Fifty years ago Captain Kirk and the crew of the starship Enterprise began their journey into space — the final frontier. Now, as the newest Star Trek film hits cinemas, the NASA/ESA Hubble space telescope is also exploring new frontiers, observing distant galaxies in the galaxy cluster Abell S1063 as part of the Frontier Fields programme.(read more)
Source: Chandra Space Telescope
Image credits:X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Alberta/B.Tetarenko et al;
Optical: NASA/STScI; Radio: NSF/AUI/NRAO/Curtin Univ./J. Miller-Jones.
Astronomers have identified the true nature of an unusual source in the Milky Way galaxy. As described in our latest press release, this discovery implies that there could be a much larger number of black holes in the Galaxy that have previously been unaccounted for.
The result was made by combining data from many different telescopes that detect various forms of light, each providing key pieces of information. These telescopes included NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, NSF's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), Green Bank Telescope, Arecibo Observatory, and the European Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network. (learn more)
Source: ESO Science Release eso1626
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has made the first ever resolved observation of a water snow line within a protoplanetary disc. This line marks where the temperature in the disc surrounding a young star drops sufficiently low for snow to form. A dramatic increase in the brightness of the young star V883 Orionis flash heated the inner portion of the disc, pushing the water snow line out to a far greater distance than is normal for a protostar, and making it possible to observe it for the first time. The results are published in the journal Nature on 14 July 2016. (learn more)
Source: ESO Science Release eso1625
ESO’s HAWK-I infrared instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile has been used to peer deeper into the heart of Orion Nebula than ever before. The spectacular picture reveals about ten times as many brown dwarfs and isolated planetary-mass objects than were previously known. This discovery poses challenges for the widely accepted scenario for Orion’s star formation history.(learn more)
Source: ESO Science Release eso1624
Artist’s impression of planet in the HD 131399 system.
Image credits: ESO/L.Calçada.
A team of astronomers have used the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope to image the first planet ever found in a wide orbit inside a triple-star system. The orbit of such a planet had been expected to be unstable, probably resulting in the planet being quickly ejected from the system. But somehow this one survives. This unexpected observation suggests that such systems may actually be more common than previously thought. The results will be published online in the journal Science on 7 July 2016. (learn more)
This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the beating heart of one of the most visually appealing, and most studied, supernova remnants known — the Crab Nebula. At the centre of this nebula the spinning core of a deceased star breathes life into the gas that surrounds it. (learn more)
Astronomers are using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study auroras — stunning light shows in a planet’s atmosphere — on the poles of the largest planet in the Solar System, Jupiter. This observation programme is supported by measurements made by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, currently on its way to Jupiter. (learn more)
LEDA 36252, a cosmic tadpole.
image credits:NASA, ESA, and D. Elmegreen (Vassar College), B. Elmegreen (IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center), J. Almeida, C. Munoz-Tunon, and M. Filho (Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias), J. Mendez-Abreu (University of St. Andrews), J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin-Madison), M. Rafelski (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and D. Ceverino (Center for Astronomy at Heidelberg University)
This new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows a cosmic tadpole, with its bright head and elongated tail, wriggling through the inky black pool of space. Tadpole galaxies are rare and difficult to find in the local Universe. This striking example, named LEDA 36252, was explored as part of a Hubble study into their mysterious properties — with interesting results.(learn more)
Source: ESO Photo Release eso1623
In preparation for the imminent arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft, astronomers have used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain spectacular new infrared images of Jupiter. They are part of a campaign to create high-resolution maps of the giant planet. These observations will inform the work to be undertaken by Juno over the coming months, helping astronomers to better understand the gas giant ahead of Juno’s close encounter. (learn more)
Source: Science Release eso1621
An international team of astronomers have found that there are far more planets of the hot Jupiter type than expected in a cluster of stars called Messier 67. This surprising result was obtained using a number of telescopes and instruments, among them the HARPS spectrograph at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. The denser environment in a cluster will cause more frequent interactions between planets and nearby stars, which may explain the excess of hot Jupiters. (learn more)
Source: ESO Organisation Release eso1622
A European team of astronomers have used the new GRAVITY instrument at ESO’s Very Large Telescope to obtain exciting observations of the centre of the Milky Way by combining light from all four of the 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes for the first time. These results provide a taste of the groundbreaking science that GRAVITY will produce as it probes the extremely strong gravitational fields close to the central supermassive black hole and tests Einstein’s general relativity. (learn more)
ESA’s LISA Pathfinder mission has demonstrated the technology needed to build a space-based gravitational wave observatory.
