Astronomers accidentally discovered the footprints of a monster galaxy in the early universe that has never been seen before. Like a cosmic Yeti, the scientific community generally regarded these galaxies as folklore, given the lack of evidence of their existence, but astronomers in the United States and Australia managed to snap a picture of the beast for the first time.
Published in the Astrophysical Journal, the discovery provides new insights into the first growing steps of some of the biggest galaxies in the universe.
University of Arizona astronomer Christina Williams, lead author of the study, noticed a faint light blob in new sensitive observations using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, or ALMA, a collection of 66 radio telescopes high in the Chilean mountains. Strangely enough, the shimmering seemed to be coming out of nowhere, like a ghostly footstep in a vast dark wilderness.
“It was very mysterious because the light seemed not to be linked to any known galaxy at all,” said Williams, a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the Steward Observatory. “When I saw this galaxy was invisible at any other wavelength, I got really excited because it meant that it was probably really far away and hidden by clouds of dust.”
The researchers estimate that the signal came from so far away that it took 12.5 billion years to reach Earth, therefore giving us a view of the universe in its infancy. They think the observed emission is caused by the warm glow of dust particles heated by stars forming deep inside a young galaxy. The giant clouds of dust conceal the light of the stars themselves, rendering the galaxy completely invisible.
Study co-author Ivo Labbé, of the Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia, said: “We figured out that the galaxy is actually a massive monster galaxy with as many stars as our Milky Way, but brimming with activity, forming new stars at 100 times the rate of our own galaxy.”
The discovery may solve a long-standing question in astronomy, the authors said. Recent studies found that some of the biggest galaxies in the young universe grew up and came of age extremely quickly, a result that is not understood theoretically. Massive mature galaxies are seen when the universe was only a cosmic toddler at 10% of its current age. Even more puzzling is that these mature galaxies appear to come out of nowhere: astronomers never seem to catch them while they are forming.
Smaller galaxies have been seen in the early universe with the Hubble Space Telescope, but such creatures are not growing fast enough to solve the puzzle. Other monster galaxies have also been previously reported, but those sightings have been far too rare for a satisfying explanation.
“Our hidden monster galaxy has precisely the right ingredients to be that missing link,” Williams explains, “because they are probably a lot more common.”
An open question is exactly how many of them there are. The observations for the current study were made in a tiny part of the sky, less than 1/100th the disc of the full moon. Like the Yeti, finding footprints of the mythical creature in a tiny strip of wilderness would either be a sign of incredible luck or a sign that monsters are literally lurking everywhere.
Williams said researchers are eagerly awaiting the March 2021 scheduled launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to investigate these objects in more detail.
“JWST will be able to look through the dust veil so we can learn how big these galaxies really are and how fast they are growing, to better understand why models fail in explaining them.”
But for now the monsters are out there, shrouded in dust and a lot of mystery.
A still from a video shows a fireball passing over Kyoto, Japan after 1 a.m. on April 28, 2017. (Credit: SonataCo Network)
In the early morning of April 28, 2017, a small fireball crept across the sky over Kyoto, Japan. And now, thanks to data collected by the SonotaCo meteor survey, researchers have determined that the fiery space rock was a shard of a much larger asteroid that might (far down the road) threaten Earth.
The meteor that burned over Japan was tiny. Studying the SonotaCo data, the researchers determined that the object entered the atmosphere with a mass of about 1 ounce (29 grams) and was just 1 inch (2.7 centimeters) across. It didn’t threaten anyone. But small meteors like this are interesting because they can offer data on the bigger objects that spawn them. And in this case, the researchers tracked the little rock back to its parent: an object known as 2003 YT1.
2003 YT1 is a binary asteroid, composed of one large rock about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) across orbited by a smaller asteroid that’s 690 feet (210 meters) long. Discovered in 2003, the binary system has a 6% chance of hitting Earth at some point in the next 10 million years. That makes the object what researchers call a “potentially hazardous object,” even though it’s unlikely to hurt anyone in your lifetime.
The binary didn’t pass by Earth in 2017, so there wasn’t an immediately obvious link between the meteor and its parent. But the researchers studied how the fireball moved across the sky and were able to reverse-engineer the object’s orbit through space, pinning it to 2003 YT1 with a high degree of certainty.
The researchers said they aren’t sure how the little rock split off from 2003 YT1 but believe it’s part of a larger stream of dust that got flung off of the asteroid. And they offered a few potential explanations for how that stream formed: Maybe tiny micrometeorites routinely strike the bigger asteroid in the binary, fragmenting it like bullets striking a rock wall. Or maybe changes in heat cracked one of the asteroid’s surfaces, spitting small pieces into the dark.
One scenario the authors offered is that the shards are a result of the process that formed the 2003 YT1 system in the first place.
Most people likely imagine asteroids as great, big rocks, scaled-up versions of the stones they’d find here on Earth. But 2003 YT1, the authors wrote, is more likely a “rubble pile,” a jumble of stuff loosely bound together by gravity that coalesced into two orbiting bodies at some point in the last 10,000 years. The forces holding the masses together as individual asteroids are likely weak, and as the two piles spin chaotically around one another every couple hours, they could fling more of themselves into space.
There are other, more exotic possibilities, the authors wrote. Water ice might be sublimating (turning from solid to gas) off one of the asteroids’ surfaces and reforming as small balls of ice in open space. But that and other models are unlikely, the researchers wrote.
For now, we know that Earth has been visited by a little piece of a big asteroid. And that little piece is likely part of a stream of other little pieces that sometimes enter the Earth’s atmosphere unnoticed. And at some point far down the road, that big asteroid might follow its small children and slam into Earth. That fireball would be much, much bigger.
The paper describing these findings has not yet been peer-reviewed. A draft was published Oct. 16 in the preprint journal arXiv.
The firsts keep rolling in for a 2021 moon mission.
