Latest Space News
Learning from lunar lights - Read more >
Thu, 06 Dec 2018 14:31:00 +0100

Every few hours observing the Moon, ESA’s ‘NELIOTA’ project discovers a brilliant flash of light across its surface – the result of an object hurtling through space and striking our unprotected rocky neighbour at vast speed. Based at the Kryoneri telescope of the National Observatory of Athens, this important project is now being extended to January 2021.

New Virtual Reality Experience Highlights NASA’s Webb Space Telescope
Wed, 05 Dec 2018 10:00:00 EST

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Visit the James Webb Space Telescope at its orbit point beyond the Moon, 1 million miles from Earth. Fly through the Orion Nebula and watch a planet-forming disk take shape. Explore the star fields of a simulated galaxy. Or get hands-on and fling stars into a ravenous black hole to watch them spaghettify. All of these encounters are part of the new WebbVR virtual experience.

WebbVR offers users an opportunity to immerse themselves into a variety of environments from our own solar system to distant galaxies. Information hubs provide more details about the places you visit, while simulations incorporate real physics. WebbVR is available for download from Steam, a popular VR content platform.

Celebratory Galaxy Photo Honors 25th Anniversary of NASA's First Hubble Servicing Mission
Tue, 04 Dec 2018 11:00:00 EST

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Over the past 28 years Hubble has photographed innumerable galaxies throughout the universe, near and far. But one especially photogenic galaxy located 55 million light-years away holds a special place in Hubble history. As NASA made plans to correct Hubble's blurry vision in 1993 (due to a manufacturing flaw in its primary mirror) they selected several astronomical objects that Hubble should be aimed at to demonstrate the planned optical fix. The magnificent grand spiral galaxy M100 seemed an ideal target that would just fit inside Hubble's field-of-view. This required that a comparison photo be taken while Hubble was still bleary-eyed. The Wide Field/Planetary Camera 1 was selected for the task. And, the picture had to be taken before astronauts swapped-out the camera with the vision-corrected Wide Field/Planetary Camera 2, in December 1993. Following the servicing mission Hubble re-photographed the galaxy again, and it snapped into crystal clear focus. The public celebrated with Hubble's triumphant return to the clear vision that had been promised. And, jaw-dropping pictures of the vast universe that followed have not disappointed space enthusiasts. Because of the astronaut servicing missions, Hubble's capabilities have only gotten better. To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first servicing mission, this 2-panel photo compares the blurry, pre-servicing 1993 image to a 2009 image taken with Hubble's newer, Wide Field Camera 3 instrument, installed during the last astronaut servicing mission to the space telescope.

Solar poles - Read more >
Mon, 03 Dec 2018 11:45:00 +0100

Space Science Image of the Week: To explore the Sun’s mysterious polar regions, scientists create innovative artificial images such as this one from ESA’s Proba-2

Hubble Uncovers Thousands of Globular Star Clusters Scattered Among Galaxies
Thu, 29 Nov 2018 10:00:00 EST

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Globular star clusters are favorite targets for amateur sky watchers. To the naked eye they appear as fuzzy-looking stars. Through a small telescope they resolve into glittering snowball-shaped islands of innumerable stars crowded together. About 150 globular star clusters orbit our Milky Way, like bees buzzing around a hive. They are the earliest homesteaders of our galaxy, containing the universe's oldest known stars.

Hubble is so powerful it can see globular star clusters 300 million light-years away. And, a lot of them. Peering into the heart of the giant Coma cluster of galaxies Hubble captured a whopping 22,426 globular star clusters. The survey found the globular clusters scattered in space among the 1,000 galaxies inside the Coma cluster. They have been orphaned from their home galaxy due to galaxy near-collisions inside the traffic-jammed galaxy cluster. Because they are so numerous in the Coma cluster, they are excellent tracers of the entire gravitational field that keeps the galaxies from flinging off into space. The gravity is a tracer of the distribution of dark matter.

Behind the Scenes of Recovering NASA's Hubble
Tue, 27 Nov 2018 11:30:00 EST

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In the early morning of October 27, 2018, the Hubble Space Telescope targeted a field of galaxies not far from the Great Square in the constellation Pegasus. Contained in the field were star-forming galaxies up to 11 billion light-years away. With the target in its sights, Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 recorded an image. It was the first picture captured by the telescope since it closed its eyes on the universe three weeks earlier, and it was the result of an entire team of engineers and experts working tirelessly to get the telescope exploring the cosmos once again.

