Like a long-married couple accustomed to each other’s kitchen habits, two of Neptune’s moons are masters at sharing space without colliding. And though both situations may appear odd to an observer, there’s a certain dance-like quality to them both.Continue reading “Two of Neptune’s Moons Dance Around Each Other as they Orbit”
On July 14th, 2015, the New Horizons made the first-ever flyby of Pluto. As if that wasn’t enough, the mission made history again with the flyby of the Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2014 MU69 on December 31st, 2018. This constituted the farthest encounter from Earth with a celestial object, which the team had nicknamed Ultima Thule – a mythical northern island beyond the borders of the known world in Medieval literature.
Unfortunately, this name has generated some controversy due to the fact that it is also the name white supremacists use to refer to a mythical homeland. So with the consent of the tribal elders and representatives of the Powhatan nations, the New Horizons’ team recommended a new name for the KBO. Henceforth, it will be known as “Arrokoth“, the word for “sky” in the Powhatan/Algonquian language.Continue reading “New Horizon’s Flyby Target 2014 MU69 Gets its Official Name: Arrokoth”
Right now, we know of about 4,000 confirmed exoplanets, mostly thanks to the Kepler mission. TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, will likely raise that 4000 by a lot. But what about the stars that all of these planets orbit?
A new study from the Astrophysical Institute and University Observatory of the University of Jena identified over 200 exoplanets that exist in multiple star systems. The study is part of the effort to understand how host stars shape the formation and evolution of planets.Continue reading “Tatooines everywhere? Many of the Exoplanets Already Discovered are in Multi-Star Systems”
Japan’s Hayabusa 2 spacecraft is on its way home. The asteroid-visiting, sample-return mission departed asteroid Ryugu (162173 Ryugu) on Wednesday, beginning its year-long journey back to Earth. And it’s carrying some precious cargo.Continue reading “It’s Time for Hayabusa-2 to Come Home”
Do you wonder how astronomers find all those exoplanets orbiting stars in distant solar systems?
Mostly they use the transit method. When a planet travels in between its star and an observer, the light from the star dims. That’s called a transit. If astronomers watch a planet transit its star a few times, they can confirm its orbital period. They can also start to understand other things about the planet, like its mass and density.
The planet Mercury just transited the Sun, giving us all an up close look at transits.Continue reading “Satellites Watched Mercury’s Transit From Space, Confirming That Yes, the Sun Has At Least One Planet”
For the northern hemisphere observers, November is fireball season. This month, keep an eye out for two sure-fire annual meteor showers, and—just maybe—a wild card outburst from the obscure Alpha Monocerotids worth watching out for.Continue reading “November Meteors: Taurids, Leonids and a Surprise Monocerotids Outburst”
Since the mid-20th century, scientists have had a pretty good idea of how the Universe came to be. Cosmic expansion and the discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) lent credibility to the Big Bang Theory, and the accelerating rate of expansion led to theories about Dark Energy. Still, there is much about the early Universe that scientists still don’t know, which requires that they rely on simulations on cosmic evolution.
This has traditionally posed a bit of a problem since the limitations of computing meant that simulation could either be large scale or detailed, but not both. However, a team of scientists from Germany and the United States recently completed the most detailed large-scale simulation to date. Known as TNG50, this state-of-the-art simulation will allow researchers to study how the cosmos evolved in both detail and a large scale.Continue reading “Watch a Simulation of a Galaxy, From the Big Bang Until the Present Day”
On April 18th, 2018, NASA’s Transitting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) took to space for the first time. By August, it began capturing the light curves of distant stars for signs of planetary transits, effectively picking up where the Kepler Space Telescope left off. Now, just a few months away from the end of its primary mission, NASA has put a year’s worth of images of the southern sky together to create the beautiful mosaic you see here.Continue reading “TESS Has Now Captured Almost the Entire Southern Sky. Here’s a Mosaic Made of 15,347 Photographs”
Only two of humanity’s spacecraft have left the Solar System: NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Voyager 1 left the heliosphere behind in 2012, while Voyager 2 did the same on Nov. 5th, 2018. Now Voyager 2 has been in interstellar space for one year, and five new papers are presenting the scientific results from that one year.Continue reading “What Voyager 2 Learned After Spending a Year in Interstellar Space”
Astronomers working with TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) data have found a planet where it shouldn’t be: in the space recently filled by its host star when it was a red giant.Continue reading “It Seems Impossible, But Somehow This Planet Survived its Star’s Red Giant Phase”