No, This Isn’t a Doorway on Mars A Mastcam image from the Mars Curiosity rover captures what looks like a doorway into a rock ledge. It was formed when layered rock cracked and eroded away. Courtesy NASA Mars Curiosity Rover team. The planet Mars has a lot of intriguing geological features, but a doorway in the side of some sedimentary rock on the flank of Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) isn’t one of them. In fact, no such doorway on Mars (supposedly created by aliens) exists. But, there is a break in the rock that really, really does look like one. The fact that it isn’tRead More →

House UFO Hearing Brings a Few Answers and More Questions For the first time in more than half a century, Congress conducted a public hearing into the state of the Pentagon’s study of unidentified aerial phenomena — which is the new name for mysteries once known as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs. Scott Bray, deputy director of naval intelligence, told a hearing organized by the House Intelligence subcommittee on counterterrorism, counterintelligence and counterproliferation that military reports about UFOs — sorry, I mean UAPs — have been “frequent and continuing.” Today’s hearing follows up on a Pentagon report that was issued last year and listed 144Read More →

Carbon-12 is an Essential Building Block for Life and Scientists Have Finally Figured Out How it Forms in Stars Artist’s impression of a red giant star. Their cores are cauldrons where carbon-12 is produced. Credit:NASA/ Walt Feimer Each of us is, as it says in Max Ehrmann’s famous poem “Desiderata”, a child of the universe. It speaks metaphorically about our place in the cosmos, but it turns out to be a very literal truth. Our bodies contain the stuff of stars and galaxies, and that makes us children of the cosmos. To be more precise, we are carbon-based life forms. All life on Earth isRead More →

Image: Hubble reveals a river of star formation This newly revised NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the Hickson Compact Group 31 (HCG 31) of galaxies highlights streams of star-formation as four dwarf galaxies interact. The bright, distorted clump of young blue-white stars (top-right of center) is NGC 1741. Although it appears to be a single galaxy, NGC 1741 is actually a pair of colliding dwarf galaxies. Another dwarf, cigar-shaped galaxy to the pair’s right joins their dance with a thin, blue stream of stars that connects the trio. HGC 31’s fourth member is revealed by a stream of young blue stars that point toRead More →

Merging Supermassive Black Holes Gives us a New Way to Measure the Universe The study of black holes has advanced immensely in the past few years. In 2015, the first gravitational waves were observed by scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). This finding confirmed what Einstein predicted a century before with General Relativity and offered new insight into black hole mergers. In 2019, scientists with the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration shared the first image of a supermassive black hole (SMBH), which resides at the center of the M87 galaxy. Earlier this month, the EHT announced that they had also acquired the firstRead More →

Mysterious nuclear transient AT2019pev inspected in X-rays Astronomers from the Ohio State University (OSU) and elsewhere have performed a detailed X-ray observational campaign of a mysterious nuclear transient event known as AT2019pev. Results of the study, published May 10 on the arXiv pre-print server, offer more clues into the nature of this peculiar object. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Did a 5th Giant Planet Mess up the Orbits of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune? The solar system’s current planetary orbits seem stable, but that’s only because the planets have settled into them over billions of years.  The early solar system was a much different place than that seen today, and for almost 20 years, scientists thought they had a good handle on how it got that way.  But more recently, data had started pointing to some flaws in that understanding – especially about how the giant planets in the outer solar system got where they are today.  Now an international team of astrophysicists thinksRead More →

Seeing through the fog: Pinpointing young stars and their protoplanetary disks Imagine walking through a dense, hazy fog in the middle of the night, seeing patches of light from cars and towns shimmering in the distance. It’s nearly impossible to tell if the lights are deep in the fog or beyond it. Astronomers trying to find young stars face a similar problem: the light from stars they’re hunting is shimmering through great big regions of hazy gas and dust in space, called molecular clouds. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Scouring Through old Hubble Images Turned up 1,000 new Asteroids Researchers have found over 1,700 asteroid trails in archived Hubble data from the last 20 years. While many of the asteroids are previously known, more than 1,000 are not. What good are another 1,000 asteroids? Like all asteroids, they could hold valuable clues to the Solar System’s history. As time passes and more and more telescopes perform more and more observations, their combined archival data keeps growing. Sometimes discoveries lurk in that data that await new analytical tools or renewed efforts from scientists before they’re revealed. That’s what happened in an effort called the HubbleRead More →

