Mon, 19 Nov 2018 09:06:00 +0100
Space Science Image of the Week: Integral serendipitously spotted intense auroras at Earthâs north pole, revealing more about the space surrounding our planet
Fri, 16 Nov 2018 10:00:00 EST
November 16 marks the premiere of a unique film and musical experience inspired by the Hubble Space Telescopeâs famous Deep Field image. It represents a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Grammy award-winning American composer and conductor Eric Whitacre, producers Music Productions, multi award-winning artists 59 Productions, and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). Deep Field: The Impossible Magnitude of our Universe features a variety of Hubbleâs stunning imagery and includes 11 computer-generated visualizations of far-flung galaxies, nebulas, and star clusters developed by STScI. The film is available on (309) 995-8576 and will be shared with the world through screenings and live performances around the globe.
Thu, 15 Nov 2018 13:00:00 EST
The explosive end to a massive star's life is one of the most powerful blasts in the universe. The material expelled by the violent stellar death enriches our galaxy with heavier elements, the building blocks of new stars and even planetary systems. Astronomers have diligently searched for the doomed progenitor stars in pre-explosion images. Studying these stars could help them in their quest to better understand stellar evolution.
Their quest has turned up a few pre-supernova stars. But the doomed stars for one class of supernova have eluded discovery: the hefty stars that explode as Type Ic supernovas. These stars, weighing more than 30 times our Sun's mass, lose their hydrogen and helium layers before their cataclysmic death. Researchers thought they should be easy to find because they are big and bright. However, they have come up empty. Finally, in 2017, astronomers got lucky. A nearby star ended its life as a Type Ic supernova. Two teams of researchers pored through the archive of Hubble images to uncover the putative precursor star in pre-explosion photos taken in 2007. The supernova, catalogued as SN 2017ein, appeared near the center of the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 3938, located roughly 65 million light-years away.
An analysis of the candidate star's colors shows that it is blue and extremely hot. Based on that assessment, both teams suggest two possibilities for the source's identity. The progenitor could be a single star between 45 and 55 times more massive than our Sun. Another idea is that it could have been a binary-star system in which one of the stars weighs between 60 and 80 times our Sun's mass and the other roughly 48 solar masses. In this latter scenario, the stars are orbiting closely and interact with each other. The more massive star is stripped of its hydrogen and helium layers by the close companion, and eventually explodes as a supernova.
NASA's Webb Telescope Will Investigate Cosmic Jets from Young Stars
Wed, 14 Nov 2018 10:00:00 EST
Young stars, like young children, are messy eaters, swallowing most of the material falling onto them but spitting the rest out. The gas a newborn star fails to eat gets ejected outward at supersonic speeds, creating shock waves that heat the interstellar medium and cause it to glow in infrared light. NASAâs Webb telescope will examine stellar outflows and shocks to learn more about how stars like our sun form.
Fri, 09 Nov 2018 15:00:00 +0100
The ExoMars Landing Site Selection Working Group has recommended Oxia Planum as the landing site for the ESA-Roscosmos rover and surface science platform that will launch to the Red Planet in 2020.
Windy with a chance of magnetic storms â space weather science with Cluster - Read more >
Thu, 08 Nov 2018 11:00:00 +0100
Space weather is no abstract concept â it may happen in space, but its effects on Earth can be significant. To help better forecast these effects, ESAâs Cluster mission, a quartet of spacecraft that was launched in 2000, is currently working to understand how our planet is connected to its magnetic environment, and unravelling the complex relationship between the Earth and its parent star.
Wed, 07 Nov 2018 13:00:00 EST
Some of the Hubble Space Telescope's most stunning images reveal galaxies in distress. Many of them are in the throes of a gravitational encounter with another galaxy. The photos show perfect pinwheel patterns stretched and pulled into irregular shapes. Streamers of gas and dust flow from galaxies into space. And in this chaos, batches of young, blue stars glow like tree lights, fueled by the dust and gas kicked up by the galactic encounter. For some galaxies, the powerful meeting with a passing galaxy will eventually end in mergers.
But hidden from view deep inside the dusty cores of these merging galaxies is the slow dance of their supermassive black holes toward an eventual union. Visible light cannot penetrate these shrouded central regions. X-ray data, however, have detected the black-hole courtship. And now astronomers analyzing near-infrared images from the sharp-eyed Hubble Space Telescope and the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii are offering the best view yet of close pairs of black holes as they move slowly toward each other.
The study is the largest survey of the cores of nearby galaxies in near-infrared light. The Hubble observations represent over 20 years' worth of snapshots from its vast archive. The survey targeted galaxies residing an average distance of 330 million light-years from Earth.
