A spinning gas halo discovered around the Milky Way
Astronomers have been surprized to discover that a halo of hot gas surrounding the Milky Way galaxy is spinning in the same direction and at a comparable speed to the galaxy’s disk. Scientists had thought this enormous reservoir of hot gas remained stationary while the Milky Way spins inside it.
The Square Kilometer Array reaches another milestone
Scientists have completed another key step in their efforts to build what will be the world’s largest radio telescope, the SKA or Square Kilometer Array. Researchers have successfully tested astronomical verification of a critical sub-system for the giant telescope known as the frequency synchronisation system.
Farewell to Rosetta’s Philae lander
European Space Agency mission managers have formally switched off the system on the Rosetta spacecraft which provides communications links between the orbiter and its tiny Philae lander. Switching off the system is part of the preparations for Rosetta's end of mission which is slated for September 30.
Scientists figured out last common ancestor of all living things
Scientists think they’ve worked out the genetic make-up of the last common ancestor of all living things. Researchers found our earliest common ancestor probably consisted of just 355 genes and made its living around superheated deep sea hydrothermal vents about four billion years ago.
The annual Delta Aquariid Meteor shower underway
The annual Delta Aquariid Meteor shower is at its peak with the best viewing about now because it coincides with a new moon providing darker skies. The shower is best for observed from the Southern hemisphere.
Clues to one of the largest asteroid impacts in Earth’s history discovered in Western Australia
Evidence for one of the largest asteroid impacts to ever have hit the Earth has been discovered in Western Australia. The impact – which occurred about 3.46 billion years ago -- is the second oldest dated collision in the planet’s history.
Why galaxies stop making stars
A new study has determined why galaxies stop making new generations of stars. Astronomers found two separate processes are involved in ending star formation.
The hunt for dark matter continues following another failed search for the elusive particle
A 20 month long search for a mysterious particle which makes up 80 percent of all the matter in the universe has failed to uncover the elusive identity of dark matter. The Large Underground Xenon dark matter experiment yielded no trace of a candidate particle despite the most sensitive search even conducted.
A new type of sand dune discovered on Mars
Scientists have discovered a new type of sand dune on the surface of the red planet Mars which is unlike anything seen on Earth.
The newly identified dune appears to be intermediate in size between tiny ripples and larger wavier dunes.
A bounty of Brown Dwarfs and planets discovered deep in the Orion Nebula
New technology allowing astronomers to peer deeper into the heart of the Orion Nebula than ever before, has revealed a massive population of previously unseen planets and brown dwarfs. The discovery shows that the Orion Nebula may be forming proportionally far more low-mass objects than closer and less active star formation regions.
Astronomers produce the most detailed map yet of the visible universe.
Astronomers have produced the largest-ever, three-dimensional map yet of the visible universe -- showing some 1.2 million galaxies -- covering over a quarter of the sky and mapping out the structure of the universe over a volume of 650 cubic billion light-years. The new map allows scientists to make the best measurements so far of the effects of a mysterious force called dark energy on the expansion of the universe and consequently the ultimate fate of the cosmos.
Astronomers discover how the fabled man in the moon got his right eye
A new study has discovered that a huge asteroid or protoplanet which crashed into the Moon 3.8 billion years ago was responsible for giving the fabled man in the moon his right eye. The massive 250 kilometre wide space rock created the Moon’s iconic Imbrium Basin as a result of the impact. This new size estimate means the Imbrium impactor was at least two times larger and 10 times more massive than previous estimates.
NASA’s mission to touch the Sun
NASA’s first mission to “touch” the Sun has passed a critical development milestone keeping it on track for launch in July 2018. The Solar Probe Plus mission will send a spacecraft on a series of data-collecting runs through the Sun’s atmosphere.
Ancient supernovae affected life on Earth
Two ancient supernovae which erupted within 300 light years of Earth likely exposed biology on our planet to a long-lasting cosmic radiation. The findings are based on new computer simulations of the impact the two exploding stars had on surrounding space.
