News

JWST launch slips to early 2019

5 October 2017 Stephen Clark

Extra testing of the James Webb Space Telescope and delays in assembling the powerful observatory will push back the $10 billion mission’s launch by at least six months to early 2019, officials announced last week as the telescope successfully completed an extensive performance test inside a cryogenic vacuum chamber in Houston.

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Sneak peek of Gaia’s sky in colour

23 August 2017 Astronomy Now

While surveying the positions of over a billion stars, ESA’s Gaia mission is also measuring their colour, a key diagnostic to study the physical properties of stars. A new image provides a preview of Gaia’s first full-colour all-sky map, which will be unleashed in its highest resolution with the next data release in 2018.

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Pioneering ESA mission aims to create artificial solar eclipses

20 August 2017 Stephen Clark

As skywatchers and scientists converge on a transcontinental band of totality for Monday’s solar eclipse in the United States, engineers in Europe are building a unique pair of satellites to create artificial eclipses lasting for hours — a feat that that could be a boon for solar physicists but will escape the view of Earth-bound spectators.

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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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Artificial brain helps Gaia catch speeding stars

27 June 2017 Astronomy Now

With the help of software that mimics a human brain, ESA’s Gaia satellite spotted six stars zipping at high speed from the centre of our galaxy to its outskirts. This could provide key information about some of the most obscure regions of the Milky Way.