Astronauts Could Live In Tunnels On The Moon, NASA Scientist Claims
A scientist from NASA claims that astronauts can live inside tunnels found beneath the moon’s surface, allowing them to stay protected from lunar temperatures and solar radiation. In a Twitter post a few days ago, President Donald Trump announced that under his administration, NASA is going to be great again. He said he wants NASA to send astronauts to the Moon and then to Mars. This budget, according to Space.com, is meant to help NASA send a manned mission to the lunar south pole in 2024. This mission, according to agency chief Jim Bridenstine, will be called “Artemis.
© NASA / ESA An artist’s impression of an exomoon around Kepler-1625b, a planet in another solar system
The speed at which the Moon is moving away from Earth could affect life on the planet, but this could take billions of years to happen, writes space scientist Some of the energy of the spinning Earth gets transferred to the tidal bulge via friction. This drives the bulge forward, keeping it ahead of the Moon .
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This might offend some astronomers, but exoplanets are kind of old news. Over the course of two decades, telescope observations have pinpointed thousands of planets orbiting other stars across the cosmos. Some of these planets are as giant as Jupiter and smoldering hot. Others are more massive than Earth and covered in ice. A few reside in their solar system’s habitable zone, the not-too-hot, not-too-cold environment for liquid water. There have been so many discoveries in the last few years, in fact, that newly found exoplanets are announced now in batches of several hundred.
He wanted to fly around the moon. He ended up in court instead.
A billionaire trader and a Northern Virginia-based space travel company settled a lawsuit after two years.
How long does it take to get to the Moon from the Earth? On average it would take three days, but it depends on how fast you are travelling and the exact Astronomers have discovered that the Moon is currently moving away from the Earth by 3.8 cm every year! Astronauts from the Apollo 11, 14 and 15
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Not that exoplanets are boring. There’s just … a lot of them. So it was pretty juicy when astronomers reported, for the first time, that they might have found an exomoon—a moon orbiting a planet around another star, thousands of light-years from our own.
The press (us included) covered the news, announced last fall, with a sense of wonder. An accompanying illustration of the moon, pale blue and silky, only heightened the fascination. Scientists are still trying to understand how our own moon works—still discovering moons in our own solar system, even, around Jupiter—and now here they were, excavating one from the depths of the cosmos.
The researchers, a pair of astronomers at Columbia University, stressed that they only found evidence for the moon’s existence, not the moon itself. To help confirm their potential discovery, they needed that exacting hallmark of science: someone else to replicate their work.
The Moon That Got Away
For the first time, astronomers thought they’d discovered a moon in another solar system. But others weren’t sure it actually existed.
Right now, the Moon is moving away from the Earth at a rate of about four centimeters per year, due to the tidal interaction between the Earth and the At a basic level, the Moon ’s gravity exerts a drag on the Earth that slows its rotation, and the Earth’s gravity exerts a pull on the Moon that expands its orbit.
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Eventually, someone else tried—with mixed results.
Two separate teams have since delved into the same data. One could only replicate half the evidence. The other found the same signals the Columbia astronomers did, but won’t confirm there’s a moon there. For now, the existence of the exomoon remains uncertain.
“Frankly, I can’t tell you who’s right,” says Alex Teachey, the Columbia graduate student who led the initial study.
The story of the maybe-moon begins about two years ago, with Kepler, a NASA space telescope responsible for uncovering most of the known exoplanets. Before it ran out of fuel and shut down last year, the telescope absorbed the light from thousands of stars in the Milky Way. When something—like a planet—passes in front of a star, it blocks a tiny fraction of the star’s light. Kepler could spot this faint, brief dimming.
Teachey and his colleague, David Kipping, were sifting through Kepler’s catalog for exoplanets that could have moons. One planet, Kepler-1625b, located about 8,000 light-years away from Earth, seemed more intriguing than the rest—there was something unusual about the light coming from its sun. Teachey and Kipping turned to an even more powerful instrument, the Hubble Space Telescope.
Moon landings astronaut says Mars should be next space destination
Revered astronaut Michael Collins, who was on board the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969, has marked the 50th anniversary of the iconic moon landing by calling for space agencies to forget about the moon and focus further afield. In an exclusive interview with 60 Minutes reporter Sarah Abo, Collins says the future of space exploration has to be focused on getting to Mars, instead of replicating past missions to the moon. “Mars has always been my destination, my favourite one,” he told Abo.
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The Hubble observations recorded a dimming as the planet trekked across, as expected. But it began its journey earlier than expected, and the dimming was followed by a second, fainter dip in the light. To Teachey and Kipping, this signal meant that a moon trailed behind, its gravity tugging gently on the planet and shifting its course ever so slightly. An alien astronomer watching the Earth and moon pass in front of the sun would see these same type of blips, too.
The astronomers said the moon, if it existed, was likely the size of Neptune and made of gas. “It looks very convincing on this one detection, but it’s so strange compared to what moons are like in our own solar system that it’s kind of hard to believe it,” Kipping told me last year.
Laura Kreidberg, an astronomer at Harvard and Smithsonian’s Center for Astrophysics, wanted to see it for herself. Kreidberg isn’t an exomoon hunter; she studies the atmospheres of exoplanets, and has extensive experience analyzing Hubble observations. “I have been analyzing data like this for many years, and so I was really curious to see if I put it through my pipeline, if I would get the same answer,” Kreidberg tells me.
New telescope to investigate mysterious light flashes on the moon
The weird lunar lights have baffled astronomers and even astronauts for decades.
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Kreidberg emulated the other researchers’ methods. “I did my best to reproduce their analysis as exactly as I could,” she says. Her team confirmed that the exoplanet arrived earlier than expected. But “I could not reproduce that little dip in the brightness that they attributed to the moon,” she says.
Kreidberg doesn’t know why that’s the case, and neither does Teachey; the two have chatted and checked each other’s work but found no explanation for the discrepancy. (I asked Kreidberg what it’s like for one scientist to tell another that they think their potential scientific breakthrough isn’t real. “I mean, it’s a little awkward,” she says. “But I think Alex and I are cool.”)
Kreidberg suspects the mismatch may have something to do with Hubble, which was designed to observe distant galaxies, not nearby stars like the one that hosts this potential moon. Plus, the telescope zooms at about 17,000 miles per hour around Earth. While Hubble is designed to lock onto celestial targets at this great speed, its instruments are not immune to subtle perturbations. The jostling, apparent in a fraction of a pixel, could be mistaken for something cosmic.
“At this level of precision, things like the sensitivity of individual pixels become important,” she says. “If the position of the star on the detector moves just a little bit, that can mimic the type of drop in brightness that would be caused by a moon.”
America’s first private moon lander will be made in India
Bangalore-based TeamIndus will get a shot at the moon.
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First Image of a Black Hole
The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) -- a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration -- was designed to capture images of a black hole. On April 10, 2019, in coordinated press conferences across the globe, EHT researchers revealed that they have succeeded, unveiling the first direct visual evidence of a supermassive black hole and its shadow. This breakthrough was announced in a series of six papers published in a special issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The image reveals the black hole at the center of Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster. This black hole resides 55 million light-years from Earth and has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun.
Wisps Surrounding the Horsehead Nebula
The famous Horsehead Nebula in Orion is not alone. A deep exposure shows that the dark familiar shaped indentation, visible just below center, is part of a vast complex of absorbing dust and glowing gas. To bring out details of the Horsehead's pasture, an amateur astronomer used a backyard telescope in Austria to accumulate and artistically combine 7.5 hours of images in the light of Hydrogen (red), Oxygen (green), and Sulfur (blue). The resulting spectacular picture details an intricate tapestry of gaseous wisps and dust-laden filaments that were created and sculpted over eons by stellar winds and ancient supernovas. The Flame Nebula is visible just to the left of the Horsehead, while the bright star on the upper left is Alnilam, the central star in Orion's Belt. The Horsehead Nebula lies 1,500 light years distant towards the constellation of Orion.
Why Does The Moon Flash?
A new experiment will attempt to explain the strange flashes that appear on the Moon’s surface. Transient lunar phenomena are brief flashes of light and colour on the surface of the Moon. Just this year, we reported that a bright, hot flash of light appeared during a lunar eclipse; in this case, it was caused by a meteorite impact. Researchers at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Germany hope to better understand these phenomena with a new experimental setup. Amateur and professional astronomers have reported seeing these events for a millennium.
Asteroid 6478 Gault
The asteroid 6478 Gault is seen with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, showing two narrow, comet-like tails of debris that tell us that the asteroid is slowly undergoing self-destruction. The bright streaks surrounding the asteroid are background stars. The Gault asteroid is located 214 million miles from the Sun, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Cloud Formation in the South Indian Ocean
An astronaut aboard the International Space Station snapped this image as the station flew 265 miles above this cloudy formation in the south Indian Ocean. (NASA)
Wild Cosmic Ducks
This star-studded image shows us a portion of Messier 11, an open star cluster in the southern constellation of Scutum (The Shield). Messier 11 is also known as the Wild Duck Cluster, as its brightest stars form a “V” shape that somewhat resembles a flock of ducks in flight. Messier 11 is one of the richest and most compact open clusters currently known. By investigating the brightest, hottest main sequence stars in the cluster astronomers estimate that it formed roughly 220 million years ago.
