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News Stories of Interest

Astronomy News

 

Hubble Uncovers Thousands of Globular Star Clusters Scattered Among Galaxies – November 30, 2018 – Globular star clusters which are small groups of stars that are much smaller than galaxies have been found to be quite numerous in space according to recent discoveries by the Hubble Space Telescope.  For complete report on these discoveries, see the NASA/JPL News release at: https://www.astrobio.net/also-in-news/hubble-uncovers-thousands-of-globular-star-clusters-scattered-among-galaxies/

 

Discovered: The Most-Distant Solar System Object Ever Observed – December 17, 2018 – An announcement by the International Astronomical Union on December 17, 2018 says that a team of astronomers have discovered an object in our solar system that is over 100 astronomical units from the Sun making it the most distant body ever observed.  The object named 2018 VG18 was discovered by astronomers who were currently searching for very distant solar system objects.  For complete report on this discovery, see the Astrobiology Magazine.net news report at: https://www.asgtrobio.net/also-in-news/discovered-the-most-distant-solar-system-object-ever-observed/

 

NASA Satellites Spot Young Star in Growth Spurt – December 18, 2018 – New stars are developing all the time and with the help of two NASA space telescopes, an adolescent star in the midst of a dramatic growth phase has been observed.  What is happening here is that matter swirling around a star falls onto its surface and this causes the star to appear many times brighter.  For complete report on this observation, see the NASA/JPL News report at: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7308

 

Mysterious Blast Studied with NASA Telescopes – January 10, 2019 – Astronomers and Astrophysicists have been puzzled by a mysterious flash of light in the night sky on June 16, 2018.  The event called AT2018cow and nicknamed “the Cow” erupted in or near a galaxy called CGCG 137-068.  This sudden burst of light was at least 10 times brighter than a supernovae but then faded out over the following months.  For complete report on this strange blast, see the NASA/JPL News report at: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7314

 

Hubble Sees the Brightest Quasar in the Early Universe – January 15, 2019 – Quasars are those extremely bright objects found in the nucleus of active galaxies.  With the use of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the brightest quasar ever seen in the early days of the universe going back to the time when it  was only about 1 billion years old has been discovered.  For complete report on this discovery, see the SpaceRef.com news article at: http://www.spaceref.com/astronomy/hubble-sees-the-brightest-quasar-in-the-early-universe.html

GAIA Reveals How Sun-Like Stars Turn Solid After Their Demise – January 27, 2019 – The European Space Agency’s galaxy-mapping spacecraft known as Gaia while studying white dwarf stars has obtained scientific data that shows how these objects, which are dead remnants of many stars like our Sun, turn themselves into solid spheres.  For complete report on this story, see the Astrobiology Magazine news article at: https://www.astrobio.net/also-in-news/gaia-reveals-how-sun-like-stars-turn-solid-after-their-demise/

 Extrasolar Planet News

 

The 20 Most Intriguing Exoplanets – October 23, 2015 – This website features an artist’s drawing of the 20 most intriguing exoplanets found by astronomers showing what they look like and also including some scientific information on them.  To see this website, go to: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/20-intriguing-exoplanets

The Epoch of Planet Formation, Times Twenty December 12, 2018 – A news report from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory says that a team of astronomers have conducted a large scale, high resolution survey of protoplanetary disks which are the belts of dust and gas around young stars in an effort to learn more about the birth of planets and how different types of planets are created.  For complete report of this survey, see the Science Daily.com news article at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181212134352.htm

 

Citizen Scientists Find New World with NASA Telescope  January 7, 2019 - A news report from NASA says that citizen scientists who were using data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope have discovered an exoplanet that is about twice the size of Earth orbiting a star located 226 light-years away.  The planet is said to be in the star’s habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the planet and so could life.  For complete report on this discovery, see the NASA/JPL News release at: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7313

 

