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.
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.
The JWST is taking a break from studying the distant Universe and has trained its infrared eye on the heart of the Milky Way. The world’s most powerful space telescope has uncovered some surprises and generated some stunning images of the Milky Way’s galactic center (GC.) It’s focused on an enormous star-forming region called Sagittarius C (Sgr C).
Jupiter’s ocean moons capture most of our attention because of their potential habitability. But Io, Jupiter’s bad-boy volcanic moon, is in a class of its own. There’s nothing else like it in the Solar System, and NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured new images of the volcanic satellite during its closest approach yet.
Nature is stingy with its secrets. That’s why humans developed the scientific method. Without it, we’d still be ignorant and living in a world dominated by superstitions.
Astrophysicists have made great progress in understanding how stars form, thanks to the scientific method. But there’s a lot they still don’t know. That’s one of the reasons NASA built the James Webb Space Telescope: to coerce Nature into surrendering its deeply-held secrets.
Spacecraft instruments are highly specialized and can take years to design, build, and test. But a last-minute hack to one of the instruments on the ESA’s Solar Orbiter has allowed the spacecraft to take some difficult observations it would otherwise have been unable to take.
It’s all because of one astronomer and an instrument door.
The Sun dominates the Solar System in almost every way imaginable, yet much of its inner workings have been hidden from humanity. Over the centuries, and especially in the last few decades, technological advancements allowed us to ignore our mothers’ exhortations and stare at the Sun for as long as we want. We’ve learned a lot from all those observations.
A new study shows how the Sun experiences its own ‘meteor showers.’
The Galilean Moons, named in honor of Galileo Galileo, who first observed them in 1610, are a fascinating collection of satellites. For decades, scientists have been immensely fascinated by the three icy companions – Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto – which have oceans in their interiors that possibly support life. But Io has also been a focal point of interest lately, owing to the volcanic activity on its surface and lava plumes reaching 300 to 500 km (186 to 310 mi) into space. Since 2016, NASA’s Juno probe has provided stunning images of Io as it continues to orbit its main science objective, Jupiter.
The latest was acquired by the Juno probe’s main camera (JunoCam) on July 31st, 2023, at 05:03 AM UTC (01:03 AM EDT; July 30th, 10:03 PM PDT) and showed Prometheus spewing out lava. This active volcano is located within a 28-km (17-mi) -wide volcanic pit named Prometheus Patera on the hemisphere facing away from Jupiter. Prometheus is known for its regular eruptions, hence its nickname in the astrogeological community, “Old Faithful of Io.” A processed image of the eruption was shared by the NASA Planetary Science Division via Twitter (see below).
Impact craters are nature’s signature from a more chaotic time in our Solar System’s history. A quick glance at the Moon’s disfigured surface makes that clear. Same with Mars, though a telescope is needed to examine it. Or better yet, an orbital spacecraft with a powerful camera.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its HiRISE camera have been examining Mars’ surface for years, cataloguing the planet’s menagerie of impact craters. One of them, recently chosen as the HiRISE Picture of the Day (HIPOD,) looks like a Thunderbird. Or a dinosaur footprint left in the mud.
Sometimes an image is so engrossing that we can ignore what it’s telling us about its subject and just enjoy the splendour. That’s certainly true of this image of NGC 5068 released by the ESA. But Universe Today readers are curious, and after enjoying the galactic portrait for a while, they want to know more.