Hubble is Offline Because of a Problem with one of its Gyros The rich flow of scientific data—and stunning images—that comes from the Hubble Space Telescope is being interrupted by gyro problems. One of the telescope’s three remaining gyros gave faulty readings, and the Hubble automatically entered safe mode. In safe mode, science operations are suspended. Without gyros, the Hubble can’t orient itself properly. Gyros measure the telescope’s turn rate and help the telescope know where it’s pointed. They’re part of the system that keeps the space telescope pointed in the right direction. There’s no indication of any problems with Hubble’s instruments, like its Wide-FieldRead More →

One of the largest magnetic storms in history quantified: Aurorae from the tropics to the polar regions In early November of this year, aurora borealis were observed at surprisingly low latitudes, as far south as Italy and Texas. Such phenomena indicate the impacts of a solar coronal mass ejection on the Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere. Far more dramatic than this recent light show was, it was nothing compared to a huge solar storm in February 872. Go to SourceRead More →

Spider Pulsars are Tearing Apart Stars in the Omega Cluster Pulsars are extreme objects. They’re what’s left over when a massive star collapses on itself and explodes as a supernova. This creates a neutron star. Neutron stars spin, and some of them emit radiation. When they emit radiation from their poles that we can see, we call them pulsars. In the last decade or so, astrophysicists have discovered many more millisecond pulsars, ones that rotate very rapidly. Not only is the number of known pulsars increasing, but researchers have also identified pulsar sub-types that have companions. These are called spider pulsars, and their companions faceRead More →

Fermi has Found More than 300 Gamma-Ray Pulsars In June 2008, the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope began surveying the cosmos to study some of the most energetic phenomena in the Universe. Shortly after that, NASA renamed the observatory in the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope in honor of Professor Enrico Fermi (1901-1954), a pioneer in high-energy physics. During its mission, Fermi has addressed questions regarding some of the most mysterious and energetic phenomena in the Universe – like gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), cosmic rays, and extremely dense stellar remnants like pulsars. Since it began operations, Fermi has discovered more than 300 gamma-ray pulsars, which have provided new insightsRead More →

Vera Rubin Will Generate a Mind-Boggling Amount of Data When the Vera C. Rubin Observatory comes online in 2025, it will be one of the most powerful tools available to astronomers, capturing huge portions of the sky every night with its 8.4-meter mirror and 3.2-gigapixel camera. Each image will be analyzed within 60 seconds, alerting astronomers to transient events like supernovae. An incredible five petabytes (5,000 terabytes) of new raw images will be recorded each year and made available for astronomers to study. Not surprisingly, astronomers can’t wait to get their hands on the high-resolution data. A new paper outlines how the huge amounts ofRead More →

Could Life Exist in Molecular Clouds? Our search for life beyond Earth is still in its infancy. We’re focused on Mars and, to a lesser extent, ocean moons like Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus. Should we extend our search to cover more unlikely places like molecular clouds? The idea that life could survive on other worlds like Mars or Europa gained vigour in the last few decades. Scientists found Earth life persisting in some extreme environments: hydrothermal vents, Antarctic pack ice, alkaline lakes, and even inside nuclear reactors. Parallel to these discoveries, astronomers found life’s chemical building blocks in space. They’ve found amino acids insideRead More →

The New Asteroid Moon Discovered by Lucy Just Got its Own Name When NASA’s Lucy mission flew past asteroid Dinkinesh on November 1, 2023, it made the surprising discovery the asteroid had a tiny moon. Then came another surprise. This wasn’t just any moon, but a contact binary moon, where two space rocks are gently resting against each other. Of course, this new and unique moon needed a name, so the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has just approved approved “Selam,” which means peace in Ethiopia’s language. But, everything’s connected here. Dinkinesh is the Ethiopian name for the Lucy fossil, and Selam is named after anotherRead More →

NASA’s 6-pack of mini-satellites ready for their moment in the sun Most NASA missions feature one spacecraft or, occasionally, a few. The agency’s Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) uses half a dozen. This month, mission members completed the construction of the six identical cereal box-size satellites, which will now go into storage and await their final testing and ride to space. SunRISE will launch as a rideshare aboard a United Launch Alliance Vulcan rocket, sponsored by the United States Space Force (USSF)’s Space Systems Command (SSC). Go to SourceRead More →