The Pittsburgh-based company Astrobotic plans to send its robotic Peregrine lander to the lunar surface in July 2021, on a mission sponsored by NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program. The flight will be the first for Peregrine and its rocket, United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan Centaur vehicle, and may mark the first successful moon landing by a private spacecraft. (Another commercial lander and CLPS awardee, Intuitive Machines’ Nova-C, is scheduled to launch around the same time.)
Peregrine will also carry the United Kingdom’s first-ever moon rover, a little, four-legged craft built by London-based company Spacebit. And another little pioneer will be on the flight as well, it turns out: Japan’s first lunar rover, a tiny, wheeled robot named Yaoki, which was developed by Tokyo-based company Dymon.
“We are really excited to fly our mission with Astrobotic. This lunar rover Yaoki will result in the first lunar rover from Japan to explore the lunar surface, and marks a unique contribution to Peregrine’s mission,” Dymon CEO Shinichiro Nakajima said in a statement.
“Yaoki has already successfully passed more than 100 tests and has the smallest but most effective rover wheels ever produced,” Nakajima added. “We are ready to complete development and fly in 2021.”
This first mission could be the start of something big on the moon for Dymon. The company aims to land 100 Yaokis by 2030, Dymon representatives have said.
“Dymon’s unique, single-axle rover is a creative design that we look forward to delivering on Peregrine in 2021,” Astrobotic CEO John Thornton said in the same statement. “We’re excited to deliver this groundbreaking Japanese rover to the moon.”
Yaoki and the “walking rover” from Spacebit will have a lot of company on the 2021 flight. Peregrine is toting to the lunar surface about 30 payloads, 14 of which will be provided by NASA.
The U.S. space agency is funding the mission, via CLPS, to the tune of $79.5 million. Intuitive Machines is getting $77 million for its first mission. (The company Orbit Beyond got $97 million in this round of CLPS awards, which were announced in May. But Orbit Beyond has since dropped out, saying it could not meet its September 2020 launch target.)Click here for more Space.com videos…Private Moon Landers – Target Landing Sites UnveiledVolume 0%
NASA views the CLPS-funded missions as key enablers of its Artemis program of crewed lunar exploration. That project aims to put astronauts down near the lunar south pole by 2024 and establish a permanent, sustainable human presence on and around the moon by 2028. For example, some of the science gear flying on the robotic landers will assess stores of lunar water ice, an important resource for potential explorers and settlers.
To date, just three entities have successfully soft-landed a spacecraft on the moon: the Soviet Union, the United States and China. The private Israeli outfit SpaceIL and the government of India tried to follow suit this year with the Beresheet and Chandrayaan-2 missions, respectively, but both came up short.
Dymon isn’t the only Japanese company that wants to explore the moon. Tokyo-based ispace plans to put down a lander toting customer payloads in 2021, following that up with a rover-deploying surface mission in 2023.
Giant alien worlds known as hot Jupiters, with searing, close orbits to their host stars, can inflate like balloons. Now, astronomers have discovered a hot Jupiter so puffy that it is one of the least dense planets ever found, the researchers reported in a new study.
In the past three decades, astronomers have confirmed the existence of more than 4,000 worlds outside of Earth’s solar system. Scientists found that some of these exoplanets are very different from those seen in Earth’s solar system; for example, researchers have found hot Jupiters, gas giants that orbit their stars closer than Mercury does the sun.
Previous research showed that a number of hot Jupiters were unusually large but not especially massive, suggesting that they had inflated, perhaps due to heat from their stars. However, “it has not yet been understood why some hot Jupiters are so inflated,” lead author of the new study Luigi Mancini, at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, told Space.com.
“There’s probably a list of 20 or so theories for the physics behind the inflation of these planets, such as tidal effects or strong electric currents,” study co-author Gaspar Bakos, an astrophysicist at Princeton University, told Space.com. “It hasn’t been figured out yet — inflating a planet that big is not easy.”
Now, scientists have discovered a highly inflated hot Jupiter, “a very low-density planet,” Bakos said. “The hope is that the more of these inflated planets we find, the more we understand why and how they are inflated.”
The researchers focused on a planet orbiting WASP-174, a yellow-white dwarf star about 1.25 times the mass of our sun and 1.35 times the sun’s diameter. This 2.2-billion-year-old star is located about 1,325 light-years from Earth.
Previous research spotted a giant planet that orbited at a distance of just 5.5% of an astronomical unit (AU) around this star. (One AU is the average distance between Earth and the sun, which is about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers.) This hot Jupiter, dubbed WASP-174b, seemed to be at most 1.3 times the mass of Jupiter, but estimates of its diameter ranged anywhere from 70% to 170% that of Jupiter.
To shed light on WASP-174b, the scientists in the new study analyzed data gathered by ground-based telescopes stretching across the Southern Hemisphere, plus the orbiting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).
The scientists pinned down WASP-174b’s diameter at more than 1.4 times that of Jupiter, meaning the planet is highly inflated. With a density of just 8.4 lbs. per cubic foot (0.135 grams per cubic centimeter), about the same density as light balsa wood, WASP-174b is among the least dense planets ever discovered.
WASP-174b’s highly inflated nature might make it an ideal subject for scientists to analyze an exoplanetary atmosphere, compared to less puffy targets that are smaller and harder to see, Bakos said.
“There will be future studies trying to detect what molecules make up its atmosphere,” Bakos said. “The better we characterize these inflated planets, the more data points we will have to create a consistent theory for why they exist.”
A NASA scientist has created a new concept for an engine that he says can move “close to the speed of light” – all without any moving parts or need for fuel.
The paper, written by David Burns from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, discusses a “helical engine” that can be used to travel across interstellar distances, send astronauts to the moon in approximately one second and Mars in less than 13 minutes, according to The Sun, which first reported the news.
“A new concept for in-space propulsion is proposed in which propellant is not ejected from the engine, but instead is captured to create a nearly infinite specific impulse,” Burns wrote in the paper’s abstract. “The engine accelerates ions confined in a loop to moderate relativistic speeds, and then varies their velocity to make slight changes to their mass. The engine then moves ions back and forth along the direction of travel to produce thrust. This in-space engine could be used for long-term satellite station-keeping without refueling.”
