NASA's Hubble Looks to the Final Frontier
Thu, 21 Jul 2016 10:00:00 -0400
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the TV series "Star Trek" has captured the
public's imagination with the signature phrase, "To boldly go where no one has gone
before." The Hubble Space Telescope simply orbits Earth and doesn't "boldly go" deep
into space. But it looks deeper into the universe than ever before possible to explore
the fabric of time and space and find the farthest objects ever seen. This is epitomized
in this Hubble image that is part of its Frontier Fields program to probe the far
universe. This view of a massive cluster of galaxies unveils a very cluttered-looking
universe filled with galaxies near and far. Some are distorted like a funhouse mirror
through a warping-of-space phenomenon first predicted by Einstein a century ago.
NASA's Hubble Telescope Makes First Atmospheric Study of Earth-Sized Exoplanets
Wed, 20 Jul 2016 13:00:00 -0400
The possibility of life on other worlds has fueled humankind's imagination for
centuries. Over the past 20 years, the explosion of discoveries of planets orbiting
other stars has sparked the search for worlds like Earth that could sustain life.
Most of those candidates were found with other telescopes, including NASA's
Kepler space observatory. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has also made
some unique contributions to the planet hunt. Astronomers used Hubble, for
example, to make the first measurements of the atmospheric composition of
A Surprising Planet with Three Suns
Thu, 07 Jul 2016 14:00:00 -0400
A team of astronomers led by the University of Arizona has directly imaged with
the SPHERE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope the first planet ever found in
a wide orbit inside a triple-star system. The orbit of such a planet had been expected
to be unstable, probably resulting in the planet being quickly ejected from the
system. But somehow this one survives. This observation of the HD 131399 system
suggests that such systems may actually be more common than previously thought.
The results will be published online in the journal Science on July 7, 2016. The
artist's impression shows a view of the triple-star system HD 131399 from the giant
planet orbiting the system. The planet is HD 131399Ab and appears at the lower left
of the picture.
Hubble Captures the Beating Heart of the Crab Nebula
Thu, 07 Jul 2016 10:00:00 -0400
At the center of the Crab Nebula, located in the constellation Taurus, lies a
celestial "beating heart" that is an example of extreme physics in space. The tiny
object blasts out blistering pulses of radiation 30 times a second with
unbelievable clock-like precision. Astronomers soon figured out that it was the
crushed core of an exploded star, called a neutron star, which wildly spins like a
blender on puree. The burned-out stellar core can do this without flying apart
because it is 10 billion times stronger than steel. This incredible density means
that the mass of 1.4 suns has been crushed into a solid ball of neutrons no
bigger than the width of a large city. This Hubble image captures the region
around the neutron star. It is unleashing copious amounts of energy that are
pushing on the expanding cloud of debris from the supernova explosion like an
animal rattling its cage. This includes wave-like tsunamis of charged particles
embedded in deadly magnetic fields.
Hubble Captures Vivid Auroras in Jupiter's Atmosphere
Thu, 30 Jun 2016 10:00:00 -0400
Astronomers are using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras stunning
light shows in a planet's atmosphere on the poles of the largest planet in the solar
system, Jupiter. The auroras were photographed during a series of Hubble Space
Telescope Imaging Spectrograph far-ultraviolet-light observations taking place as
NASA's Juno spacecraft approaches and enters into orbit around Jupiter. The aim of
the program is to determine how Jupiter's auroras respond to changing conditions
in the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emitted from the sun. Auroras are
formed when charged particles in the space surrounding the planet are accelerated
to high energies along the planet's magnetic field. When the particles hit the
atmosphere near the magnetic poles, they cause it to glow like gases in a fluorescent
light fixture. Jupiter's magnetosphere is 20,000 times stronger than Earth's. These
observations will reveal how the solar system's largest and most powerful
German Astronomical Society (AG) Awards Robert Williams the Karl Schwarzschild Medal
Wed, 29 Jun 2016 11:00:00 -0400
The German Astronomical Society (AG) has announced that the most prestigious
prize in Germany in the field of astronomy and astrophysics, the Karl
Schwarzschild Medal, will be awarded this year to Robert Williams of
the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. In Robert Williams
the AG honors not only an outstanding scientist, but also a man with a dedication
to scientific training and astronomical outreach. His name is inseparably linked to
the most celebrated observation target of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST):
the famous Hubble Deep Field (HDF). The German Astronomical Society will
award the Karl Schwarzschild Medal, whose previous recipients include five
Nobel laureates, to Robert Williams on September 13, 2016, during the opening
ceremony of the annual conference of the AG in Bochum, Germany. The award
is named after the German physicist and astronomer Karl Schwarzschild (1863-1916), one of the pioneers of modern astrophysics.
