Space & Time

  • The second-coldest imaged exoplanet found to date
    on 2021-07-29 at 11:21

    Astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets—planets beyond our solar system—but few have been directly imaged, because they are extremely difficult to see with existing telescopes. A University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy (IfA) graduate student has beaten the odds and discovered a directly imaged exoplanet, and it’s the closest one to Earth ever found, at a distance of only 35 light years.

  • Juice takes the heat
    on 2021-07-29 at 08:00

    Video: 00:04:00 ESA’s Jupiter Icy moons Explorer, Juice, has successfully completed rigorous thermal tests simulating the extreme coldness of space and the warmth of the Sun at ESA’s test centre ESTEC, in The Netherlands.The spacecraft underwent a month of round-the-clock testing and monitoring in the Large Space Simulator, which recreates the vacuum of space and is able to simulate both hot and cold space environments. The spacecraft was subjected to temperatures ranging from 250 degrees to minus 180 degrees Celsius, showing that it can survive its journey in space.Juice will launch in 2022 to our Solar System’s largest planet. It will spend over four years studying Jupiter’s atmosphere, magnetosphere and its icy moons Europa, Callisto and Ganymede, investigating whether the moons’ subsurface oceans are habitable for life.This film contains interviews with Pauline Ravily – Airbus Thermal Architect, Eduardo Bernar – European Test Services, ESA, and ESA’s Juice Project Scientist, Olivier Witasse.

  • Rocket Lab returns Electron to flight with Space Force launch
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-07-29 at 07:28

    Rocket Lab returned its Electron rocket to flight July 29 with the successful launch of an experimental satellite for the U.S. Space Force. SpaceNews

  • Jupiter mission passes space vacuum test
    on 2021-07-29 at 07:15

    Image: Jupiter mission passes space vacuum test

  • Intelsat returning JCSAT-RA satellite to Japan’s Sky Perfect JSAT
    by Jason Rainbow on 2021-07-28 at 21:03

    Intelsat is seeking regulatory permission to hand the JCSAT-RA satellite back to Japan’s Sky Perfect JSAT as a commercial deal between the satellite operators ends.  SpaceNews

  • Space Force sees ‘advantages and opportunities’ in nuclear-powered space missions
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-07-28 at 20:27

    Space vehicles powered by small nuclear reactors could be used for military missions in deep space, the vice chief of the U.S. Space Force said July 28. SpaceNews

  • R3-IoT gets funding for satellite-enabled sensor connectivity solutions
    by Jason Rainbow on 2021-07-28 at 18:41

    Scottish startup R3-IoT is expanding to North America after raising early funds for connecting sensors and devices with satellite-enabled solutions. SpaceNews

  • Water as a metal
    on 2021-07-28 at 16:43

    Under normal conditions, pure water is an almost perfect insulator. Water only develops metallic properties under extreme pressure, such as exists deep inside of large planets. Now, an international collaboration has used a completely different approach to produce metallic water and documented the phase transition at BESSY II.

  • A hot and dry Jupiter: SPIRou reveals the atmosphere of the exoplanet Tau Boötis b
    on 2021-07-28 at 16:34

    Using the SPIRou spectropolarimeter on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii, a team led by Stefan Pelletier, a PhD student at Université de Montréal’s Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx), studied the atmosphere of the gas giant exoplanet Tau Boötis b, a scorching hot world that takes a mere three days to orbit its host star. 

  • Scientists capture most-detailed radio image of Andromeda galaxy to date
    on 2021-07-28 at 15:20

    Scientists have published a new, detailed radio image of the Andromeda galaxy—the Milky Way’s sister galaxy—which will allow them to identify and study the regions of Andromeda where new stars are born.

  • Scientists capture most-detailed radio image of Andromeda galaxy to date
    on 2021-07-28 at 15:13

    Scientists have published a new, detailed radio image of the Andromeda galaxy — the Milky Way’s sister galaxy — which will allow them to identify and study the regions of Andromeda where new stars are born.

  • First detection of light from behind a black hole
    on 2021-07-28 at 15:12

    Fulfilling a prediction of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, researchers report the first-ever recordings of X-ray emissions from the far side of a black hole.