Conditions for Life Might Exist on New Planet Discovered Around Barnard’s Star – January 10, 2019 – A newly found planet discovered in late 2018 that orbits Barnard’s star, a red dwarf star that is about six light-years away from Earth, may possibly be able to support some life if that planet “has a large iron/nickel core and enough geothermal activity” so that there could be “life zones of liquid water under the world’s frozen surface”.  To read more about this planet and the possibility of life on it, see the Astronomy.com news article at: http://www.astronomy.com/news/2019/01/life-might-exist-on-the-new-planet-discovered-around-barnards-star

News from Jupiter

 

Juno’s Latest Flyby of Jupiter Captures Two Massive Storms – January 17, 2019 – A great new image of two massive storms in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere was taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft during a flyby on December 21, 2018.  The two storms imaged here are the Great Red Spot and another massive storm called Oval BA.  To see the image and read about these storms, go to the NASA/JPL Image site at: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA22942

 

 

 

News from Mars

InSight Is the Newest Mars Weather Service – February 19, 2019 – The Mars InSight lander which came down on the surface of Mars in November has now started to send daily weather reports to us on Earth by the use of sensors on the craft called Auxiliary Payload Subsystem (APSS).  The daily weather reports will include temperature, wind speeds and atmospheric pressure readings.  To read more about this accomplishment, see the NASA/JPL News release at: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7337

Asteroids, Hydrogen Make Great Recipe for Life on Mars – March 25, 2019 – A study using data from NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars and conducted by researchers on Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument team and other colleagues shows that asteroid impacts on ancient Mars could have produced the key ingredients for life if the Martian atmosphere was rich in hydrogen.  For complete report on this finding, see the NASA.JPL News article at: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7357

 News from Saturn

The Water in Saturn’s Rings and Satellites is Like That on Earth Except for Saturn’s Moon Phoebe, Which is Out of This World – December 4, 2018 – Scientists interested in knowing more about Saturn’s rings have found by using new scientific methods, that the water in Saturn’s rings and satellites is much like the water here on Earth.  For complete report on this finding, see the Astrobiology Magazine news article at: https://www.astrobio.net/also-in-news/the-water-in-saturns-rings-and-satellites-is-like-that-on-earth-except-for saturns-moon-phoebe-which-is-out-of-this-world/

 

NASA’s Cassini Data Show Saturn’s Rings Relatively New – January 17, 2019 – It seems that Saturn’s rings have been around forever but according to a new analysis of gravity science data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, Saturn’s rings actually formed between 10 million and 100 million years ago which is much later then when the planet itself formed.  For complete report on this finding, see the NASA/JPL News report at: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7315

SwRI Scientist Sheds Light on Titan’s Mysterious Atmosphere – January 22, 2019 – Saturn’s largest moon Titan has a rich nitrogen atmosphere.  How did it get that way?  A study done by a research scientist at SwRI gives an indication that “cooking” of organic material in the moon’s interior may have been responsible for the moon having such a thick atmosphere of nitrogen.  For complete report on this study, go to: https://www.swri.org/press-release/origin-nitrogen-atmosphere-titan-saturn-moon

 

The Gas Giant Planets

Voyager Galleries – A NASA website showing videos and images taken years ago by the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft as they traveled through the outer solar system past the gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.  To visit this website, go to: https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/galleries/

 Space Mission News

NASA’s Voyager 2 Probe Enters Interstellar Space – December 10, 2018 – NASA’s Voyager 2 probe has crossed the outer edge of the heliosphere, the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun, and has gone into interstellar space on November 5, 2018.  This is the second spacecraft to do so the first one being Voyager 1 in August 2012.  For complete report on this event, see the NASA/JPL News release at: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7301

 

 Mars Report: December 20, 2018 – December 20, 2018 – This report gives a brief description of what the Mars InSight lander has been doing on Mars since landing on the surface on November 26, 2018.  To view this report, see the NASA/JPL News article at: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/details.php?id=1567

 