Nick Hague Completes 215th Spacewalk
Astronaut Nick Hague performs a spacewalk on March 29, 2019.
The Bosphorus Strait, Turkey
Captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, this image shows the narrow strait that connects eastern Europe to western Asia: the Bosphorus in northwest Turkey. The image contains satellite data stitched together from three radar scans acquired on 2 June, 8 July and 13 August 2018. Separating the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, the strait is one of the busiest maritime passages in the world, with around 48,000 ships passing through every year.
Ready to Communicate
ESA’s technology and communications infrastructure operates 24 hours per day, year round, and comprises a series of smaller-sized stations to link frequently orbiting Earth missions with ground controllers as well as the 'big iron' – three start-of-the-art dish antennas that allow ESA to locate and keep in touch with spacecraft.
What looks like a red butterfly in space is in reality a nursery for hundreds of baby stars, revealed in this infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Officially named W40, the butterfly is a nebula - a giant cloud of gas and dust in space where new stars may form. The butterfly's two "wings" are giant bubbles of hot, interstellar gas blowing from the hottest, most massive stars in this region. The material that forms W40's wings was ejected from a dense cluster of stars that lies between the wings in the image.
GRAVITY Instrument Breaks New Ground
The GRAVITY instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) has made the first direct observation of an exoplanet using optical interferometry. This method revealed a complex exoplanetary atmosphere with clouds of iron and silicates swirling in a planet-wide storm. The technique presents unique possibilities for characterising many of the exoplanets known today. This artist’s impression shows the observed exoplanet, which goes by the name HR8799e.
Surroundings of Star HR 8799
This wide-field image shows the surroundings of the young star HR8799 in the constellation of Pegasus. This picture was created from material forming part of the Digitized Sky Survey 2.
It is thought that well over a million people have been affected by what is probably the worst storm on record to hit the southern hemisphere. Making landfall on 15 March 2019, Cyclone Idai ripped through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, razing buildings to the ground, destroying roads and inundating entire towns, villages and swathes of farmland. The human death toll is still unknown. While humanitarian efforts continue, people are now also facing the mammoth task of picking up the pieces and cleaning up after this devastating storm. This Copernicus Sentinel-1 image indicates where the flood waters are finally beginning to recede west of the port city of Beira in Mozambique.
Lunar Flashlight from Above (Artist's Concept)
This artist's concept shows a view from above the Lunar Flashlight spacecraft, a six-unit CubeSat designed to search for ice on the Moon's surface using special lasers. The spacecraft uses its near-infrared lasers to shine light into shaded polar regions on the Moon, while an on-board reflectometer measures surface reflection and composition.
Bennu in Stereo
This set of stereoscopic images provides a 3D view of the large, 170-foot (52-meter) boulder that juts from asteroid Bennu’s southern hemisphere and the rocky slopes that surround it. The stereo pair was created by stereo image processing scientists Dr. Brian May, who is also the lead guitarist for the rock band Queen, and Claudia Manzoni. In January, May and Manzoni formally joined NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission science team as collaborators to create stereoscopic data products, which will be used by the team while selecting a sample collection site on B
Nick Hague Completes Spacewalk
NASA astronaut Nick Hague completed the first spacewalk of his career on Friday, March 22, 2019. He and fellow astronaut Anne McClain worked on a set of battery upgrades for six hours and 39 minutes, on the International Space Station’s starboard truss.
This fuzzy orb of light is a giant elliptical galaxy filled with an incredible 200 billion stars. Unlike spiral galaxies, which have a well-defined structure and boast picturesque spiral arms, elliptical galaxies appear fairly smooth and featureless. This is likely why this galaxy, named Messier 49, was discovered by French astronomer Charles Messier in 1771. At a distance of 56 million light-years, and measuring 157 000 light-years across, M49 was the first member of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies to be discovered, and it is more luminous than any other galaxy at its distance or nearer.
Big Questions, Big Telescopes
One of the four unit telescopes at the VLT under a clear night at ESO’s Paranal Observatory. Each of the unit telescopes has a main mirror 8.2 metres in diameter, making them some of the largest single-mirror telescopes in the world. They can be used individually or together and, when combined, are equivalent to a single-mirror telescope of 16 metres, effectively the largest optical telescope in the world. Leading to the publication of an average of more than one peer-reviewed scientific paper per day, the VLT is helping astronomers to answer some of the biggest questions about our Universe.
This striking view of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and turbulent southern hemisphere was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it performed a close pass of the gas giant planet.
Soho’s Equinox Sun
Last Wednesday, all locations on our planet enjoyed roughly the same number of hours of day and night. This event, called an equinox, takes place twice a year – around 20 March and then again around 23 September. On these two occasions along Earth’s yearly orbit around the Sun, sunlight shines directly overhead at the equator. The March equinox marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and of autumn in the southern one, and vice versa for the September equinox. The ESA/NASA SOHO solar observatory enjoys an alternative view of our parent star, staring at the Sun since 1995 from a vantage position – orbiting the first Lagrange point (L1) some 1.5 million kilometres from Earth towards the Sun.
This astonishing image clearly illustrates why astronomical observatories are usually built in remote, and often inhospitable, places. At ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, the sky is so clear and untroubled by man-made sources of light that it appears as if a brightly-coloured celestial firework display is in progress! This photograph, taken by ESO Photo Ambassador Petr Horálek, has been digitally projected to show as much of the sky as possible. This is why the roads leading to ESO’s 3.58-metre New Technology Telescope (left) and 3.6-metre telescope (right) appear distorted, and the bright river of light that is the Milky Way seems to curve across the sky, stretching from horizon to horizon.
Vega Lifts Off
On March 21, 2019, Vega flight VV14 lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to deliver the Italian Space Agency's Earth observation satellite Prisma into orbit.
A static hot-fire test of the Orion spacecraft's Launch Abort System Attitude Control Motor to help qualify the motor for human spaceflight, to help ensure Orion is ready from liftoff to splashdown for missions to the Moon.
Water on Space Station
ESA astronaut Samanth Cristoforetti with water on the International Space Station during her Futura mission.
Waxing Gibbous Moon
A waxing gibbous Moon is seen above Earth's limb as the International Space Station was orbiting 266 miles above the South Atlantic Ocean.
You'll Be Able to See Jupiter's Moons With a Pair of Binoculars Next Week
The best time to see Jupiter in 2019 is early next week—that's when when the gas giant comes closest to Earth and appears its brightest in the night sky.
Speaking of the Moon, from Earth on the night of March 20, the last supermoon of 2019 will be visible in the night sky, coinciding with the spring equinox. What's so special about a supermoon? Indeed, what is a supermoon?
The term “supermoon” was coined in 1979 and is used to describe what astronomers would call a perigean (pear-ih-jee-un) full moon: a full Moon occurring near or at the time when the Moon is at its closest point in its orbit around Earth.
Learn more about supermoons.
Starshine in Canis Major
It’s impossible to miss the star in this ESO Picture of the Week — beaming proudly from the center of the frame is the massive multiple star system Tau Canis Majoris, the brightest member of the Tau Canis Majoris Cluster (NGC 2362) in the eponymous constellation of Canis Major (The Great Dog). Tau Canis Majoris aside, the cluster is populated by many young and less attention-seeking stars that are only four or five million years old, all just beginning their cosmic lifetimes.
The Tau Canis Majoris Cluster is an open cluster — a group of stars born from the same molecular cloud. This means that all of the cluster’s inhabitants share a common chemical composition and are loosely bound together by gravity. Having been born together, they make an ideal stellar laboratory to test theories of stellar evolution, the chain of events that leads from a star’s birth in a cool, dense cloud of gas through to its eventual death.
Captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission, this image shows Cyclone Idai on March 13, 2019 west of Madagascar and heading for Mozambique. The storm went on to cause widespread destruction in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Mars 2020 System Test 1
Technicians approach their workstation in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Over two weeks in January 2019, 72 engineers and technicians assigned to the 2020 mission took over the High Bay 1 cleanroom in JPL's Spacecraft Assembly Facility to put the software and electrical systems aboard the mission's cruise, entry capsule, descent stage and rover through their paces.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will build and manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington.
For more information about the mission, go to https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/
Bering in Dire Straits
The Bering Strait is a sea passage that separates Russia and Alaska. It is usually covered with sea ice at this time of year – but as this image captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission on 7 March 2019 shows, it is virtually ice-free.
The extent of sea ice in the Bering Sea has dropped lower than it has been since written records began in 1850, and is most likely because of warm air and water temperatures. On average, the fluctuating sea ice in this region increases until early April, depending on wind and wave movement.