  • First detection of light from behind a black hole
    on 2021-07-28 at 15:00

    Watching X-rays flung out into the universe by the supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy 800 million light-years away, Stanford University astrophysicist Dan Wilkins noticed an intriguing pattern. He observed a series of bright flares of X-rays—exciting, but not unprecedented—and then, the telescopes recorded something unexpected: additional flashes of X-rays that were smaller, later and of different “colors” than the bright flares.

  • XMM-Newton sees light echo from behind a black hole
    on 2021-07-28 at 15:00

    Image: For the first time, astronomers have seen light coming from behind a black hole.Using ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s NuSTAR space telescopes, an international team of scientists led by Dan Wilkins of Stanford University in the USA observed extremely bright flares of X-ray light coming from around a black hole.The X-ray flares echoed off of the gas falling into the black hole, and as the flares were subsiding, the telescopes picked up fainter flashes, which were the echoes of the flares bouncing off the gas behind the black hole.This supermassive black hole is 10 million times as massive as our Sun and located in the centre of a nearby spiral galaxy called I Zwicky 1, 800 million light-years away from Earth.The astronomers did not expect to see anything from behind the black hole, since no light can escape from it. But because of the black hole’s extreme gravity warping the space around it, light echoes from behind the black hole were bent around the black hole, making them visible from XMM and NuSTAR’s point of view.The discovery began with the search to find out more about the mysterious ‘corona’ of the black hole, which is the source of the bright X-ray light. Astronomers think that the corona is a result of gas that falls continuously into the black hole, where it forms a spinning disk around it – like water flushing down a drain.This gas disk is heated up to millions of degrees and generates magnetic fields that get twisted into knots by the spinning black hole. When the magnetic field gets tied up, it eventually snaps, releasing the energy stored within it. This heats everything around it and produces the corona of high energy electrons that produce the X-ray light.The X-ray flare observed from I Zwicky 1 was so bright that some of the X-rays shone down onto the disk of gas falling into the black hole. The X-rays that reflected on the gas behind the black hole were bent around the black hole, and these smaller flashes arrived at the telescopes with a delay. These observations match Einstein’s predictions of how gravity bends light around black holes, as described in his theory of General Relativity.The echoes of X-rays from the disk have specific ‘colours’ of light and as the X-rays travel around the black hole, their colours change slightly. Because the X-ray echoes have different colours and are seen at different times, depending where on the disk they reflected from, they contain a lot of information about what is happening around a black hole. The astronomers want to use this technique to create a 3D map of the black hole surroundings.Another mystery to be solved in future studies is how the corona produces such bright X-ray flares. The mission to characterise and understand black hole coronas will continue with XMM-Newton and ESA’s future X-ray observatory, Athena (Advanced Telescope for High-ENergy Astrophysics).The team published their findings in Nature. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03667-0

  • Magnetic fields implicated in the mysterious midlife crisis of stars
    on 2021-07-28 at 14:57

    Middle-aged stars can experience their own kind of midlife crisis, experiencing dramatic breaks in their activity and rotation rates at about the same age as our Sun, according to new research. The study provides a new theoretical underpinning for the unexplained breakdown of established techniques for measuring ages of stars past their middle age, and the transition of solar-like stars to a magnetically inactive future.

  • Op-ed | Peace in the Era of Weaponized Space
    by Brian Berger on 2021-07-28 at 14:47

    We are on the verge of a new era in space security: the age of diverse and highly capable dual-use space systems that can serve both peaceful and anti-satellite (ASAT) purposes. SpaceNews

  • Magnetic fields implicated in the mysterious midlife crisis of stars
    on 2021-07-28 at 14:40

    Middle-aged stars can experience their own kind of midlife crisis, experiencing dramatic breaks in their activity and rotation rates at about the same age as our Sun, according to new research published today in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. The study provides a new theoretical underpinning for the unexplained breakdown of established techniques for measuring ages of stars past their middle age, and the transition of solar-like stars to a magnetically inactive future.

  • Upgrades to NASA’s space communications infrastructure pave the way to higher data rates
    on 2021-07-28 at 14:28

    The ability to transmit and receive data is crucial in space exploration. Spacecraft need robust networking capabilities to send data—including large files like photos and videos—captured by onboard instruments to Earth as well as simultaneously receiving commands from control centers. NASA has made significant strides to improve the agency’s space communications capabilities while simultaneously maintaining ongoing operations and service to a large number of missions.

