Scientists have found what appear to be rogue planets hidden in old survey data. Their results are starting to define the poorly-understood rogue planet population. In the near future, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will conduct a search for more free-floating planets, and the team of researchers developed some methods that will aid that search.Continue reading “A Rogue Earth and Neptune Might Have Been Found in Older Data”
A Novel Propulsion System Would Hurl Hypervelocity Pellets at a Spacecraft to Speed it up
Today, multiple space agencies are investigating cutting-edge propulsion ideas that will allow for rapid transits to other bodies in the Solar System. These include NASA’s Nuclear-Thermal or Nuclear-Electric Propulsion (NTP/NEP) concepts that could enable transit times to Mars in 100 days (or even 45) and a nuclear-powered Chinese spacecraft that could explore Neptune and its largest moon, Triton. While these and other ideas could allow for interplanetary exploration, getting beyond the Solar System presents some major challenges.
As we explored in a previous article, it would take spacecraft using conventional propulsion anywhere from 19,000 to 81,000 years to reach even the nearest star, Proxima Centauri (4.25 light-years from Earth). To this end, engineers have been researching proposals for uncrewed spacecraft that rely on beams of directed energy (lasers) to accelerate light sails to a fraction of the speed of light. A new idea proposed by researchers from UCLA envisions a twist on the beam-sail idea: a pellet-beam concept that could accelerate a 1-ton spacecraft to the edge of the Solar System in less than 20 years.Continue reading “A Novel Propulsion System Would Hurl Hypervelocity Pellets at a Spacecraft to Speed it up”
Remove All Ads on Universe Today
Join our Patreon for as little as $3!
Get the ad-free experience for life
In a New Hubble Image, Dark Matter Anchors the Giant Galaxy Cluster Abell 611
Dark matter. It’s secret. It’s dark because it doesn’t give off any light. We can’t see it, taste it, touch it, smell it, or even feel it. But, astronomers can measure this dark secret of the universe. How? By looking at galaxies and galaxy clusters. Dark matter exerts a gravitational influence on those regions, and that CAN be measured.Continue reading “In a New Hubble Image, Dark Matter Anchors the Giant Galaxy Cluster Abell 611”
Webb and Hubble Work Together to Reveal This Spectacular Galaxy Pair — and Several Bonuses!
What’s better than a pair of galaxies observed by a pair of iconic space telescopes? The answer to that, according to researchers using the Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes, is finding even more galaxies and other remarkable details no one expected in the duo’s observations.
“Galaxies in the foreground, background, deep background, and into the depths,” said astronomer William Keel from Galaxy Zoo, on Twitter.Continue reading “Webb and Hubble Work Together to Reveal This Spectacular Galaxy Pair — and Several Bonuses!”
A Computer Algorithm is 88% Accurate in Finding Gravitational Lenses
Astronomers have been assessing a new machine learning algorithm to determine how reliable it is for finding gravitational lenses hidden in images from all sky surveys. This type of AI was used to find about 5,000 potential gravitational lenses, which needed to be confirmed. Using spectroscopy for confirmation, the international team has now determined the technique has a whopping 88% success rate, which means this new tool could be used to find thousands more of these magical quirks of physics.Continue reading “A Computer Algorithm is 88% Accurate in Finding Gravitational Lenses”
Gravity Really Tangled up the Light From a Distant Quasar
Way back in 1979, astronomers spotted two nearly identical quasars that seemed close to each other in the sky. These so-called “Twin Quasars” are actually separate images of the same object. Even more intriguing: the light paths that created each image traveled through different parts of the cluster. One path took a little longer than the other. That meant a flicker in one image of the quasar occurred 14 months later in the other. The reason? The cluster’s mass distribution formed a lens that distorted the light and drastically affected the two paths.Continue reading “Gravity Really Tangled up the Light From a Distant Quasar”
Hubble Sees a Mirror Image of the Same Galaxy Thanks to Gravitational Lensing
It’s been an amazing couple of weeks for fans of gravitational lensing. JWST grabbed the headlines with a spectacular infrared view of lensing in the SMACS 0723 image, and that had everybody talking. Yet, seeing gravitationally lensed objects is not new. Some can be seen from the ground, and of course, Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has been cranking out views of gravitational lensing for years.
Just a few days ago, HST released another one. It’s a striking view of a distant galaxy called SGAS J143845+145407. It’s the centerpiece of the HST view and appears twice in a mirror image of itself. The galaxy appears a third time, as a very smeared apparition that makes a “bridge” between the other two images.Continue reading “Hubble Sees a Mirror Image of the Same Galaxy Thanks to Gravitational Lensing”
A Mission to Reach the Solar Gravitational Lens in 30 Years
NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts is famous for supporting outlandish ideas in the astronomy and space exploration fields. Since being re-established in 2011, the institute has supported a wide variety of projects as part of its three-phase program. However, so far, only three projects have gone on to receive Phase III funding. And one of those just released a white paper describing a mission to get a telescope that could effectively see biosignatures on nearby exoplanets by utilizing the gravitational lens of our own Sun.Continue reading “A Mission to Reach the Solar Gravitational Lens in 30 Years”
Using the Sun as a Gravitational Lens Would Let Us See Exoplanets With Incredible Resolution
Have you ever seen wispy arcs and rings in astronomical images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories? These unusual features are caused by a quirk of nature called gravitational lensing, which occurs when light from a distant object is distorted by a closer massive object along the same line of sight. This distortion effectively creates a giant lens which magnifies the background light source, allowing astronomers to observe objects embedded within those lens-created arcs and rings that are otherwise be too far and too dim to see.
A group of researchers are working on plans to build a spacecraft that could apply this quirk by using our Sun as a gravitational lens. Their goal is to see distant exoplanets orbiting other stars, and to image an Earth-like exoplanet, seeing it in exquisite detail, at a resolution even better than the well-known Apollo 8 Earthrise photo.Continue reading “Using the Sun as a Gravitational Lens Would Let Us See Exoplanets With Incredible Resolution”
Hubble Pins Down the Mass of a Potential Free-Floating Black Hole That’s 5,000 Light-Years Away
Earlier this year, astronomers used microlensing and the Hubble Space Telescope to detect, for the first time, a rogue black hole that is about 5,000 lightyears away from Earth. Now, with more precise measurements, they have been able to determine an approximate mass of this hard-to-detect object. However, the surprisingly low mass means there’s a chance this object may not actually be a black hole.Continue reading “Hubble Pins Down the Mass of a Potential Free-Floating Black Hole That’s 5,000 Light-Years Away”