Hubble Confirms New Dark Spot on Neptune
Thu, 23 Jun 2016 13:00:00 -0400
Pancake-shaped clouds not only appear in the children's book "Cloudy With a
Chance of Meatballs," but also 3 billion miles away on the gaseous planet
Neptune. When they appeared in July 2015, witnessed by amateur astronomers
and the largest telescopes, scientists suspected that these clouds were bright
companions to an unseen, dark vortex. The dark vortex is a high-pressure system
where the flow of ambient air is perturbed and diverted upward over the vortex.
This forms huge, lens-shaped clouds, that resemble clouds that sometimes form
over mountains on Earth.
Venus has potential – but not for water - Read more >
Mon, 20 Jun 2016 15:00:00 +0200
ESA’s Venus Express may have helped to explain the puzzling lack of water on Venus. The planet has a surprisingly strong electric field – the first time this has been measured at any planet – that is sufficient to deplete its upper atmosphere of oxygen, one of the components of water.
Gluttonous Star May Hold Clues to Planet Formation
Tue, 14 Jun 2016 15:00:00 -0400
In 1936, astronomers observed signs that the young star FU Orionis had begun gobbling material from its surrounding disk of gas and dust with a sudden voraciousness. During a three-month binge, as
matter turned into energy, the star became 100 times brighter, heating the disk
around it to temperatures of up to 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The brightening is
the most extreme event of its kind that has been confirmed around a star the size of
the sun, and may have implications for how stars and planets form. The intense
baking of the star's surrounding disk likely changed its chemistry, permanently
altering material that could one day turn into planets. FU Orionis is still devouring
gas to this day, although not as quickly.
Cloudy Days on Exoplanets May Hide Atmospheric Water
Wed, 08 Jun 2016 12:30:00 -0400
Water is a hot topic in the study of exoplanets, including "hot Jupiters," whose
masses are similar to that of Jupiter, but lie much closer to their parent star than
Jupiter is to the sun. They are estimated to be a scorching 2,000 degrees
Fahrenheit, meaning any water they host would take the form of water vapor.
Watch LISA Pathfinder briefing - Read more >
Thu, 02 Jun 2016 13:00:00 +0200
Livestreaming of the media briefing on the first results from ESA’s LISA Pathfinder mission will begin on 7 June at 09:30 GMT (11:30 CEST). LISA Pathfinder is a technology demonstrator for the observation of gravitational waves from space.
Mars Webcam goes pro - Read more >
Wed, 25 May 2016 15:22:00 +0200
A modest ‘webcam’ on Mars Express has proven useful for outreach, education and citizen-science. Now ESA have decided to adopt it as a professional science instrument.
Second ExoMars mission moves to next launch opportunity in 2020 - Read more >
Mon, 02 May 2016 12:00:00 +0200
On 14 March 2016, the Roscosmos State Corporation and the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the jointly-developed ExoMars 2016 interplanetary mission, comprising the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli lander, on a Proton rocket from Baikonur, thus marking the first phase in the European-Russian ExoMars cooperation programme.
Profile of a methane sea on Titan - Read more >
Tue, 26 Apr 2016 12:00:00 +0200
Saturn’s largest moon is covered in seas and lakes of liquid hydrocarbons – and one sea has now been found to be filled with pure methane, with a seabed covered by a sludge of organic-rich material, and possibly surrounded by wetlands.
Herschel’s Galactic panorama - Read more >
Fri, 22 Apr 2016 11:00:00 +0200
This new video from ESA’s Herschel space observatory reveals in stunning detail the intricate pattern of gas, dust and star-forming hubs along the plane of our Galaxy, the Milky Way.
First light for ExoMars - Read more >
Thu, 14 Apr 2016 09:55:00 +0200
The ESA–Roscosmos ExoMars spacecraft are in excellent health following launch last month, with the orbiter sending back its first test image of a starry view taken en route to the Red Planet.
The colour-changing comet - Read more >
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 15:00:00 +0200
Rosetta’s comet has been seen changing colour and brightness in front of the ESA orbiter’s eyes, as the Sun’s heat strips away the older surface to reveal fresher material.