Astronomers Propose a 14-Meter Infrared Space Telescope The Universe wants us to understand its origins. Every second of every day, it sends us a multitude of signals, each one a clue to a different aspect of the cosmos. But the Universe is the original Trickster, and its multitude of signals is an almost unrecognizable cacophony of light, warped, shifted, and stretched during its long journey through the expanding Universe. What are talking apes to do in this situation but build another telescope adept at understanding a particular slice of all this noisy light? That’s what astronomers think we should do, to nobody’s surprise. Due toRead More →

A New Venus-Sized World Found in the Habitable Zone of its Star The parade of interesting new exoplanets continues. Today, NASA issued a press release announcing the discovery of a new exoplanet in the Gliese 12 system, sized somewhere between Earth and Venus and inside the host star’s habitable zone. Two papers detail the discovery, but both teams think that the planet is an excellent candidate for follow-up with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to try to tease out whether it has an atmosphere and, if so, what that atmosphere is made of. But before JWST knew where to look, another workhorse of theRead More →

Webb Explains a Puffy Planet I love the concept of a ‘puffy’ planet! The exoplanets discovered that fall into this category are typically the same size of Jupiter but 1/10th the mass! They tend to orbit their host star at close in orbits and are hot but one has been found that is different from the normal. This Neptune-mass exoplanet has been thought to be cooler but still have a lower density. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has recently discovered that tidal energy from its elliptical orbit keeps its interior churning and puffs it out.  WASP-107b is more than three quarters the volume ofRead More →

The Largest Camera Ever Built Arrives at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory It’s been 20 years in the making, but a 3200-megapixel camera built especially for astrophysics discoveries has finally arrived at its home. The Legacy of Space and Time (LSST) camera was delivered to the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile in mid-May, 2024. The camera traveled from its construction lab at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The technical crew outfitted it with specialized data loggers, monitors, and GPS attached to track the conditions of its trip. Then they put it into a specially built container and the whole assemblage made the trip fromRead More →

This is the Largest Planet-Forming Disk Ever Seen Roughly 1,000 light-years from Earth, there is a cosmic structure known as IRAS 23077+6707 (IRAS 23077) that resembles a giant butterfly. Ciprian T. Berghea, an astronomer with the U.S. Naval Observatory, originally observed the structure in 2016 using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS). To the surprise of many, the structure has remained unchanged for years, leading some to question what IRAS 2307 could be. Recently, two international teams of astronomers made follow-up observations using the Submillimeter Array at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Hawaii to better understand IRAS 2307. In a seriesRead More →

Maybe Ultra-Hot Jupiters Aren’t So Doomed After All Ultra-hot Jupiters (UHJs) are some of the most fascinating astronomical objects in the cosmos, classified as having orbital periods of less than approximately 3 days with dayside temperatures exceeding 1,930 degrees Celsius (3,500 degrees Fahrenheit), as most are tidally locked with their parent stars. But will these extremely close orbits result in orbital decay for UHJs eventually doom them to being swallowed by their star, or can some orbit for the long term without worry? This is what a recent study accepted to the Planetary Science Journal hopes to address as a team of international researchers investigatedRead More →

Could Alien Solar Panels Be Technosignatures? If alien technological civilizations exist, they almost certainly use solar energy. Along with wind, it’s the cleanest, most accessible form of energy, at least here on Earth. Driven by technological advances and mass production, solar energy on Earth is expanding rapidly. It seems likely that ETIs (Extraterrestrial Intelligence) using widespread solar energy on their planet could make their presence known to us. If other ETIs exist, they could easily be ahead of us technologically. Silicon solar panels could be widely used on their planetary surfaces. Could their mass implementation constitute a detectable technosignature? The authors of a new paperRead More →

Finding The Age Of A Contact Binary “Moon” There are millions of asteroids floating around the solar system. With so many of them, it should be no surprise that some are weirdly configured. A recent example of one of these weird configurations was discovered when Lucy, NASA’s mission to the Trojan asteroids, passed by a main-belt asteroid called Dinkinesh. It found that Dinkinesh had a “moon” – and that moon was a “contact binary”. Now known as Selam, it is made up of two objects that physically touch one another through gravity but aren’t fully merged into one another. Just how and when such anRead More →