“It could also propel spacecraft across interstellar distances, reaching close to the speed of light,” Burns added in the abstract. “The engine has no moving parts other than ions traveling in a vacuum line, trapped inside electric and magnetic fields.”
Burns’ idea is novel, as it completely removes one of the heaviest components of space flight–fuel.
NASA is looking into the possibility of using ice and water on the surface of the moon as rocket fuel, but any potential solution would likely be years, if not decades, away.
The concept, which Burns admitted he is not sure is viable, takes inspiration from high-tech particle accelerators, similar to what is seen at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.
“If someone says it doesn’t work, I’ll be the first to say, it was worth a shot,” Burns said in an interview with New Scientist. “You have to be prepared to be embarrassed. It is very difficult to invent something that is new under the sun and actually works.”
Big, schmancy compounds keep popping up all over the solar system, and new research may help clear up confusion about how they form in so many places.
That research is based on laboratory experiments inspired by a weird quirk scientists have noticed about sprawling dune fields on Saturn’s moon Titan. These dunes are full of compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that have ring-like structures. On Titan, the dunes stockpile a significant proportion of the moon’s carbon. And because that moon is one of astrobiologists’ most tempting quarries for potentially finding life beyond Earth, carbon matters.
“These dunes are pretty large,” study senior author Ralf Kaiser, a chemist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, told Space.com, nearly as tall as the Great Pyramid in Egypt, he added. “If you want to understand the carbon and hydrocarbon cycle and the processes of hydrocarbons on Titan, it’s really important to understand, of course, where the dominant source of carbon comes from.”
On Titan, there’s a straightforward mechanism that scientists know likely builds polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: These large molecules can form in the moon’s thick atmosphere and settle down to the surface. But the same family of compounds has been found on plenty of worlds that boast no such atmosphere, like the dwarf planets Pluto and Ceres and the Kuiper Belt object Makemake.
Kaiser and his colleagues wanted to figure out how polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons could come to exist on a world lacking an atmosphere to create them. And when the researchers looked at Titan, they saw a clue: Where the dunes are, there aren’t many hydrocarbon ices that are otherwise fairly common on that moon.
The researchers wondered whether a second process, one taking place on the surface, could turn ices like acetylene into polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In particular, the scientists thought the culprit might be galactic cosmic rays, energetic particles that ricochet across space.
So the researchers designed an experiment: Take some acetylene ice, expose it to a process that imitates galactic cosmic rays, and see what happens. They mimicked the effect of 100 years’ worth of pummeling from these particles, then measured the amounts of different compounds that had formed.
The scientists found several different flavors of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. This suggested to the team that the interaction between hydrocarbon ices and galactic cosmic rays could indeed explain the prevalence of the compounds even where no atmosphere can form them.
“This is a pretty versatile process which can happen anywhere,” Kaiser said. That includes not just Titan, but also other moons and asteroids, but even grains of interstellar dust and neighboring solar systems, he said.
Next, he and his colleagues want to pin down what specific process is causing the transformation, Kaiser said. That will be tricky, he said, since the ionizing radiation the team used to simulate cosmic galactic rays includes multiple simultaneous processes.
The line of research is intriguing aesthetically as well as scientifically, Michael Malaska, who studies planetary ices at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and who wasn’t involved in the current research, told Space.com in an email. “Their work further supports that some of Titan’s sand may glow pretty colors under UV light,” he wrote.
The research was described in a paper published yesterday (Oct. 16) in the journal Science Advances.
NASA’s venerable Hubble Space Telescope recently turned its eyes to interstellar visitor Comet 2I/Borisov and caught a surprise: The interloper looks a lot like comets from our own solar system.
Hubble’s observations from earlier this month show that the dust, structure and chemical composition of the interstellar comet look a lot like those of the comets from our own cosmic neighborhood. Among the observed features was the classic halo of dust that comets usually have around their nuclei, or hearts.
“Though another star system could be quite different from our own, the fact that the comet’s properties appear to be very similar to those of the solar system’s building blocks is very remarkable,” Amaya Moro-Martin, an assistant astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, which manages Hubble operations, said in a statement from NASA.
Until Comet 2I/Borisov appeared, all cataloged comets came from two locations: the Kuiper Belt — an area near the edge of our solar system where larger objects, such as Pluto and MU69, reside — and the Oort Cloud of icy objects located about 1 light-year from our sun. (A light-year is the distance light travels in a year, which is roughly 6 trillion miles, or 10 trillion kilometers.)
Comets that originate in the outskirts of the solar system can become visible to people on Earth when they get kicked into the inner solar system through gravitational nudges, perhaps via stars passing by. As a comet gets closer to the sun, its icy surface begins to vaporize, leaving behind a “tail” of dust and gas. Cometary orbits are usually elliptical, meaning a comet’s path in space appears as a stretched-out oval that makes a close pass around the sun before heading toward the outskirts of the solar system. But Comet 2I/Borisov is different; its orbit is hyperbolic, resembling an open-ended arc, because it is cruising into the solar system briefly before leaving forever.Click here for more Space.com videos…See Insterstellar Comet Borisov’s Orbit – AnimationVolume 0%
Comet 2I/Borisov is only the second known interstellar visitor to our solar system. The first was an object known as 1I/’Oumuamua, an elongated, rock-like object that made a brief pass within Mercury’s orbit in 2017 before zooming away, presumably forever. Borisov, fortunately, is expected to stay within the solar system until mid-2020, providing more time for observations. The comet’s closest approach to the sun, which will occur in December, will be at roughly 186 million miles (300 million km), or twice Earth’s average distance from the sun.