The census helps astronomers confirm computer simulations showing that black holes grow faster during the last 10 million to 20 million years of the galactic merger. The Hubble and Keck Observatory images captured close-up views of this final stage, when the bulked-up black holes are only about 3,000 light-years apart â a near-embrace in cosmic terms. The study shows that galaxy encounters are important for astronomers' understanding of how black holes became so monstrously big.
These monster black holes also unleash powerful energy in the form of gravitational waves, the kind of ripples in space-time that were just recently detected by ground-breaking experiments. The images also provide a close-up preview of a phenomenon that must have been more common in the early universe, when galaxy mergers were more frequent.
Kepler Science Will Continue Using STScI Archive
Thu, 01 Nov 2018 10:00:00 EDT
The Kepler spacecraft launched in 2009 with the goal of finding exoplanets orbiting distant stars. In the years since, astronomers have used Kepler observations to discover 2,818 exoplanets as well as another 2,679 exoplanet candidates which need further confirmation. On October 30, 2018 NASA announced that Kepler had run out of fuel and would be decommissioned. While spacecraft operations have ceased, its data will continue to be publicly available through the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) at the Space Telescope Science Institute. These data will enable new scientific discoveries for years to come.
Hubble Reveals a Giant Cosmic "Bat Shadow"
Wed, 31 Oct 2018 13:00:00 EDT
Like a fly that wanders into a flashlightâs beam, a young starâs planet-forming disk is casting a giant shadow, nicknamed the âBat Shadow.â Hubbleâs near-infrared vision captured the shadow of the disk of this fledgling star, which resides nearly 1,300 light-years away in a stellar nursery called the Serpens Nebula. In this Hubble image, the shadow spans approximately 200 times the length of our solar system. It is visible in the upper right portion of the picture. The young star and its disk likely resemble what the solar system looked like when it was only 1 or 2 million years old.
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Returns to Science Operations
Sat, 27 Oct 2018 11:30:00 EDT
On Saturday, Oct. 27 at 2:10 a.m. EDT, Hubble completed its first science operations since entering safe mode on Oct. 5. The return to conducting science comes after successfully recovering a backup gyroscope, or gyro, that had replaced a failed gyro three weeks earlier. Hubble is now back in its normal science operations mode with three fully functional gyros. Originally required to last 15 years, Hubble has now been at the forefront of scientific discovery for more than 28 years. The team expects the telescope will continue to yield amazing discoveries well into the next decade.
Fri, 26 Oct 2018 11:00:00 +0200
The surface of Mars may appear to be perpetually still, but its many features are ever-changing â as represented in this Mars Express view of the severely eroded Greeley impact crater.
Boom deployed! - Read more >
Fri, 26 Oct 2018 10:30:00 +0200
BepiColombo images its magnetometer boom deployment, recording first magnetic field data at the same time
Mars Express keeps an eye on curious cloud - Read more >
Thu, 25 Oct 2018 16:00:00 +0200
Since 13 September, ESAâs Mars Express has been observing the evolution of an elongated cloud formation hovering in the vicinity of the 20 km-high Arsia Mons volcano, close to the planetâs equator.
Hubble Captures the Ghost of Cassiopeia
Thu, 25 Oct 2018 10:00:00 EDT
The brightest stars embedded in nebulae throughout our galaxy pour out a torrent of radiation that eats into vast clouds of hydrogen gas â the raw material for building new stars. This etching process sculpts a fantasy landscape where human imagination can see all kinds of shapes and figures. A nebula in the constellation of Cassiopeia has flowing veils of gas and dust that have earned it the nickname "Ghost Nebula." The nebula is being blasted by a torrent of radiation from a nearby, blue-giant star called Gamma Cassiopeiae, which can be easily seen with the unaided eye at the center of the distinctive "W" asterism that forms the constellation. This Hubble Space Telescope view zooms in on the creepy-looking top of the nebula, material is swept away from it, forming a fantail shape. IC 63 is located 550 light-years away.
Mon, 22 Oct 2018 13:40:00 +0200
A stunning early morning launch lifted the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo spacecraft into space on Saturday, 20 October. This marked the start of intensive, round-the-clock flight control activities to ensure the missionâs health and functioning in the harsh environment of space.
BepiColombo highlights - Read more >
Sat, 20 Oct 2018 12:10:00 +0200
From spacecraft preparations through to liftoff from Europeâs Spaceport, watch highlights of the BepiColombo launch
Thu, 18 Oct 2018 13:00:00 EDT
The term "HAZMAT" connotes danger. In this case, it's on a cosmic scale, where violent flares of seething gas from small, young stars may make entire planets uninhabitable. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is observing such stars through a large program called HAZMAT â HAbitable Zones and M dwarf Activity across Time. This is an ultraviolet survey of red dwarfs â referred to as "M dwarfs" in astronomical circles â at three different ages: young, intermediate, and old.
