers have accidentally observed 12 new moons that are circling Jupiter. Two of those orbit in the prograde, or in the same direction as Jupiter itself. Nine others are located further away and orbit in the retrograde, or opposite to, the direction of the planet. One is circling in Jupiter’s direction, but will cross the orbits of the nine outer moons, making a head-to-head collision more likely to happen in the future. All in all, there are now 79 known moons orbiting Jupiter, and the 12 newly discovered ones are amongst the smallest, with diameters ranging from 1 to 3 kilometers.

    Read the full story: Carnegie Science


    Even small objects such as subatomic particles obey the Lorentz symmetry, a component of the theory of relativity
    Neutrinos behave just as Einstein’s theory of special relativity predicts - science news in short

    The theory of special relativity states that the universe is a predictably symmetrical place, a principle known as the Lorentz symmetry. Basically, everyone should observe the same laws of physics in any direction, regardless of one’s frame of reference, as long as that object is moving at a constant speed. However, it is not clear if this principle is valid for very small objects, such as neutrino particles. Now, a new study provides convincing evidence that most likely neutrinos follow Einstein’s predictions and they are not excepted from the theory of relativity. The results provide, once again, a confirmation that Einstein was right in his theory.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: Nature Physics


    Artist’s impression of a blazar emitting neutrinos and gamma rays. Image : Icecube/NASA
    Cosmic rays : from mystery to measurement - space science news

    While cosmic rays have been first detected over 100 years ago, it has remained a mystery what creates and launches them. Now, with the aid of the strongest telescopes in the world, astronomers have found evidence that the blazar TXS 0506+056 is a source of high-energy neutrinos, and cosmic rays. Blazars are a special form of quasars, supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies that are actively consuming gas and dust. The detection of the source of cosmic rays has been difficult, as they are charged particles, and their trajectory path is deviated from a straight line by strong magnetic fields in space. However, the blazar also emits neutrinos, uncharged particles that do travel in a straight line, and these can be traced back to their origin.

    Read the full story: Institute for Astronomy – University of Hawaii
    Scientific publication: Science


    Artist's impression of the the triple star system PSR J0337+1715, some 4,200 light years away from Earth
    Einstein’s insights into gravity stand the test - space science news

    Einstein got it right: even objects as dense as a neutron star fall at the same rate as light objects such as feathers. Their mass or composition has no influence whatsoever. While this theory has been tested and confirmed many times over on Earth, astronomers have now found that this aspect of Einstein’s theory of gravity also applies to objects in space. By studying the triple start system PSR J0337+1715, which is located 4,200 light years away from Earth, they found that a dense neutron star and a white dwarf star fell with the same speed toward another white dwarf star. Thus, there is no difference between size, mass and composition in the acceleration due to gravity between these very different objects in space, confirming Einstein’s Strong Equivalence Principle.

    Read the full story: Green Bank Observatory
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Uranus has been tilted following a collision with another planet
    Uranus was hit by a planet twice the size of Earth - space science news

    Some 4 billion years ago, Uranus has probably collided with another planet that was about twice the size of Earth, computer simulations show. This collision would explain why Uranus is tilted, basically rotating on its side. Also, the collision scenario gives more insight into the evolution of Uranus and its moons that might have formed from, or modified by, the debris of the impact. As Uranus has many characteristics of an exoplanet, researchers believe that understanding the evolution of Uranus helps understanding how other planets outside our solar system have evolved and what their chemical composition would be.

    Read the full story: Durham University
    Scientific publication: The Astrophysical Journal


    A merged star passed behind our sun leaving it hidden from astronomers until it remerged from that glare 100 days after the merger event. Credit: University of Warwick
    Scientists see the light of the first confirmed neutron star merger after waiting 110 days - science news in brief

    One of the skills of a good scientist is patience. Great rewards await those who master it. This was the case for a group of astronomers that had to wait for exactly 110 days to see the first of confirmed neutron star merger to re-emerge from behind the glare of the sun. This was the first visual sighting of a jet of material that was streaming out from the merged star after that initial cataclysmic merger event. Their observations confirm a key prediction about the aftermath of neutron star mergers. The binary neutron star merger GW170817 occurred 130 million light-years away in the galaxy named NGC 4993. It was first detected in August 2017.