STScI Astronomer Massimo Stiavelli Elected AAAS Fellow
Tue, 27 Nov 2018 11:00:00 EST

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The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Council has elected Massimo Stiavelli of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, and 415 other AAAS members as Fellows of the AAAS. Election as an AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers for their efforts to advance science or its applications. STScI is the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope, and leads science and mission operations for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is scheduled to launch in 2021.

Dr. Stiavelli is cited by the AAAS for his pioneering work on the earliest galaxies and quasi-stellar objects, galaxy formation and evolution, and for leadership as the JWST Mission Head at STScI. Stiavelli joined STScI as an Astronomer in 1995. His research interests include galaxy structure, formation and evolution.

The new Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on February 16, 2019, at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2019 AAAS annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

For more information about this announcement, visit the AAAS website.

Exoplanet mission launch slot announced - Read more >
Fri, 23 Nov 2018 15:40:00 +0100

The Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, Cheops, will target 15 October to 14 November 2019 for launch.

Shaping the surface of Mars with water, wind and ice - Read more >
Thu, 22 Nov 2018 11:00:00 +0100

ESA’s Mars Express has imaged an intriguing part of the Red Planet’s surface: a rocky, fragmented, furrowed escarpment lying at the boundary of the northern and southern hemisphere.

STScI Visualizations of the Universe Form Heart of New "Deep Field" Film
Fri, 16 Nov 2018 10:00:00 EST

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November 16 marks the premiere of a unique film and musical experience inspired by the Hubble Space Telescope’s famous Deep Field image. It represents a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Grammy award-winning American composer and conductor Eric Whitacre, producers Music Productions, multi award-winning artists 59 Productions, and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of our Universe features a variety of Hubble’s stunning imagery and includes 11 computer-generated visualizations of far-flung galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters developed by STScI. The film is available on YouTube and will be shared with the world through screenings and live performances around the globe.

Astronomers Find Possible Elusive Star Behind Supernova
Thu, 15 Nov 2018 13:00:00 EST

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The explosive end to a massive star's life is one of the most powerful blasts in the universe. The material expelled by the violent stellar death enriches our galaxy with heavier elements, the building blocks of new stars and even planetary systems. Astronomers have diligently searched for the doomed progenitor stars in pre-explosion images. Studying these stars could help them in their quest to better understand stellar evolution.

Their quest has turned up a few pre-supernova stars. But the doomed stars for one class of supernova have eluded discovery: the hefty stars that explode as Type Ic supernovas. These stars, weighing more than 30 times our Sun's mass, lose their hydrogen and helium layers before their cataclysmic death. Researchers thought they should be easy to find because they are big and bright. However, they have come up empty. Finally, in 2017, astronomers got lucky. A nearby star ended its life as a Type Ic supernova. Two teams of researchers pored through the archive of Hubble images to uncover the putative precursor star in pre-explosion photos taken in 2007. The supernova, catalogued as SN 2017ein, appeared near the center of the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 3938, located roughly 65 million light-years away.

An analysis of the candidate star's colors shows that it is blue and extremely hot. Based on that assessment, both teams suggest two possibilities for the source's identity. The progenitor could be a single star between 45 and 55 times more massive than our Sun. Another idea is that it could have been a binary-star system in which one of the stars weighs between 60 and 80 times our Sun's mass and the other roughly 48 solar masses. In this latter scenario, the stars are orbiting closely and interact with each other. The more massive star is stripped of its hydrogen and helium layers by the close companion, and eventually explodes as a supernova.

NASA's Webb Telescope Will Investigate Cosmic Jets from Young Stars
Wed, 14 Nov 2018 10:00:00 EST

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Young stars, like young children, are messy eaters, swallowing most of the material falling onto them but spitting the rest out. The gas a newborn star fails to eat gets ejected outward at supersonic speeds, creating shock waves that heat the interstellar medium and cause it to glow in infrared light. NASA’s Webb telescope will examine stellar outflows and shocks to learn more about how stars like our sun form.