Approximately three-quarters of the stars in our galaxy are red dwarfs. Most of the galaxy's "habitable-zone" planets orbit these small stars. But young red dwarfs are active stars, producing ultraviolet flares that blast out million-degree plasma with an intensity that could influence atmospheric chemistry and possibly strip off the atmospheres of these fledgling planets. The HAZMAT team found that flares from the youngest red dwarfs they surveyed â around 40 million years old â are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when the stars are older. This is the age when terrestrial planets are forming around their stars. Scientists also detected one of the most intense stellar flares ever observed in ultraviolet light. Dubbed the "Hazflare," this event was more energetic than the most powerful flare from our Sun ever recorded.
How to Weigh a Black Hole Using NASA's Webb Space Telescope
Wed, 17 Oct 2018 10:00:00 EDT
Galaxies and their central, supermassive black holes are inextricably linked. Both grow in lockstep for reasons that arenât yet understood. To gain new insights, Webb will turn its infrared gaze to the center of a nearby galaxy called NGC 4151, whose supermassive black hole is actively feeding and glowing brightly. By measuring the motions of stars clustered around the black hole and comparing them to computer models, astronomers can determine the black holeâs mass. This challenging measurement will test the capabilities of Webbâs innovative instrument called an integral field unit.
Tue, 16 Oct 2018 09:00:00 +0200
Watch live as the ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury is launched on an Ariane 5 from Europeâs Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
To the launch pad! - Read more >
Fri, 12 Oct 2018 16:00:00 +0200
Find out how our three new space explorers, Bepi, Mio and MTM, have been preparing for their epic adventure to Mercury
Hubble in Safe Mode as Gyro Issues are Diagnosed
Mon, 08 Oct 2018 16:00:00 EDT
On Friday, October 5, 2018, at approximately 6:00 p.m. EDT, NASAâs Hubble Space Telescope entered safe mode. NASA is working to resume science operations. Hubbleâs instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come.
Call for Media: BepiColombo launch to Mercury - Read more >
Mon, 08 Oct 2018 16:00:00 +0200
The BepiColombo mission to Mercury is scheduled to launch aboard an Ariane 5 from Europeâs Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 01:45 GMT (03:45 CEST) on 20 October 2018. Representatives of traditional and social media are invited to apply for accreditation to follow the launch live from ESAâs mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany.
Thu, 04 Oct 2018 10:00:00 +0200
The construction of ESA's Plato mission to find and study planets beyond our Solar System will be led by Germanyâs OHB System AG as prime contractor, marking the start of the full industrial phase of the project.
Wed, 03 Oct 2018 14:00:00 EDT
Our solar system has eight major planets, and nearly 200 moons. Though astronomers have to date found nearly 4,000 planets orbiting other stars, no moons have yet been found. That hasn't been for any lack of looking, itâs just that moons are smaller than planets and therefore harder to detect.
The Hubble and Kepler space telescopes found evidence for what could be a giant moon accompanying a gas-giant planet that orbits the star Kepler-1625, located 8,000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. The moon may be as big as Neptune and it orbits a planet several times more massive than Jupiter.
If our solar system is a typical example, moons may outnumber planets in our galaxy by at least an order of magnitude or more. This promises a whole new frontier for characterizing the nature of moons and their potential for hosting life as we know it.
The exomoon at Kepler-1625b is too far away to be directly photographed. Its presence is inferred when it passes in front of the star, momentarily dimming its light. Such an event is called a transit. However, the "footprint" of the moon's transit signal is weaker than for the host planet.
The researchers caution that the moonâs presence will need to be conclusively proven by follow-up Hubble observations.
Tue, 02 Oct 2018 11:00:00 +0200
A team of astronomers using the latest set of data from ESAâs Gaia mission to look for high-velocity stars being kicked out of the Milky Way were surprised to find stars instead sprinting inwards â perhaps from another galaxy.
Hubble Uncovers Never Before Seen Features Around a Neutron Star
Mon, 17 Sep 2018 11:00:00 EDT
Imagine crushing more than 50,000 aircraft carriers into the size of a baseball. This describes neutron stars. They are among the strangest objects in the universe. Neutron stars are a case of extreme physics produced by the unforgiving force of gravity. The entire core of an exploded star has been squeezed into a solid ball of neutrons with the density of an atomâs nucleus. Neutron stars spin as fast as a blender on puree. Some spit out death-star beams of intense radiation â like interstellar lighthouses. These are called pulsars.
These beams are normally seen in X-rays, gamma-rays, and radio waves. But astronomers used Hubble's near-infrared (IR) vision to look at a nearby neutron star cataloged RX J0806.4-4123. They were surprised to see a gush of IR light coming from a region around the neutron star. That infrared light might come from a circumstellar disk 18 billion miles across. Another idea is that a wind of subatomic particles from the pulsarâs magnetic field is slamming into interstellar gas. Hubble's IR vision opens a new window into understanding how these "infernal machines" work.