Scientists Pleased with TESS Exoplanet Mission – January 7, 2019 – The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission which began its two year search for exoplanets last year has already discovered several planets around nearby stars and scientists are now thinking of a proposal to extend this mission to at least late 2022.  For complete report on this news story, go to: https://s;pacenews.com/scientists-pleased-with-tess-exoplanet-mission/

 

Rover Team Beaming New Commands to Opportunity on Mars – January 29. 2019 – NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity which has been on planet Mars for 15 years has not been heard from since June 10, 2018 when the red planet was going through a planet-wide dust storm.  NASA scientists have tried hundreds of times since then to contact the rover without any luck and have now begun to transmit new commands in an effort to finally reconnect with it.  For complete report on this story, see the Astrobiology Magazine news article at: https://www.astrobio.net/also-in-news/rover-team-beaming-new-commands-to-opportunitgy-on-mars/

NASA’s Opportunity Rover Mission on Mars Comes to End – February 13, 2019 – NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover mission which has been on the surface of Mars for almost 15 years and was last heard from on June 10, 2018 has officially ended.  To read more about the ending of this important mission to Mars and what it has accomplished, see the NASA/JPL News release at: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?fedature-7334

NASA Selects New Mission to Explore Origins of Universe – February 13, 2019 – A new NASA mission called the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe –Epoch Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) is designed to help astronomers understand how the universe evolved and how common the ingredients for life are in our galaxy’s planetary systems.  This mission is a two-year mission and is expected to be launched in 2013.  For complete report on this mission, see the NASA/JPL News article at: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7336

 

 

 

Upcoming Space Missions for 2019 & 2020

 

1. Euclid Mission – a European Space Agency mission with important contributions from NASA.  The mission is designed to investigate the cosmic mysteries of dark matter and dark energy.  This mission has passed its design review and construction will soon begin.  Launch date for this mission will be sometime in 2020.  For more information on this mission, go to: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/euclid/

 

2. The James Webb Space Telescope will be an infrared telescope that will have a 6.5 meter primary mirror and will study the universe in great detail.  The telescope is a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).  The telescope will be launched from French Guiana in 2021.  For more information on this telescope, visit the JWST website at: https://jwst.nasa.gov/index.html

 

3. Europa Clipper – a NASA mission to conduct a detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa and investigate whether this moon could harbor conditions suitable for life to exist.  This mission has no definite launch date yet but is expected to go up sometime during the 2020’s.  For more information on this mission, go to: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/europa-clipper/

 

4. The Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is a NASA observatory which will study and provide answers to questions about such things as dark energy, exoplanets, and infrared astrophysics.  The telescope will have a primary mirror that will be 2.4 meters in diameter and will have two instruments – a Wide Field Instrument and a Coronagraph Instrument.  This mission is NASA-led and is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and is due to be launched in 2025 on a 5 year mission.  To learn more about this mission, go to: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/wide-field-infrared-telescope-wfirst/

 

 

 

MIT and the TESS Mission

The TESS mission (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is a MIT-led NASA led mission that will spend two years searching the sky looking for exoplanets around nearby bright stars.  The TESS Science office is run by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics which will provide top grade management in this important mission.  Many planets have been discovered already and there are thousands more yet to be discovered.  This mission will focus looking for planets around the nearby stars that we are able to see in the sky at night with the naked eye or small telescopes which should make the discoveries all the more interesting.  To learn more about this mission managed by MIT and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, visit the mission website at: https://tess.mit.edu/

  

 

 

  Space Observatories

The space-based observatories listed below are either already operating or as in the case of the James Webb Space Telescope and the Solar Probe Plus will be launched into space in a few years.  Check out their web sites to learn more of what they are about.

1. Chandra X-ray Observatory

2. COROT Space Telescope

3. Fermi Gamma - ray Space Telescope

4. Herschel Space Observatory

5. Hubble Space Telescope

6. James Webb Space Telescope

7. Planck Telescope

8. Spitzer Space Telescope

9. Solar Dynamics Observatory

10. SOHO - Solar & Heliospheric Observatory

11. Solar Probe Plus