An anisotropic density turbulence model from the sun to 1 au derived from radio observations Density turbulence in the solar corona and solar wind is evident via the properties of solar radio bursts; angular scattering-broadening of extra-solar radio sources observed through the solar atmosphere, and can be measured in-situ in the solar wind. A viable density turbulence model should simultaneously explain all three types of density fluctuation observations. Go to SourceRead More →

Chandra catches spider pulsars destroying nearby stars A group of dead stars known as “spider pulsars” are obliterating companion stars within their reach. Data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory of the globular cluster Omega Centauri is helping astronomers understand how these spider pulsars prey on their stellar companions. Go to SourceRead More →

Not Getting Enough Data From Mars? Set Up A Solar System Pony Express Getting data in from deep space can be difficult. Almost all of our missions that have flown into deep space use the Deep Space Network, a system of transmitters and receivers that already imposes constraints on the amount of data we can transfer from the far reaches of space. So a team led by Joshua Vander Hook, then at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and now at a start-up called, came up with a way to dramatically enhance the throughput of the DSN. In so doing, they gave it a very catchyRead More →

Webb study reveals rocky planets can form in extreme environments An international team of astronomers have used the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope to provide the first observation of water and other molecules in the inner, rocky-planet-forming regions of a disk in one of the most extreme environments in our galaxy. These results suggest that the conditions for rocky-planet formation, typically found in the disks of low-mass star-forming regions, can also occur in massive-star-forming regions and possibly a broader range of environments. Go to SourceRead More →

Dutch astronomers prove last piece of gas feedback-feeding loop of black hole Three astronomers from the Netherlands have proven that gas that was previously heated near a supermassive black hole flowed to the outskirts of the galaxy and cooled down, moving back towards the black hole. While there had been indirect evidence for this theory, this is the first time that the cooled gas moving toward the black hole has actually been observed. Go to SourceRead More →

Unveiling black hole spins using polarized radio glasses A cornerstone but surprising prediction arising from Einstein’s theory of general relativity is the existence of black holes, which astronomers later found to be widespread throughout the universe. Key characteristics of black holes include their masses and their “spin”—they rotate even though they have no actual surface, with an event horizon that defines where light cannot escape. Go to SourceRead More →

Astronomers inspect supernova remnants with MeerKAT Using the MeerKAT radio telescope, astronomers from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, Virginia, and elsewhere have investigated a batch of 36 high latitude supernova remnants. Results of the observations campaign, published Nov. 20 on the pre-print server arXiv, deliver important insights into the properties of these remnants. Go to SourceRead More →

A Gamma-ray Burst Disturbed the Earth’s Ionosphere You’d think that something happening billions of light-years away wouldn’t affect Earth, right? Well, in 2002, a burst of gamma rays lasting 800 seconds actually impacted our planet. They came from a powerful and very distant supernova explosion. Its gamma-ray bombardment disturbed our planet’s ionosphere and activated lightning detectors in India. This particular gamma-ray burst (GRB) occurred in a galaxy almost 2 billion light-years away (and took two billion years to reach us). Not only did ground-based detectors record the bombardment, but satellites sensitive to high-energy outbursts “saw” it, too. That included the European Space Agency’s International Gamma-RayRead More →

Should We Send Humans to Venus? NASA is preparing to send humans back to the Moon with the Artemis missions in the next few years as part of the agency’s Moon to Mars Architecture with the long-term goal of landing humans on the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s or 2040s. But what about sending humans to other worlds of the Solar System? And, why not Venus? It’s closer to Earth than Mars by several tens of millions of kilometers, and despite its extremely harsh surface conditions, previous studies have suggested that life could exist in its clouds. In contrast, we have yet to findRead More →

Odyssey Gives Us a Cool New View of Mars Chances are that you’ve seen images of Earth from space, thanks to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS), who regularly share stunning photos of our planet. These images provide us regularly with breathtaking views of cities, oceans, storms, eruptions, clouds, the curvature of the planet, and the way the atmosphere glows against the horizon. Thanks to NASA’s Mars Odyssey Orbiter, which has been in orbit for over 22 years, we now have an equally breathtaking view of Mars from orbit that captured what its curvature and atmosphere look like from space. The images wereRead More →