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Space News - Space, Astronomy, Space Exploration



Phys.org provides the latest news on astronomy and space exploration.



 



Taking a spin on plasma space tornadoes with NASA observations

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 12:37:12 EST

Interplanetary space is hardly tranquil. High-energy charged particles from the Sun, as well as from beyond our solar system, constantly whizz by. These can damage satellites and endanger astronaut health—though, luckily for life on Earth, the planet is blanketed by a protective magnetic bubble created by its magnetic field. This bubble, called the magnetosphere, deflects most of the harmful high-energy particles.



Image: Sunrise flight to the space station

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 06:57:15 EST

Orbital ATK's Cygnus resupply ship with its cymbal-ike UltraFlex solar arrays approaches the International Space Station's robotic arm Canadarm2 as both spacecraft fly into an orbital sunrise on Nov. 14, 2017.



Solar minimum surprisingly constant

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 06:37:02 EST

Using more than a half-century of observations, Japanese astronomers have discovered that the microwaves coming from the sun at the minimums of the past five solar cycles have been the same each time, despite large differences in the maximums of the cycles.



SpaceX postpones launch of secretive Zuma mission

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 02:58:06 EST

SpaceX on Thursday postponed the launch of a secretive US government payload known as Zuma, a mission whose nature—and the agency behind it—is a mystery.



Lava or not, exoplanet 55 Cancri e likely to have atmosphere

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 16:19:31 EST

Twice as big as Earth, the super-Earth 55 Cancri e was thought to have lava flows on its surface. The planet is so close to its star, the same side of the planet always faces the star, such that the planet has permanent day and night sides. Based on a 2016 study using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists speculated that lava would flow freely in lakes on the starlit side and become hardened on the face of perpetual darkness. The lava on the dayside would reflect radiation from the star, contributing to the overall observed temperature of the planet.



NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 14:46:20 EST

When our Sun erupts with giant explosions—such as bursts of radiation called solar flares—we know they can affect space throughout the solar system as well as near Earth. But monitoring their effects requires having observatories in many places with many perspectives, much the way weather sensors all over Earth can help us monitor what's happening with a terrestrial storm.



Next generation astronomical survey to map the entire sky

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 14:36:24 EST

The next generation of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-V), directed by Juna Kollmeier of the Carnegie Institution for Science, will move forward with mapping the entire sky following a $16 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The grant will kickstart a groundbreaking all-sky spectroscopic survey for a next wave of discovery, anticipated to start in 2020.



Images of strange solar system visitor peel away some of the mystery

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 14:33:01 EST

A strange visitor, either asteroid or comet, zipping through our solar system at a high speed is giving astronomers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to examine up close an object from somewhere else in our galaxy.



High-altitude observatory sheds light on origin of excess anti-matter

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 14:00:16 EST

A mountaintop observatory in Mexico, built and operated by an international team of scientists, has captured the first wide-angle view of gamma rays emanating from two rapidly spinning stars. The High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Gamma-Ray Observatory provided the fresh perspective on high-energy light streaming from these stellar neighbors, casting serious doubt on one possible explanation for a mysterious excess of anti-matter particles near Earth.



LIGO and Virgo announce the detection of a black hole binary merger from June 8, 2017

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 13:56:59 EST

Scientists searching for gravitational waves have confirmed yet another detection from their fruitful observing run earlier this year. Dubbed GW170608, the latest discovery was produced by the merger of two relatively light black holes, 7 and 12 times the mass of the sun, at a distance of about a billion light-years from Earth. The merger left behind a final black hole 18 times the mass of the sun, meaning that energy equivalent to about 1 solar mass was emitted as gravitational waves during the collision.



Interstellar visitor shaped like giant fire extinguisher (Update)

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 13:53:21 EST

A newly discovered object from another star system that's passing through ours is shaped like a giant pink fire extinguisher.



SpaceX poised to launch secretive Zuma mission

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 13:44:50 EST

SpaceX is poised to launch on Thursday a secretive payload known as Zuma for the US government, though the nature of the mission and the agency behind it remain a mystery.



Image: Autumn fireball

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 10:00:02 EST

On 14 November 2017 at about 16:45 GMT a football-sized meteoroid entered Earth's atmosphere about 50 km northeast of Darmstadt, Germany. It created a bright fireball in the sky, which was seen by thousands of people in Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria and Luxembourg, and was reported widely by media.



Fracture swarms on Mars

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 09:50:02 EST

These striking features on Mars were caused by the planet's crust stretching apart in response to ancient volcanic activity.



How do you find a star cluster? Easy, simply count the stars

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 09:05:43 EST

In the latter years of the 18th century, astronomers William and Caroline Herschel began to count stars. William called the technique "star gauging" and his aim was to determine the shape of our Galaxy.



