News

Giant ‘cannonballs’ seen shooting from binary-star system

7 October 2016 Astronomy Now

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has detected superhot blobs of gas, each twice as massive as the planet Mars, being ejected near a dying red giant star in the V Hydrae binary system. The plasma balls are zooming so fast through space it would take only 30 minutes for them to travel from Earth to the Moon.

News

Countdown begins for Cassini’s final plunge into Saturn

16 September 2016 Astronomy Now

After more than 12 years studying Saturn, its rings and moons, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has entered the final year of its epic voyage. The Grand Finale will come on 15 September 2017 as Cassini dives into Saturn’s cloud tops, where friction with the atmosphere will cause the spacecraft to burn up like a meteor.

News

Pirouetting Pleiads provide clues to stellar structure and evolution

13 August 2016 Astronomy Now

Like cosmic ballet dancers, the stars of the Pleiades cluster are spinning, but all at different speeds. By watching these stellar dancers, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has helped amass the most complete catalogue of rotation periods for stars in a cluster. This information can provide insight into where and how planets form around these stars, and how such stars evolve.

News

Cassini finds flooded canyons on Saturn’s moon Titan

10 August 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has found deep, steep-sided canyons on Saturn’s moon Titan that are flooded with liquid hydrocarbons. The finding represents the first direct evidence of the presence of liquid-filled channels on Titan, as well as the first observation of canyons hundreds of metres deep.

News

Dawn’s gravity data probes interior of dwarf planet Ceres

5 August 2016 Astronomy Now

By tracking subtle changes in the motion of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, scientists have mapped the variations in Ceres’ gravity for the first time, providing clues to the dwarf planet’s internal structure. The new data suggest that Ceres has a weak interior, and that water and other light materials partially separated from rock during a heating phase early in its history.

News

Chorus of black holes sings in X-rays

31 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Supermassive black holes do not give off any of their own light, hence the word “black” in their name. However, many black holes pull in surrounding material and emit powerful bursts of X-rays. Collectively, these active black holes can be thought of a cosmic choir, singing in the language of X-rays. Their “song” is what astronomers call the cosmic X-ray background.

News

Mars gullies likely not formed by liquid water

30 July 2016 Astronomy Now

New findings using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that gullies on modern Mars are likely not being formed by flowing liquid water. This new evidence will allow researchers to further narrow theories about how Martian gullies form, and reveal more details about Mars’ recent geologic processes.

News

Solving the mystery of how comets are born

29 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Detailed analysis of data collected from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft show that comets are the ancient leftovers of early solar system formation, and not younger fragments resulting from subsequent collisions between other, larger bodies.

News

The case of the missing Ceres craters

27 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Ceres is covered in countless small, young craters, but none are larger than 175 miles (280 kilometres) in diameter. To scientists, this is a huge mystery, given that the dwarf planet must have been hit by numerous large asteroids during its 4.5 billion-year lifetime. Where did all the large craters go?