Oxia Planum favoured for ExoMars surface mission - Read more >
Fri, 09 Nov 2018 15:00:00 +0100

The ExoMars Landing Site Selection Working Group has recommended Oxia Planum as the landing site for the ESA-Roscosmos rover and surface science platform that will launch to the Red Planet in 2020.

Windy with a chance of magnetic storms – space weather science with Cluster - Read more >
Thu, 08 Nov 2018 11:00:00 +0100

Space weather is no abstract concept – it may happen in space, but its effects on Earth can be significant. To help better forecast these effects, ESA’s Cluster mission, a quartet of spacecraft that was launched in 2000, is currently working to understand how our planet is connected to its magnetic environment, and unravelling the complex relationship between the Earth and its parent star.

Astronomers Unveil Growing Black Holes in Colliding Galaxies
Wed, 07 Nov 2018 13:00:00 EST

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Some of the Hubble Space Telescope's most stunning images reveal galaxies in distress. Many of them are in the throes of a gravitational encounter with another galaxy. The photos show perfect pinwheel patterns stretched and pulled into irregular shapes. Streamers of gas and dust flow from galaxies into space. And in this chaos, batches of young, blue stars glow like tree lights, fueled by the dust and gas kicked up by the galactic encounter. For some galaxies, the powerful meeting with a passing galaxy will eventually end in mergers.

But hidden from view deep inside the dusty cores of these merging galaxies is the slow dance of their supermassive black holes toward an eventual union. Visible light cannot penetrate these shrouded central regions. X-ray data, however, have detected the black-hole courtship. And now astronomers analyzing near-infrared images from the sharp-eyed Hubble Space Telescope and the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii are offering the best view yet of close pairs of black holes as they move slowly toward each other.

The study is the largest survey of the cores of nearby galaxies in near-infrared light. The Hubble observations represent over 20 years' worth of snapshots from its vast archive. The survey targeted galaxies residing an average distance of 330 million light-years from Earth.

The census helps astronomers confirm computer simulations showing that black holes grow faster during the last 10 million to 20 million years of the galactic merger. The Hubble and Keck Observatory images captured close-up views of this final stage, when the bulked-up black holes are only about 3,000 light-years apart — a near-embrace in cosmic terms. The study shows that galaxy encounters are important for astronomers' understanding of how black holes became so monstrously big.

These monster black holes also unleash powerful energy in the form of gravitational waves, the kind of ripples in space-time that were just recently detected by ground-breaking experiments. The images also provide a close-up preview of a phenomenon that must have been more common in the early universe, when galaxy mergers were more frequent.

Kepler Science Will Continue Using STScI Archive
Thu, 01 Nov 2018 10:00:00 EDT

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The Kepler spacecraft launched in 2009 with the goal of finding exoplanets orbiting distant stars. In the years since, astronomers have used Kepler observations to discover 2,818 exoplanets as well as another 2,679 exoplanet candidates which need further confirmation. On October 30, 2018 NASA announced that Kepler had run out of fuel and would be decommissioned. While spacecraft operations have ceased, its data will continue to be publicly available through the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) at the Space Telescope Science Institute. These data will enable new scientific discoveries for years to come.

Galactic ghosts: Gaia uncovers major event in the formation of the Milky Way - Read more >
Wed, 31 Oct 2018 19:00:00 +0100

ESA’s Gaia mission has made a major breakthrough in unravelling the formation history of the Milky Way. 

Hubble Reveals a Giant Cosmic "Bat Shadow"
Wed, 31 Oct 2018 13:00:00 EDT

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Like a fly that wanders into a flashlight’s beam, a young star’s planet-forming disk is casting a giant shadow, nicknamed the “Bat Shadow.” Hubble’s near-infrared vision captured the shadow of the disk of this fledgling star, which resides nearly 1,300 light-years away in a stellar nursery called the Serpens Nebula. In this Hubble image, the shadow spans approximately 200 times the length of our solar system. It is visible in the upper right portion of the picture. The young star and its disk likely resemble what the solar system looked like when it was only 1 or 2 million years old.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Returns to Science Operations
Sat, 27 Oct 2018 11:30:00 EDT

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On Saturday, Oct. 27 at 2:10 a.m. EDT, Hubble completed its first science operations since entering safe mode on Oct. 5. The return to conducting science comes after successfully recovering a backup gyroscope, or gyro, that had replaced a failed gyro three weeks earlier. Hubble is now back in its normal science operations mode with three fully functional gyros. Originally required to last 15 years, Hubble has now been at the forefront of scientific discovery for more than 28 years. The team expects the telescope will continue to yield amazing discoveries well into the next decade.

