A flicker from the dark: Reading between the lines to model our galaxy’s central black hole Looks can be deceiving. The light from an incandescent bulb seems steady, but it flickers 120 times per second. Because the brain only perceives an average of the information it receives, this flickering is blurred and the perception of constant illumination is a mere illusion. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Another few Weeks of Observations Could Tell us if the Wow! Signal Repeats In the decades-long search for extraterrestrial intelligence, there has never been confirmed evidence of an alien signal. There have, however, been a few tantalizing mysteries. Perhaps the greatest of these is known as the Wow Signal. Observed on 15 August 1977 by the Big Ear radio telescope at Ohio University, the signal was a strong, continuous, narrow band radio signal lasting at least 72 seconds. Our knowledge of the signal is limited given the design of Big Ear. Rather than being able to track radio signals like most modern radio telescopes, BigRead More →

Scientists map sulfur residue on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa A Southwest Research Institute-led team used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe Jupiter’s moon, Europa, at ultraviolet wavelengths, filling in a “gap” in the various wavelengths used to observe this icy water world. The team’s near-global UV maps show concentrations of sulfur dioxide on Europa’s trailing side. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Charon’s Red Cap at its North Pole? We Might Have an Answer Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, started off as a beautiful, smooth red grape until someone came along, mostly peeled it, tried to smoosh it, then just gave up and walked away, leaving the poor moon to look like the absolute travesty that it is. Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly what happened, but Charon just looks like a mess and scientists want to know why. Never mind its smooshed equator, but what’s the deal with its red cap? Where did it come from and why is it red? In two recent studies published inRead More →

A Totally new View of the Large Magellanic Cloud (and more!) From Retired Telescopes ESA and NASA dusted off some old data from four retired space telescopes and combined forces to reveal new images of the four galaxies that our closest to our own Milky Way galaxy. One thing is common among the four new images: they are full of dust! The retired observatories involved include ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory (which operated from 2009 to 2013), and the Planck observatory (also 2009-2013), along with two retired NASA missions, the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) (which operated for 10 months in 1983) and the Cosmic Background ExplorerRead More →

NASA sounding rocket mission seeks source of X-rays emanating from inner galaxy To human eyes, the night sky between the stars appears dark, the void of space. But X-ray telescopes capture a profoundly different view. Like a distant fireworks show, our images of the X-ray sky reveal a universe blooming with activity. They hint at yet unknown cosmic eruptions coming from somewhere deeper into our galaxy. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Could We Use Mars as a Base for Asteroid Mining? The earliest mention of asteroid mining might be in a story from 1898 titled “Edison’s Conquest of Mars,” by Garrett Serviss. In that story, Martians attack Earth, killing tens of thousands and destroying New York City. Earth retaliates and sends an armada to Mars. While travelling, the armada comes across an asteroid that the Martians are mining. The asteroid is a rubble pile of gold nuggets. A conversation breaks out among the crew. “Phew! Won’t we be rich?” exclaimed a voice. “How are we going to dig it and get it back to earth?” askedRead More →

Gaia’s Massive Third Data Release is out! It’s here! The third and largest data release (DR3) from the ESA’s Gaia Observatory has officially been made public. As promised, the DR3 contains new and improved details for almost two billion stars in our galaxy, including the chemical compositions, temperatures, colors, masses, ages, and the velocities at which stars move. The release coincided with a virtual press event hosted by the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) on June 13th, which featured ESA officials and guest speakers who addressed the significance of the new data. Much of this information consists of newly released spectroscopy data, aRead More →

Researcher shows how elliptical craters could shed light on age of Saturn’s moons A new SwRI study describes how unique populations of craters on two of Saturn’s moons could help indicate the satellites’ age and the conditions of their formation. Using data from NASA’s Cassini mission, SwRI postdoctoral researcher Dr. Sierra Ferguson surveyed elliptical craters on Saturn’s moons Tethys and Dione for this study, which was co-authored by SwRI Principal Scientist Dr. Alyssa Rhoden, Lead Scientist Dr. Michelle Kirchoff and Lead Analyst Dr. Julien Salmon. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

This Bizarre Terrain on Mars is Caused by Water Ice and Carbon Dioxide From orbit, this landscape on Mars looks like a lacy honeycomb or a spider web. But the unusual polygon-shaped features aren’t created by Martian bees or spiders; they are actually formed from a ongoing process of seasonal change from created from water ice and carbon dioxide. Polygonal dunes on Mars, as seen by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona The HiRISE camera (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has seen a lot of polygon shapes in the years since 2006 when it went intoRead More →