Results from only two months of science operations show that the two cubes at the heart of the spacecraft are falling freely through space under the influence of gravity alone, unperturbed by other external forces, to a precision more than five times better than originally required.
In a paper published today in Physical Review Letters, the LISA Pathfinder team show that the test masses are almost motionless with respect to each other, with a relative acceleration lower than 1 part in ten millionths of a billionth of Earth’s gravity.
The demonstration of the mission’s key technologies opens the door to the development of a large space observatory capable of detecting gravitational waves emanating from a wide range of exotic objects in the Universe.
Hypothesised by Albert Einstein a century ago, gravitational waves are oscillations in the fabric of spacetime, moving at the speed of light and caused by the acceleration of massive objects.
They can be generated, for example, by supernovas, neutron star binaries spiralling around each other, and pairs of merging black holes.
Even from these powerful objects, however, the fluctuations in spacetime are tiny by the time they arrive at Earth – smaller than 1 part in 100 billion billion.
Sophisticated technologies are needed to register such minuscule changes, and gravitational waves were directly detected for the first time only in September 2015 by the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).
This experiment saw the characteristic signal of two black holes, each with some 30 times the mass of the Sun, spiralling towards one another in the final 0.3 seconds before they coalesced to form a single, more massive object.
The signals seen by LIGO have a frequency of around 100 Hz, but gravitational waves span a much broader spectrum. In particular, lower-frequency oscillations are produced by even more exotic events such as the mergers of supermassive black holes.
With masses of millions to billions of times that of the Sun, these giant black holes sit at the centres of massive galaxies. When two galaxies collide, these black holes eventually coalesce, releasing vast amounts of energy in the form of gravitational waves throughout the merger process, and peaking in the last few minutes.
To detect these events and fully exploit the new field of gravitational astronomy, it is crucial to open access to gravitational waves at low frequencies between 0.1 mHz and 1 Hz. This requires measuring tiny fluctuations in distance between objects placed millions of kilometres apart, something that can only be achieved in space, where an observatory would also be free of the seismic, thermal and terrestrial gravity noises that limit ground-based detectors.
LISA Pathfinder was designed to demonstrate key technologies needed to build such an observatory.
A crucial aspect is placing two test masses in freefall, monitoring their relative positions as they move under the effect of gravity alone. Even in space this is very difficult, as several forces, including the solar wind and pressure from sunlight, continually disturb the cubes and the spacecraft.
Thus, in LISA Pathfinder, a pair of identical, 2 kg, 46 mm gold–platinum cubes, 38 cm apart, fly, surrounded, but untouched, by a spacecraft whose job is to shield them from external influences, adjusting its position constantly to avoid hitting them.
“LISA Pathfinder's test masses are now still with respect to each other to an astonishing degree, ” says Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science.
“This is the level of control needed to enable the observation of low-frequency gravitational waves with a future space observatory.”
LISA Pathfinder was launched on 3 December 2015, reaching its operational orbit roughly 1.5 million km from Earth towards the Sun in late January 2016.
The mission started operations on 1 March, with scientists performing a series of experiments on the test masses to measure and control all of the different aspects at play, and determine how still the masses really are.
“The measurements have exceeded our most optimistic expectations,” says Paul McNamara, LISA Pathfinder Project Scientist.
“We reached the level of precision originally required for LISA Pathfinder within the first day, and so we spent the following weeks improving the results a factor of five.”
These extraordinary results show that the control achieved over the test masses is essentially at the level required to implement a gravitational wave observatory in space.