The Cosmic Bat in the Constellation Ori
This chart shows the location of the reflection nebula NGC 1788 in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter). The map includes most of the stars visible to the unaided eye under good conditions, and the region of sky shown in this image is indicated.
Saturn at Equinox
Saturn is famous for its bright, glorious rings but in this picture, taken during Saturn's 2009 equinox, the rings are cast in a different light as sunlight hits the rings edge-on.
The equinox is a point in a planet's orbit where the Sun shines directly overhead at the equator. It occurs twice per orbit and on Earth it happens in March and September. At the equinox, day and night are almost equal and the Sun rises due east and sets due west. This year, for northern hemisphere dwellers, the spring equinox occurs on 20 March.
Further afield, the international Cassini mission captured a Saturnian equinox for the first time on 12 August 2009. Saturn's equinoxes occur approximately every 15 Earth years and the next one will take place on 6 May 2025. When Saturn's equinox is viewed from Earth, the rings are seen edge-on and appear as a thin line – sometimes giving the illusion they’ve disappeared. In this image however, Cassini had a vantage point of 20 degrees above the ring plane, and viewed the planet from a distance of 847,000 kilometres. Its wide angle camera took 75 exposures over eight hours, which were then aligned and combined to create this mosaic.
As the Sun is striking the rings straight on, rather than illuminating them from above or below, the shadows cast by the rings onto the planet are compressed into a single narrow band on the planet.
Grande America Oil Spill
Captured March 19 by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, this image shows the oil spill from the Grande America vessel. The Italian container ship, carrying 2,200 tons of heavy fuel, caught fire and sank in the Atlantic off the French coast on March 12.
Oil is still emerging from the ship now lying at a depth of around 4500 metres. French authorities are trying to reduce the impact of pollution along the coast.
Satellite radar is particularly useful for monitoring the progression of oil spills because the presence of oil on the sea surface dampens down wave motion. Since radar basically measures surface texture, oil slicks show up well – as black smears on a grey background.
Juice's Magnetometer Boom
A test version of the magnetometer boom built for ESA’s mission to Jupiter is seen being tested in the Netherlands, its weight borne by balloons.
The flight model will be mounted on the Juice spacecraft – Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer – due to launch in 2022, arriving at Jupiter in 2029. The mission will spend at least three years making detailed observations of the giant gaseous planet Jupiter and three of its largest moons: Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.
The Juice spacecraft will carry the most powerful remote sensing, geophysical, and in situ payload complement ever flown to the outer Solar System. Its payload consists of 10 state-of-the-art instruments.
This includes a magnetometer instrument that the boom will project clear of the main body of the spacecraft, allowing it to make measurements clear of any magnetic interference. Its goal is to measure Jupiter’s magnetic field, its interaction with the internal magnetic field of Ganymede, and to study subsurface oceans of the icy moons.
The deployment of this qualification model boom has been performed before and after simulated launch vibration on Test Centre shaker tables to ensure it will deploy correctly in space. Since the boom will deploy in weightlessness, three helium balloons were used to help bear its weight in terrestrial gravity.
This long image is entirely over the extensive central peak complex of Hale Crater.
Of particular interest are bedrock outcrops and associated fine-grained sediments with different colors. This crater was named after American astronomer George Ellery Hale.
Complex Gullies in a Crater
Most gullies in the southern mid-latitudes are on south-facing slopes, which are the coldest and have the most frost in the winter. However, some occur on other slopes. This image shows large gullies on both the pole- and equator-facing slopes.
An important puzzle in Mars science is whether or not all of these gullies form in the same geologic eras and by the same processes.
With the backshell that will help protect the Mars 2020 rover during its descent into the Martian atmosphere visible in the foreground, a technician on the project monitors the progress of Systems Test 1. Over two weeks in January 2019, 72 engineers and technicians assigned to the 2020 mission took over the High Bay 1 cleanroom in JPL's Spacecraft Assembly Facility to put the software and electrical systems aboard the mission's cruise, entry capsule, descent stage and rover through their paces.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will build and manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington.
For more information about the mission, go to https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/
Atlantic Ocean Road, Norway
The Atlantic Ocean Road in Norway consists of eight bridges and four resting places and viewpoints. The road was originally proposed as a railway line, but that was abandoned. The road was opened in July 1989, and has been declared the world's best road trip. The image was acquired July 2, 2008, covers an area of 8.9 by 11.8 kilometers, and is located at 63 degrees north, 7.3 degrees east.
With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region and its high spatial resolution of about 50 to 300 feet (15 to 90 meters), ASTER images Earth to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet. ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched Dec. 18, 1999, on Terra. The instrument was built by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. A joint U.S./Japan science team is responsible for validation and calibration of the instrument and data products.
The broad spectral coverage and high spectral resolution of ASTER provides scientists in numerous disciplines with critical information for surface mapping and monitoring of dynamic conditions and temporal change. Example applications are monitoring glacial advances and retreats; monitoring potentially active volcanoes; identifying crop stress; determining cloud morphology and physical properties; wetlands evaluation; thermal pollution monitoring; coral reef degradation; surface temperature mapping of soils and geology; and measuring surface heat balance.
The U.S. science team is located at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The Terra mission is part of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
More information about ASTER is available at http://asterweb.jpl.nasa.gov/
Everything is (Well) Illuminated
The south polar layered deposits are icy layers that have been deposited over millions of years, preserving a climate history of Mars. In this image the layers are well illuminated to accentuate the topography.
Jupiter Jet and Brown Barge
The southern edge of Jupiter's north polar region is captured in this view from NASA's Juno spacecraft. The scene prominently displays a long, brown oval known as a "brown barge" located within a polar jet stream, called "Jet N4."
Criss-Crossing Lunar Transit
On March 6, 2019, SDO observed a long lunar transit -- with a twist. The shadow of the Moon in SDO's images first touched the limb of the Sun at 2200 UTC (5 p.m. EST) on Mar. 6, making its way across and finally left the solar disk at 0209 UTC on Mar. 7 (9:09 p.m. EST, Mar. 6). The moon's apparent reversal is caused by SDO first overtaking the moon in its orbit, then the moon catching up as SDO swings around Earth's dusk side. During the transit the Sun moves in the frame as the telescopes cool and flex in the lunar shadow. Note that the edge of the Moon is very sharp because it has no atmosphere.
New Zealand From Above
The Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite takes us over New Zealand, with the image centered over Cook Strait between the North and South Islands.
Captured on August 22, 2018, this true-color image shows the snow-covered Southern Alps stretching across the west coast of the South Island.
On the island’s east coast, bright turquoise colours in the Pacific Ocean suggest the presence of sediment being carried into the ocean by river discharge as well as algal blooms.
Rollout to the Launch Pad
The Soyuz rocket is transported by train to the launch pad on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan ahead of its launch on March 14.
InSight's Deck Camera Observes Phobos Eclipse
NASA's InSight lander took this series of images on Wednesday, March 6, 2019, capturing the moment when Phobos, one of Mars' moons, crossed in front of the Sun and darkened the ground around the lander. These images were taken by InSight's Instrument Context Camera (ICC), located under the lander's deck.
The images were taken at intervals of about 50 seconds in order to capture the eclipse, which on this day lasted 26.7 seconds. The shadow of the lander can be seen moving to the right before the entire scene darkened during the moment of the eclipse.
From the Moon to Mars
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is seen inside the Super Guppy aircraft on Monday, March 11, 2019, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Super guppy will carry the flight frame with the Orion crew module and service module inside to a testing facility in Sandusky, Ohio, for full thermal vacuum testing.
Orion will serve as the exploration vehicle that will carry humans to space, provide emergency abort capability, sustain astronauts during their missions and provide safe re-entry from deep space return velocities. Orion missions will launch from NASA’s modernized spaceport at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on the agency’s new, powerful heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System. On the first integrated mission, Exploration Mission-1, an uncrewed Orion will venture thousands of miles beyond the Moon over the course of about three weeks. The mission will pave the way for flights with astronauts beginning in the early 2020s.
As NASA ventures to the Moon and on to Mars, the agency will work with U.S. companies and international partners to push the boundaries of human exploration forward and is working to establish a permanent human presence on the Moon within the next decade.
Opportunity Legacy Pan (True Color)
This 360-degree panorama is composed of 354 images taken by the Opportunity rover's Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, 2018, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111. This is the last panorama Opportunity acquired before the solar-powered rover succumbed to a global Martian dust storm on the same June 10. This version of the scene is presented in approximate true color.
To the right of center and near the top of the frame, the rim of Endeavour Crater rises in the distance. Just to the left of that, rover tracks begin their descent from over the horizon towards the location that would become Opportunity's final resting spot in Perseverance Valley, where the panorama was taken. At the bottom, just left of center, is the rocky outcrop Opportunity was investigating with the instruments on its robotic arm. To the right of center and halfway down the frame is another rocky outcrop - about 23 feet (7 meters) distant from the camera - called "Ysleta del Sur," which Opportunity investigated from March 3 through 29, 2018, or sols 5,015 through 5,038. In the far right and left of the frame are the bottom of Perseverance Valley and the floor of Endeavour Crater.
