A team of scientists and engineers led by Princeton University researchers recently reported the successful operation of a new instrument for the 8.2-metre Subaru Telescope at the Mauna Kea Observatory on Hawaii that will allow astronomers to make direct observations and take spectra of planets orbiting nearby stars.
NASA’s Kepler mission has verified 1,284 new planets — the single largest finding of planets to date. Of the nearly 5,000 total planet candidates found to date, more than 3,200 now have been verified, and 2,325 of these were discovered by the space telescope. Launched in March 2009, Kepler is the first NASA mission to find potentially habitable Earth-size planets.
Using data gathered by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on its Pluto flyby in July 2015, the dwarf planet has some characteristics less like that of a comet and more like much larger planets, according to the first analysis of Pluto’s unique interaction with the solar wind — the charged particles that spew off from the Sun into the solar system at a supersonic 1 million mph.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has observed geysers erupting on Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus since 2005, but the process that drives and sustains these eruptions has remained a mystery. Now, scientists have pinpointed a mechanism by which cyclical tidal stresses exerted by Saturn can drive Enceladus’s long-lived eruptions.
It has been suggested that gamma rays coming from the dense region of space in the inner Milky Way galaxy could be caused when invisible dark matter particles collide, but two new studies suggest that the gamma ray bursts are due to other astrophysical phenomena such as fast-rotating stars called millisecond pulsars.
Galaxy clusters, which consist of thousands of galaxies, are important for exploring dark matter because they reside in a region where such matter is much denser than average. Scientists believe that the heavier a cluster is, the more dark matter it has in its environment. But new research suggests the connection is more complicated than that.