    Read the full story: University of Warwick
    Scientific publication: Nature Astronomy


    Image of the baby planet (the bright dot on the right). Image: ESO/A. Müller et al.
    Newborn planet captured on film for the very first time - space science news

    Researchers led by astronomers of the Max Planck Institut for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, have made a stunning picture of planetary formation around the young dwarf star PDS70. The research team observed a very young planet, named PDS70b, while it was travelling through the planet-forming material surrounding the young star. The planet was detected with SPHERE instrument on the Very Large Telescope, which is one of the most powerful telescopes available. It is giant gas planet, many times the size of Jupiter, and has a surface temperature of about 1000 degrees C.

    Read the full story: European Southern Observatory
    Scientific publication: Astronomy & Astrophysics
    Scientific publication: Astronomy & Astrophysics


    The artist's concept depicts Kepler-186f. Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle
    Earth-like exoplanets might indeed look like the Earth - space science news

    Kepler-186f is the first Eart-like planet that has been discovered outside our solar system, circling around its own star at the optimal distance to make the occurrence of liquid water possible. Now, researchers have established that its axial tilt is very stable, just like the Earth. This suggests that Kepler-186f has seasons and a stable climate. The same is probably true for another planet, Kepler-62f. For comparison, the axial tilt of Mars, which is in the habitable zone of our solar system, varies enormously over time, from 0 to 60 degrees. This instability has probably caused the loss of the Martian atmosphere and the evaporation of surface water.

    Read the full story: Georgia Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: The Astronomical Journal


    Oumuamua has properties that suggest it is likely a comet, not an asteroid as initially believed. This illustration shows ‘Oumuamua racing toward the outskirts of our solar system. Credits: NASA/ESA/STScI
    Oumuamua is a comet, not an asteroid - science news

    Our Solar System’s first known interstellar object, Oumuamua, got an unexpected boost in speed and shift in trajectory as it passed through the inner solar system last year. Analyzing the trajectory of this interstellar object, scientists found that the speed boost was consistent with the behavior of a comet. “This additional subtle force on ′Oumuamua likely is caused by jets of gaseous material expelled from its surface,” said Davide Farnocchia, one of the authors. Thus, the data suggest that Oumuamua is most likely a comet.

    Read the full story: NASA
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Range of the size for a typical neutron star compared to the city of Frankfurt. Satellite image: GeoBasis-DE/BKG (2009) Google
    How large is a neutron star - science news in brief

    How large is a neutron star? This is one question that has puzzled astrophysicists for the last 40 years. A solution to this problem would provide important information on the fundamental behavior of matter at high densities. Now, a group of scientists calculated the size of neutron stars with an accuracy of 1.5 kilometers. To achieve this, they used an elaborate statistical approach based on data from the measurement of gravitational waves. According to the study, a typical neutron star has a diameter between 12 and 13.5 kilometers. Neutron stars are the densest objects in our universe, with a mass larger than that of our sun compacted into a relatively small sphere.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Physical Review Letters


    Artist representation of a red nugget galaxy. Credit: Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MTA-Eötvös University/N. Werner et al.; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss
    Red nuggets galaxies provide an opportunity to study isolated cosmic structures - science news in short - space news

    Red nuggets are relics of the first massive galaxies that formed one billion years after the Big Bang, with masses similar to those of giant elliptical galaxies, but only a fifth of their size. A small number of them managed to remain untouched throughout the evolution of the Universe, thus offering a rare opportunity to study how the galaxies, and the supermassive black hole at their centers, behave over billions of years of isolation. Now, two of these structures, at 295 million and 344 million light years from Earth respectively, are studied in detail by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The first results of the study show that, even in the absence of interaction with other galaxies, the inside of the red nuggets is very dynamic, with black holes preventing the formation of new stars.