Located on the inner slope of the western rim of Endeavour Crater, Perseverance Valley is a system of shallow troughs descending eastward about the length of two football fields from the crest of Endeavour's rim to its floor.
This true-color version combines images collected through three Pancam filters. The filters admit light centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (blue). The three-color bands are combined.
A few frames (bottom left) remain black and white, as the solar-powered rover did not have the time to photograph those locations using the green and violet filters before a severe Mars-wide dust storm swept in on June 2018.
Cheops in the clean room
The copper-coloured baffle cover of our Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, Cheops, in the clean room at Airbus Defence and Space Spain, Madrid.
After completing spacecraft testing, the satellite has passed a very important review that determined it is ready to fly. Cheops will be stored in Madrid for a few months before being shipped to the launch site in Kourou, French Guiana; launch is scheduled in the time slot between 15 October and 14 November 2019.
The baffle cover pictured in this image is designed to protect the satellite’s scientific instrument – a powerful camera, or photometer – during assembly and launch. Once in space, the cover will open, allowing light from stars to enter the telescope.
Cheops will make observations of exoplanet-hosting stars to measure small changes in their brightness due to the transit of a planet across the star's disc, targeting in particular stars hosting planets in the Earth-to-Neptune size range. The information will enable precise measurements of the sizes of the orbiting planets to be made: combined with measurements of the planet masses, this will provide an estimate of their mean density – a first step to characterising planets outside our Solar System.
Cheops paves the way for the next generation of ESA’s exoplanet satellites, with two further missions – Plato and Ariel – planned for the next decade to tackle different aspects of the evolving field of exoplanet science.
More information: CHEOPS is ready for flight
ExoMars locomotion tests
Before Rosalind Franklin, the ExoMars rover, can search for signs of life on Mars, it must learn how to maneuver the landscape. Scientists and engineers are putting the rover through a series of locomotion tests to fine tune how it will respond to a challenging martian terrain.
The ExoMars mission will see Rosalind the rover and its surface platform land on Mars in 2021. There, the rover will move across many types of terrain, from fine-grained soil to large boulders and slopes to collect samples with a drill and analyse them with instruments in its onboard laboratory. Engineers must ensure Rosalind does not get stuck in sand or topple over and that it is able to climb steep slopes and overcome rocks.
A two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Demo-1, the first uncrewed mission of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Liftoff was at 2:49 a.m. EST, March 2, 2019.
Crossing Our Sun
Humankind's most distant outpost was recently captured crossing the face of our enormous and gleaming Sun. The fleeting transit of the International Space Station was over in the blink of an eye, but Ian Griffin, Director at the Otago Museum of New Zealand, made sure he was in the right place to capture it.
This clear-weather simulation shows how the eclipsed Sun could look like in the sky above La Silla on 2 July 2019 if there are no clouds (more information). An annotated version of this image is available here.
A Strong Start
If you had a brand new state-of-the-art telescope facility, what would you look at first? Researchers at the SPECULOOS Southern Observatory chose to view the Lagoon Nebula. This magnificent picture is the result, and is one of the SPECULOOS’ first ever observations. The nebula is a cloud of dust and gas in our galaxy where new stars are being born, and is found roughly 5,000 light-years from us. SPECULOOS is located at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in the Atacama Desert of Chile, taking full advantage of the location’s dark skies, ideal atmospheric conditions, and the support systems ESO has there, from telescope infrastructure to staff accommodation.
'Go' for Launch
Two days remain until the planned liftoff of a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket—the first launch of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft and space system designed for humans. Liftoff is targeted for 2:49 a.m. EST on Saturday, March 2, from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Demo-1 mission to the International Space Station serves as an end-to-end test of the system’s capabilities. This photo of Crew Dragon was shared by SpaceX on Feb. 6, 2019.
The Cigar Galaxy's Magnetic Field
A composite image of the Cigar Galaxy (also called M82), a starburst galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The magnetic field detected by the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus instrument (known as HAWC+) on SOFIA (the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), shown as streamlines, appears to follow the bipolar outflows (red) generated by the intense nuclear starburst. The image combines visible starlight (gray) and a tracing of hydrogen gas (red) observed from the Kitt Peak Observatory, with near-infrared and mid-infrared starlight and dust (yellow) observed by SOFIA and the Spitzer Space Telescope.
Dawn of a New Era
Astronaut Anne McClain had an unparalleled view from orbit of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft as it approached the International Space Station on Sunday, March 3, 2019. The Crew Dragon docked autonomously to the orbiting laboratory, a historic first for a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft. This uncrewed test flight is providing valuable information to help verify that Crew Dragon will provide astronauts a safe, comfortable and enjoyable ride to space.
Gullies in Galle
This image was taken of the hills that resulted from uplifted rocks due to an impact that formed the Galle Crater.
These hills form a segment of a circle known as a "peak ring" and this particular formation makes Galle Crater look like a "smiley face" from orbit.
Small gullies, visible in the center of this image, have formed on the flanks of these hills and they have eroded back into the bedrock. The crater itself is probably billions of years old, yet these gullies are likely only hundreds of thousands of years old and may even be active today.
For the first time in a long time the Sun has gone an entire month without any sunspots (Feb. 1-18, 2019). To put this in context, for five years (2011-2015) surrounding the latest solar maximum in March 2014 - the period when the Sun's magnetic activity is the most intense - there were only three days without any sunspots. What a difference! The change in the level of activity during the Sun's average 11-year solar cycle is quite dramatic. We are probably not quite at the minimum level of activity yet, but are certainly getting close. The images were taken in filtered white (visible) light.
Many people hope to catch a glimpse of these reddish-green swirls of color floating in the polar skies. Few are as lucky as ESA astronaut Tim Peake, who captured this dazzling display of the aurora Australis from the International Space Station during his mission in 2016.
This stunning display of light splashed across the sky is a product of severe solar wind lashing against Earth’s protective magnetic shield.
Colorful Mawrth Vallis
Mawrth Vallis is a place on Mars that has fascinated scientists because of the clays and other hydrated minerals detected from orbit.
In this image, the enhanced black colors are most likely basaltic sands and rocks, while the green, yellow, and blue colors correspond to the different hydrated minerals.
This particular image was taken of a location in Mawrth Vallis that has a mineral called jarosite. Jarosite on Earth forms under wet, oxidizing, and acidic conditions. Another place on Mars where the Opportunity rover landed and explored also has jarosite.
Antennas and Auroras
This photograph, taken a short hike from the Geographic South Pole in Antarctica, shows some of the antennas comprising the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) array. They are visible here as the chain of antennas and wiring stretching away into the distance. The red lights along the horizon in the background are lights marking the entrances to the Amundsen-Scott research station.
SuperDARN is a network of radar antennas that monitors and explores the geomagnetic effects occurring in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. While some of these antennas are located at the South Pole, the network stretches worldwide and antennas are found in both the northern and southern hemispheres. One such geomagnetic effect is neatly captured here as wispy curtains and streaks of green filling the dark night sky above the antennas themselves: an aurora.
Auroras, informally known as polar lights, form as charged particles from the Sun flow into our region of space, hit the outer boundary of Earth’s magnetic field, and move further inwards to collide with the atoms and molecules in our planet’s atmosphere. The aurora seen here is known as aurora australis, or the southern lights.
The Slow Charm of Brain Terrain
You are staring at one of the unsolved mysteries on Mars. This surface texture of interconnected ridges and troughs, referred to as "brain terrain" is found throughout the mid-latitude regions of Mars. (This image is in Protonilus Mensae.)
This bizarrely textured terrain may be directly related to the water-ice that lies beneath the surface. One hypothesis is that when the buried water-ice sublimates (changes from a solid to a gas), it forms the troughs in the ice. The formation of these features might be an active process that is slowly occurring since HiRISE has yet to detect significant changes in these terrains.
The Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite takes us over the high, snow-studded Alps under clear skies.
The Alps extend 1200 km through eight different countries: France, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria and Slovenia. This mountain range, which is inhabited by some 20 million people, covers an area of approximately 200 000 sq km.
Captured on 16 February 2019, this true-colour image shows little clouds, particularly over the Alps and the surrounding flatter lands in southern France. There is an interesting contrast between this and the haze hanging over the Po valley in Italy, directly south of the Alps. The haze is most likely to be a mix of both fog and smog, trapped at the base of the Alps owing to both its topography and atmospheric conditions.
Patches of snow are also visible on the island of Corsica, to the left of mainland Italy, Croatia, to the right, and at the bottom of the Apennines in central Italy. Most of Italy’s rivers find their source in the Apennines, including the Tiber and the Arno.
The Adriatic Sea to the east of Italy is visible in turquoise, particularly the coastal area surrounding the Gargano National Park, jutting out. This light-green colour of the sea along the coast is likely to be caused by sediment carried into the sea by river discharge.