A changing crater: Honouring a renowned Mars scientist - Read more >
Fri, 26 Oct 2018 11:00:00 +0200

The surface of Mars may appear to be perpetually still, but its many features are ever-changing – as represented in this Mars Express view of the severely eroded Greeley impact crater.

Mars Express keeps an eye on curious cloud - Read more >
Thu, 25 Oct 2018 16:00:00 +0200

Since 13 September, ESA’s Mars Express has been observing the evolution of an elongated cloud formation hovering in the vicinity of the 20 km-high Arsia Mons volcano, close to the planet’s equator.

Hubble Captures the Ghost of Cassiopeia
Thu, 25 Oct 2018 10:00:00 EDT

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The brightest stars embedded in nebulae throughout our galaxy pour out a torrent of radiation that eats into vast clouds of hydrogen gas – the raw material for building new stars. This etching process sculpts a fantasy landscape where human imagination can see all kinds of shapes and figures. A nebula in the constellation of Cassiopeia has flowing veils of gas and dust that have earned it the nickname "Ghost Nebula." The nebula is being blasted by a torrent of radiation from a nearby, blue-giant star called Gamma Cassiopeiae, which can be easily seen with the unaided eye at the center of the distinctive "W" asterism that forms the constellation. This Hubble Space Telescope view zooms in on the creepy-looking top of the nebula, material is swept away from it, forming a fantail shape. IC 63 is located 550 light-years away.

BepiColombo's beginning ends - Read more >
Mon, 22 Oct 2018 13:40:00 +0200

A stunning early morning launch lifted the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo spacecraft into space on Saturday, 20 October. This marked the start of intensive, round-the-clock flight control activities to ensure the mission’s health and functioning in the harsh environment of space.

BepiColombo highlights - Read more >
Sat, 20 Oct 2018 12:10:00 +0200

From spacecraft preparations through to liftoff from Europe’s Spaceport, watch highlights of the BepiColombo launch

BepiColombo blasts off to investigate Mercury’s mysteries - Read more >
Sat, 20 Oct 2018 04:36:00 +0200

The ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury blasted off on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou at 01:45:28 GMT on 20 October on its exciting mission to study the mysteries of the Solar System’s innermost planet.

Superflares From Young Red Dwarf Stars Imperil Planets
Thu, 18 Oct 2018 13:00:00 EDT

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The term "HAZMAT" connotes danger. In this case, it's on a cosmic scale, where violent flares of seething gas from small, young stars may make entire planets uninhabitable. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is observing such stars through a large program called HAZMAT — HAbitable Zones and M dwarf Activity across Time. This is an ultraviolet survey of red dwarfs — referred to as "M dwarfs" in astronomical circles — at three different ages: young, intermediate, and old.

Approximately three-quarters of the stars in our galaxy are red dwarfs. Most of the galaxy's "habitable-zone" planets orbit these small stars. But young red dwarfs are active stars, producing ultraviolet flares that blast out million-degree plasma with an intensity that could influence atmospheric chemistry and possibly strip off the atmospheres of these fledgling planets. The HAZMAT team found that flares from the youngest red dwarfs they surveyed — around 40 million years old — are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when the stars are older. This is the age when terrestrial planets are forming around their stars. Scientists also detected one of the most intense stellar flares ever observed in ultraviolet light. Dubbed the "Hazflare," this event was more energetic than the most powerful flare from our Sun ever recorded.

How to Weigh a Black Hole Using NASA's Webb Space Telescope
Wed, 17 Oct 2018 10:00:00 EDT

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Galaxies and their central, supermassive black holes are inextricably linked. Both grow in lockstep for reasons that aren’t yet understood. To gain new insights, Webb will turn its infrared gaze to the center of a nearby galaxy called NGC 4151, whose supermassive black hole is actively feeding and glowing brightly. By measuring the motions of stars clustered around the black hole and comparing them to computer models, astronomers can determine the black hole’s mass. This challenging measurement will test the capabilities of Webb’s innovative instrument called an integral field unit.

