The Largest Camera Ever Built Arrives at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory

The 3200-megapixel LSST Camera arrived at Vera C. Rubin Observatory on May 15th and is being readied for installation. Courtesy NOIRLab.
The 3200-megapixel LSST Camera arrived at Vera C. Rubin Observatory on May 16th and is being readied for installation. Courtesy NOIRLab.

It’s been 20 years in the making, but a 3200-megapixel camera built especially for astrophysics discoveries has finally arrived at its home. The Legacy of Space and Time (LSST) camera was delivered to the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile in mid-May, 2024.

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Webb Sees Black Holes Merging Near the Beginning of Time

The field in which the ZS7 galaxy merger was observed by JWST. Courtesy ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, J. Dunlop, D. Magee, P. G. Pérez-González, H. Übler, R. Maiolino, et. al
The field in which the ZS7 galaxy merger was observed by JWST. Courtesy ESA/Webb, NASA, CSA, J. Dunlop, D. Magee, P. G. Pérez-González, H. Übler, R. Maiolino, et. al

A long time ago, in two galaxies far, far away, two massive black holes merged. This happened when the Universe was only 740 million years old. A team of astronomers used JWST to study this event, the most distant (and earliest) detection of a black hole merger ever.

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Why Hot Jupiters Spiral into Their Stars

Illustration showing one of the darkest known exoplanets - a hot Jupiter as black as fresh asphalt - orbiting a star like our Sun. The day side of the planet, called WASP-12b, eats light rather than reflects it into space. Something is pulling this planet into its star. Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)
Illustration showing one of the darkest known exoplanets - a hot Jupiter as black as fresh asphalt - orbiting a star like our Sun. The day side of the planet, called WASP-12b, eats light rather than reflects it into space. Something is pulling this planet into its star. Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

Exoplanets are a fascinating astronomy topic, especially the so-called “Hot Jupiters”. They’re overheated massive worlds often found orbiting very close to their stars—hence the name. Extreme gravitational interactions can tug them right into their stars over millions of years. However, some hot Jupiters appear to be spiraling in faster than gravity can explain.

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The Highest Observatory in the World Comes Online

The high-altitude Tokyo Atacama Observatory in Chile just opened its eye on the mid-infrared Universe. ©2024 TAO project CC-BY-ND
The high-altitude Tokyo Atacama Observatory in Chile just opened its eye on the mid-infrared Universe. ©2024 TAO project CC-BY-ND

The history of astronomy and observatories is full of stories about astronomers going higher and higher to get better views of the Universe. On Earth, the best locations are at places such as the Atacama Desert in Chile. So, that’s where the University of Tokyo Atacama Observatory just opened its high-altitude eye on the sky, atop Cerro Chajnantor.

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Earth Had a Magnetosphere 3.7 Billion Years Ago

The magnetic field and electric currents in and around Earth generate complex forces that have immeasurable impact on every day life. The field can be thought of as a huge bubble -- called the magnetosphere --, protecting us from cosmic radiation and charged particles that bombard Earth in solar winds. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab
The magnetic field and electric currents in and around Earth generate complex forces that have immeasurable impact on every day life. The field can be thought of as a huge bubble -- called the magnetosphere -- protecting us from cosmic radiation and charged particles that bombard Earth in solar winds. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

We go about our daily lives sheltered under an invisible magnetic field generated deep inside Earth. It forms the magnetosphere, a region dominated by the magnetic field. Without that planetary protection shield, we’d experience harmful cosmic radiation and charged particles from the Sun.

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Neutron Stars Could be Capturing Primordial Black Holes

This magnetar is a highly magnetized neutron star. This artist's illustration shows an outburst from a magnetar. Neutron stars that spin rapidly and give out radiation are called pulsars, and specific pulsars are rare in the core of the Milky Way. Credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech
This magnetar is a highly magnetized neutron star. This artist's illustration shows an outburst from a magnetar. Neutron stars that spin rapidly and give out radiation are called pulsars, and specific pulsars are rare in the core of the Milky Way. Credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech

The Milky Way has a missing pulsar problem in its core. Astronomers have tried to explain this for years. One of the more interesting ideas comes from a team of astronomers in Europe and invokes dark matter, neutron stars, and primordial black holes (PBHs).

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Artemis Astronauts Will Deploy New Seismometers on the Moon

Giordano Bruno crater on the Moon, as seen by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. This young crater sports impact rays that may help scientists as they consider landing sties for future Artemis missions. Courtesy: NASA/LRO.
Giordano Bruno crater on the Moon, as seen by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. This young crater sports impact rays that may help scientists as they consider landing sties for future Artemis missions. Courtesy: NASA/LRO.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Apollo astronauts set up a collection of lunar seismometers to detect possible Moon quakes. These instruments monitored lunar activity for eight years and gave planetary scientists an indirect glimpse into the Moon’s interior. Now, researchers are developing new methods for lunar quake detection techniques and technologies. If all goes well, the Artemis astronauts will deploy them when they return to the Moon.

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More Views of the 2024 Eclipse, from the Moon and Earth Orbit

NASA's LROC view of the total solar eclipse shadow centered over Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Courtesy: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.
NASA's LROC view of the total solar eclipse shadow centered over Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Courtesy: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

It’s been just over a week since millions of people flocked to places across North America for a glimpse of moonshadow. The total solar eclipse of April 8th, 2024 was a spectacular sight for many on the ground. From space, however, it was even more impressive as Earth-observing satellites such as GOES-16 captured the sight of the shadow sweeping over Earth.

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Webb Watches the Most Distant Galactic Merger Ever Seen

JWST shows details of massive galaxy merger 13 billion years ago. Credit: ASTRO 3D
JWST shows details of massive galaxy merger 13 billion years ago. Credit: ASTRO 3D

Astronomers know that galaxies form through mergers. They’ve been happening since the earliest epochs of cosmic time. Using the Webb telescope (JWST) astronomers found a massive merger of young galaxies going on about a half million years after the Big Bang. It’s called Gz9p3, one of the earliest and most distant mergers ever witnessed.

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