astronomy round-up: 29 June 2012

Titan & Dione RGB

Titan — pictured with Dione, above — is now believed to have liquid water lurking beneath its shell of ice . . . Read more on this and other stories below!

  • Hubble, Swift Detect First-ever Changes In An Exoplanet Atmosphere

    “An international team of astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made an unparalleled observation, detecting significant changes in the atmosphere of a planet located beyond our solar system.”

  • University of Florida astronomer reports rare case of gravitational lensing

    “You could say that the odds of seeing it were astronomical. Yet there it was, 10 billion light-years from Earth, the most massive galaxy cluster ever seen at such a distance – with a gravity field so strong that it distorted the light of the galaxy behind it in a rare display called gravitational lensing.”

  • Pluto at opposition

    “Dwarf planet Pluto comes to opposition on 29 June among the stars of Sagittarius and despite its +14 magnitude and current southerly declination it is a good target for imagers and owners of moderate to large telescopes. Of course it is far too small and distant to reveal a disc in amateur instruments, but keen observers can try to follow Pluto’s movement against the background star field.”

  • Hubble spots rare gravitational arc from distant, hefty galaxy cluster

    “Seeing is believing, except when you don’t believe what you see. … Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have found a puzzling arc of light behind an extremely massive cluster of galaxies residing 10 billion light-years away. The galactic grouping, discovered by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, was observed when the universe was roughly a quarter of its current age of 13.7 billion years. The giant arc is the stretched shape of a more distant galaxy whose light is distorted by the monster cluster’s powerful gravity, an effect called gravitational lensing.”

  • Exhumed rocks reveal Mars water ran deep

    “By studying rocks blasted out of impact craters, ESA’s Mars Express has found evidence that underground water persisted at depth for prolonged periods during the first billion years of the Red Planet’s existence.”

  • Caltech Scientists Find New Primitive Mineral in Meteorite

    “In 1969, an exploding fireball tore through the sky over Mexico, scattering thousands of pieces of meteorite across the state of Chihuahua. More than 40 years later, the Allende meteorite is still serving the scientific community as a rich source of information about the early stages of our solar system’s evolution. Recently, scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) discovered a new mineral embedded in the space rock—one they believe to be among the oldest minerals formed in the solar system.”

  • New Planet-weighing Technique Found

    “Although there have been about 800 extra-solar planets discovered so far in our galaxy, the precise masses of the majority of them are still unknown, as the most-common planet-finding technique provides only a general idea of an object’s mass. Previously, the only way to determine a planet’s exact mass was if it transits—has an orbit that periodically eclipses that of its host star. Former Carnegie scientist Mercedes López-Morales has, for the first time, determined the mass of a non-transiting planet.”

  • The B612 Foundation announces the first privately funded deep space mission: New infrared space telescope in solar orbit, up to 170 million miles from Earth, will protect humanity, map the inner solar system, and enable exploration

    “In a press conference at the California Academy of Sciences Thursday morning, the B612 Foundation unveiled its plans to build, launch, and operate the first privately funded deep space mission – SENTINEL – a space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun, ranging up to 170 million miles from Earth, for a mission of discovery and mapping. The Foundation leadership and technical team include some of the most experienced professionals in the world to lead this effort.”

  • Cassini Finds Likely Subsurface Ocean on Saturn Moon

    “Data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have revealed Saturn’s moon Titan likely harbors a layer of liquid water under its ice shell.”

  • Cassini Shows Why Jet Streams Cross-Cut Saturn

    “Turbulent jet streams, regions where winds blow faster than in other places, churn east and west across Saturn. Scientists have been trying to understand for years the mechanism that drives these wavy structures in Saturn’s atmosphere and the source from which the jets derive their energy.”

  • Houston Workshop Marks Key Step in Planning Future Mars Missions

    “A recent workshop conducted for NASA by the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) in Houston, marked a key step in the agency’s effort to forge a new Mars strategy in the coming decades.”

  • A Black Hole´s Dinner: A giant gas cloud is on collision course with the black hole in the centre of our galaxy in 2013. This is a unique opportunity to observe how a super massive black hole sucks in material, in real time

    “The black hole at the centre of the galaxy, formally known as Sagittarius A*, fascinates scientists. By mid-2013 a gas cloud is expected to pass in its vicinity at a distance of only 36 light-hours (equivalent to 40.000.000.000km), which is extremely close in astronomical terms.”

  • Has the Speediest Pulsar Been Found?

    “Researchers using three different telescopes — NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton in space, and the Parkes radio telescope in Australia — may have found the fastest moving pulsar ever seen.”



Creative Commons photo by Lights In The Dark.



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