Scientists identify a possible source for Charon’s red cap Southwest Research Institute scientists combined data from NASA’s New Horizons mission with novel laboratory experiments and exospheric modeling to reveal the likely composition of the red cap on Pluto’s moon Charon and how it may have formed. This first-ever description of Charon’s dynamic methane atmosphere using new experimental data provides a fascinating glimpse into the origins of this moon’s red spot as described in two recent papers. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Image: Hubble snaps globular cluster Terzan 9 This star-studded image shows the globular cluster Terzan 9 in the constellation Sagittarius, toward the center of the Milky Way. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captured this glittering scene using its Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

The Moon Could Have Gathered Some of its Water from the Earth’s Atmosphere Our Moon is a fascinating world that has captivated us since time immemorial. Long before the first telescope was invented, ancient humans used the Moon as a calendar in the sky, with evidence that lunar timekeeping was around as early as 25,000, 30,000, and even 35,000 years before the present. Long before humanity had written language, lived in organized cities, and worshipped structured religions, the Moon was one of humanity’s first timepieces. It wasn’t until the telescope was invented that our Moon became an object of scientific curiosity, with the sketches byRead More →

Want to Own a Meteorite from Geoff Notkin’s Personal Collection? For nearly 30 years Geoff Notkin has traveled the world in search of meteorites, those ancient relics from outer space that have fallen to Earth. He shared his adventures on the Science Channel series “Meteorite Men,” and through lectures and appearances across almost every continent, he has sparked interest in space science and exploration. He has been a devoted meteorite hunter and collector, amassing a large collection. But now, after much deliberation, Notkin has decided to auction off some of his personal meteorite collection, as well as other personal items. Of course, our first questionRead More →

Samples of Asteroid Ryugu Contain More Than 20 Amino Acids In 2014, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) dispatched its Hayabusa2 spacecraft to rendezvous with 162173 Ryugu, a Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) that periodically passes close to Earth. In 2018, this sample-return mission reached Ryugu and spent the next year and a half studying its surface and obtaining samples from its surface and subsurface. By 2020, these samples made it back to Earth, where scientists began analyzing them in the hopes of learning more about the early history of the Solar System and answering key questions about the origins of life. Earlier this year, the firstRead More →

Astronomers Watched a “Near-Sun” Comet Disintegrate as it Flew too Close to the Sun Comets that venture close to the Sun can transform into something beautiful, but sometimes they encounter incineration if they get too close. Of the various types of comets that orbit close to the Sun, astronomers had never seen the destruction of the type classified as “near-Sun” comets. But thanks to a variety of telescopes on summit of Mauna Kea in Hawai?i, scientists have now captured images of a periodic rocky near-Sun comet breaking apart. They say the disintegration of this comet could help explain the scarcity of such periodic near-Sun comets.Read More →

Once Again, Galaxies Look Surprisingly Mature Shortly After the Beginning of the Universe A young galaxy with the catchy, roll-off-the-tongue name A1689-zD1 has experts in galactic formation talking. Recent observations show that this galaxy, seen as it would have looked just 700 million years after the Big Bang, is larger than initially believed, with significant outflows of hot gas from its core, and a halo of cold gas emanating from its outer rim. A1689-zD1 is considered representative of young ‘normal’ galaxies (as opposed to ‘massive’ galaxies), and the new observations suggest that the adolescence of normal galaxies may be more rambunctious than previous models suggest.Read More →

Fire Acts Strangely in Microgravity. Astronauts Have Lit More Than 1,500 Fires on the Space Station to Figure Out Why Ever since childhood, we were all told to never play with fire. Despite it being relevant to our everyday lives, to include heating our homes and water, cooking our food, producing electricity, and more, fire is extremely dangerous. We were all indoctrinated more with how to put out fires instead of how to start one. We’ve all been told about its destructive properties if mishandled, and that fire needs to be controlled. One of the perks of adulthood, and especially being a scientist, is youRead More →

A Rare Repeating Fast Radio Burst Gives Astronomers a Chance to Study These Mysterious Objects Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are among the most mysterious astronomical phenomena facing astronomers today. While hundreds of bursts have been detected since the first-ever recorded detection of an FRB in 2007 – the Lorimer Burst – astronomers are still unsure what causes them. Even more mysterious, some have occasionally been found to be repeating in nature, which has fueled speculation that they may not be natural in origin (i.e., possible alien transmissions?). Astronomers are naturally very excited whenever a repeating FRB is found, as it gives them the chance toRead More →

This is What the Metal Asteroid Psyche Might Look Like If you wanted to do a forensic study of the Solar System, you might head for the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. That’s where you can find ancient rocks from the Solar System’s early days. Out there in the cold vacuum of space, far from the Sun, asteroids are largely untouched by space weathering. Space scientists sometimes refer to asteroids—and their meteorite fragments that fall to Earth—as time capsules because of the evidence they hold. The asteroid Psyche is especially interesting, and NASA is sending a mission to investigate the unusual chunk ofRead More →