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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Here are All of Hubble’s Observations in One Picture

All of the Hubble Space Telescope's observations from the past 32 years, shown in one graphic. Credit and copyright: Casey Handmer. Used by permission.

Over the past 32 years, Hubble has made about 1.4 million observations of our Universe. Physicist Casey Handmer was curious how much of the sky has been imaged by Hubble, and figured out how to map out all of Hubble’s observations into one big picture of the sky.

It’s a gorgeous, almost poetic look at Hubble’s collective view of the cosmos. So, how much of the sky has Hubble imaged? The answer might surprise you.

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The Carina Nebula. Seen With and Without Adaptive Optics

This image shows a comparison of the new image (top) of the western wall of the Carina Nebula taken by the international Gemini Observatory, a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab, and an image of the same region without Adaptive Optics (bottom). The top image was taken with the Gemini South telescope with the GSAOI instrument using the GeMS adaptive optics system, and the bottom image was taken at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory with the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope using the NEWFIRM instrument. Image Credit: International Gemini Observatory/CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

Ever wonder how modern astronomical observatories take such clear images of distant objects? Advances in mirror design have allowed for larger and larger primary mirrors. But adaptive optics play a huge role, too.

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Climate Change is Making the Atmosphere Worse for Astronomy

ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has recently received an upgraded addition to its suite of advanced instruments. On 21 May 2019 the newly modified instrument VISIR (VLT Imager and Spectrometer for mid-Infrared) made its first observations since being modified to aid in the search for potentially habitable planets in the Alpha Centauri system, the closest star system to Earth. This stunning image of the VLT is painted with the colours of sunset and reflected in water on the platform. While inclement weather at Cerro Paranal is unfortunate for the astronomers using it, it lets us see ESO's flagship telescope in a new light.

Modern astronomical telescopes are extraordinarly powerful. And we keep making them more powerful. With telescopes like the Extremely Large Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope seeing first light in the coming years, our astronomical observing power will be greater than ever.

But a new commentary says that climate change could limit the power of our astronomical observatories.

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Japan Suspends its Funding for the 30-Meter Telescope

An artist's illustration of the Thirty Meter Telescope at its preferred location at Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Image Courtesy TMT International Observatory

Japan has suspended its funding contribution to the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) in Hawaii. An international consortium is behind the TMT, which was proposed for the summit of Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea is one of the most desirable observing locations on Earth. It’s already host to several observatories, including the Subaru Telescope and the Keck Observatory. The $1.4 billion TMT would be the most powerful telescope there.

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Good-bye Spitzer. We’ll Miss You But We Won’t Forget You.

An image from each year of Spitzer's operation. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has reached the end of its life. Its mission was to study objects in the infrared, and it excelled at that since it was launched in 2003. But every mission has an end, and on January 30th 2020, Spitzer shut down.

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Great News! The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Might be Named for Vera Rubin

The LSST, or Vera Rubin Survey Telescope, under construction at Cerro Pachon, Chile. Image Credit: LSST

The U.S. House of Representatives have passed a bill to change the name of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST.) Instead of that explanatory yet cumbersome name, it will be named after American astronomer Vera Rubin. Rubin is well-known for her pioneering work in discovering dark matter.

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