  • Magnetic ‘balding’ of black holes saves general relativity prediction
    on 2021-07-28 at 14:27

    Black holes aren’t what they eat. Einstein’s general relativity predicts that no matter what a black hole consumes, its external properties depend only on its mass, rotation and electric charge. All other details about its diet disappear. Astrophysicists whimsically call this the no-hair conjecture. (Black holes, they say, “have no hair.”)

  • Will AI leave human astronomers in the stardust?
    on 2021-07-28 at 14:21

    Machine learning is coming for astronomy. But that doesn’t mean astronomers and citizen scientists are obsolete. In fact, it may mean exactly the opposite.

  • Rocket tanks of carbon-fiber–reinforced plastic are proven possible
    on 2021-07-28 at 13:30

    Future rockets could fly with tanks made of lightweight carbon fiber reinforced plastic thanks to ground-breaking research carried out within ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Program.

  • First test of Europe’s new space brain
    on 2021-07-28 at 13:30

    ESA has successfully operated a spacecraft with Europe’s next-generation mission control system for the first time. The powerful software, named the “European Ground System—Common Core’ (EGS-CC), will be the ‘brain’ of all European spaceflight operations in the years to come, and promises new possibilities for how future missions will fly.

  • Rocket tanks of carbon fibre reinforced plastic proven possible
    on 2021-07-28 at 12:00

    Future rockets could fly with tanks made of lightweight carbon fibre reinforced plastic thanks to ground-breaking research carried out within ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme.

  • Supernova explosions are sustained by neutrinos from neutron stars, a new observation suggests
    on 2021-07-28 at 11:20

    A model for supernova explosions first proposed in the 1980s has received strong support from the observation by RIKEN astrophysicists of titanium-rich plumes emanating from a remnant of such an explosion.

  • Finding the source of the impactor that wiped out the dinosaurs
    on 2021-07-28 at 11:18

    The impactor believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs and other life forms on Earth some 66 million years ago likely came from the outer half of the main asteroid belt, a region previously thought to produce few impactors. Researchers from Southwest Research Institute have shown that the processes that deliver large asteroids to Earth from that region occur at least 10 times more frequently than previously thought and that the composition of these bodies match what we know of the dinosaur-killing impactor.

  • Watch the launch of Eutelsat Quantum
    on 2021-07-28 at 10:43

    Follow the launch on 30 July of a sophisticated telecommunications satellite capable of being completely repurposed while in space.

  • Isar Aerospace raises $75 million
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-07-28 at 07:00

    Isar Aerospace, a German small launch vehicle company, has raised an additional $75 million that will allow the company to expand its manufacturing and launch capabilities. SpaceNews

  • First test of Europe’s new space brain
    on 2021-07-28 at 06:56

    ESA has successfully operated a spacecraft with Europe’s next-generation mission control system for the first time. The powerful software, named the ‘European Ground System – Common Core’ (EGS-CC), will be the ‘brain’ of all European spaceflight operations in the years to come, and promises new possibilities for how future missions will fly.

  • Weather key issue for Starliner launch
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-07-27 at 22:21

    NASA and Boeing say a second test flight of the company’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle remains on track for launch July 30, with weather the biggest concern. SpaceNews

  • Magnetic ‘balding’ of black holes saves general relativity prediction
    on 2021-07-27 at 21:16

    Magnetic fields around black holes decay quickly, researchers report. This finding backs up the so-called ‘no-hair conjecture’ predicted by Einstein’s general relativity.

  • Anuvu orders first satellites for small GEO mobility constellation
    by Jason Rainbow on 2021-07-27 at 21:14

    Anuvu has ordered the first two of an eight-strong constellation of small geostationary orbit satellites as demand returns for Wi-Fi on aircraft, boats and remote locations. SpaceNews

  • House panel wants details on Space Force plans to upgrade launch infrastructure
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-07-27 at 17:54

    The House Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on strategic forces in its markup of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act raises concerns about the state of the U.S. space launch infrastructure. SpaceNews

  • On the hunt for ‘hierarchical’ black holes
    on 2021-07-27 at 17:14

    Black holes, detected by their gravitational wave signal as they collide with other black holes, could be the product of much earlier parent collisions. Such an event has only been hinted at so far, but scientists believe we are getting close to tracking down the first of these so-called ‘hierarchical’ black holes.