Directly to the right of the Alps, the image shows a pale-green Lake Neusiedl straddling the Austrian-Hungarian border. Neusiedl, meaning ‘swamp’ in Hungarian, is the largest endorheic lake in central Europe, meaning water flows into but not out of the lake, hence its size and level frequently fluctuates. It is a popular area for windsurfing, sailing and spotting the woolly Mangalica pig.
To the right, the freshwater Lake Balaton is visible, and is the largest lake in central Europe. It stretches for over 75 km in the southern foothills of Hungary. Its striking emerald-green colour is probably down to the presence of algae that grow in the shallow waters.
Sentinel-3 is a two-satellite mission to supply the coverage and data delivery needed for Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme. The mission provides critical information for a range of applications from marine observations to large-area vegetation monitoring. The satellite’s instrument package includes an optical sensor to monitor changes in the colour of Earth’s surfaces.
This image is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
GOALS Merging Galaxies
These three images show merging galaxies observed for the Great Observatories All-sky LIRG Survey, or GOALS. The merger on the left is Arp 302; in the middle are NGC 7752 and 7753; on the right is IIZw96.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
SpaceX Demo-1 Launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard launches from Launch Complex 39A, Saturday, March 2, 2019, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on its way to the International Space Station. The Demo-1 mission launched at 2:49 a.m. ET and was the first launch of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft and space system designed for humans as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The mission will serve as an end-to-end test of the system's capabilities.
Dramatic atmospheric features in Jupiter's northern hemisphere are captured in this view from NASA's Juno spacecraft. The new perspective shows swirling clouds that surround a circular feature within a jet stream region called "Jet N6." This color-enhanced image was taken at 9:20 a.m. PST (12:20 p.m. EST) on Feb. 12, 2019, as the spacecraft performed its 18th close flyby of the gas giant planet. At the time, Juno was about 8,000 miles (13,000 kilometers) from the planet's cloud tops, above a latitude of approximately 55 degrees north. The image has been rotated approximately 100 degrees to the right.
An image taken from the International Space Station shows orange swaths of airglow hovering in Earth’s atmosphere. NASA’s new Atmospheric Waves Experiment will observe this airglow from a perch on the space station to help scientists understand, and ultimately improve forecasts of, space weather changes in the upper atmosphere.
Spotted on a Spacewalk
NASA astronaut Alvin Drew participated in the STS-133 mission's first spacewalk as construction and maintenance continued on the International Space Station in 2011. During the six-hour, 34-minute spacewalk, Drew and fellow astronaut Steve Bowen (out of frame) installed the J612 power extension cable, move a failed ammonia pump module to the External Stowage Platform 2 on the Quest Airlock for return to Earth at a later date, installed a camera wedge on the right hand truss segment, installed extensions to the mobile transporter rail and exposed the Japanese "Message in a Bottle" experiment to space.
Guide Star in the Milky Way
Three of the four unit telescopes that make up ESO's VLT reflect the glow of the laser light being sent up by the fourth. From left to right, the unit telescopes are Antu, Kueyen and Melipal, all meaningful names in the Mapuche language. The laser guide star being generated by the fourth unit telescope (Yepun) is part of the Adaptive Optics system, state-of-the-art technology that corrects the blurring effects of the Earth's atmosphere to produce high quality observational data. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, can be seen as a bright band across the sky.
Caught by SPECULOOS
This Picture of the Week is a special treat: a first-light image from the newest resident of ESO’s Paranal Observatory, the SPECULOOS Southern Observatory. This planet-hunting machine aims to observe nearby but dim stars to locate exoplanets for other telescopes — such as ESO’s forthcoming Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) — to study in detail. Comprising four one-metre telescopes, each named after one of Jupiter’s Galilean moons, SPECULOOS promises to open up new frontiers in exoplanet research. This image, however, is obviously not of a faint star, but of a galaxy called NGC 6902.
Past and Future Generations of Stars
This swirling palette of color portrays the life cycle of stars in a spiral galaxy known as NGC 300. Located some 6 million lightyears away, NGC 300 is relatively nearby. It is one of the closest galaxies beyond the Local Group – the hub of galaxies to which our own Milky Way galaxy belongs. Due to its proximity, it is a favorite target for astronomers to study stellar processes in spiral galaxies.
Tropical Cyclone Oma
Tropical Cyclone Oma is seen as the International Space Station orbits 256 miles above the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland, Australia.
Peering Into the Past
This picture showcases a gravitational lensing system called SDSS J0928+2031. Gravitational lensing can help astronomers study objects that would otherwise be too faint or appear too small for us to view. When a massive object — such as a massive cluster of galaxies, as seen here — distorts space with its immense gravitational field, it causes light from more distant galaxies to travel along altered and warped paths.
Sediment Plume at Sea
The Copernicus Sentinel-2B satellite captured this image on February 5, 2019, just three days after heavy rainfall in Rome and the surrounding area of Lazio, Italy. It shows sediment gushing into the Tyrrhenian Sea, part of the Mediterranean Sea.
Favignana, Levanzo and Western Sicily
Captured on 3 September 2018 by the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite, this image shows part of western Sicily in Italy and two of the main Aegadian Islands: Favignana and Levanzo. This false-color image included the near-infrared channel and was processed in a way that makes vegetation appear in bright red. The bright turquoise, near the port city of Trapani at the top of the image, and the Isola Grande in the middle of the image, depict salt marshes. Both the Saline di Trapani e Paceco Nature Reserve and the Stagnone Nature Reserve with their shallow sea waters, windy coast and abundant sunshine, make the area between Marsala, at the bottom of the image, and Trapani an ideal place for salt production.
Timing is Everything
Einstein predicted that time slows down the faster you travel and the time-dilation hypothesis has since been proven by flying atomic clocks on aircraft. The three fastest human beings at the moment are NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques (pictured) and Roscosmos astronaut Oleg Kononenko who are orbiting Earth on the International Space Station at a speed of around 28 800 km/h. They are travelling so fast that they will return home to Earth after their six-month spaceflight 0.007 seconds younger than if they had stayed with their feet on the ground. But how do astronauts perceive time in space? Space Station crew report that time seems to speed up in microgravity so European researchers are trying to find out more by immersing astronauts in virtual reality and testing their reaction times. A virtual reality headset is used to block external visual cues that could influence the results. The experiment focuses on how astronauts estimate time duration as well as their reaction times. They are asked gauge how long a visual target appears on screen.
New Horizons Spacecraft Returns Its Sharpest Views of Ultima Thule
The most detailed images of Ultima Thule -- obtained just minutes before the spacecraft's closest approach at 12:33 a.m. EST on Jan. 1 -- have a resolution of about 110 feet (33 meters) per pixel. Their combination of higher spatial resolution and a favorable viewing geometry offer an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the surface of Ultima Thule, believed to be the most primitive object ever encountered by a spacecraft. This processed, composite picture combines nine individual images taken with the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), each with an exposure time of 0.025 seconds, just 6 ½ minutes before the spacecraft’s closest approach to Ultima Thule (officially named 2014 MU69). The image was taken at 5:26 UT (12:26 a.m. EST) on Jan. 1, 2019, when the spacecraft was 4,109 miles (6,628 kilometers) from Ultima Thule and 4.1 billion miles (6.6 billion kilometers) from Earth.
Ariane 6 Launch Complex Under Construction
The construction of the launch complex for the next generation of the Ariane launcher series is well under way at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana.
Curiosity on the Clay Unit
ASA's Curiosity Mars took this image with its Mast Camera (Mastcam) on Feb. 10, 2019 (Sol 2316). The rover is currently exploring a region of Mount Sharp nicknamed "Glen Torridon" that has lots of clay minerals. Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates the Mastcam. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project's Curiosity rover.
Audience members learn about the night skies during a show at the ESO Supernova Planetarium, a cutting-edge astronomy centre dedicated to making astronomy and ESO's work accessible to the public. The planetarium boasts a scientifically accurate three-dimensional astronomical database, ensuring a unique and authentic immersive experience.
A Hard (X-ray) Look
Bright green sources of high-energy X-ray light captured by NASA's NuSTAR mission are overlaid on an optical-light image of the Whirlpool galaxy (the spiral in the center of the image) and its companion galaxy, M51b (the bright greenish-white spot above the Whirlpool), taken by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
The bright green spots at the center of the Whirlpool and M51b are created by material surrounding supermassive black holes; additional X-ray sources in the vicinity contribute to the emission. The known ultraluminous neutron star is located on the left side of the Whirlpool.
Spring 2019 Eclipse Season Arrives
The SDO spacecraft is in another eclipse season as of Feb. 6, 2019. This begins a several week period when the Earth briefly blocks SDO's view of the Sun each day. In fact, because SDO orbits above the Mountain Time zone, the Earth passes between SDO and the Sun at about 7:20 UT (12:20 am MT) each orbit.
Eclipses are due to SDO's circular geosynchronous orbit some 22,000 miles above Earth. At the speed we are showing the frames, the eclipse is only a flicker. The still image shows that the edge of Earth, here about halfway across the Sun, looks quite rough due to the absorption of the 304 Å EUV light by our atmosphere.