Thu, 13 Sep 2018 11:00:00 EDT
The universe is a big place. The Hubble Space Telescope's views burrow deep into space and time, but cover an area a fraction the angular size of the full Moon. The challenge is that these "core samples" of the sky may not fully represent the universe at large. This dilemma for cosmologists is called cosmic variance. By expanding the survey area, such uncertainties in the structure of the universe can be reduced.
A new Hubble observing campaign, called Beyond Ultra-deep Frontier Fields And Legacy Observations (BUFFALO), will boldly expand the space telescope's view into regions that are adjacent to huge galaxy clusters previously photographed by NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes under a program called Frontier Fields.
The six massive clusters were used as "natural telescopes," to look for amplified images of galaxies and supernovas that are so distant and faint that they could not be photographed by Hubble without the boost of light caused by a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. The clusters' large masses, mainly composed of dark matter, magnify and distort the light coming from distant background galaxies that otherwise could not be detected. The BUFFALO program is designed to identify galaxies in their earliest stages of formation, less than 800 million years after the big bang.
Wed, 05 Sep 2018 10:00:00 EDT
When NASAâs James Webb Space Telescope is en route to and in orbit nearly a million miles from Earth, continuous communications with its Mission Operations Center (MOC) in Baltimore will be essential. Recently, at the Space Telescope Science Instituteâhome of the MOCâWebbâs Flight Operations Team successfully completed two critical communications tests. The first demonstrated that from the moment Webb launches through the first six hours of flight, complex exchanges could be accomplished among the five different service providers around the world who will alternately convey command and telemetry communications. The second test showed that the MOC could successfully command the telescope.
Thu, 30 Aug 2018 10:00:00 EDT
Astronomy has always been a preeminently visual science, going back thousands of years to the early sky watchers. Hubbleâs jaw-dropping views of far-flung planets, nebulas, and galaxies have redefined the universe for whole new generations. Nearly all of Hubbleâs dazzling images have been prepared with the skills of Zoltan Levay, in the STScI Office of Public Outreach. Levay is retiring now to pursue his hobby of photography on a more earth-bound plane. He leaves behind a 25-year-long legacy of several thousand colorful space pictures that communicate the mystery and wonder of the universe. Levay blended traditional photographic skills with science data to yield aesthetically pleasing pictures that are both enticing and informative. He carefully balanced the objective and subjective elements of imagery to capture the essence of intrinsically wondrous celestial landscapes.
Thu, 16 Aug 2018 13:00:00 EDT
Astronomers have just assembled one of the most comprehensive portraits yet of the universeâs evolutionary history, based on a broad spectrum of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and other space and ground-based telescopes. In particular, Hubbleâs ultraviolet vision opens a new window on the evolving universe, tracking the birth of stars over the last 11 billion years back to the cosmosâ busiest star-forming period, about 3 billion years after the big bang. This photo encompasses a sea of approximately 15,000 galaxies â 12,000 of which are star-forming â widely distributed in time and space.
Thu, 02 Aug 2018 13:00:00 EDT
It takes more than a massive outburst to destroy the mammoth star Eta Carinae, one of the brightest known stars in the Milky Way galaxy. About 170 years ago, Eta Carinae erupted, unleashing almost as much energy as a standard supernova explosion.
Yet that powerful blast wasnât enough to obliterate the star, and astronomers have been searching for clues to explain the outburst ever since. Although they cannot travel back to the mid-1800s to witness the actual eruption, they can watch a rebroadcast of part of the event â courtesy of some wayward light from the explosion. Rather than heading straight toward Earth, some of the light from the outburst rebounded or âechoedâ off of interstellar dust, and is just now arriving at Earth. This effect is called a light echo.
The surprise is that new measurements of the 19th-century eruption, made by ground-based telescopes, reveal material expanding with record-breaking speeds of up to 20 times faster than astronomers expected. The observed velocities are more like the fastest material ejected by the blast wave in a supernova explosion, rather than the relatively slow and gentle winds expected from massive stars before they die.
Based on the new data, researchers suggest that the 1840s eruption may have been triggered by a prolonged stellar brawl among three rowdy sibling stars, which destroyed one star and left the other two in a binary system. This tussle may have culminated with a violent explosion when Eta Carinae devoured one of its two companions, rocketing more than 10 times the mass of our Sun into space. The ejected mass created gigantic bipolar lobes resembling the dumbbell shape seen in present-day images.
Stellar family portrait - Read more >
Mon, 14 May 2018 16:00:00 +0200
Explore Gaiaâs second data release with this interactive visualisation of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, the family portrait of stars in our Milky Way
Wed, 17 Aug 2016 11:20:00 +0200
Video showcase of ESA's fleet of space science missions and how they are helping us to understand our place in the Universe