  • Three dwarf spheroidal galaxies found to rotate
    on 2021-07-27 at 16:31

    An international team of astrophysicists from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), the University of La Laguna (ULL) and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI, U.S.) has discovered the presence of transverse rotation (in the plane of the sky) in three dwarf spheroidal galaxies. These are a very faint type of galaxy and are quite difficult to observe. These new findings help to trace their evolutionary history. The finding was made using the most recent data from the GAIA satellite of the European Space Agency. The results of the study have just been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS).

  • Astroscale and rocket maker MHI team up to develop debris removal technology
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-07-27 at 16:16

    Astroscale announced July 27 that it will be working with rocket maker Mitsubishi Heavy Industries on technologies to help clean up space junk. SpaceNews

  • Three dwarf spheroidal galaxies found to rotate
    on 2021-07-27 at 16:12

    Astrophysicists have discovered the presence of transverse rotation (in the plane of the sky) in three dwarf spheroidal galaxies, a very faint type of galaxies and difficult to observe, which are orbiting round the Milky Way; this helps to trace their evolutionary history.

  • Global project observes rare meteor showers and meteorite falls
    on 2021-07-27 at 14:28

    As billionaires battle it out in a space race that only a handful of the world’s richest persons can play, a highly inclusive international project is looking in the other direction–what’s flying towards Earth–and all are welcome.

  • Very-high energy gamma-ray emission detected from blazar TXS 1515–273
    on 2021-07-27 at 13:30

    An international team of astronomers has carried out multi-wavelength observations of a blazar known as TXS 1515–273; they detected very-high energy (VHE) gamma-ray emission from this source for the first time. The finding is detailed in a paper published July 20 on arXiv.org.

  • On the hunt for ‘hierarchical’ black holes
    on 2021-07-27 at 11:37

    Black holes, detected by their gravitational wave signal as they collide with other black holes, could be the product of much earlier parent collisions. Such an event has only been hinted at so far, but scientists at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., and Northwestern University in the U.S., believe we are getting close to tracking down the first of these so-called “hierarchical” black holes.

  • Astronomers back technical efforts to reduce impacts of satellite megaconstellations while seeking regulatory solutions
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-07-27 at 11:31

    With slow progress on regulation and policy, astronomers are making progress on other approaches to mitigate the effects that satellite megaconstellations will have on their observations. SpaceNews

  • Chinese rocket company Space Pioneer secures major funding ahead of first launch
    by Andrew Jones on 2021-07-27 at 09:16

    Chinese commercial rocket company Space Pioneer has secured a large funding round ahead of reusable “hop” tests and a first orbital launch. SpaceNews

  • Astronomers show how planets form in binary systems without getting crushed
    on 2021-07-27 at 08:14

    Astronomers have developed the most realistic model to date of planet formation in binary star systems.

  • Bezos offers NASA a $2 billion discount for Blue Origin Moon lander
    on 2021-07-27 at 07:24

    Blue Origin owner Jeff Bezos wrote an open letter to NASA on Monday offering a $2 billion discount to allow his company to build a Moon lander.

  • DoD calls for broader dialogue on space rules of behavior
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-07-26 at 20:55

    Guidelines issued by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for responsible space operations should be part of a wider conversation about how to maintain safety and security in space, a senior Pentagon official said July 26. SpaceNews

  • Fermi spots a supernova’s ‘fizzled’ gamma-ray burst
    on 2021-07-26 at 20:27

    On Aug. 26, 2020, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected a pulse of high-energy radiation that had been racing toward Earth for nearly half the present age of the universe. Lasting only about a second, it turned out to be one for the record books—the shortest gamma-ray burst (GRB) caused by the death of a massive star ever seen.

  • Astronomers seek evidence of tech built by aliens
    on 2021-07-26 at 20:06

    An international team of scientists led by a prominent Harvard astronomer announced a new initiative Monday to look for evidence of technology built by extraterrestrial civilizations.