InSight Collecting Mars Weather Data (Artist's Concept)
This artist's concept shows NASA's InSight lander with its instruments deployed on the Martian surface. InSight's package of weather sensors, called the Auxiliary Payload Subsystem (APSS), includes an air pressure sensor inside the lander -- its inlet is visible on InSight's deck - and two air temperature and wind sensors on the deck. Under the deck's edge is a magnetometer, provided by UCLA, to measure changes in the local magnetic field that could also influence SEIS.
InSight's air temperature and wind sensors are actually refurbished spares built for Curiosity's Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS). Called Temperature and Wind for InSight, or TWINS, these two east- and west-facing booms sit on the lander's deck and were provided by Spain's Centro de Astrobiología (CAB).
Writing on the wall
Concordia station, located on a plateau 2 miles above sea level on the Antarctic peninsula, is first and foremost a research hub. Nestled at the very southern tip of Earth, where temperatures can drop to –112°F in the winter, and a yearly average temperature of –58°F, the station offers researchers the opportunity to collect data and experiment like no other place on Earth.
Among these researchers is a team of micrometeorite hunters scouting the snow and ice for traces of extra-terrestrial material less than .04 inches diameter. Every year the amount of micrometeorites accounts for up to 1,100 tons of particles on Earth. Some of these fall in Antarctica where the frigid temperatures preserve these cosmic particles.
In December 2018, the comet 46P/Wirtanen passed within 7.2 million miles of the Earth — about 30 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon. This close pass gave astronomers the chance to observe the comet in detail, and ALMA (the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) took full advantage. ALMA’s speciality is observing the cooler components of the Universe, such as gas and dust, and the array often focuses on specific molecules. This image is no exception, as it highlights one key thing: the hydrogen cyanide gas in the coma around the comet’s nucleus.
But why would scientists be looking for an infamous poison? Well, it turns out that hydrogen cyanide is as common as mystery novels have led us to believe — throughout the cosmos, at least! Because it’s a simple organic molecule that forms relatively easily, it’s been observed in comets, stellar atmospheres, and the clouds of dust and gas that exist between stars. This image builds on those observations by showing clearly the hydrogen cyanide emanating from the nucleus of this comet. Further ALMA observations showed that other, more complex organic molecules were present, too.
This matters because, while it may be poisonous to many organisms on Earth today, hydrogen cyanide may have played an important role in getting life started on Earth. It’s very reactive, so it easily interacts with surrounding chemicals to create new molecules — including some of those essential for life, such as amino acids. One theory posits that hydrogen cyanide, brought here in part by comets, jump-started organic chemistry here on Earth, eventually leading to the beginning of life. ALMA’s imaging of 46P/Wirtanen further supports the idea that comets could have brought this life-giving material to the early Earth.
High Latitude Dunes
Today's VIS image shows a dune field on a crater floor in Mars' Terra Cimmeria. Dunes at high latitudes - near the polar caps - are affected by seasonal frost and ice. The interactions with frost/ice reduces the amount of movement of sand grains within the dunes. This changes the morphology of near polar dunes when compared to dunes at lower latitudes where ice/frost do not occur as frequently. This crater's latitude is 68 degrees south of the equator.
Jewels of the Maldives
Copernicus Sentinel-2 brings you some of the jewels of the Maldives for Valentine’s week. Arguably one of the most romantic destinations in the world, the Maldives lie in the Indian Ocean about 435 miles southwest of Sri Lanka. The nation is made up of more than 1,000 coral islands spread across more than 20 ring-shaped atolls.
A number of these little islands can be seen in the image, with the turquoise colours depicting clear shallow waters dotted by coral reefs and the red colours highlighting vegetation on land. Different cloud formations can also be seen, the difference in appearance is likely to be due to the different height above the surface.
Like many low-lying islands, the Maldives are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise. In fact, the Maldives are reported to be the flattest country on Earth, with no ground higher than 10 feet and 80 percent of the land lying below 3 feet. With satellite records showing that over the past five years, the global ocean has risen, on average, .2 inches a year, rising seas are a real threat to these island jewels.
Set to fly in 2022, ESA’s Biomass Earth Explorer satellite with its 39-foot diameter radar antenna will pierce through woodland canopies to perform a global survey of Earth’s forests – and see how they change over the course of Biomass’s five-year mission.
Biomass will achieve this using a ‘synthetic aperture radar’ to send down signals from orbit and record the resulting backscatter, building up maps of tree height and volume. To see through leafy treetop to the trees themselves, Biomass will employ long-wavelength ‘P-band’ radar, which has never previously flown in space. It will have its signals amplified to travel down from a 373-mile altitude orbit down to Earth and back.
Lori Glaze, acting director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, speaks during a mission briefing for the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Feb. 13, in Pasadena, Calif.
From Earth with Love
“Valentine’s Day has struck again,” tweeted ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet when he posted this image of a heart-shaped lake in Mongolia. Thomas took this image from the International Space Station during his Proxima mission in 2017.
The Red Planet's Layered History
The geologic history of a planet is written in its layers. Erosion of the surface reveals several shades of light toned layers, likely sedimentary deposits, as shown in this image taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The most recent geologic features are the narrow sand dunes snaking across the top of all the rocks.
HiRISE operates in visible wavelengths, the same as human eyes, but with a telescopic lens that produces images at resolutions never before seen in planetary exploration missions. These high-resolution images enable scientists to distinguish 1-meter-size (about 3-foot-size) objects on Mars and to study the morphology (surface structure) in a much more comprehensive manner than ever before.
Stars on the Dome
Audience members learn about the night skies during a show at the ESO Supernova Planetarium.
A New Record
Robert Curbeam currently holds the record for the most spacewalks during a single spaceflight. In this image from December 2006, Curbeam works on the port overhead solar array wing on the International Space Station's P6 truss during Space Shuttle Discovery's STS-116 mission. This was the mission's fourth spacewalk.
Curbeam conducted this spacewalk with European Space Agency astronaut Christer Fuglesang (out of frame), using specially prepared, tape-insulated tools, to guide the array wing neatly inside its blanket box during the 6-hour, 38-minute spacewalk.
Looking Back on a Golden Opportunity
In this navigation camera raw image, NASA's Opportunity Rover looks back over its own tracks on Aug. 4, 2010.
NASA's InSight spacecraft and its recently deployed Wind and Thermal Shield were imaged on Mars on Feb. 4, 2019, by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
On Feb. 2, 2019, InSight's robotic arm placed the special shield over its seismometer on the Martian surface to protect the instrument from wind and extreme temperatures. The green object in this image is the InSight lander; the white dot just below it is the shield, which is especially bright and reflective. The shield is a little less than 6 feet (1.8 meters) away from the lander. The dark circles on either side of the lander are its solar panels. The total width of the lander with both panels open is 19 feet, 8 inches (6 meters).
The image also shows the darkened ground where InSight's retrorockets blew away lighter-colored dust as the lander touched down on Nov. 26, 2018. Scientists are interested in imaging this location over time to watch how quickly the lighter-colored Martian dust covers that darkened surface.
The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
A Delicate View
This delicate view of Earth was captured in 2007 on the second of three Earth flybys made by ESA’s comet-chasing Rosetta spacecraft on its ten year journey to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The spacecraft also got a boost from Mars to set it on course with its destination.
Fox Fur, Unicorn, and Christmas Tree
Clouds of glowing hydrogen gas fill this colorful skyscape in the faint but fanciful constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn. A star forming region cataloged as NGC 2264, the complex jumble of cosmic gas and dust is about 2,700 light-years distant and mixes reddish emission nebulae excited by energetic light from newborn stars with dark interstellar dust clouds. Where the otherwise obscuring dust clouds lie close to the hot, young stars they also reflect starlight, forming blue reflection nebulae. The telescopic image spans about 3/4 degree or nearly 1.5 full moons, covering 40 light-years at the distance of NGC 2264.
Its cast of cosmic characters includes the the Fox Fur Nebula, whose dusty, convoluted pelt lies near the top, bright variable star S Monocerotis immersed in the blue-tinted haze near center, and the Cone Nebula pointing in from the right side of the frame. Of course, the stars of NGC 2264 are also known as the Christmas Tree star cluster. The triangular tree shape is seen on its side here. Traced by brighter stars it has its apex at the Cone Nebula. The tree's broader base is centered near S Monocerotis.
Hide in Plain Sight
The universe is cluttered. It hosts myriad island cities of stars, the galaxies. Much closer to home are nebulae, star clusters and assorted celestial objects that are mostly within our Milky Way galaxy. Despite the vastness of space, objects tend to get in front of each other.
This happened when astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to photograph the globular star cluster NGC 6752 (located 13,000 light-years away in our Milky Way's halo). In a celestial game of "Where's Waldo?" Hubble's sharp vision uncovered a never-before-seen dwarf galaxy located far behind the cluster's crowded stellar population. The loner galaxy is in our own cosmic backyard, only 30 million light-years away (approximately 2,300 times farther than the foreground cluster).