“Not only do we see the test masses as almost motionless, but we have identified, with unprecedented precision, most of the remaining tiny forces disturbing them,” explains Stefano Vitale of University of Trento and INFN, Italy, Principal Investigator of the LISA Technology Package, the mission’s core payload.
The first two months of data show that, in the frequency range between 60 mHz and 1 Hz, LISA Pathfinder's precision is only limited by the sensing noise of the laser measurement system used to monitor the position and orientation of the cubes.
“The performance of the laser instrument has already surpassed the level of precision required by a future gravitational-wave observatory by a factor of more than 100,” says Martin Hewitson, LISA Pathfinder Senior Scientist from Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics and Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany.
At lower frequencies of 1–60 mHz, control over the cubes is limited by gas molecules bouncing off them – a small number remain in the surrounding vacuum. This effect was seen reducing as more molecules were vented into space, and is expected to improve in the following months.
“We have observed the performance steadily improving, day by day, since the start of the mission,” says William Weber, LISA Pathfinder Senior Scientist from University of Trento, Italy.
At even lower frequencies, below 1 mHz, the scientists measured a small centrifugal force acting on the cubes, from a combination of the shape of LISA Pathfinder’s orbit and to the effect of the noise in the signal of the startrackers used to orient it.
While this force slightly disturbs the cubes’ motion in LISA Pathfinder, it would not be an issue for a future space observatory, in which each test mass would be housed in its own spacecraft, and linked to the others over millions of kilometres via lasers.
“At the precision reached by LISA Pathfinder, a full-scale gravitational wave observatory in space would be able to detect fluctuations caused by the mergers of supermassive black holes in galaxies anywhere in the Universe,” says Karsten Danzmann, director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, director of the Institute for Gravitational Physics of Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany, and Co-Principal Investigator of the LISA Technology Package.
Today’s results demonstrate that LISA Pathfinder has proven the key technologies and paved the way for such an observatory, as the third ‘Large-class’ (L3) mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision programme.
Notes for Editors
“Sub-femto-g free-fall for space-borne gravitational wave detectors: LISA Pathfinder results,” is published in Physical Review Letters http://link.aps.org/doi/10.
The results were presented today during a media briefing at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Centre in Villanueva de la Cañada, Madrid, Spain.
There will be an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit on 7 June at 14:00 CEST (12:00 GMT) reddit.com/r/iAmA
LISA Pathfinder is an ESA mission with important contributions from its member states and NASA.
The LISA Technology Package payload has been delivered by several national funding agencies and ESA, in particular: Italy (ASI); Germany (DLR); the United Kingdom (UKSA); France (CNES); Spain (CDTI); Switzerland (SSO); and the Netherlands (SRON). LISA Pathfinder also carries the Disturbance Reduction System payload, provided by NASA-JPL.
Science operations involving the full LISA Technology Package will last until late June, followed by three months of operations with the Disturbance Reduction System.
About the European Space Agency
The European Space Agency (ESA) provides Europe’s gateway to space.
ESA is an intergovernmental organisation, created in 1975, with the mission to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space delivers benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.
ESA has 22 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, of whom 20 are Member States of the EU.
ESA has established formal cooperation with seven other Member States of the EU. Canada takes part in some ESA programmes under a Cooperation Agreement.
By coordinating the financial and intellectual resources of its members, ESA can undertake programmes and activities far beyond the scope of any single European country. It is working in particular with the EU on implementing the Galileo and Copernicus programmes.
ESA develops the launchers, spacecraft and ground facilities needed to keep Europe at the forefront of global space activities.
Today, it develops and launches satellites for Earth observation, navigation, telecommunications and astronomy, sends probes to the far reaches of the Solar System and cooperates in the human exploration of space.
What began as a passion of a handful of individuals, a musician, filmmaker, technologist, scientist and astronaut, has become a global movement by thousands to increase awareness and education about asteroids. Supported by 22 global partners, scores of international agencies, 72 space travelers from 12 nations, leaders in business and finance, parents and youth, Asteroid Day 2016 (http://asteroidday.org/) will include hundreds of events on and around June 30, 2016.