  • Supernova’s ‘fizzled’ gamma-ray burst
    on 2021-07-26 at 18:48

    On Aug. 26, 2020, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected a pulse of high-energy radiation that had been racing toward Earth for nearly half the present age of the universe. Lasting only about a second, it turned out to be one for the record books — the shortest gamma-ray burst (GRB) caused by the death of a massive star ever seen.

  • Astronomers uncover briefest supernova-powered gamma-ray burst
    on 2021-07-26 at 18:44

    Astronomers have discovered the shortest-ever gamma-ray burst (GRB) caused by the implosion of a massive star. Using the international Gemini Observatory, a program of NSF’s NOIRLab, astronomers identified the cause of this 0.6-second flurry of gamma rays as a supernova explosion in a distant galaxy. GRBs caused by supernovae are usually more than twice as long, which suggests that some short GRBs might actually be imposters—supernova-produced GRBs in disguise.

  • Large meteor lights up skies in Norway
    on 2021-07-26 at 18:25

    Norwegian experts say an unusually large meteor was visible over large parts of southern Scandinavia and illuminated southeast Norway with a powerful flash of light for a few seconds as many observers were reported to also hear a roaring sound afterwards.

  • Hubble finds evidence of water vapor at Jupiter’s moon Ganymede
    on 2021-07-26 at 17:21

    Astronomers have uncovered evidence of water vapor in the atmosphere of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. This water vapor forms when ice from the moon’s surface sublimates — that is, turns from solid to gas. Astronomers re-examined Hubble observations from the last two decades to find this evidence of water vapor.

  • SpaceX or ULA to launch future Space Development Agency satellites
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-07-26 at 16:53

    Launch services for Space Development Agency satellites will be procured under the National Security Space Launch program run by the U.S. Space Force. SpaceNews

  • Hubble finds first evidence of water vapor on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede
    on 2021-07-26 at 16:53

    For the first time, astronomers have uncovered evidence of water vapor in the atmosphere of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede. This water vapor forms when ice from the moon’s surface sublimates—that is, turns from solid to gas.

  • Jeff Bezos is still not an astronaut, according to the FAA
    on 2021-07-26 at 16:43

    Just because you were in space doesn’t mean you get the wings of an astronaut.

  • U.K. to strengthen regulations for Starlink, OneWeb and other NGSO constellations
    by Jason Rainbow on 2021-07-26 at 15:59

    British telecoms regulator Ofcom is proposing rule changes that would affect Starlink, OneWeb and other satellite constellations operating in non-geostationary orbits (NGSO). SpaceNews

  • Op-ed | It’s time to seriously consider space-based solar power
    by Liz Pillow on 2021-07-26 at 15:00

    Hefty technological obstacles remain, but space-based solar power’s potential to provide clean, inexhaustible energy warrants a concerted public research and development effort. SpaceNews

  • French astronomers explore supercluster PLCK G334.8-38.0
    on 2021-07-26 at 14:50

    Using ESA’s XMM-Newton telescope, a team of French astronomers has conducted an X-ray study of a supercluster known as PLCK G334.8-38.0. Results of this research, published July 16 on the arXiv pre-print server, deliver important insights into the nature of this structure.

  • Planetary remnants around white dwarf stars
    on 2021-07-26 at 13:55

    When a star like our sun gets to be old, in another seven billion years or so, it will no longer be able to sustain burning its nuclear fuel. With only about half of its mass remaining it will shrink to a fraction of its radius and become a white dwarf star. White dwarf stars are common; over 95% of all stars will become white dwarfs. The most famous one is the companion to the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, but more particularly all stars known to host exoplanets will also end their lives as white dwarfs.

  • Bezos offers billions in incentives for NASA lunar lander contract
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-07-26 at 13:19

    Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos says his company will cover more than $2 billion in costs if NASA will award it a second Human Landing System (HLS) contract. SpaceNews

  • Tech Breakthrough Morphs Gigabit WiFi into Terabit Satellite Internet
    by gregoryrt on 2021-07-26 at 12:37

    Reformulated terrestrial radio MIMO technology could empower SpaceX to singlehandedly bridge the global digital divide by decade’s end SpaceNews

  • China is working on a relay satellite to support lunar polar missions
    by Andrew Jones on 2021-07-26 at 12:04

    China is developing a new lunar relay satellite to support future exploration missions to the south pole of the moon.  SpaceNews