    Read the full story: Chandra X-ray Observatory
    Scientific publication: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society


    Artistic representation of gas connecting galaxies across the universe. Image : Illustris Collaboration
    Last of ordinary matter in the universe found - space science news

    Until now, astrophysicists had found only two-thirds of universe’s ordinary matter that should have been created by the Big Bang. Now, an international team of researchers has found the missing one-third using the Hubble telescope and the European Space Agency’s X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission. It appeared that the ordinary matter exists in vast spaces between galaxies as highly-ionized oxygen gas at temperatures of about a staggering one million degrees Celcius.

    Read the full story: University of Colorado Boulder
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Scientists use the spectra of various chemicals to directly detect exoplanets. The planet becomes visible when looking for H2O or CO molecules. The star remains invisible when looking for these molecules. Credit: UNIGE
    Planets made visible by detecting molecules on their surface - science news in short - space

    Each planet revolves around a star and this makes it difficult for astronomers to directly observe it because the light of the star is too strong. Now, a team of scientists proposed a workaround for this issue. They are using a technique able to detect chemicals found in the planet’s atmosphere (such as water or carbon monoxide), in order to make it visible. These molecules are not present in the star, so it doesn’t interfere with the measurements, allowing the planet to be directly observed. “This technique is only in its infancy”, enthuses Jens Hoeijmakers, one of the authors. “It should change the way planets and their atmospheres are characterized”.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Astronomy & Astrophysics


    Astronomers observed an elusive type of black hole
    Rare type of black hole spotted devouring a star - science news in brief - space

    Intermediate-mass black holes are some of the rarest and elusive types of cosmic phenomenon. Now, a team of researchers has found a rare sign of activity. They detected an enormous flare of radiation in the outskirts of a distant galaxy, thrown off as a star passed too close to a black hole and was subsequently torn apart and partly devoured. This type of black hole has not been spotted so clearly before. The scientists believe that the black hole has a mass of around fifty thousand times that of our Sun. The results of the study will help astronomers understand better this type of phenomenon.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Artistic representation of a black hole shredding a passing star. Image: Sophia Dagnello, NRAO / AUI / NSF; NASA, STScI
    Astronomers see how a black hole rips a star apart - space science news

    Never before have astronomers seen how the gravity of a black hole rips a star apart, until now. The event happened at a distance of 150 million light years away from Earth, and was visible because of the emission of intense X-rays and visible light. Also, when the star was being shredded, there was a jet of material launched into space at nearly the speed of light. Scientists think that shredding of starts by black holes occurs more frequently, but these events are not easy to spot. If more could be observed, this would increase our understanding of the environment in which galaxies developed billions of years ago.

    Read the full story: National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Scientific publication: Science


    Organic molecules (blue) on Ceres may be more abundant than previously thought. Image: NASA / H. Kaplan
    Organic molecules on the dwarf planet Ceres - space science news

    Like Mars, Ceres harbours organic molecules that are the chemical building blocks of life. By re-analysing data from NASA’s previous Dawn mission, scientists believe that the concentration of organic molecules on Ceres is much higher than thought on the basis of earlier analyses. It is unclear, however, whether Ceres has made these molecules by itself, or that they have been brought there by a comet. While the presence of organic molecules does not prove the existence of life, not even on Ceres that is rich in water ice, the dwarf planet continues to fascinate and gives more insight the distribution of organic molecules in space.

    Read the full story: Brown University
    Scientific publication: Geophysical Research Letters


    Formation of a planetary system
    Young planets observed around a newborn star - space science news

    Astronomist have found evidence for the existence of three young planets that are in orbit around a young star known as HD163296. The scientists base their conclusions on disturbances in the young star’s gas-filled disk. The analysis of gas in disks around stars is a new technique which makes the discovery of young planets possible. Also the technique is expected to lead to a better understanding of how planets are born and how atmospheres are formed.

    Read the full story: National Radio Astronomy Observatory
    Scientific publication: Astrophysical Journal Letters.
    Scientific publication: Astrophysical Journal Letters.


