The JWST is Forcing Astronomers to Rethink Early Galaxies

The graceful winding arms of the grand-design spiral galaxy M51 stretch across this image from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope. New JWST observations of the early Universe are upending our understanding of galaxy evolution. Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, A. Adamo (Stockholm University) and the FEAST JWST team

The JWST has surprised astronomers again. Contrary to our existing understanding, the JWST showed us that the early Universe was full of fully-formed galaxies similar to the ones we see today. The widely-held belief is that the early Universe was too chaotic in its early years, and frequent mergers would’ve disrupted galaxies’ graceful shapes.

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The JWST Just Found Carbon on Europa, Boosting the Moon’s Potential Habitability

This reprocessed colour view of Jupiter’s moon Europa was made from images taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Most planets and moons in the Solar System are clearly dead and totally unsuitable for life. Earth is the only exception. But there are a few worlds where there are intriguing possibilities of life.

Chief among them is Jupiter’s moon Europa, and the JWST just discovered carbon there. That makes the moon and its subsurface ocean an even more desirable target in the search for life.

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If You Could See Gravitational Waves, the Universe Would Look Like This

A simulation of the sky seen in gravitational waves. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Imagine if you could see gravitational waves.

Of course, humans are too small to sense all but the strongest gravitational waves, so imagine you were a great creature of deep space, with tendrils that could extend a million kilometers. As gravitational waves rippled across your vast body, you would sense them squeezing and tugging ever so slightly upon you. And your brilliant mind could use these sensations to create an image in your mind. The ripples of distant supernovae, merging black holes, the undercurrent of the gravitational background. Creation, and destruction, all seen in your mind’s eye.

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Solar Sails Could Reach Mars in Just 26 Days

Artist's rendition of the upcoming NASA Solar Cruiser mission due to launch in February 2025, an example of the type of solar sail being developed for this most recent study. (Credit: NASA)

A recent study submitted to Acta Astronautica explores the potential for using aerographite solar sails for traveling to Mars and interstellar space, which could dramatically reduce both the time and fuel required for such missions. This study comes while ongoing research into the use of solar sails is being conducted by a plethora of organizations along with the successful LightSail2 mission by The Planetary Society, and holds the potential to develop faster and more efficient propulsion systems for long-term space missions.

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NASA’s Perseverance Rover is Setting Records on Mars

This image mosaic shows Perseverance's tracks as it made its way through a boulder field called "Snowdrift Peak." The rover's advanced autonomous navigation system guided the machine through the hazardous area in record time. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Perseverance Rover has been exploring Mars for more than 900 sols. It’s the most scientifically advanced rover ever built and has opened our eyes wider to Mars and the possibility that it hosted life. The rover’s crowning achievement is preparing samples for eventual return to Earth, an important next step in understanding Mars.

But it can’t do any of its work without moving effectively and efficiently on the Martian surface. And in this regard, Perseverance and its autopilot are setting some serious records.

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This 3D Simulation of a Supernova Needed 5 Million Hours of Supercomputing

The three-dimensional simulation of the exotic supernova reveals the turbulent structures generated during the material ejection in the explosion. Through three-dimensional simulations, scientists gain deeper insights into the physical processes of peculiar supernova explosions and can explain the observed phenomena and characteristics of these extraordinary supernovae. Credit: Ke-Jung Chen/ASIAA.

When the largest stars in the Universe run out of fuel, they detonate as supernovae, collapsing inward and leaving behind a neutron star, black hole, or just wholly vaporizing. What’s happening inside the unfolding explosion is difficult to understand, and especially so for so-called exotic supernovae, the rarest and brightest types of stellar explosions.

To better understand the dynamics of these rare supernovae, astronomers are using powerful supercomputers to simulate the process. After years of real-world research and millions of hours of supercomputer computing time, researchers have completed the first ever high-definition, 3D hydrodynamic simulation of exotic supernovae.

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We Can't See the First Stars Yet, but We Can See Their Direct Descendants

This artist’s impression shows a Population III star that is 300 times more massive than our Sun exploding as a pair-instability supernova. Credit: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva/Spaceengine

If you take a Universe worth of hydrogen and helium, and let it stew for about 13 billion years, you get us. We are the descendants of the primeval elements. We are the cast-off dust of the first stars, and many generations of stars after that. So our search for the first stars of the cosmos is a search for our own history. While we haven’t captured the light of those first stars, some of their direct children may be in our own galaxy.

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Gluttonous Black Holes Eat Faster Than Thought. Does That Explain Quasars?

Illustration of an active quasar. What role does its dark matter halo play in activating the quasar? Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
Illustration of an active quasar. New research shows that SMBHs eat rapidly enough to trigger them. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

At the heart of large galaxies like our Milky Way, there resides a supermassive black hole (SMBH.) These behemoths draw stars, gas, and dust toward them with their irresistible gravitational pull. When they consume this material, there’s a bright flare of energy, the brightest of which are quasars.

While astrophysicists think that SMBHs eat too slowly to cause a particular type of quasar, new research suggests otherwise.

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Dark Photons Could Be the Key to Both Dark Matter and the Muon Anomaly.

An artistic view of light becoming matter. Credit: Gerd Altmann, via Pixabay

If dark matter exists, then where are the particles?

This single question threatens to topple the standard cosmological model, known as the LCDM model. The CDM stands for cold dark matter, and according to the model makes up nearly 85% of matter in the universe. It should be everywhere, and all around us, and yet every single search for dark matter particles has come up empty. If dark matter particles are real, we know what they are not. We don’t know what they are.

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This Exoplanet is Probably a Solid Ball of Metal

An illustration of the exoplanet Gliese 367 b. It's an oddball planet that may be composed entirely of iron. Image Credit: NASA

We can’t understand nature without understanding its range. That’s apparent in exoplanet science and in our theories of planetary formation. Nature’s outliers and oddballs put pressure on our models and motivate scientists to dig deeper.

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