Half the Entire Sky, Seen in X-Rays

This image show half of the X-ray sky, projected onto a circle with the center of the Milky Way on the left and the galactic plane running horizontally. Photons have been colour-coded according to their energy (red for energies 0.3-0.6 keV, green for 0.6-1 keV, blue for 1-2.3 keV). Credit: MPE, J. Sanders for the eROSITA consortium
This image show half of the X-ray sky, projected onto a circle with the center of the Milky Way on the left and the galactic plane running horizontally. Photons have been colour-coded according to their energy (red for energies 0.3-0.6 keV, green for 0.6-1 keV, blue for 1-2.3 keV). Credit: MPE, J. Sanders for the eROSITA consortium

There’s an old trope in science fiction about someone suddenly getting X-ray vision and looking through solid objects. It turns out to be a physical impossibility with our Mark I eyeballs. However, astronomers have found a way around that challenge that lets us study the Universe with X-ray vision.

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The Aftermath of a Recent Galactic Merger

The Gemini South telescope view of NGC 4753, a peculiar galaxy thought to have experienced a galactic merger. Courtesy International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA
The Gemini South telescope view of NGC 4753, a peculiar galaxy thought to have experienced a galactic merger. Courtesy International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

NGC 4753 is a prime example of what happens after a galactic merger. It looks like a twisted mess, with dust lanes looping around the massive galactic nucleus. Astronomers long wondered what happened to this galaxy, and with a sharp new image created by the Gemini South telescope, they can finally explain its tortured past.

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The Space-Based Gravitational Wave Observatory LISA Gets the Green Light

An artist's concept of how LISA will work to detect gravitational waves from orbit in space. Courtesy ESA.
An artist's concept of how LISA will work to detect gravitational waves from orbit in space. Courtesy ESA.

The science of studying gravitational waves just got a big boost thanks to the European Space Agency. Its science program committee just approved the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna—affectionately known as LISA—for official planning and building. That means gravitational wave astronomers will take their next steps to capture information about gravity waves from space.

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NASA Gives us an Update on its Long-term Plans for the Moon and Mars

NASA's plans for exploration of the Moon and Mars are a unified architecture covering all mission, crew, and technology contigencies. Image courtesy NASA.
NASA's plans for exploration of the Moon and Mars are a unified architecture covering all mission, crew, and technology contigencies. Image courtesy NASA.

Going to Mars is a major step in space exploration. It’s not a quick jaunt nor will it be easy to accomplish. The trip is already in the planning stages, and there’s a good chance it’ll happen in the next decade or so. That’s why NASA and other agencies have detailed mission scenarios in place, starting with trips to the Moon. Recently, NASA updated its “Moon to Mars Architecture” documents, including a closer look at some key decisions about Mars exploration.

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The Moon is Still Shrinking, Explaining Why it Still Has Landslides

Artemis mission landing locations near the South Pole of the Moon. Blue boxes indicate selected landing spots, while small red marks are locations of scarps caused by moonquakes. Credit: NASA/ LRO/ LROC/ASU/ Smithsonian Institution
Artemis mission landing locations near the South Pole of the Moon. Blue boxes indicate selected landing spots, while small red marks are locations of scarps caused by moonquakes. Credit: NASA/ LRO/ LROC/ASU/ Smithsonian Institution

Although our Moon formed 4.5 billion years ago, it’s still evolving. The interior continues to cool and its orbit is slowly changing. As a result, the Moon has lost 150 feet of its circumference. That shrinkage contributes to near-constant moonquakes, and those trigger landslides and other surface changes. The Moon is currently uninhabited, but all that activity threatens future Artemis landing sites and missions at the South Pole.

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This is the Oldest Black Hole Ever Seen

A view of the galaxy GN-z11, which harbors the oldest known black hole in the Universe. Courtesy: NASA, ESA, and P. Oesch (Yale University)
A view of the galaxy GN-z11, which harbors the oldest known black hole in the Universe. Courtesy: NASA, ESA, and P. Oesch (Yale University)

There’s an incredibly ancient black hole out there that’s challenging astronomers to explain how it could exist only 400 million years after the Big Bang. It’s at the heart of a galaxy called GN-z11. Astronomers using JWST saw evidence of it gobbling up that galaxy, which is one way a black hole can grow.

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Diamond Rain on Ice Giants Could Influence Their Magnetic Fields

Scientists created a model to explain how diamond rain falls inside Uranus and Neptune and messes with their magnetic fields. Courtesy SLAC.
Scientists created a model to explain how diamond rain falls inside Uranus and Neptune and messes with their magnetic fields. Courtesy SLAC.

Imagine Jupiter with a diamond core the size of Earth. That’s what science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke described in his novel (and movie) 2010: Odyssey 2. Now, imagine the same thing, but at Uranus and Neptune. In addition to a possible diamond core, diamond rain fills the interior. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory think they know how these diamonds form on ice-giant planets.

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A Primordial Dark Matter Galaxy Found Without Stars

An artistic concept of hydrogen gas observed in galaxy J0613+52. The colors indicate the rotational action of gas relative to us. Courtesy: STScI POSS-11, NSF/GBO/P. Vosteen.
An artistic concept of hydrogen gas observed in galaxy J0613+52. The colors indicate the rotational action of gas relative to us. Courtesy: STScI POSS-11, NSF/GBO/P. Vosteen.

There’s a galaxy out there without apparent stars but largely chock full of dark matter. What’s that you say? A galaxy without stars? Isn’t that an impossibility? Not necessarily, according to the astronomers who found it and are trying to explain why it appears starless. “What we do know is that it’s an incredibly gas-rich galaxy,” said Green Bank Observatory’s Karen O’Neil, an astronomer studying this primordial galactic object. “It’s not demonstrating star formation like we’d expect, probably because its gas is too diffuse.”

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Black Holes and Neutron Stars are Finally Linked to Supernovae

A star in a binary system dies in a catastrophic explosion. Such supernovae often result in neutron stars or black holes. Courtesy ESO/L. Calçada
This artist’s impression is based on the aftermath of a supernova explosion as seen by two teams of astronomers with both ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and ESO’s New Technology Telescope (NTT). The supernova observed, SN 2022jli, occurred when a massive star died in a fiery explosion, leaving behind a compact object — a neutron star or a black hole. This dying star, however, had a companion which was able to survive this violent event. The periodic interactions between the compact object and its companion left periodic signals in the data, which revealed that the supernova explosion had indeed resulted in a compact object.

Everybody knows that the explosive deaths of supermassive stars (called supernovae) lead to the creation of black holes or neutron stars, right? At least, that’s the evolutionary path that astronomers suggest happens. And, these compact objects exist throughout the Universe. But, no one’s ever seen the actual birth process of a neutron star or black hole in action before.

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Hubble Shows That a Fast Radio Burst Came From a Giant Group of Galaxies

A Hubble Space Telescope image of the host galaxy of an exceptionally powerful Fast Radio Burst, FRB20220610A. Hubble’s sensitivity and sharpness reveals a compact group of multiple galaxies that may be in the process of merging. Courtesy: NASA, ESA, STScI, Alexa Gordon (Northwestern University)
A Hubble Space Telescope image of the host galaxy of an exceptionally powerful Fast Radio Burst, FRB20220610A. Hubble’s sensitivity and sharpness reveals a compact group of multiple galaxies that may be in the process of merging. Courtesy: NASA, ESA, STScI, Alexa Gordon (Northwestern University)

Way back when the cosmos was only five billion years old, a powerful explosion happened in a group of young galaxies halfway across the Universe. It sent out a blast of radiation from one member of that distant galaxy group.

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