Engineers Design an Electrical Microgrid for a Lunar Base For seventy years, Albuquerque-based Sandia National Laboratories has been developing electrical microgrids that increase community resilience and ensure energy security. Applications include the Smart Power Infrastructure Demonstration for Energy Reliability and Security (SPIDERS), designed to support military bases abroad, and independent power systems for hospitals and regions where electrical grids are at risk of being compromised by natural disasters (like hurricanes, flooding, and earthquakes). In the coming years, Artemis Program, NASA will be sending astronauts back to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era and establish a “sustained program of lunar exploration.” ToRead More →

Astronomers Find a Star That Contains 65 Different Elements Have you ever held a chunk of gold in your hand? Not a little piece of jewelry, but an ounce or more? If you have, you can almost immediately understand what drives humans to want to possess it and know where it comes from. We know that gold comes from stars. All stars are comprised primarily of hydrogen and helium. But they contain other elements, which astrophysicists refer to as a star’s metallicity. Our Sun has a high metallicity and contains 67 different elements, including about 2.5 trillion tons of gold. Now astronomers have found aRead More →

Q and A: She discovered the black hole at the center of our galaxy. This week, she finally saw it This week, the world got its first-ever look at Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy. The image of a hazy golden ring of superheated gas and bending light was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope, a network of eight radio observatories scattered across the globe. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Extraterrestrial stone brings first supernova clues to Earth New chemistry “forensics” indicate that the stone named Hypatia from the Egyptian desert could be the first tangible evidence found on Earth of a supernova type Ia explosion. These rare supernovas are some of the most energetic events in the universe. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Image: Giant elliptical galaxy UGC 10143 This new NASA Hubble Space Telescope image spotlights the giant elliptical galaxy, UGC 10143, at the heart of galaxy cluster Abell 2147, about 486 million light-years away in the head of the constellation Serpens. UGC 10143 is the biggest and brightest member of Abell 2147, which itself may be part of the much larger Hercules Supercluster of galaxies. UGC 10143’s bright center, dim extended halo, and lack of spiral arms and star-forming dust lanes distinguish it as an elliptical galaxy. Ellipticals are often near the center of galaxy clusters, suggesting they may form when galaxies merge. phys.org Go toRead More →

Quasi-periodic oscillation detected in blazar PKS 0405-385 By analyzing the historical light curve of blazar PKS 0405-385 from NASA’s Fermi spacecraft, Chinese astronomers have detected quasi-periodic oscillation from this source. The discovery, presented in a paper published May 5 on arXiv.org, could shed more light on the nature and behavior of this blazar. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

A Recently Discovered Double Binary System is Unstable. Stars Could Collide, Leading to a Supernova Multiple star systems are very common in the Milky Way. While most of these systems are binary systems consisting of two stars, others contain three, four, or even six stars. These systems tend to be pretty stable since unstable systems tend to break apart or merge fairly quickly, but sometimes you can get a kind of meta-stable system. One that lasts long enough for stars to evolve while still being stable in the end. And that end could be a supernova. It all comes down to gravitational dynamics. In NewtonianRead More →

Cosmic Rays can Help Keep the World’s Clocks in Sync The world has a robust, accurate timekeeping system that regulates our clocks. Humanity uses it for everything we do, from our financial systems to satellite navigation, computer and phone networks, and GPS. But the current system is not perfect, and has vulnerabilities to cyber-attack and disruption. Given the importance of accurate timekeeping to our society (as a fundamental underpinning of life in the 21st century), experts are always looking for ways to improve the system and add redundancy. Researchers at the University of Tokyo have taken a big step in this direction, developing a newRead More →

A CubeSat is Flying to the Moon to Make Sure Lunar Gateway’s Orbit is Actually Stable Before this decade is over, NASA will send astronauts to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era. As part of the Artemis Program, NASA also plans to establish the infrastructure that will allow for a “sustained program of lunar exploration.” A key part of this is the Lunar Gateway, an orbiting space station that will facilitate regular trips to and from the lunar surface. In addition to being a docking point for ships going to and from Earth, the station will also allow for long-duration missionsRead More →

Black hole winds are no longer as they used to be During the first billion years of the universe, winds blown by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies were much more frequent and more powerful than those observed in today’s galaxies, some 13 billion years later. Such winds were so mighty that they slowed down the growth of the supermassive black holes from which they originate. These are the results of a study led by three researchers from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) in Trieste, published today in the journal Nature. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →