Gaia Could Detect Free-Floating Black Holes Passing Near Stars in the Milky Way

The thing with black holes is they’re hard to see. Typically we can only detect their presence when we can detect their gravitational pull. And if there are rogue black holes simply traveling throughout the galaxy and not tied to another luminous astronomical, it would be fiendishly hard to detect them. But now we have a new potential data set to do so.  

Gaia just released its massive 3rd data set that contains astrometry data for over 1.5 billion stars, about 1% of the total number of stars in the galaxy. According to a new paper by Jeff Andrews of the University of Florida and Northwestern University, it might be possible for Gaia to detect perturbances caused by a rogue black hole briefly interacting with one of the 1.5 billion stars in the catalog. Unfortunately, it’s just not very likely that any such interaction actually took place during Gaia’s observing time.

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We Could Discover new Kinds of Particles Around Black Holes Through Gravitational Waves

On February 11th, 2016, researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced the detection of gravitational waves (GW) for the first time. As predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, these waves result from massive objects merging, which causes ripples through spacetime that can be detected. Since then, astrophysicists have theorized countless ways that GWs could be used to study physics beyond the standard models of gravity and particle physics and advance our understanding of the Universe.

To date, GWs have been proposed as a means of studying Dark Matter, the interiors of neutron stars and supernovae, mergers between supermassive black holes, and more. In a recent study, a team of physicists from the University of Amsterdam and Harvard University has proposed a way where GWs could be used to search for ultralight bosons around rotating black holes. This method could not only offer a new way to discern the properties of binary black holes but could lead to the discovery of new particles beyond the Standard Model.

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Dust Devils and Strong Winds Produce the Constant Haze on Mars

Dust is an everyday feature on Mars and wreaks havoc on various pieces of equipment humans decide to send to it, such as Insight’s continual loss of power or the losses of Opportunity and Spirit. But we’ve never really understood what causes the dust to get up into the air in the first place. That equipment that is so affected by it usually isn’t set up to monitor it, or if it is, it has been sent to a place where there isn’t much dust, to begin with. Now, that has changed with new readings from Perseverance in Jerezo crater, and the answer shouldn’t be much of a surprise – dust devils seem to cause some of the dust in the atmosphere on Mars. But strong winds contribute a significant amount too.

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Giant Sunspot AR3038 has Doubled in Size and is Pointed Right at Earth. Could be Auroras Coming

Sunspots are typically no real reason to worry, even if they double in size overnight and grow to twice the size of the Earth itself. That’s just what happened with Active Region 3038 (AR3038), a sunspot that happens to be facing Earth and could produce some minor solar flares. While there’s no cause for concern, that does mean a potentially exciting event could happen – spectacular auroras.

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Remember That Rocket That was Going to Crash Into the Moon? Scientists Think They've Found the Crater

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) – NASA’s eye-in-the-sky in orbit around the Moon – has found the crash site of the mystery rocket booster that slammed into the far side of the Moon back on March 4th, 2022. The LRO images, taken May 25th, revealed not just a single crater, but a double crater formed by the rocket’s impact, posing a new mystery for astronomers to unravel.

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Supernovae Were Discovered in all These Galaxies

The Hubble space telescope has provided some of the most spectacular astronomical pictures ever taken. Some of them have even been used to confirm the value of another Hubble – the constant that determines the speed of expansion of the Universe. Now, in what Nobel laureate Adam Reiss calls Hubble’s “magnum opus,” scientists have released a series of spectacular spiral galaxies that have helped pinpoint that expansion constant – and it’s not what they expected.

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VY Canis Majoris is Dying, and Astronomers are Watching

Three-dimensional models of astronomical objects can be ridiculously complex. They can range from black holes that light doesn’t even escape to the literal size of the universe and everything in between. But not every object has received the attention needed to develop a complete model of it, but we can officially add another highly complex model to our lists. Astronomers at the University of Arizona have developed a model of VY Canis Majoris, a red hypergiant that is quite possibly the largest star in the Milky Way. And they’re going to use that model to predict how it will die.

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NASA Funds the Development of a Nuclear Reactor on the Moon That Would Last for 10 Years

If NASA’s Artemis project to return to the Moon permanently is going to succeed, it will need a lot of power. Shipping traditional fossil fuels up there is impractical, and surface solar cells won’t work for the two weeks that a given side of the Moon is shadowed. So the best option may be to set up a nuclear power station. NASA solicited some ideas along those lines with a preliminary design request for proposal – and they recently announced that three groups would each receive $5 million to develop preliminary designs for surface-based lunar fission reactors.

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Amazing Flaky Martian Rocks Were Formed in a Stream or a Small Pond

Since 2012, NASA’s Curiosity rover has been exploring the Gale Crater for clues about Mars’ past and possible evidence that it once supported life. For the past year, this search has centered on the lower levels of Mount Sharp, a transitional zone between a clay-rich region and one filled with sulfates (a type of mineral salt). These regions can offer insight into Mars’ warm, watery past, but the transition zone between them is also of scientific value. In short, the study of this region may provide a record of the major climatic shift that took place billions of years ago on Mars.

For example, this region has unique geological features that include clay minerals that appear as flaky layers of sedimentary rock. One in particular, “The Prow,” was recently imaged by Curiosity and had the mission science teams buzzing. These features formed when water still flowed into the Gale Crater, depositing sediment at the base of Mount Sharp. Higher on the mountain, the hill was likely covered in wind-swept dunes that hardened into rock over time. In between them is where the flaky layers formed, possibly as a result of small ponds or streams that wove them among the dunes.

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Despite its draining power, NASA’s InSight Mars lander is determined to squeeze as much science as it can until the very last moment

Its solar panels are caked with dust and the batteries are running out of juice, but NASA’s InSight Mars lander continues to soldier forth collecting more science about the Red Planet until its very last beep. To conserve energy, InSight was projected to shut down its seismometer—its last operational science instrument—by the end of June, hoping to survive on its remaining power until December. The seismometer has been the key instrument designed to measure marsquakes, which it has been recording since it touched down on Mars in 2018, and recently recorded a 5.0-magnitude quake, the biggest yet.

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