NASA’s heliophysics experiment to study the sun on European mission NASA announced Tuesday it selected a new instrument to study the sun and how it creates massive solar eruptions. The agency’s Joint EUV coronal Diagnostic Investigation, or JEDI, will capture images of the sun in extreme ultraviolet light, a type of light invisible to our eyes but reveals many of the underlying mechanisms of the sun’s activity. Go to SourceRead More →

Astronomers observe jet reorientation in ‘Death Star’ black holes Huge black holes are firing powerful beams of particles into space—and then changing their aim to fire at new targets. This discovery, made using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) National Radio Astronomical Observatory’s (NRAO) Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), shows what kind of widespread impact black holes can have on their surrounding galaxy and beyond. Go to SourceRead More →

The origin of the sun’s magnetic field could lie close to its surface The sun’s surface is a brilliant display of sunspots and flares driven by the solar magnetic field, which is internally generated through a process called dynamo action. Astrophysicists have assumed that the sun’s field is generated deep within the star. But an MIT study finds that the sun’s activity may be shaped by a much shallower process. Go to SourceRead More →

First observation of a focused plasma wave on the sun For the first time, scientists have observed plasma waves from a solar flare focused by a coronal hole, akin to the focusing of sound waves responsible for the Rotunda effect in architecture or the focusing of light by a telescope or microscope. Go to SourceRead More →

NASA tool prepares to image faraway planets The Roman Coronagraph Instrument on NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will help pave the way in the search for habitable worlds outside our solar system by testing new tools that block starlight, revealing planets hidden by the glare of their parent stars. The technology demonstration recently shipped from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California to the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where it has joined the rest of the space observatory in preparation for launch by May 2027. Go to SourceRead More →

After Swirling Around a Black Hole, Matter Just Falls Straight In The physics surrounding black holes is just plain weird. A gravitational well so strong that not even light can escape can do some pretty strange things to normal matter. Over the decades, plenty of theories have been put forward about what those strange things might be. And now, a new paper from physicists at the University of Oxford has proved that, once again, Einstein’s theory of gravity was right.  Their work focused on a “plunging region” immediately outside the black hole’s radius. In this region, matter “plunges” straight into the black hole rather thanRead More →

Observations investigate properties of nearby brown dwarf HD 33632 Ab Using the Keck II telescope in Hawaii, astronomers have observed a nearby brown dwarf known as HD 33632 Ab. Results of the observational campaign, presented in a paper published May 14 on the pre-print server arXiv, provide more insights into the properties of this substellar object and its atmosphere. Go to SourceRead More →

The Habitable Worlds Observatory Could See Lunar and Solar ‘Exo-Eclipses’ A future space observatory could use exo-eclipses to tease out exomoon populations. If you’re like us, you’re still coming down from the celestial euphoria that was last month’s total solar eclipse. The spectacle of the Moon blocking out the Sun has also provided astronomers with unique scientific opportunities in the past, from the discovery of helium to proof for general relativity. Now, eclipses in remote exoplanetary systems could aid in the hunt for elusive exomoons. A recent study out of the University of Michigan in partnership with Johns Hopkins APL and the Department of PhysicsRead More →

New Shepard’s 25th Launch Carries Six to the Edge of Space and Back Sending tourists to space is still relatively novel in the grand scheme of humanity’s journey to the stars. Dennis Tito took the first-ever paid trip in 2001, but since then, plenty of others have journeyed to the heavens. Increasingly, they’ve done so via systems developed by private companies. On Sunday, May 19th, Blue Origin, originally founded by Jeff Bezos to pursue his dreams of humanity’s future in space, successfully launched its seventh crewed mission – this time containing six first-time astronauts, including one that waited a long time for his day inRead More →

That Recent Solar Storm Was Detected Almost Three Kilometers Under the Ocean On May 10th, 2024, people across North America were treated to a rare celestial event: an aurora visible from the Eastern Seabord to the Southern United States. This particular sighting of the Northern Lights (aka. Aurora Borealis) coincided with the most extreme geomagnetic storm since 2003 and the 27th strongest solar flare ever recorded. This led to the dazzling display that was visible to residents all across North America but was also detected by some of Ocean Networks Canada‘s (ONC) undersea sensors at depths of almost three kilometers. ONC, an initiative of theRead More →