Older stars should slow down, but new observations reveal that they have just as much of a spring in their step as their younger cousins. Astronomers suspect that complex interactions with the star’s magnetic field might be to blame.Continue reading “Older Stars Rotate Faster Than Expected”
A new report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that the launch of the long-awaited, highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will very likely be delayed due to an anomaly identified in the Ariane 5 launch vehicle. Launch for JWST is currently scheduled for October 31, 2021, but that date could slip by at least a couple of weeks.Continue reading “Concerns About James Webb’s Ariane 5 Rocket Might Push the Launch Back”
If you’re a fan of titanium, you should head to the nearest supernova. You’ll get more than enough of it. And its presence can help astronomers understand how supernovae work.Continue reading “Exploding Stars are Titanium Factories”
The primary mirror of the long-awaited James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was opened for the last time on Earth before the launch of the observatory, currently scheduled for October 31, 2021.
During some of the final checkouts before the telescope heads to space, engineers commanded the 18 hexagonal mirrors to fully expand and lock into place, just like they will do once the Webb telescope reaches its destination in space.Continue reading “Webb Fully Unfurls for the Last Time on Earth. The Next Time Will Be in Space”
What if we had the ability to chase down interstellar objects passing through our Solar System, like Oumuamua or Comet Borisov? Such a spacecraft would need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, with the capacity to increase speed and change direction quickly.
That’s the idea behind a new mission concept called the Extrasolar Object Interceptor and Sample Return spacecraft. It has received exploratory funding from NASA through its Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.
“Bringing back samples from these objects could fundamentally change our view of the universe and our place in it,” says Christopher Morrison, an engineer from the Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation-Tech (USNC-Tech) who submitted the proposal to NIAC.Continue reading “Extrasolar Object Interceptor Would be Able to Chase Down the Next Oumuamua or Borisov and Actually Return a Sample”
Astronomers finally managed to observe a comet nearing the end of its life. And they found that it’s covered in talcum powder. They have no idea why.Continue reading “A Comet Seen at the end of its Life. It’s covered in talcum powder”
The Gaia spacecraft is an impressive feat of engineering. Its primary mission is to map the position and motion of more than a billion stars in our galaxy, creating the most comprehensive map of the Milky Way thus far. Gaia collects such a large amount of precision data that it can make discoveries well beyond its main mission. For example, by looking at the spectra of stars, astronomers can measure the mass of individual stars to within 25% accuracy. From the motion of stars, astronomers can measure the distribution of dark matter in the Milky Way. Gaia can also discover exoplanets when they pass in front of a star. But one of the more surprising uses is that Gaia could help us detect cosmic gravitational waves.Continue reading “Gaia Might Even be Able to Detect the Gravitational Wave Background of the Universe”
Within the Milky Way, there are an estimated 200 to 400 billion stars, all of which orbit around the center of our galaxy in a coordinated cosmic dance. As they orbit, stars in the galactic disk (where our Sun is located) periodically shuffle about and get closer to one another. At times, this can have a drastic effect on the star that experience a close encounter, disrupting their systems and causing planets to be ejected.
Knowing when stars will make a close encounter with our Solar System, and how it might shake-up objects within it, is therefore a concern to astronomers. Using data collected by the Gaia Observatory, two researchers with the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) determined that a handful of stars will be making close passes by our Solar System in the future, one of which will stray pretty close!Continue reading “In 1.3 Million Years, a Star Will Come Within 24 Light-Days of the Sun”
Two neutron stars. One is 50% more massive than the other, yet they are almost exactly the same size. The results have big implications for understanding what neutron stars are really made of.Continue reading “How Squeezable are Neutron Stars?”
The May Moon Meets Venus and Mercury, at dusk en route to eclipse season and more.
Wonder where all the solar system action is hiding? While the dusk sky may seem devoid of planets (save for Mars), that’s all about to change this evening. The watch-phrase for astronomy in May 2021 is to ‘follow the Moon’ as it makes several spectacular planetary passes, then kicks off the first eclipse season of the year.Continue reading “Following the Moon for Amazing May Astronomy”