Solving the mystery of the Martian moons
Astronomers may have finally solved the mystery of how the two Martian moons -- Phobos and Deimos -- were formed. Two separate and independent studies have both concluded that the moons were formed by collision events early in the red planet’s history.
Newly discovered planet has three Suns
If you thought Luke Skywalker’s home planet, Tatooine, was a strange world with its two Suns in the sky, imagine a planet where you’d either experience constant daylight or enjoy triple sunrises and sunsets every day. This isn’t the opening scene for some future episode of Star Wars but rather the vista seen from the surface of the distant exoplanet, HD 131399Ab.
Flying Dragon targets International Space Station
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has blasted into orbit from the Cape Canaveral Air Force base -- lighting up the early morning skies of the Florida Atlantic coast – on a two day flight bound for the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 is carrying a Dragon cargo ship loaded with two tonnes of fresh supplies, scientific experiments, and space station equipment as part of a SpaceX contract with NASA to supply the orbiting outpost.
We turn our eyes to the skies as Jonathan Nally -- the editor of Australian Sky and Telescope Magazine -- takes us on a journey through this month’s night skies with Skywatch.
First evidence explaining how supermassive black holes are formed
Astronomers have discovered evidence for an unusual kind of black hole which would have been born in the very early universe and could have been the seeds for today’s supermassive black holes.
While astronomers have a good handle on how stellar mass black holes are formed – mystery has always surrounded their larger counterparts -- the supermassive black holes found at the centre of most if not all galaxies.
New dwarf planet discovered beyond Neptune
It’s not the long sort after mysterious planet 9 – but a new dwarf planet has been discovered orbiting the Sun beyond Neptune.
Astronomers spotted the distant frozen world using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea. The new object -- designated 2015 RR245 is about 700 kilometres in diameter and has one of the largest orbits of any known dwarf planet.
Rosetta’s mission to end on September 30
The European Space Agency has announced that its Rosetta spacecraft will complete its mission on September 30 performing a controlled descent to the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
The pioneering probe made history in August 2014 becoming the first spacecraft to enter orbit around a comet.
Citizen scientists discover a massive galaxy cluster
Two volunteer participants in an international citizen science project have discovered a rare galaxy cluster which has now been named in their honour. The pair pieced together the huge C-shaped structure -- located some 1.2 billion light years away -- from much smaller images of cosmic radio waves shown to them as part of the web-based Radio Galaxy Zoo project.
New Type of Meteorite Linked to Ancient Asteroid Collision
Scientists have discovered a new type of meteorite never before seen on Earth. The space rock, appears to be from the missing partner in a massive asteroid collision 470 million years ago.
Physicists discover family of tetraquarks
Physicists have confirmed the existence of a new group of sub atomic particles called tetraquarks.
Scientists at Syracuse University confirmed the existence of the rare exotic particle as well as three siblings using the Large Hadron Collider beauty LHCb detector at CERN theEuropean Organization for Nuclear Research.
Curiosity Mars rover unexpectedly shuts down
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover shut down unexpectedly over the weekend. The car sized six wheel robot suddenly put itself into safe standby mode on July second.
Virgin Galactic to start test flights of its newest spaceship
Virgin Galactic is about to start test flying its newest space plane The Unity which replaces the original SpaceShipTwo Enterprise which crashed into the Mojave Desert back in January 2014. Test fights will begin next month with full suborbital space flights beginning in 2017.
Black hole discovered hiding in plain sight
Astronomers have detected a previously unseen black hole that’s been hiding in plain sight. The findings indicate the newly discovered black hole is located about 7,200 light years away, well within our own Milky Way galaxy. Because the study only covered a very small patch of sky, the findings imply that there should be tens of thousands to millions of these unseen black holes in the Milky Way -- thousands more than previous studies suggested.
Water found on Brown dwarf
Astronomers have -- for the first time -- found evidence of water in the clouds around a nearby brown dwarf. The discovery represents the strongest evidence yet for the existence of clouds of water or water ice, outside of our solar system.
New Soyuz capsule launches to Space Station
Roscosmos has launched its newly upgraded Soyuz MS series capsule on its maiden flight to the International Space Station.