We've found an exo-planet with an extraordinarily eccentric orbit

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 09:00:04 EST

The discovery of a planet with a highly elliptical orbit around an ancient star could help us understand more about how planetary systems form and evolve over time.



Meteorite's origins point to possible undiscovered asteroid

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 08:49:05 EST

A new analysis of a meteorite called Bunburra Rockhole has revealed that the rock originated from a previously unknown parent asteroid, allowing scientists to understand the geology of the parent body.



A familiar-looking messenger from another solar system

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 07:17:14 EST

The visit of the interstellar interloper 1I/2017 U1, recently spotted streaking through the solar system, gives the people of Earth their first chance to study up close an object from another planetary system. In a study carried out with the WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory and the Nordic Optical Telescope in the Canary Islands, astronomers find that despite its foreign origins, U1 is familiar in appearance—its size, rotation, and color are similar to that of asteroids in our solar system. Its familiar appearance supports the long-held view that our solar system once ejected its own flotilla of such messengers out into interstellar space.



Our living planet shapes the search for life beyond Earth

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 07:14:54 EST

As a young scientist, Tony del Genio of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City met Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto.



Pluto's hydrocarbon haze keeps dwarf planet colder than expected

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 13:00:04 EST

The gas composition of a planet's atmosphere generally determines how much heat gets trapped in the atmosphere. For the dwarf planet Pluto, however, the predicted temperature based on the composition of its atmosphere was much higher than actual measurements taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft in 2015.



How NASA engineers mourn the death of a spacecraft

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 11:30:02 EST

They called it a wake, but the loved one they had come to mourn wasn't a person.



FIREBIRD II and NASA mission locate whistling space electrons' origins

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 11:23:50 EST

Scientists have long known that solar-energized particles trapped around the planet are sometimes scattered into Earth's upper atmosphere where they can contribute to beautiful auroral displays. Yet for decades, no one has known exactly what is responsible for hurling these energetic electrons on their way. Recently, two spacecraft found themselves at just the right places at the right time to witness first hand both the impulsive electron loss and its cause.



Supercomputer simulates dynamic magnetic fields of Jupiter, Earth, Sun

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 08:32:07 EST

As the Juno space probe approached Jupiter in June last year, researchers with the Computational Infrastructure for Geodynamics' Dynamo Working Group were starting to run simulations of the giant planet's magnetic field on one of the world's fastest computers. While the timing was coincidental, the supercomputer modeling should help scientists interpret the data from Juno, and vice versa.



Astronomers discover new type of cosmic explosion

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 07:25:20 EST

An international team of astronomers, including a University of Southampton expert, has discovered a new type of explosion in a distant galaxy.



NASA's Mars 2020 mission performs first supersonic parachute test

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 07:05:32 EST

Landing on Mars is difficult and not always successful. Well-designed advance testing helps. An ambitious NASA Mars rover mission set to launch in 2020 will rely on a special parachute to slow the spacecraft down as it enters the Martian atmosphere at over 12,000 mph (5.4 kilometers per second). Preparations for this mission have provided, for the first time, dramatic video of the parachute opening at supersonic speed.



Neutron star with strong magnetic field may still launch jets

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 06:45:05 EST

An international team of astronomers led by the University of Amsterdam (The Netherlands) suspects that neutron stars with a strong magnetic field can still launch so-called jets. Since the 1980s, it was thought that strong magnetic fields inhibit the formation of these plasma streams. But observations with more advanced telescopes indicate jet-like radiation. The astronomers publish their findings in two articles in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.



Closest temperate world orbiting quiet star discovered

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 06:35:26 EST

A team working with ESO's High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at the La Silla Observatory in Chile has found that the red dwarf star Ross 128 is orbited by a low-mass exoplanet every 9.9 days. This Earth-sized world is expected to be temperate, with a surface temperature that may also be close to that of the Earth. Ross 128 is the "quietest" nearby star to host such a temperate exoplanet.



Cygnus cargo ship arrives at space station

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 15:14:46 EST

Orbital ATK's unmanned Cygnus cargo ship arrived Tuesday at the International Space Station carrying more than 7,400 pounds (3,400 kilograms) of food, supplies and experiments, the US space agency said.



With launch of new night sky survey, UW researchers ready for era of 'big data' astronomy

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 14:55:49 EST

The first astronomers had a limited toolkit: their eyes. They could only observe those stars, planets and celestial events bright enough to pick up unassisted. But today's astronomers use increasingly sensitive and sophisticated instruments to view and track a bevy of cosmic wonders, including objects and events that were too dim or distant for their sky-gazing forebears.



Proposed NASA mission would investigate where space weather begins

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 12:41:06 EST

A NASA team is advancing a mission to reveal unprecedented details about solar flares, powerful eruptions that explode with enough energy that each one could power all of Earth for 16,000 years, and which—when extreme—can interfere with radio communications and satellites near Earth.