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Study teams comb through NASA’s wish list for new telescope

21 July 2017 Stephen Clark

Scientists outlining four concepts for a powerful new space telescope that could launch in the 2030s this week said improvements in optics, detectors and access to huge new rockets like NASA’s Space Launch System could revolutionize the way astronomers observe potentially habitable planets, black holes, and the earliest galaxies in the Universe.

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Scientists get best measure of star-forming material in early galaxy clusters

21 July 2017 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have combined observations from several of the world’s most powerful telescopes to carry out one of the largest studies yet of molecular gas — the raw material which fuels star formation throughout the universe — in three of the most distant clusters of galaxies ever found, detected as they appeared when the Universe was only four billion years old.

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Exoplanet hunter sees first light at La Silla Observatory

19 July 2017 Astronomy Now

The MASCARA station at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile has achieved first light. This new facility will seek out transiting exoplanets as they pass in front of their bright parent stars and create a catalogue of targets for future exoplanet characterisation observations.

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Pioneering probe for gravitational wave observatory ends mission

19 July 2017 Stephen Clark

The European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, now sailing around the sun on a trajectory away from Earth, was deactivated Tuesday after a nearly 18-month mission testing previously-untried lasers, vacuum enclosures, exotic gold-platinum cubes and micro-thrusters needed for a trio of gravitational wave observatories set for launch in the 2030s.

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Heart of an exploded star observed in 3D

13 July 2017 Astronomy Now

Supernovas — the violent endings of the brief yet brilliant lives of massive stars — are among the most cataclysmic events in the cosmos. Though supernovas mark the death of stars, they also trigger the birth of new elements and the formation of new molecules.

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First close up Juno images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot reach Earth

12 July 2017 William Harwood

Two days after NASA’s Juno spacecraft streaked over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, pictures of the solar system’s largest, most powerful storm, have been transmitted to Earth, giving eager scientist close-up views of the 10,000-mile-wide anticyclone where 400-mph winds have been howling for at least 187 years and possibly much longer.