Watch BepiColombo launch - Read more >
Tue, 16 Oct 2018 09:00:00 +0200

Watch live as the ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury is launched on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

To the launch pad! - Read more >
Fri, 12 Oct 2018 16:00:00 +0200

Find out how our three new space explorers, Bepi, Mio and MTM, have been preparing for their epic adventure to Mercury

Hubble in Safe Mode as Gyro Issues are Diagnosed
Mon, 08 Oct 2018 16:00:00 EDT

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On Friday, October 5, 2018, at approximately 6:00 p.m. EDT, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope entered safe mode. NASA is working to resume science operations. Hubble’s instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come.

Call for Media: BepiColombo launch to Mercury - Read more >
Mon, 08 Oct 2018 16:00:00 +0200

The BepiColombo mission to Mercury is scheduled to launch aboard an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 01:45 GMT (03:45 CEST) on 20 October 2018. Representatives of traditional and social media are invited to apply for accreditation to follow the launch live from ESA’s mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

Construction of Europe's exoplanet hunter Plato begins - Read more >
Thu, 04 Oct 2018 10:00:00 +0200

The construction of ESA's Plato mission to find and study planets beyond our Solar System will be led by Germany’s OHB System AG as prime contractor, marking the start of the full industrial phase of the project.

Astronomers Find First Evidence of Possible Moon Outside Our Solar System
Wed, 03 Oct 2018 14:00:00 EDT

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Our solar system has eight major planets, and nearly 200 moons. Though astronomers have to date found nearly 4,000 planets orbiting other stars, no moons have yet been found. That hasn't been for any lack of looking, it’s just that moons are smaller than planets and therefore harder to detect.

The Hubble and Kepler space telescopes found evidence for what could be a giant moon accompanying a gas-giant planet that orbits the star Kepler-1625, located 8,000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. The moon may be as big as Neptune and it orbits a planet several times more massive than Jupiter.

If our solar system is a typical example, moons may outnumber planets in our galaxy by at least an order of magnitude or more. This promises a whole new frontier for characterizing the nature of moons and their potential for hosting life as we know it.

The exomoon at Kepler-1625b is too far away to be directly photographed. Its presence is inferred when it passes in front of the star, momentarily dimming its light. Such an event is called a transit. However, the "footprint" of the moon's transit signal is weaker than for the host planet.

The researchers caution that the moon’s presence will need to be conclusively proven by follow-up Hubble observations.

Gaia spots stars flying between galaxies - Read more >
Tue, 02 Oct 2018 11:00:00 +0200

A team of astronomers using the latest set of data from ESA’s Gaia mission to look for high-velocity stars being kicked out of the Milky Way were surprised to find stars instead sprinting inwards – perhaps from another galaxy.

Hubble Uncovers Never Before Seen Features Around a Neutron Star
Mon, 17 Sep 2018 11:00:00 EDT

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Imagine crushing more than 50,000 aircraft carriers into the size of a baseball. This describes neutron stars. They are among the strangest objects in the universe. Neutron stars are a case of extreme physics produced by the unforgiving force of gravity. The entire core of an exploded star has been squeezed into a solid ball of neutrons with the density of an atom’s nucleus. Neutron stars spin as fast as a blender on puree. Some spit out death-star beams of intense radiation — like interstellar lighthouses. These are called pulsars.

These beams are normally seen in X-rays, gamma-rays, and radio waves. But astronomers used Hubble's near-infrared (IR) vision to look at a nearby neutron star cataloged RX J0806.4-4123. They were surprised to see a gush of IR light coming from a region around the neutron star. That infrared light might come from a circumstellar disk 18 billion miles across. Another idea is that a wind of subatomic particles from the pulsar’s magnetic field is slamming into interstellar gas. Hubble's IR vision opens a new window into understanding how these "infernal machines" work.

Stellar family portrait - Read more >
Mon, 14 May 2018 16:00:00 +0200

Explore Gaia’s second data release with this interactive visualisation of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, the family portrait of stars in our Milky Way