The Soyuz MS-01 spacecraft blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the central Asian republic of Kazakhstan carrying three Expedition 48 crew members to the orbiting outpost.
2016 will be a second longer
On December 31, 2016, a “leap second” will be added to the world’s clocks at 23 hours, 59 minutes 59 seconds Greenwich mean time. Historically, time was based on the mean rotation of the Earth relative to celestial bodies, and the second was defined in this reference frame. However, the invention of atomic clocks defined a much more precise “atomic” timescale and a second that is independent of Earth’s rotation
Juno orbit insertion
After a journey lasting almost five years and 2.7 billion kilometres, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has successfully entered orbit around Jupiter the largest planet in the Solar System. The spacecraft will spend at least 20 months circling the Jovian world 37 times, skimming to within 4100 kilometres above the planet’s pink and salmon coloured cloud tops. During these flybys, Juno will probe beneath this obscuring cloud cover to try and understand the gas giant’s composition and the extent of its mysterious metallic hydrogen mantle which is thought responsible for Jupiter’s powerful radiation field.
Origin of unusual supernova discovered
Astronomers may have finally worked out why some supernovae explosions known as 'extraordinary supernovae' are brighter than others.
The discovery reported in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan will help improve measurements of the Universe's expansion, and consequently the strength of Dark Energy which controls the ultimate final fate of the cosmos.
Studying the relics of the Milky Way’s first ever stars
Astronomers have moved a step closer to studying the first stars in the universe. These primordial stars were very different from today’s stars because they were made just a hundred million years after the big bang -- out of the pure hydrogen and helium produced in that event. That unique composition made these first stars blue giants from twenty to over a hundred times the mass of our Sun.
New Horizons gets green light for planned second Kuiper Belt flyby
Following its historic first-ever flyby of Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons mission has received the green light to fly onward to an object deeper in the Kuiper Belt, known as 2014 MU69. The spacecraft’s planned rendezvous with the ancient object -- considered one of the early building blocks of the solar system -- is January first 2019.
Mercury’s surface arose from deep inside
Scientists have found that several volcanic deposits on Mercury's surface require mantle melting to have started close to the planet's core-mantle boundary. NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury has shown that the surface of the planet is very heterogeneous, but it can be classified into two main types of regions.
Planet 9 could be an alien world
A new study claims that the recently inferred hypothetical planet 9 could be an exoplanet that originally formed around another star and was later captured by our Sun billions of years ago. The findings are based on new computer simulations.
Most detailed view yet of the black hole at the centre of our galaxy
Astronomers have used the new GRAVITY instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope to obtain the most detailed observations yet of the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. The observations will allow scientists to test predictions of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity.
Potential habitats for life found on Mars
Astronomers have found evidence of carbonates beneath the surface of Mars -- pointing to a warmer and wetter environment capable of fostering the emergence of life -- in the red planet’s past. The new findings include evidence for widespread buried deposits of iron and calcium rich Martian carbonates, which suggests a wetter past for the Red Planet.
Private missions to Mars
The Netherlands based Mars One organization says it’s continuing with its plans to send people on a one way mission to establish the first permanent human colony on the red planet by 2027. The project is one of several plans by non-government organisations to fly to Mars in the near future. Another – by SpaceX – is planning to launch a scientific satellite based on its Dragon capsule to the red planet in 2018.
Evidence for recent hydrothermal activity found on Ceres
A new study has found that those mysterious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres have the highest concentration of carbonate minerals ever seen beyond Earth. The findings indicate recent hydrothermal activity is the most likely cause for the bright spots which were detected by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in Ceres Occator Crater.
Chinese conduct surprise launch of Long March 4B rocket
Beijing has carried out a surprise launch of a Long March-4B rocket from the Jiuquan Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert of north-western China's Gansu Province. The mission carried the second Shijian-16 experimental satellite which will be used for studying the effects of radiation and the orbital space environment on new equipment and technology.
The show notes for SpaceTime with Stuart Gary podcast