Japan’s doomed Hitomi observatory peeled back a veil on the inner workings of the Perseus cluster of galaxies before the satellite spun out of control earlier this year, revealing in unprecedented detail how gas heated to millions of degrees behaves around an unseen supermassive black hole, scientists said.
Where did the two natural satellites of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, come from? For a long time, their shape suggested that they were captured asteroids. However, the shape and course of their orbits contradict this hypothesis. Two independent and complementary studies now provide an answer: these satellites formed from the debris of a gigantic collision between Mars and a protoplanet one-third its size.
A new science satellite, the ASTRO-H X-ray Observatory, will blast into Earth orbit this month. The project, led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), aims to collect a wealth of new data on everything from the formation of galaxy clusters to the warping of space and time around black holes. ASTRO-H boasts a sensitivity level that is orders of magnitude better than previous technology.
Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft got another shot at Venus after a main engine failure during a crucial orbital-insertion burn meant it zipped past the planet on its first attempt in December 2010. The probe spent five years orbiting the Sun so it could catch up with Venus to try again on 7 December. The successful nail-biting manoeuvre is being celebrated by NASA scientists, eager to learn more about the atmosphere and climate of Earth’s enigmatic sister planet.