Wading Through Water
This striking image combines data gathered with the Advanced Camera for Surveys, installed on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and data from the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. It shows just a part of the spectacular tail emerging from a spiral galaxy nicknamed D100.
Tails such as these are created by a process known as ram-pressure stripping. Despite appearances, the space between galaxies in a cluster is far from empty; it is actually filled with superheated gas and plasma, which drags and pulls at galaxies as they move through it, a little like the resistance one experiences when wading through deep water. This can be strong enough to tear galaxies apart, and often results in objects with peculiar, bizarre shapes and features — as seen here.
Large Magellanic Cloud
This dazzling region of newly-forming stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) was captured by the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The relatively small amount of dust in the LMC and MUSE’s acute vision allowed intricate details of the region to be picked out in visible light.
Artist impression of Cheops, the Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, with an exoplanet system in the background.
In reality, Cheops will be situated in Earth orbit, and will study exoplanet systems from afar, making precise measurements of the planet’s size as it moves in front of its host star. These measurements, combined with known information about the mass of the planet based on independent observations, will allow the density of the planet to be estimated. This will constrain the planet’s possible composition and structure, indicating for example if it is predominantly rocky or gaseous, or perhaps harbours significant oceans. Cheops will focus particularly on bright stars hosting Earth- to Neptune-sized planets. This first-step characterisation of these worlds – many with no Solar System equivalents – is a critical process towards understanding the formation, origin and evolution of exoplanets in this size range.
View From Above
A portion of the International Space Station's solar arrays caps this nighttime view of the Earth's limb with an aurora as the orbital complex orbited 258 miles above Ukraine and Russia.
NASA's InSight lander deployed its Wind and Thermal Shield on Feb. 2, 2019 (sol 66). The shield covers InSight's seismometer, which was set down onto the Martian surface on Dec. 19, 2018. This image was taken by the Instrument Deployment Camera on the lander's robotic arm.
An Intricate Crater
This intricate structure of an ancient river delta once carried liquid water across the surface of Mars.
The distinctive form of a delta arises from sediments that are deposited by a river as it enters slower-moving water, like a lake or a sea, for example. The Nile River delta is a classic example on Earth, and uncannily similar features have been spotted on Saturn’s moon Titan and – closer to home – Mars. While liquid water is no longer present on the surface of Mars, features in the left portion of this image provide strong evidence of it having played an important role in the history of the Red Planet.
This Copernicus Sentinel-1 image combines two acquisitions over the same area of eastern Iraq, one from 14 November 2018 before heavy rains fell and one from 26 November 2018 after the storms. The image reveals the extent of flash flooding in red, near the town of Kut.
Winter Is Here
ALMAAntennas in the snow on a cold day in the Chilean winter. In front of the closest one someone has written a portentous phrase in the snow: "Winter is here."
A selfie taken by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on Sol 2291 (January 15) at the "Rock Hall" drill site, located on Vera Rubin Ridge.
This was Curiosity's 19th drill site. The drill hole is visible to the rover's lower-left; the entire scene is slightly dustier than usual due to a regional dust storm affecting the area.
The selfie is composed of 57 individual images taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), a camera on the end of the rover's robotic arm. The images are then stitched together into a panorama. MAHLI was built by Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project's Curiosity rover.
This image showcases a starfield projected on the dome of the planetarium at the heart of the ESO Supernova Planetarium. The state-of-the-art projection technology and scientifically accurate three-dimensional astronomical database create an authentic and immersive experience.
Space Station Over the Caribbean
Portions of Cuba, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos are seen from the International Space Station, as the orbital complex flew 252 miles above the Atlantic Ocean. At left is the aft end of the Progress 70 resupply ship from Russia attached to the station's Pirs docking compartment.
Ready to Roll
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the company’s Crew Dragon attached, rolls out of the hangar at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Jan. 3, 2019. The rocket will undergo checks prior to the liftoff of Demo-1, the inaugural flight of a spacecraft designed to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
The Moon is seen rising over the Goonhilly antenna in this image taken at 5:27 UTC (06:27 CET) on Monday, January 21, during an eclipse.
Unit Telescope 4 (Yepun) uses laser light to create a guide star. Yepun is installed with state-of-the-art technology called Adaptive Optics, which enables the telescope to capture much sharper images by correcting the blurring effects of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Pink Sky Delight
The sky glows a soft pink as the sun approaches the horizon at Cerro Paranal, a mountain south of Antofagasta, Chile. This is the location of ESO's VLT, the world's most advanced optical instrument, which is equipped to make the most of the 300 clear nights a year.
A side view of ESA’s Solar Orbiter as it entered a vacuum chamber for thermal vacuum testing at the IABG test facility in Ottobrunn, Germany.
The spacecraft flight model had been readied by prime contractor Airbus in the UK. Set to launch in 2020, Solar Orbiter will observe the Sun and measure the solar wind.
Solar Orbiter’s main body will be protected from direct sunlight by a Sun-facing multi-layer titanium heat shield. The high-gain antenna seen here will be deployed from the body of the spacecraft to transmit data back to Earth.
The antenna’s black color is unusual. It is covered with the same kind of protective, high temperature coating as the front of Solar Orbiter’s heatshield, based on burnt-bone charcoal. Developed by Irish company ENBIO, this ‘Solar Black’ coating was selected because it can maintain the same color and surface properties despite years of exposure to unfiltered sunlight and ultraviolet radiation.
Low Wind Effect
A demonstration of how the Low Wind Effect (LWE) changes astronomical images.
Getting a science experiment on the world’s only floating outpost in Earth's orbit is a costly and time-consuming endeavour. ICE Cubes is ESA’s faster, lower cost answer to making science happen in space.
The International Commercial Experiment Cubes, or ICE Cubes, house modular experiments on the International Space Station.
The ICE Cubes service is based on a partnership between Space Applications Services and ESA and is part of ESA’s strategy to ensure access to weightless research in low Earth orbit.
The Milky Way stretches across the sky over Paranal, the site of ESO's VLT. Paranal has about 300 clear nights per year, which, combined with the VLT's state-of-the-art technology, allows astronomers to observe the Universe in remarkable detail. An individual unit telescope at the VLT can see objects four billion times fainter than what can be seen with the unaided eye, while combining the telescopes allows astronomers to see details up to 16 times finer than can be discerned with the individual telescopes.
VIS image shows a small portion of the immense lava plains of Daedalia Planum. These flows originated from Arsia Mons, one of the three large Tharsis volcanoes. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) was developed by Arizona State University, Tempe, in collaboration with Raytheon Santa Barbara Remote Sensing.
Paranal Observatory and the VLT
Aerial view of the VLT at Paranal Observatory. Visible are the four large 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes (UTs), as well as the smaller 1.8-m Auxillary Telescopes used during interferometry, when the UTs combine to act as one larger telescope. The telescope at the far rigtht of the observatory in the image is the 2.6-metre VLT Survey Telescope (VST), whose wide field of view is used to survey large areas of the sky in order to locate objects for larger telescopes, including the VLT, to observe.
Cross-Section of a Complex Crater
This image shows a cross-section of a complex crater in Terra Cimmeria. Starting in the center, we see a series of peaks with exposed bedrock. These peaks formed during the impact event when material that was originally several kilometers below the surface was uplifted and exposed. The impact also melted the rocks. This eventually cooled, forming the pitted materials that coat the crater floor around the uplift. The rim of the crater was unstable, and collapsed inwards to form terraces, and we see additional pitted materials between the terraces and the rim. Just outside the crater we can see dark-toned material that was excavated and thrown out after the impact.
Impact Near the South Pole
This image shows a new impact crater that formed between July and September 2018. It's notable because it occurred in the seasonal southern ice cap, and has apparently punched through it, creating a two-toned blast pattern. The impact hit on the ice layer, and the tones of the blast pattern tell us the sequence. When an impactor hits the ground, there is a tremendous amount of force like an explosion.
View of Ceres' Limb
Captured on May 19, 2018, this image shows the limb of Ceres at about 270E, 30N looking south. The spatial resolution is about 200 feet (60 meters) per pixel in the nearest parts of the image. The impact crater to the right (only partially visible) is Ninsar, named after a Sumerian goddess of plants and vegetation. It is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) in diameter.
October Revolution Island, Russia
Severnaya Zemlya is an archipelago in the Russian high Arctic. It was first charted in 1930, making it the last large archipelago on Earth to be explored. It consists of four main islands: October Revolution, Bolshevik, Komsomolets, and Pioneer. All are mostly glaciated; the glaciers have a characteristic dome shape. This image of the center of October Revolution Island shows two of these glaciers. The ice-free areas between the glaciers expose folded sedimentary rocks.