Although interstellar visitors have only recently been proven with observations, a new study suggests that interstellar objects are quite common, Hubble astronomers said. There could be thousands of such objects within the solar system at any one time, although most are beyond the reach of modern-day telescopes’ observational capabilities. This makes observations of Borisov valuable, especially because it is so different from ‘Oumuamua.Click here for more Space.com videos…Interstellar Comet 2I/Borisov – What We Know So FarVolume 0%
“Whereas ‘Oumuamua appeared to be a rock, Borisov is really active, more like a normal comet,” observation leader David Jewitt, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said in the same statement. “It’s a puzzle why these two are so different.”
Hubble’s observations of Borisov happened on Oct. 12, when the comet was about 260 million miles (418 million km) from Earth. Future Hubble observations are planned at least through January, with more proposals being considered for later in 2020.
China’s Chang’e 4 mission has completed 10 lunar days of activity on the far side of the moon, returning new images and carrying out science tasks.
Both the Chang’e 4 lander and the Yutu 2 rover entered a dormant state on Oct. 5 in preparation to survive a 10th lunar night. During the roughly two-week-long lunar night, temperatures can drop to as low as minus 310 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 190 degrees Celsius), threatening the spacecraft’s health every time.
The rover and the lander began lunar day 10 on Sept. 22 and 23, respectively, according to the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program. Yutu 2 drove just 16.7 feet (5.1 meters) on day 10 — the shortest distance it has covered during a single day.
The short distance may indicate that the rover is busy carrying out further analyses of an unusual material it discovered at the center of an impact crater during its eighth day of work. The Chang’e 4 team has released few details, but lunar scientists have suggested that the substance could be impact melt glass from meteor strikes.
Yutu 2’s predecessor, the Chang’e 3 mission Yutu rover, lost mobility during its second lunar day. While the apparent short-circuit issue that prematurely halted the first Yutu has been addressed, Yutu 2 is in uncharted territory regarding the wear and tear experienced from traversing the harsh lunar surface.
The rover has covered a total of 950 feet (289 m) and is heading west from Statio Tianhe, the formal name of the Chang’e 4 landing site. The Yutu 2 rover was designed to last three months but has greatly exceeded this expectation.
China has not issued regular maps of Yutu 2’s roving. But Philip Stooke, a cartographer at the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration at Western University in Ontario, Canada, has pieced together information from papers in science journals and occasional hints on social media to illustrate the route taken by the rover.
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has imaged the Chang’e 4 spacecraft a number of times while passing overhead. Some of the images even show the tracks made by Yutu 2.
Chang’e 4 made its historic touchdown in Von Kármán crater on Jan. 3, becoming the first robotic mission to land softly on the far side of the moon. Yutu 2 was deployed about 12 hours after landing.
An Oct. 6 update from the China Lunar Exploration Program via its Weibo social media account states that both spacecraft and their science payloads are working well.
The two spacecraft have been carrying out a range of measurements using neutron detectors, radiation instruments, infrared spectrometers and radio devices. Data gathered by the Chang’e 4 lander and Yutu 2 rover are providing insight into the nature and history of the far side of the moon.
The far side of the moon is never visible from Earth because of tidal locking, so contact with the two Chang’e 4 spacecraft is facilitated by the Queqiao communications satellite. That spacecraft orbits a special, gravitationally stable point beyond the moon.
Sunrise over the landing site in Von Kármán crater will occur Oct. 21; Yutu 2 will wake for lunar day 11 on Oct. 22 and the lander will do so about 24 hours later.
NASA released a new video that shows how a supernova morphs and moves over a period of 13 years.
Cassiopeia A, or Cas A, as the debris field is known, was probably generated after a star’s explosion in 1680, according to the space agency.
The shock waves in blue can be seen as they pulse through space in data collected between 2000 and 2013 by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory.
“As the blast wave travels outwards at speeds of about 11 million miles [18 million km] per hour, it encounters surrounding material and slows down, generating a second shock wave,” Chandra mission personnel said in a statement.
A view of Cassiopeia A that includes Chandra X-ray Observatory data. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIKEN/T. Sato et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI) (X-ray: NASA/CXC/RIKEN/T. Sato et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI)
This “reverse shock,” the agency said, “travels backwards, similar to how a traffic jam travels backwards from the scene of an accident on a highway.”
According to Space.com, Cas A was the first object that Chandra observed not long after it launched out to space on July 23, 1999.
NASA noted that other observations from Chandra over the years have shown some of the elements necessary for life in the explosion and have produced 3D models of the supernova remnant.
Artist’s illustration of ‘Oumuamua, the first known interstellar object spotted in our solar system. (M. Kornmesser/ESO)
For the second time ever, astronomers have detected an interstellar object plunging through our solar system. But this time, researchers think they know where it came from.
Gennady Borisov, an amateur astronomer working with his own telescope in Crimea, first spotted the interstellar comet on Aug. 30. His find made the object the first interstellar visitor discovered since oblong ‘Oumuamua flashed through our solar neighborhood back in 2017. Now, in a new paper, a team of Polish researchers has calculated the path this new comet — known as Comet 2I/Borisov or (in early descriptions) as C/2019 Q4 — took to arrive in our sun’s gravity well. And that path leads back to a binary red dwarf star system 13.15 light-years away, known as Kruger 60.
When you rewind Comet Borisov’s path through space, you’ll find that 1 million years ago, the object passed just 5.7 light-years from the center of Kruger 60, moving just 2.13 miles per second (3.43 kilometers per second), the researchers wrote.
That’s fast in human terms —— about the top speed of an X-43A Scramjet, one of the fastest aircraft ever built. But an X-43A Scramjet can’t overcome the sun’s gravity to escape our solar system. And the researchers found that if the comet were really moving that slowly at a distance of no more than 6 light-years from Kruger 60, it probably wasn’t just passing by. That’s probably the star system it came from, they said. At some point in the distant past, Comet Borisov lively orbited those stars the way comets in our system orbit ours.
Ye Quanzhi, an astronomer and comet expert at the University of Maryland who wasn’t involved in this paper, told Live Science that the evidence pinning Comet 2I/Borisov to Kruger 60 is pretty convincing based on the data available so far.