    The microscopic dust particles around Earth were created at the beginning of the solar system. Credit: Hope Ishii/University of Hawaii
    Space dust around Earth dates back to the formation of the solar system - science news in short

    The interplanetary space from our solar system contains many dust particles, but little is known about their origin. In a new experiment, scientists collected some of these particles from the Earth’s upper atmosphere and studied them. The samples were analyzed using infrared light and electron microscopy. The study supports the idea that the dust particles are, in fact, leftovers from the formation of our solar system. The results provide insights into the properties of the building blocks of the planets.

    Read the full story: Berkeley Lab
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    Curiosity found organic molecules on Mars. Image: NASA
    Organic molecules found on Mars - space science news

    No, the presence of organic molecules on Mars is not proof of life, but does show that the ingredients for making life possible are there. The organic molecules have been found in sedimentary rocks near the surface of the planet by NASA’s Curiosity rover. Curiosity has a built-in oven to heat the samples to release the organic molecules from the rock powder. Also, seasonal variations in methane in the Martian atmosphere were detected, with high levels in the summer and low levels in the winter. Again, while methane can be of biological origin, it is probably formed by chemical processes. Thus, the new findings cannot rule out the possibility that life once existed on Mars, but are far from sufficient to prove it.

    Read the full story: NASA
    Scientific publication: Science - Organic molecules
    Scientific publication: Science - Methane


    This artist's concept of lightning distribution in Jupiter's northern hemisphere incorporates a JunoCam image with artistic embellishments. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/JunoCam
    The mystery of Jupiter lightning solved - science news in brief

    Ever since NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft flew past Jupiter in March 1979, scientists have wondered about the origin of Jupiter's lightning. A new study now shade light on the properties of this phenomenon. In many aspects, they are similar to those on Earth. But they are also different. For example, on Earth the lightning activity is more concentrated around the equator. On Jupiter, the flashes occur more frequently around the poles, opposite to Earth. This is because on Jupiter, unlike Earth, there is more heat at the poles compared to the equator. The study was based on data provided by the Juno mission of NASA.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Colliding burnt remaining of dead stars creates most of the heavy elements found in the universe
    Gold and other heavy elements are created by exploding dead stars - science news in short

    The origin of the heaviest chemical elements, including gold, has been a debate amongst scientists for a long time. Now, a new study provides evidence that pairs of neutron stars (the core of stars that have exploded) can merge and during the process, the majority of the heavy elements is formed. To discover this, scientists analyzed two dwarf galaxies using the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaii. The results have been presented at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Denver and have been submitted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

    Read the full story: California Institute of Technology (Caltech)


    Sedna is one of the biggest objects at the edge or our solar system and appears reddish in telescope images. Image: artist's rendering, NASA
    Planet Nine may not exist after all - space science news

    Astronomers have come up with a new theory to explain why a minor planet called Sedna and a handful of other bodies look separated from the rest of the solar system. While previous theories posited the existence of an as yet undiscovered planet at the outer edges of our solar system, Planet Nine, the new theory states that the odd orbits of Sedna and the other objects are the result of these objects colliding with each other. In other words, the gravity of all the objects together is the determining factor here, and not a mysterious planet.

    Read the full story: University of Colorado Boulder
    Scientific publication: American Astronomical Society – 232nd Meeting, Denver


    121 distant planets very likely have moons that could host extraterrestrial life
    Over 100 planets have moons that could support life - science news

    A research team scrutinized the data obtained by the Kepler space telescope, looking for exoplanets located in habitable zones. They discovered 121 giant gas planets, like Saturn and Jupiter, located just right for life to develop. The planets themselves are unlikely to support any life, but their moons might. The presence of the moons has not been yet confirmed due to technological limitations. However, considering that in our solar system alone, there are 175 known moons orbiting the planets, it is very likely the moons are there, and they are promising candidates for life to develop.

    Read the full story: University of California, Riverside
    Scientific publication: The Astrophysical Journal


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