Matterhorn, Moon, and Meteor
Fans of planet Earth probably recognize the Matterhorn in the foreground of this night skyscape. Famed in mountaineering history, the 4,478 meter Alpine mountain stands next to the totally eclipsed Moon. In spite of -22 degree C temperatures, the inspired scene was captured on the morning of January 21 from the mountains near Zermatt, Switzerland. Different exposures record the dim red light reflected by the Moon fully immersed in Earth's shadow. Seen directly above the famous Alpine peak, but about 600 light-years away, are the stars of the Praesepe or Beehive star cluster also known as Messier 44.
A Fleeting Moment in Time
The faint, ephemeral glow emanating from the planetary nebula ESO 577-24 persists for only a short time — around 10,000 years, a blink of an eye in astronomical terms. ESO’s Very Large Telescope captured this shell of glowing ionised gas — the last breath of the dying star whose simmering remains are visible at the heart of this image. As the gaseous shell of this planetary nebula expands and grows dimmer, it will slowly disappear from sight.
Lunar Eclipse Over Lake Maggiore
The lunar eclipse that took place in the early hours of Monday 21 January kicks off a major year for our satellite. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, the first crewed landing on the Moon. After more than four decades, the Moon is again in the spotlight of space agencies worldwide as a destination for both robotic missions and human explorers. But first, the lunar eclipse. The phenomenon known as a total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes directly between the Moon and the Sun, hiding the light that illuminates the surface of our satellite. As the Moon passes through the shadow of Earth it appears in orange and red hues. This is because a small portion of sunlight is refracted by the Earth's atmosphere and mostly red light reaches the Moon. This image of the eclipse at totality was taken at 06:23 CET by Alberto Negro.
Moonwalk on Earth
ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer and ESA spacewalk instructor Hervé Stevenin analysing rock samples in close interaction with planetary geologists during the Pangaea-X campaign in November 2018. Pangaea-X is a test campaign that brings together geology, high-tech survey equipment and space exploration. Astronauts, scientists, operations experts and instrumentation engineers work side-by-side to advance European know-how of integrated human and robotics mission operations. An extension of ESA’s Pangaea geology training, the training involves working with the latest technologies in instrumentation, navigation, remote sensing, 3D imaging and geoscience equipment.
The faint, ephemeral glow emanating from the planetary nebula ESO 577-24 persists for only a short time — around 10,000 years, a blink of an eye in astronomical terms. ESO’s Very Large Telescope captured this shell of glowing ionised gas — the last breath of the dying star whose simmering remains are visible at the heart of this image. As the gaseous shell of this planetary nebula expands and grows dimmer, it will slowly disappear from sight. The image is a colour composite made from exposures from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 (DSS2), and shows the region surrounding ESO 577-24, faintly visible in blue at the centre of the image.
Spotlight on Antarctica
This ethereal image was taken by Daniel Michalik, currently a research fellow at ESA. It was shortlisted as a finalist in the Royal Society photography competition in 2017, and went on to become the overall winner in the ‘Astronomy’ category – and it’s easy to see why. It captures a beautiful scene at the Earth’s South Pole in Antarctica, where the dry, cold conditions allow for observations of a number of rare celestial phenomena that are seen far less often elsewhere. The sight captured beautifully here by Daniel is a good example of such a phenomenon: a light pillar. The Moon illuminates a column of bright light between it and the frozen plateau below, creating a scene akin to a dramatic lunar spotlight beaming downwards. This is caused by moonlight reflecting from and refracting through ice crystals suspended in our planet’s atmosphere, producing a diffuse, eerie glow.
Expedition 58 Flight Engineers Anne McClain of NASA and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency pose for a portrait inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Expedition 57 Flight Engineer Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos is pictured in the background inside the Unity module which connects the International Space Station's U.S. segment to the Russian segment.
This huge ball of stars — around 100 billion in total — is an elliptical galaxy located some 55 million light-years away from us. Known as Messier 89, this galaxy appears to be perfectly spherical; this is unusual for elliptical galaxies, which tend to be elongated ellipsoids. The apparently spherical nature of Messier 89 could, however, be a trick of perspective, and be caused by its orientation relative to the Earth. Messier 89 is slightly smaller than the Milky Way, but has a few interesting features that stretch far out into the surrounding space. One structure of gas and dust extends up to 150 000 light-years out from the galaxy’s centre, which is known to house a supermassive black hole.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over Gangotri, one of the largest glaciers in the Himalayas and one of the main sources of water for the Ganges River. The Gangotri Glacier is in the Indian Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. The head of the glacier can be seen in the lower-right of the image near the Chaukhamba Peak. From here, Gangotri flows around 30 km northwest, but like many of the world’s glaciers it is in retreat. Studies suggest that Gangotri has been receding for well over 200 years. Measurements have shown, that it retreated by as much as 35 metres a year between the mid-1950s and mid-1970s. While this has now reduced to about 10 metres a year, observations show that the glacier is thinning. The glacier’s terminus is called Gomukh, which means ‘mouth of a cow’, presumed to describe what the snout of this huge glacier once resembled. Importantly, the headwaters of the Bhagirathi River form here.
Flyby of Captures Two Massive Storms
This image of Jupiter's turbulent southern hemisphere was captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft as it performed its most recent close flyby of the gas giant planet on Dec. 21, 2018. This new perspective captures the notable Great Red Spot, as well as a massive storm called Oval BA. The storm reached its current size when three smaller spots collided and merged in the year 2000. The Great Red Spot, which is about twice as wide as Oval BA, may have formed from the same process centuries ago.
Orion Over the Alps
Do you recognize this constellation? Through the icicles and past the mountains is Orion, one of the most identifiable star groupings on the sky and an icon familiar to humanity for over 30,000 years. Orion has looked pretty much the same during the past 50,000 years and should continue to look the same for many thousands of years into the future. Orion is quite prominent in the sky this time of year, a recurring sign of (modern) winter in Earth's northern hemisphere and summer in the south. Pictured, Orion was captured recently above the Austrian Alps in a composite of seven images taken by the same camera in the same location during the same night. Below and slightly to the right of Orion's three-star belt is the Orion Nebula, while the four bright stars surrounding the belt are, clockwise from the upper left, Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Rigel, and Saiph.
China's 2D Satellite
A Long March-3B rocket carrying Zhongxing-2D satellite blasts off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on Jan. 11, in Liangshan, Sichuan Province of China.
Fire in the Heavens
Screenshot of ESOcast 190: Chile Chill 12.
This artist's illustration shows the planetary system K2-138, which was discovered by citizen scientists in 2017 using data from NASA's Kepler space telescope. Five planets were initially detected in the system. In 2018, scientists using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope found evidence of a sixth planet in the system.
The Kepler telescope might be another factor, Kreidberg says. After Teachey and Kipping picked Kepler-1625b as an interesting target, the Kepler data was reprocessed, and the signatures in the surrounding starlight that had intrigued the two researchers vanished. (Teachey and Kipping acknowledged this disappearing act in their original work, and say that the observations by Hubble, which is four times more precise, stand.)
It is this disconnect that makes René Heller, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, stop short of endorsing the exomoon. Heller and his own team of researchers tried to repeat Teachey and Kipping’s analysis. They confirmed the early arrival of the planet, the mark of an object floating nearby. And they found the small dip in the starlight that Kreidberg didn’t.
But they came to different conclusions when they analyzed the Kepler and Hubble data separately. Like Kreidberg, Heller doesn’t rule out that the Hubble signal might be corrupted data masquerading as a moon. He suspects that Teachey and Kipping have discovered something—not a moon, but another planet around the star, tugging on the other as they go round and round. (The Columbia astronomers have also entertained this possibility.)
The first tentative detection of a moon in another solar system was always going to be controversial. The first reports of exoplanets, in the 1990s, were met with skepticism, and it took some candidates a decade to be confirmed. More than 3,300 exoplanets are in limbo right now; space telescopes have recorded their movements, the tell-tale darkening in their star’s glow, but astronomers need to see several more passes before the objects are declared the real deal. Which is to say, it may be a while before the theory of the maybe-moon makes history or fades away. And a future of thousands of known exomoons, their discoveries as routine as that of exoplanets, seems even more distant.
Teachey welcomes the independent analyses and competing interpretations. This is how science should work, he says. What the alleged moon needs now—what every intriguing cosmic conundrum needs, any astronomer would tell you—is more data. Teachey hopes to continue monitoring the movements of Kepler-1625b and the potential moon using ground-based telescopes, which require less wrangling than Hubble does. The telescope splits its time among thousands of requests from astronomers around the world, and quick schedule changes are reserved for very special occasions, like the surprise arrival of an interstellar asteroid.
“The good news is, if the moon is really there, it’s not going anywhere,” Teachey says. “So eventually, maybe when it’s a bit easier or cheaper to perform the observations, we really ought to know one way or another whether the moon is there by watching the planet transit again and again and seeing if the moon shows up. It won’t be a mystery forever.”
You'll Be Able to See Jupiter's Moons With a Pair of Binoculars Next Week.
The best time to see Jupiter in 2019 is early next week—that's when when the gas giant comes closest to Earth and appears its brightest in the night sky.