Hubble is Offline Because of a Problem with one of its Gyros

Hubble Space Telescope
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope flies with Earth in the background after a 2002 servicing mission. (NASA Photo)

The rich flow of scientific data—and stunning images—that comes from the Hubble Space Telescope is being interrupted by gyro problems. One of the telescope’s three remaining gyros gave faulty readings, and the Hubble automatically entered safe mode. In safe mode, science operations are suspended.

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Spider Pulsars are Tearing Apart Stars in the Omega Cluster

Omega Centauri is the brightest globular cluster in the night sky. It holds about 10 million stars and is the most massive globular cluster in the Milky Way. New research shows that spider pulsars in Omega Centauri are destroying their companions. Image Credit: By ESO -, CC BY 4.0,

Pulsars are extreme objects. They’re what’s left over when a massive star collapses on itself and explodes as a supernova. This creates a neutron star. Neutron stars spin, and some of them emit radiation. When they emit radiation from their poles that we can see, we call them pulsars.

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Could Life Exist in Molecular Clouds?

This image from the APEX telescope, of part of the Taurus Molecular Cloud, shows a sinuous filament of cosmic dust more than ten light-years long. Could life exist in molecular clouds like this one? Credit: ESO/APEX (MPIfR/ESO/OSO)/A. Hacar et al./Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin.

Our search for life beyond Earth is still in its infancy. We’re focused on Mars and, to a lesser extent, ocean moons like Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s Enceladus. Should we extend our search to cover more unlikely places like molecular clouds?

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It Doesn’t Take Much to Get Tilted Planets

Earth's axial tilt (or obliquity) and its relation to the rotation axis and plane of orbit. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Chinese and Indian astronomers were the first to measure Earth’s axial tilt accurately, and they did it about 3,000 years ago. Their measurements were remarkably accurate: in 1120 BC, Chinese astronomers pegged the Earth’s axial tilt at 24 degrees. Now we know that all of the planets in the Solar System, with the exception of Mercury, have some tilt.

While astronomers have puzzled over why our Solar System’s planets are tilted, it turns out it’s rather normal.

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China’s Space Station, Seen from Orbit

Crew on the Shenzhou 16 mission returning from the Tiangong space station captured this image on their return trip back to Earth. Image Credit: China Manned Space Agency.

When the Space Age dawned in 1957, there were only two players: the USA and the USSR. The USA won the space race by being first to the Moon, though the USSR enjoyed its own successes. But here we are only a few decades later, and the USSR appears to be fading away while China is surging ahead.

Nothing’s more emblematic of China’s surge than its Tiangong space station.

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JWST Reveals a Newly-Forming Double Protostar

This new Picture of the Month from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope reveals intricate details of the Herbig Haro object 797 (HH 797). HH 797 dominates the lower half of this image. The bright infrared objects in the upper portion of the image are thought to host two further protostars. This image was captured with Webb’s Near-InfraRed Camera (NIRCam). Image Credit: JWST/CSA/ESA/NASA

As our newest, most perceptive eye on the ongoing unfolding of the cosmos, the James Webb Space Telescope is revealing many things that were previously unseeable. One of the space telescope’s science goals is to expand our understanding of how stars form. The JWST has the power to see into the cocoons of gas and dust that hide young protostars.

It peered inside one of these cocoons and showed us that what we thought was a single star is actually a binary star.

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The Second Most Energetic Cosmic Ray Ever Found

An example of a cosmic-ray extensive air shower recorded by the Subaru Telescope. The highlighted tracks, which are mostly aligned in similar directions, show the shower particles induced from a high-energy cosmic ray. Credit: NAOJ/Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) Collaboration

“Oh My God,” someone must have said in 1991 when researchers detected the most energetic cosmic ray ever to strike Earth. Those three words were adopted as the name for the phenomenon: the Oh-My-God particle. Where did it come from?

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Vampire Stars Get Help from a Third Star to Feed

Artist’s impression composed of a star with a disc around it (a Be “vampire” star; foreground) and its companion star that has been stripped of its outer parts (background). Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

Some stars are stuck in bad binary relationships. A massive primary star feeds on its smaller companion, sucking gas from the companion and adding it to its own mass while diminishing its unfortunate partner. These vampire stars are called Be stars, and up until now, astronomers thought they existed in binary relationships.

But new research shows that these stars are only able to feed on their diminutive neighbour because of a third star present in the system.

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What Would Happen to Earth if a Rogue Star Came Too Close?

The speeding rogue star Kappa Cassiopeiae sets up a glowing bow shock in this Spitzer image (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Stars are gravitationally fastened to their galaxies and move in concert with their surroundings. But sometimes, something breaks the bond. If a star gets too close to a supermassive black hole, for example, the black hole can expel it out into space as a rogue star.

What would happen to Earth if one of these stellar interlopers got too close?

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Vera Rubin Will Find Binary Supermassive Black Holes. Here’s How.

This image is from a simulation of two merging black holes. The upcoming Vera Rubin Observatory should be able to detect binary black holes before they merge. But the vexing problem of false positives needs a solution. Image Credit: Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) Project

When galaxies merge, we expect them to produce binary black holes (BBHs.) BBHs orbit one another closely, and when they merge, they produce gravitational waves that have been detected by LIGO-Virgo. The upcoming Vera Rubin Observatory should be able to find them before they merge, which would open a whole new window into the study of galaxy mergers, supermassive black holes, binary black holes, and gravitational waves.

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