Insanely High-Resolution Images of the Sun Show its Chromosphere in Vivid Detail

The first images of the chromosphere – the area of the Sun’s atmosphere above the surface – taken with the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on June 3rd, 2022. Credit: NSO/AURA/NSF.

New images of the Sun’s chromosphere – the lower region of the solar atmosphere — have been released, and to say they are ‘stellar’ is an understatement. Simply, they are stunning. The high-resolution images were taken with the now-fully-operational Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope, located on the summit of Haleakala, Maui, in Hawai‘i. Scientists say the new observatory — with its large 4-meter (13-ft) primary mirror — will enable a new era of solar science, and provide a leap forward in understanding the Sun and its impacts on our planet.

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A Planet has Been Found That Shifts In and Out of the Habitable Zone

Schematic diagram of the newly discovered Ross 508 planetary system. The green region represents the habitable zone where liquid water can exist on the planetary surface. The planetary orbit is shown as a blue line. Credit: Astrobiology Center.

A super-Earth planet has been found orbiting a red dwarf star, only 37 light-years from the Earth. Named Ross 508 b, the newly found world has an unusual elliptical orbit that causes it to shift in and out of the habitable zone. Therefore, part of the time conditions would be conducive for liquid water to exist on the planet’s surface, but other times it wouldn’t.

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Astronomers Watched a “Near-Sun” Comet Disintegrate as it Flew too Close to the Sun

Near-Sun object 323P/SOHO observed by the Subaru Telescope on December 21, 2020 (left) and CFHT on February 11, 2021 (right). 323P/SOHO on its way to perihelion is seen as a point source in the center of the left image; after the perihelion, the comet has developed a long narrow tail as seen in the right image. (Credit: Subaru Telescope/CFHT/Man-To Hui/David Tholen)

Comets that venture close to the Sun can transform into something beautiful, but sometimes they encounter incineration if they get too close. Of the various types of comets that orbit close to the Sun, astronomers had never seen the destruction of the type classified as “near-Sun” comets. But thanks to a variety of telescopes on summit of Mauna Kea in Hawai?i, scientists have now captured images of a periodic rocky near-Sun comet breaking apart. They say the disintegration of this comet could help explain the scarcity of such periodic near-Sun comets.

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Webb Has Almost Reached its Final, Coldest Temperature

Image: James Webb Space Telescope
NASA's James Webb Telescope, shown in this artist's conception, will provide more information about previously detected exoplanets. Beyond 2020, many more next-generation space telescopes are expected to build on what it discovers. Credit: NASA

 

Launched on December 25, 2021 from ESA’s launch site in Kourou, French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5 rocket, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reached its final orbit at the L2 Lagrange point on January 24, 2022. It has since performed several operations to get it ready for its observing mission which should begin in about a month.

As part of getting it ready for its mission, NASA has been cooling off its instruments, such as the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI), to operating temperatures. Now that they have reached that point, all that’s left to cool down are the mirrors.

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Brrr. Webb’s MIRI has Reached 6.4 Kelvin, Just a few Degrees Above Absolute Zero

What's JWST going to show us first? There's a sneak preview on Monday. Artist impression of the James Webb Space Telescope. Credit: ESA.

The latest update on the James Webb Space Telescope literally sent a shiver down my spine! The telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) has now reached its operating temperature of a chilly 7 kelvins (7 deg above absolute 0, or -266 degrees C,-447 degrees F).

MIRI has now been turned on and is undergoing initial checkouts.

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ESA’s Gaia Just Took a Picture of L2 Neighbor JWST

Gaia snaps photo of Webb. Credit: ESA

Oh, hello there new neighbor!  In February, the Gaia spacecraft took a picture of its new closest companion in space at the second Lagrangian point, the James Webb Space Telescope.

Gaia is an optical telescope that is mapping out our galaxy by surveying the motions of more than a thousand million stars. Astronomers for the mission realized that once JWST reached L2, it would be in Gaia’s field of view.  It spied JWST when the two spacecraft were a million km apart.

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A Tiny Asteroid was Discovered Mere Hours Before it Crashed Into the Earth

2022 EB5 captured by Paolo Bacci and Martina Maestripieri from at 21h 10min UT, which is 12 minutes before it entered the atmosphere, while it was only 12 300 km form Earth and its apparent speed close to 65?/sec. Credit: P. Bacci, M. Maestripieri

Last week, a small asteroid was detected just two hours before it impacted Earth’s atmosphere. Luckily, it was only about 3 meters (10 feet) wide, and the space rock, now known as 2022 EB5 likely burned up in Earth’s atmosphere near Iceland at 21:22 UTC on March 11.

While it is wonderful that astronomers can detect asteroids of that size heading towards our planet — as well as determine the asteroid’s trajectory and precisely predicted its impact location — the last-minute nature of the discovery definitely causes a pause. What if it had been bigger?

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Germany’s Space Agency Cancels all its Projects With Russia. They Even Turned off an Instrument on a Russian Space Telescope

This image is an artist's illustration of the Spektr-RG satellite. Germany shut down the eROSITA instrument in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Image Credit:By DLR German Aerospace Center - https://www.flickr.com/photos/dlr_de/48092069898/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=87145461

Germany is flexing its muscles.

The German government recently announced a massive increase in military spending to counter Russian military action in Europe. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has cancelled its bilateral cooperation with Russia following that move. It looks like the Spektr-RG space telescope, a joint mission between Russia and Germany, is the first casualty of the cancelled partnership.

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Thanks to Observations, a Potentially Dangerous Asteroid was Found to be Harmless

Asteroid 2022 AE1 observed with the Calar Alto Schmidt telescope in Spain on the evening of 19 January 2022. Credit: ESA

Earlier this year, the discovery of a potentially hazardous asteroid took astronomers on a roller coaster ride.

On January 6, 2022, astronomers at the Mount Lemmon Observatory in Arizona discovered an asteroid roughly 70-meters (230 ft) across. Based on their initial observations, it appeared this object — called ‘2022 AE1’ – could potentially hit Earth on its next pass, on July 4, 2023.

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I Could Look at James Webb Unboxing Pictures all Day

The JWST being removed from its protective container. Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace

On Oct. 12th, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) arrived safely at Port de Pariacabo in French Guiana after spending 16 days traveling between California and South America. Since then, the observatory was transported to a cleanroom in the Guyanese Space Center (GSC). Here, crews “unboxed” the observatory from its protective cargo container in preparation for launch – now targetted for Dec. 18th.

These events were captured in a series of beautiful images recently shared by the Guyanese Space Center, the European Space Agency (ESA), and NASA via their JWST Twitter accounts (more are posted on the NASA JWST Flickr page). This process involved carefully lifting the telescope from its packing container and raising it vertically, the same configuration Webb its launches to space aboard an Ariane 5 rocket.

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