Astronomers are Watching a gas Giant Grow, Right in Front of Their Eyes

In the vastness of space, astronomers are likely to find instances of almost every astronomical phenomena if they look hard enough.  Many planetary phenomena are starting to come into sharper focus as the astronomy community continues to focus on finding exoplanets.  Now a team led by Yifan Zhou at UT Austin has directly imaged a gas giant still in formation.

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Instead of Betelgeuse, Keep Your eye on AG Carinae, Another Star That’s About to go Supernova

Astrophotography is one of the most gratifying parts of space exploration, and there’s nothing better at it than Hubble.  Recently, it celebrated the 31st anniversary of its launch by taking a spectacular image of one of the most impressive stars in the sky – AG Carinae.  In the not too distant future, Hubble, or a successor, might be able to capture an even more spectacular display from the star when it goes supernova.

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Are we Seeing a Star That Just got Spaghettified?

Sometimes astronomers come up with awesome names for certain phenomena and then feel like they can’t use them in formal scientific contexts.  Tidal Disruption Events (TDEs) are one of those – colloquially they are known as “spaghettifications” where a star is pulled apart until its constituent matter looks like a string of spaghetti.  

Astronomers have long known of this process, which takes place when a star gets too close to a black hole, but most of that knowledge has come through studying radiation bursts emitted by the blackhole as it devoured the star.  Now, a team led by Giacomo Cannizzaro and Peter Jonker from SRON, the Netherlands Institute for Space Research, and Radboud University now think they have captured the first glimpses of a star actively being spaghettified around the pole of a black  hole.

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How Salty is Enceladus’ Ocean Under the ice?

An icy satellite of Saturn, Enceladus, has been a subject of increasing interest in recent years since Cassini captured jets of water and other material being ejected out of the south pole of the moon.  One particularly tantalizing hypothesis supported by the sample composition is that there might be life in the oceans under the ice shells of Enceladus. To evaluate Enceladus’ habitability and to figure out the best way to probe this icy moon, scientists need to better understand the chemical composition and dynamics of Enceladus’ ocean.

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NASA is now Planning a Mission to go 1,000 AU From the Sun, Deep Into Interstellar Space

A different perspective can do wonders.  Perceiving things from a different angle can both metaphorically and literally allow people to see things differently.  And in space, there are an almost infinite number of angles that objects can be observed from.  Like all perspectives, some are more informative than others.  Sometimes those informative perspectives are also the hardest to reach.  

Voyager’s two probes did an excellent job in allowing humanity to access some difficult new perspectives simply given their distance from the Earth.  But now a team of over 500 scientists and volunteers is urging NASA to go even further to find a better perspective by sending a satellite to a distance 1000 times the distance from the Sun to the Earth – almost 10 times how far the Voyagers have traveled in over 35 years.

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Mars has the Right Conditions for Life Just Under the Surface

According to the immortal words of Ian Malcom (Jeff Goldblum) “Life..uh…finds a way”.  Back in 2005, an article in Nature used the famous quote from Jurassic Park to describe the possibility of life surviving on Mars.  It encapsulates the hope that life’s adaptability, which it has proved itself so many times over on Earth, could hold true on other planets as well.  Now a new paper in Astrobiology shows that there might very well be a place where life can sustain itself on the red planet – right underneath the surface.

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Giant Planet is Found at an Extreme Distance From its Star

One of the best things about the sheer number of exoplanets that astronomers are currently finding is how some are just very different. Those differences can sometimes undermine standing theories, and prompt scientists to start considering new theories that account for the new information.  That is undoubtedly what will happen to accommodate a new massive planet found by a team led by Dutch scientists.  This planet is unique in one very special way – it is about 110 times farther away from its star than the Earth is from the sun.

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Meteorites Hold Early Atmospheres From Across the Solar System

Since they were formed in the early solar system, many meteorites offer an unadulterated view into what that solar system was made out of, or what happened to it as we reported before.  Recently a team of researchers led by Maggie Thompson at University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) took a look at the chemical composition of three different chondritic meteorites, which have largely been untouched since before the planets were formed.  Their composition was different than current models predicted, and could lead to a better understanding of early planetary atmospheres.

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Roman Space Telescope Will Also Find Rogue Black Holes

In the past we’ve reported about how the Roman Space Telescope is going to potentially be able to detect hundreds of thousands of exoplanets using a technique known as “microlensing”. Exoplanets won’t be the only things it can find with this technique though – it should be able to find solitary black holes as well.

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How Does Water go From Interstellar Clouds to Habitable Worlds?

Water moves.  On Earth, it moves in the form of rivers, rain, or ocean swells.  In space, its movements are more subtle but no less more important, and so far we understand very little about that process.  Luckily, we had a tool to help us try to understand it better – the Hershel Space Observatory.  Though it has been out of commission for over 8 years, a team of scientists have now compiled all a review of all of the papers using Hershel data to track water from its birth in interstellar clouds to its eventual resting place on planets. There are still some gaps, but it’s a worthy step towards a better understanding.

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