Professor Stephen Hawking, who will participate in the Starmus Festival (http://www.starmus.com/), an Asteroid Day event, states that “One of the major threats to intelligent life in our universe is a high probability of an asteroid colliding with inhabitable planets.”
“Our goal is to dedicate one day each year to learn about asteroids, the origins of our universe, and to support the resources necessary to see, track and deflect dangerous asteroids from Earth’s orbital path,” explains Dr. Brian May, astrophysicist, guitarist and songwriter for QUEEN who co-founded Asteroid Day. “Asteroids are a natural disaster we know how to prevent.”
This is the premise of Asteroid Day.
Asteroid Day is held on the anniversary of the largest asteroid impact of Earth in recorded history. On June 30, 1908, a relatively small asteroid (40 meters) exploded over Tunguska, Siberia, releasing the equivalent of 100 tons of TNT, devastating an area of about 800 square miles, the size of any major metropolitan city.
Events for Asteroid Day will be held on all five continents and include films, concerts, interactive workshops and expert panels with engineers, scientists and astronauts and special programs for youth.
Source: ESO Science Release eso1620
A team of astronomers has used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to detect glowing oxygen in a distant galaxy seen just 700 million years after the Big Bang. This is the most distant galaxy in which oxygen has ever been unambiguously detected, and it is most likely being ionised by powerful radiation from young giant stars. This galaxy could be an example of one type of source responsible for cosmic reionisation in the early history of the Universe. (learn more)
Young stars much less massive than the Sun can unleash a torrent of X-ray radiation that can significantly shorten the lifetime of planet-forming disks surrounding these stars. This result comes from a new study of a group of nearby stars using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes.(learn more)
Source: ESO Science Release eso1618
An international team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has witnessed a cosmic weather event that has never been seen before — a cluster of towering intergalactic gas clouds raining in on the supermassive black hole at the centre of a huge galaxy one billion light-years from Earth. The results will appear in the journal Nature on 9 June 2016.(learn more)
Source: ESO Science Release eso1619
The organic molecule methyl alcohol (methanol) has been found by the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) in the TW Hydrae protoplanetary disc. This is the first such detection of the compound in a young planet-forming disc. Methanol is the only complex organic molecule as yet detected in discs that unambiguously derives from an icy form. Its detection helps astronomers understand the chemical processes that occur during the formation of planetary systems and that ultimately lead to the creation of the ingredients for life. (learn more)
Space Art Contest 2016 is still open and teachers can present their students works june 15th 2016 which means today is the last day for submissions.
Space Art is a project that aims to stimulate very young students (6 to 12 years old) to discover the universe and its beauty. Art is a perfect way to achieve this.
Students should make an image (picture, drawing or painting) and submit it at Space Art's website.
The goal of the European Astronomy Contest Space Art is to stimulate the creativity and independent work of students from European secondary schools, to strengthen and expand their astronomical knowledge and skills, and to help the spread of information technologies in the educational process.
The idea of the Space Art program is to encourage very young students to imagine about the Universe, to learn about astronomy and discover things for themselves by researching information on an astronomical object.
They just have to look for it in the sky, books or the internet and then draw it or make a picture of it using photography or combined techniques.
Space Art is organised jointly by the European Association for Astronomy Education (EAAE) and Universe Awareness (UNAWE). Its aim is to encourage creativity and independent work amongst young students, and to strengthen and expand their astronomical knowledge and creativity. (learn more)
After this date registration fee will be 200 euros.
Registration should be made using the form at the following link
The Summer School includes 12 hands-on workshops covering all of the most important astronomical areas, and also astronomical observations, visits and lectures.
Highlights include an expedition to the Almendres Cromelech, near Évora, and to Lisbon Astronomical Observatory.
Astronomical observations are also programmed (if the weather conditions allow them). Astronomical lectures will be presented by lecturers from Universities and research centers. (read the whole program here)
Learn more about the Summer School here.