Iridium Satellites Fueled and Tucked In For SpaceX Falcon 9 ‘Return to Flight’ Blastoff The first ten IridiumNEXT satellites are stacked and encapsulated in the Falcon 9 fairing for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Ca., in early 2017. Credit: Iridium Technicians have fueled, stacked and tucked the first ten advanced IridiumNEXT mobile voice and data relay satellites inside the nose cone of a Falcon 9 rocket designated as SpaceX’s ‘Return to Flight’ launcher – potentially as early as next week – from their west coast launch pad on Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. “Milestone Alert: The first ten #IridiumNEXT satellites are stacked andRead More →

NASA’s NEOWISE Missions Spots New Comets NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) accomplished much during its first mission, which ran from December of 2009 to September of 2010. During the many months that it was active, the orbital telescope conducted an all-sky astronomical survey in the infrared band and discovered thousands of minor planets and numerous star clusters. The extension of its mission, NEOWISE, has brought new life to the telescope as a comet and asteroid hunter. And since its re-activation in December of 2013, the orbiting telescope has spotted hundreds of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and thousands of Main Belt asteroids. Most recently, itRead More →

Weekly Space Hangout – December 30, 2016: Nancy Atkinson’s “Incredible Stories from Space” Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain) Special Guest: This week’s guest is Nancy Atkinson, an editor and writer for Universe Today, and is the author of a book about NASA’s robotic space missions, “Incredible Stories From Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She was the editor in chief for Space Lifestyle Magazine and also has had articles published on Wired.com, Space.com, NASA’s Astrobiology Magazine, Space Times magazine, and several newspapers in the Midwest. She has been involved with several space-related podcasts, including Astronomy Cast, 365 Days ofRead More →

Opportunity Celebrates Christmas/New Year on Mars Marching to Ancient Water Carved Gully NASA’s Opportunity rover scans around and across to vast Endeavour crater on Dec. 19, 2016, as she climbs steep slopes on the way to reach a water carved gully along the eroded craters western rim. Note rover wheel tracks at center. This navcam camera photo mosaic was assembled from raw images taken on Sol 4587 (19 Dec. 2016) and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo On the brink of 4600 Sols of a profoundly impactful life, NASA’s long lived Opportunity rover celebrates the Christmas/New Year’s holiday season on Mars marching relentlessly towards anRead More →

What Are Fossil Fuels? The term “fossil fuels” is thrown about quite a lot these days. More often than not, it comes up in the context of environmental issues, Climate Change, or the so-called “energy crisis”. In addition to be a major source of pollution, humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels has led to a fair bit of anxiety in recent decades, and fueled demands for alternatives. But just what are fossil fuels? While most people tend to think of gasoline and oil when they hear these words, it actually applies to many different kinds of energy sources that are derived from decomposed organic material. HowRead More →

NASA Might Build an Ice House on Mars At first glance, a new concept for a NASA habitat on Mars looks like a cross between Mark Watney’s inflatable potato farm from “The Martian” and the home of Luke’s Uncle Owen on Tatooine from “Star Wars.” The key to the new design relies on something that may or may not be abundant on Mars: underground water or ice. The “Mars Ice Home” is a large inflatable dome that is surrounded by a shell of water ice. NASA said the design is just one of many potential concepts for creating a sustainable home for future Martian explorers.Read More →

What is Alternative Energy? In recent years, alternative energy has been the subject of intense interest and debate. Thanks to the threat of Climate Change, and the fact that average global temperatures continue to rise year after year, the drive to find forms of energy that will reduce humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels, coal, and other polluting methods has naturally intensified. While most concepts for alternative energy are not new, it has only been in the past few decades that the issue has become pressing. And thanks to improvements in technology and production, the costs of most forms of alternative energy has been dropping whileRead More →

First Light for Band 5 at ALMA The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile has begun observing in a new range of the electromagnetic spectrum. This has been made possible thanks to new receivers installed at the telescope’s antennas, which can detect radio waves with wavelengths from 1.4 to 1.8 millimetres — a range previously untapped by ALMA. This upgrade allows astronomers to detect faint signals of water in the nearby Universe. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

Spinning Black Hole Swallowing Star Explains Superluminous Event An extraordinarily brilliant point of light seen in a distant galaxy, and dubbed ASASSN-15lh, was thought to be the brightest supernova ever seen. But new observations from several observatories, including ESO, have now cast doubt on this classification. Instead, a group of astronomers propose that the source was an even more extreme and very rare event — a rapidly spinning black hole ripping apart a passing star that came too close. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

Dark Matter May be Smoother than Expected Analysis of a giant new galaxy survey, made with ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope in Chile, suggests that dark matter may be less dense and more smoothly distributed throughout space than previously thought. An international team used data from the Kilo Degree Survey (KiDS) to study how the light from about 15 million distant galaxies was affected by the gravitational influence of matter on the largest scales in the Universe. The results appear to be in disagreement with earlier results from the Planck satellite. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

First Signs of Weird Quantum Property of Empty Space? By studying the light emitted from an extraordinarily dense and strongly magnetised neutron star using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers may have found the first observational indications of a strange quantum effect, first predicted in the 1930s. The polarisation of the observed light suggests that the empty space around the neutron star is subject to a quantum effect known as vacuum birefringence. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

Sculpting Solar Systems Sharp new observations have revealed striking features in planet-forming discs around young stars. The SPHERE instrument, mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, has made it possible to observe the complex dynamics of young solar systems — including one seen developing in real-time. The recently published results from three teams of astronomers showcase SPHERE’s impressive capability to capture the way planets sculpt the discs that form them — exposing the complexities of the environment in which new worlds are formed. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

Pillars of Destruction Spectacular new observations of vast pillar-like structures within the Carina Nebula have been made using the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The different pillars analysed by an international team seem to be pillars of destruction — in contrast to the name of the iconic Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula, which are of similar nature. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

ESO’s VLT Detects Unexpected Giant Glowing Halos around Distant Quasars An international team of astronomers has discovered glowing gas clouds surrounding distant quasars. This new survey by the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope indicates that halos around quasars are far more common than expected. The properties of the halos in this surprising find are also in striking disagreement with currently accepted theories of galaxy formation in the early Universe. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

Highest Resolution Image of Eta Carinae An international team of astronomers have used the Very Large Telescope Interferometer to image the Eta Carinae star system in the greatest detail ever achieved. They found new and unexpected structures within the binary system, including in the area between the two stars where extremely high velocity stellar winds are colliding. These new insights into this enigmatic star system could lead to a better understanding of the evolution of very massive stars. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →

The Milky Way’s Ancient Heart Ancient stars, of a type known as RR Lyrae, have been discovered in the centre of the Milky Way for the first time, using ESO’s infrared VISTA telescope. RR Lyrae stars typically reside in ancient stellar populations over 10 billion years old. Their discovery suggests that the bulging centre of the Milky Way likely grew through the merging of primordial star clusters. These stars may even be the remains of the most massive and oldest surviving star cluster of the entire Milky Way. ESO News Feed Go to Source Powered by WPeMaticoRead More →