“If you have an interstellar comet and you want to know where it came from, then you want to check two things,” he said. “First, has this comet had a small pass distance from a planetary system? Because if it’s coming from there, then its trajectory must intersect with the location of that system.”
Though the 5.7 light-years between the new comet and Kruger may seem bigger than a “small gap” — nearly 357,000 times Earth’s distance from the sun — it’s close enough to count as “small” for these sorts of calculations, he said.
“Second,” Ye added, “usually comets are ejected from a planetary system due to gravitational interactions with major planets in that system.”
In our solar system, that might look like Jupiter snagging a comet that’s falling toward the sun, slingshotting it around in a brief, partial orbit and then flinging it away toward interstellar space.
“This ejection speed has a limit,” Ye said. “It can’t be infinite because planets have a certain mass,” and the mass of a planet determines how hard it can throw a comet into the void. “Jupiter is pretty massive,” he added, “but you can’t have a planet that’s 100 times more massive than Jupiter because then it would be a star.”
That mass threshold sets an upper limit on the speeds of comets escaping star systems, Ye said. And the authors of this paper showed that Comet 2I/Borisov fell within the minimum speed and distance from Kruger 60 to suggest it originated there —assuming their calculations of its trajectory are correct.
Studying interstellar comets is exciting, Ye said, because it offers a rare opportunity to study distant solar systems using the precise tools scientists employ when examining our own. Astronomers can look at Comet 2I/Borisov using telescopes that might reveal details of the comet’s surface. They can figure out whether it behaves like comets in our own system (so far, it has) or does anything unusual, like ‘Oumuamua famously did. That’s a whole category of research that usually isn’t possible with distant solar systems, where small objects only ever appear —— if they’re visible at all —— as faint, discolored shadows on their suns.
This research, Ye said, means that anything we learn about Comet Borisov could be a lesson about Kruger 60, a nearby star system where no exoplanets have been discovered. ‘Oumuamua, by contrast, seems to have come from the general direction of the bright star Vega, but according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, researchers don’t believe that’s where the object originally came from, instead suggesting it likely came from a newly-forming star system (though researchers aren’t sure which one).. That would make Comet Borisov the first interstellar object ever traced to its home system, if these results are confirmed.
However, the paper’s authors were careful to point out that these results shouldn’t yet be considered conclusive. Astronomers are still collecting more data about Comet 2I/Borisov’s path through space, and additional data may reveal that the original trajectory was wrong and that the comet came from somewhere else.
The paper tracing the comet’s origin has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but it’s available on the preprint server arXiv.
Asteroid may collide with Earth, ESA warns: ‘Non-zero… probability’
Asteroids known as near-Earth objects are among the most dangerous space items, with space agencies around the world keeping a close eye on them. The European Space Agency is paying particular attention to asteroid 2019 SU3, which may collide with Earth as soon as 70 years from now.
The space rock was recently added to the ESA’s Risk List due to the potential for it to collide with Earth on Sept. 16, 2084.
“The Risk List is a catalog of all objects for which a non-zero impact probability has been detected,” the ESA wrote on its website. “Each entry contains details on the Earth approach posing the highest risk of impact (as expressed by the Palermo Scale). It includes its date, size, velocity and probability.”
An artist’s illustration of asteroids, or near-Earth objects, that highlight the need for a complete Space Situational Awareness system. (ESA – P.Carril)
2019 SU3 is also on the ESA’s Priority List, which the European agency says is used to “observe especially newly discovered objects into four categories: urgent, necessary, useful and low priority.”
The ESA said 2019 SU3 is expected to come within 0.00079 astronomical units, approximately 73,000 miles, when it passes Earth in 2084. Asteroids that come within 0.05 astronomical units and measure more than 460 feet in diameter are known as “potentially hazardous” NEOs, according to NASA.
“One of the first cosmonauts of the world space era, forever devoted to his country and his work, he inscribed himself in golden letters in the world history of space,” said Roscosmos, Russia’s federal space corporation, in a statement. “With Alexei Arkhipovich a whole era has gone.”
Selected alongside Yuri Gagarin among the first 20 Soviet Air Force pilots to train as cosmonauts in 1960, Leonov flew twice into space, logging a total of 7 days and 32 minutes off the planet.
Launched on Voskhod 2, the world’s 17th human spaceflight, on March 18, 1965, Leonov made history as the first person to exit his spacecraft for an extravehicular activity (EVA).
“The Earth is round!” he exclaimed, as he caught his first view of the world. “Stars were to my left, right, above and below me. The light of the sun was very intense and I felt its warmth on the part of my face that was not protected by a filter,” said Leonov in a 2015 interview with the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) on the 50th anniversary of his spacewalk.
“What remain etched in my memory was the extraordinary silence,” he said.
After several minutes outside, his spacesuit ballooned, making it very difficult for him to maneuver. His crewmate, Pavel Belayev, unable to do anything to assist, Leonov made the decision to release air from his suit in order to be able to re-enter his capsule.
“I decided to drop the pressure inside the suit … knowing all the while that I would reach the threshold of nitrogen boiling in my blood, but I had no choice,” Leonov told the FAI, the world governing body that certifies aviation and space records.
Ultimately, Leonov made it safely back inside after 12 minutes and 9 seconds floating outside his spacecraft. He and Belyayev returned to Earth the next day on March 19, 1965, having shown it was possible for a human to survive working in the vacuum in space.
Leonov’s second spaceflight came a decade later with the lift off of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP), the first mission conducted jointly between the United States and Russia.
Launched on July 15, 1975, Leonov and his crewmate, Valery Kubasov, docked their Soyuz spacecraft two days later to an Apollo spacecraft carrying astronauts Thomas Stafford, Deke Slayton and Vance Brand.
“The best part of our joint flight was the occasion when we opened the hatch and I saw the face of Tom Stafford,” said Leonov, recalling the ASTP mission on its 35th anniversary in 2010. “I said, ‘Hello Tom! Hello Deke!’ and at this moment we shook hands.”
The two crews spent almost two days together, conducting scientific experiments and taking part in cultural exchanges. The mission served a precursor to the later Shuttle-Mir flights and the establishment of the International Space Station.
After parting ways with the Americans, Leonov and Kubasov landed safely on July 21, 1975. The touch down marked the end of Leonov’s spaceflight career, having completed 113 orbits of Earth on his two missions.
“We were saddened to learn of the passing of Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov,” said NASA astronaut Jessica Meir as a spacewalk by two of her crewmates came to its close outside the International Space Station on Friday.
“Though we mourn his passing,” added the station’s commander, Luca Parmitano with the European Space Agency, “it is somewhat fitting that Leonov left us on the day of a spacewalk. His 12-minute excursion outside the Voskhod 2 spacecraft more than a half century ago began a chapter in human spaceflight that brought us to the moon and which will bring the world to distant ports of exploration in the cosmos in the years ahead.”
Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov was born on May 30, 1934, in the town of Listvyanka, near Mariinsk in Siberia. A budding artist from a young age, Leonov enrolled at the Academy of Arts in Riga in 1953 before attending the Chuguyev Air Force School in Kharkov, Ukraine, where he graduated in 1957.
He was serving as a Soviet Air Force parachute instructor when he was selected for the first cosmonaut class three years later. His first assignment was as backup to Valeri Bykovsky on the Vostok 5 mission in 1963.
After returning from his 1965 Voskhod 2 mission, Leonov began training for a mission to the moon. First preparing for a circumlunar flight, a feat accomplished by NASA’s Apollo 8 crew in December 1968, Leonov was one of only three candidates for a Soviet moon landing. Rocket failures though, ultimately led to the program’s cancellation.
Leonov was then assigned to command the second mission to launch to Russia’s first space station, Salyut 1. One of his two Soyuz 11 crewmates however, fell ill days before the June 1971 launch, resulting in their backups flying in their place. (The Soyuz 11 mission later ended in tragedy, when a depressurization during re-entry led to all three cosmonauts being killed.)
Following his lead of the Soviet side of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, Leonov headed the cosmonaut team until January 1982, when he resigned to become the deputy director of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City. Ten years later, he left the space program for a management position at Alfa Bank, one of the largest private commercial banks in Russia.
Throughout his career, Leonov continued to pursue his passion for art, flying colored pencils on his spaceflights and becoming the first to sketch in Earth orbit. His subsequent drawings and paintings have been exhibited worldwide, appeared on postage stamps and were published in several collected volumes of his work.
For his service to his nation, Leonov was twice named a Hero of the Soviet Union and awarded the Order of Lenin, among many other honors. A founding member of the Association of Space Explorers, Leonov was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in 1976 and International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum in 2001.
Leonov was further honored as the namesake for a crater on the moon and a spaceship in Arthur C. Clarke’s “2010: Odyssey Two.” In 2017, he was portrayed in the Russian feature film “The Age of Pioneers” (also known as “Spacewalk”) about his Voskhod 2 mission.
You don’t have to know a whole lot about science to know that black holes typically suck things in, not spew things out. But NASA just spotted something mighty strange at the supermassive black hole Markarian 335.
Two of NASA’s space telescopes, including the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), miraculously observed a black hole’s corona “launched” away from the supermassive black hole. Then a massive pulse of X-ray energy spewed out. So, what exactly happened? That’s what scientists are trying to figure out now.
“This is the first time we have been able to link the launching of the corona to a flare,” Dan Wilkins, of Saint Mary’s University, said. “This will help us understand how supermassive black holes power some of the brightest objects in the universe.”
NuSTAR’s principal investigator, Fiona Harrison, noted that the nature of the energetic source is “mysterious,” but added that the ability to actually record the event should provide some clues about the black hole’s size and structure, along with (hopefully) some fresh intel on how black holes function. Luckily for us, this black hole is still 324 million light-years away.
SEE ALSO: Scientists believe they’ve figured out how to travel through a black hole.
So, no matter what strange things it’s doing, it shouldn’t have any effect on our corner of the universe.
BTW, while we’re on the subject of space and scientists uncovering the mysteries of it, here’s America’s favorite astronmer, Neil Degrasse Tyson, telling us why scientists, let alone anyone else, will never uncover the mysteries of Mars – because we’ll never get there!
This visible-light image of the Fireworks galaxy (NGC 6946) comes from the Digital Sky Survey, and is overlaid with data from NASA’s NuSTAR observatory (in blue and green). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The cosmic web responsible for ‘gluing’ the far-flung galaxies of the universe together has been directly observed for the first time ever.
Scientists using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope were able to spot an ancient cluster of galaxies 12 billion light-years away that are linked together by a network of gas filaments.
Watch to learn more
The cosmic web theory is central to current explanations of how the universe formed after the Big Bang.
However, until this observation, there had only been indirect evidence to suggest it existed.
Prof Michele Fumagalli, an astrophysicist at Durham University and co-author of the work, said: “It is very exciting to clearly see for the first time multiple and extended filaments in the early universe.
“We finally have a way to map these structures directly and to understand in detail their role in regulating the formation of supermassive black holes and galaxies.”
The research team were able to directly detect the web by using intensive equipment designed to pick up the faintest of structures.
Galaxy clusters are known for being the most tightly gravitationally-bound structures in the universe.
They can contain hundreds of thousands of galaxies.
It has been predicted that 60% of the hydrogen created during the Big Bang can be seen as long filaments strung out across space in the cosmic web.
By mapping out some of the light emitted by hydrogen within a galaxy cluster called SSA22, the team were able to identify individual filaments of gas that make up a web-like structure between galaxies.
Erika Hamden, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona said: “These observations of the faintest, largest structures in the universe are a key to understanding how our universe evolved through time, how galaxies grow and mature, and how the changing environments around galaxies created what we see around us.”
It is thought that the cosmic web is the scaffolding of the cosmos and provides the framework for galaxies to form and evolve.
The latest observations support this theory by revealing supermassive black holes, starbursting galaxies and lots of active stars all at the intersections between the filaments.
First author of the research Hideki Umehata said: “This suggests very strongly that gas falling along the filaments under the force of gravity triggers the formation of starbursting galaxies and supermassive black holes, giving the universe the structure that we see today.”
The cosmic web has been observed before but only as short blobs of gas beyond galaxies.
Umehata noted: “Now we have been able to clearly show that these filaments are extremely long, going even beyond the edge of the field that we viewed.
“This adds credence to the idea that these filaments are actually powering the intense activity that we see within the galaxies inside the filaments.”
The findings have been published in the journal Science.
The video, first reported on by Fox 10 Phoenix, was posted to the YouTube account of William Guy. After a brief period of calm over the ocean, 14 glowing lights hovering over the water suddenly appeared.
Someone on the video can be heard saying, “Look, nothing in the sky at all, then all of a sudden…” “Anybody tell me what that is?” the person, reported to be Guy, continued.
People in the background can be heard commenting on the lights.
“We’re in the middle of the ocean, on a ferry, nothing around. Look. Nothing around. No land, no nothing,” the person added.
One person who commented on the video said that he believed they were from a nearby military base.
“I am pretty sure I know what those lights are,” Derrick Chennault, who identified himself as a former Marine based at the 2nd Marine Air Wing in Cherry Point, N.C. wrote.
“We used to regularly drop flares out of the back of our plane in the evenings for military exercises in that area,” Chennault continued. “They are one million candle power each so they were pretty bright and can be seen from far away and floated down slow as they hung from a parachute.“
The military base is approximately 125 miles west of the Outer Banks.
However, a spokesman from the military base confirmed to Fox 10 Phoenix that no aircraft from that base was in the area the day the video was posted.
The asteroid, dubbed 2019 TW1, measures up to 16 metres in diameter, making it almost twice as big as a London bus
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The idea of an enormous asteroid skimming past Earth may sound like the plot from a science-fiction blockbuster, but today, it will become a reality.
The asteroid, dubbed 2019 TW1, measures up to 16 metres in diameter, making it almost twice as big as a London bus.
Worryingly, NASA ’s Centre for Near Earth Object Studies only discovered the enormous space rock on October 5 – three days before its passing.
Thankfully, the chances of the asteroid colliding with Earth are very low, with the space rock passing our planet a safe distance of 351,000 miles.
While this might sound far, NASA classifies it as a ‘close’ passing.
2019 TW1 is one of seven near-Earth asteroids expected to pass our planet today – although the other six won’t come as close as this particular space rock.
Other asteroids include 2019 TC1, which will pass at a distance of 834,000 miles, and 2019 TU, which will be just over one million miles from our planet during the passing.
The largest of the seven, called 2019 RK, is around the same size as the Arc de Triomphe, and only slightly smaller than the famous Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded in the sky over Russia in 2013.
Thankfully, 2019 RK will be around four million miles from our planet during its passing today.
The fact that NASA only discovered many of these asteroids in the last few weeks raises concerns about the asteroid detection system.
In July this year, a huge asteroid came within 45,000 miles of Earth, yet went undetected by NASA.
“This one did sneak up on us,” Lindley Johnson, NASA’s planetary defence officer, told colleagues the day after the 55,000mph fly-by on July 25.
All 20 moons are tiny, measuring about 3 miles (5 kilometers) across. Seventeen of them have retrograde orbits, meaning they move around Saturn in the opposite direction to the planet’s rotation. These 17 all take more than three Earth years to complete one Saturn lap, and the most far-flung one is the most distant Saturn satellite known, discovery team members said.
One of the three newly discovered “prograde” moons has an orbital period of more than three Earth years, while the other two complete one lap every two years or so.
The 17 retrograde moons appear to belong to the “Norse group” of Saturn satellites, which share the same basic orbital parameters. The two innermost prograde objects align with the “Inuit group,” and the outermost prograde moon among the new finds may belong to the “Gallic group,” but that’s unclear at the moment, researchers said.
Each of these satellite groups is likely evidence of a long-ago impact that destroyed a larger moon that had been orbiting in that general area.
“This kind of grouping of outer moons is also seen around Jupiter, indicating violent collisions occurred between moons in the Saturnian system or with outside objects such as passing asteroids or comets,” Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., said in a statement today (Oct. 7) announcing the discovery.
Sheppard led the discovery team. He and his colleagues — David Jewitt of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Jan Kleyna of the University of Hawaii — found the Saturn moons using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii.
“Using some of the largest telescopes in the world, we are now completing the inventory of small moons around the giant planets,” Sheppard added. “They play a crucial role in helping us determine how our solar system’s planets formed and evolved.”
For example, the newfound moons’ existence suggests that the impacts that created them occurred after Saturn was fully formed, Sheppard said. The gas giant was surrounded by a disk of dust and gas as it was taking shape. If these tiny moons had to plow through all that material on their way around Saturn, friction would have sapped their speed and sent them spiraling into the planet.Click here for more Space.com videos…See Saturn Moons’ Orbital Dance in Hubble Time-LapseVolume 0%
Sheppard discovered a dozen Jupiter moons last year, and the Carnegie Institution organized a public contest to name five of those worlds. If you missed that competition, don’t worry: You now have another chance.
“I was so thrilled with the amount of public engagement over the Jupiter moon-naming contest that we’ve decided to do another one to name these newly discovered Saturnian moons,” Sheppard said. “This time, the moons must be named after giants from Norse, Gallic or Inuit mythology.”
All 20 newfound Saturn moons are fair game for naming. If you’re interested, submit your proposal by tweeting @SaturnLunacy from now until Dec. 6. Include your reasoning and the hashtag #NameSaturnsMoons.
“Photos, artwork and videos are strongly encouraged,” organizers wrote on naming-contest page here, which has lots more information.
50 years after the Apollo 11 mission, Neil Armstrong’s sons Mark and Rick describe the day when their father walked on the Moon.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft has spotted a giant black spot on Jupiter that stretched 2,200 miles across the surface of the gas planet.
On its website, NASA explains that there is a straightforward explanation for the somewhat sinister-looking spot. The mark is simply the shadow of Jupiter’s moon, Io.
You can also get this audiobook for 50% off, 30 day free trial. 2061: Odyssey Three – Audiobook Download (Unabridged) – Author: Arthur C. Clarke; Narrator: Scott Brick…
“Such events occur frequently on Jupiter because it is a large planet with many moons,” explained NASA. “In addition, unlike most other planets in our solar system, Jupiter’s axis is not highly tilted relative to its orbit, so the Sun never strays far from Jupiter’s equatorial plane (+/- 3 degrees). This means Jupiter’s moons regularly cast their shadows on the planet throughout its year.”
Jupiter has 53 named moons and 26 that are yet to receive official names, according to the space agency.
“Juno’s close proximity to Jupiter provides an exceptional fish-eye view, showing a small fraction near the planet’s equator,” added NASA in its statement. “The shadow is about 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) wide, approximately the same width as Io, but appears much larger relative to Jupiter.”
The fifth rock from the Sun and the heftiest planet in the solar system, Jupiter is what’s known as a gas giant. It’s made up of a ball of hydrogen and helium, unlike the rocky composition of Earth and Mars.
The massive planet has a diameter that is more than 11 times larger than Earth’s, according to Caltech, which says that over 1,300 Earths could fit inside Jupiter.
NASA noted that the enhanced-color image of the giant black spot was created by citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill using data from Juno’s JunoCam imager. The image was captured on Sept. 11, 2019, when Juno was about 4,885 miles above Jupiter’s cloud tops.
Jupiter’s moon Io is described by NASA as the most volcanically active body in the solar system.
In a recent research project, scientists reported that Loki Patera, a massive volcano on Io, could erupt imminently.
Earlier this year, NASA released an incredible image of Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot and swirling storms in the planet’s southern hemisphere. That image was also created using data from the JunoCam imager by Kevin M. Gill.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft collected invaluable data and images of Saturn and its moons over the approximately 20 years that the mission took place. While the mission ended on Sept. 15, 2017, with the craft diving toward the planet in a “Grand Finale,” scientists continue to study the wealth of data that they gathered during the mission.
In one new study, scientists looked at the material that Enceladus ejects from its core using hydrothermal vents. The material mixes with water in the moon’s subsurface ocean and is then emitted as water vapor and icy grains.
In studying these ejections, the team found organic molecules that are condensed onto these grains and which contain oxygen and nitrogen. This comes after the first discovery of organics on the moon in 2018.
Similar compounds on Earth take part in the chemical reactions that form amino acids, which are the organic compounds that combine to form proteins and are essential to life as we know it.
On Earth, energy, or heat, from hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor helps to fuel these amino acid-producing reactions. With these findings, scientists have suggested that perhaps something similar is happening on Enceladus and the hydrothermal vents under its subsurface ocean are aiding in the creation of amino acids on the moon.
“If the conditions are right, these molecules coming from the deep ocean of Enceladus could be on the same reaction pathway as we see here on Earth. We don’t yet know if amino acids are needed for life beyond Earth, but finding the molecules that form amino acids is an important piece of the puzzle,” Nozair Khawaja, who led the research team from the Free University of Berlin, said in a statement.
Now, the discovery of these organic compounds in no way equates to the discovery of life or even necessarily the building blocks of life. But it is another step in the direction of discovering whether or not amino acids might form on Enceladus and what that might mean with regard to the search for life in the universe.
“Here we are finding smaller and soluble organic building blocks — potential precursors for amino acids and other ingredients required for life on Earth,” co-author Jon Hillier said in the statement.
“This work shows that Enceladus’ ocean has reactive building blocks in abundance, and it’s another green light in the investigation of the habitability of Enceladus,” co-author Frank Postberg added in the same statement.
To detect these compounds and come to this exciting conclusion, Khawaja’s team used data from Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA), which detected ice grains emitted in the moon’s plumes; and data from the CDA’s spectrometer, which analyzed the composition of the grains.
Just a few days after showing off the shiny silver exterior of SpaceX’s new spaceship, Elon Musk has provided a peek at the inside.
On Saturday night (Sept. 28), the SpaceX founder and CEO gave us a design update about Starship and Super Heavy, the reusable spacecraft and rocket, respectively, that the company is developing to help humanity colonize Mars.
Musk delivered the presentation in front of the newly assembled stainless-steel Starship Mk1, the first full-size prototype of the 100-passenger spacecraft. And early Tuesday morning (Oct. 1), he gave us a look at the interior of the 165-foot-tall (50 meters) Mk1.
Musk posted a 10-second video on Twitter showing the cavernous cargo bay of the spacecraft, which is a whopping 30 feet (9 m) wide.
The Mk1 sports three of SpaceX’s next-generation Raptor engines. The final Starship will have six Raptors, and the Super Heavy will have space for 37 of the engines. At least 31 of those slots will probably be filled on each launch of the huge booster, Musk said on Saturday.
The Mk1 will make its first flight soon, if all goes according to plan. In the next month or two, SpaceX aims to launch the prototype on an uncrewed, 12-mile-high (20 kilometers) jaunt into the skies above SpaceX’s South Texas facility, Musk has said.Click here for more Space.com videos…SpaceX Super Heavy Rocket Could Have 37 Engines – Elon Musk ExplainsVolume 0%
A Starship prototype could reach orbit within six months if development work continues to go well, he said on Saturday night. That milestone flight will probably be made by a future iteration of the spacecraft, he added, perhaps the Mk4 or Mk5.
And we might not have to wait too long after that for commercial operations to begin. Starship and Super Heavy may start launching communications satellites as early as 2021, SpaceX representatives have said. And the company has a crewed mission on the docket with a targeted launch date of 2023 — a round-the-moon trip booked by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who said he plans to take a handful of artists with him.