Astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore, Maryland, have created a new master catalog of astronomical objects called the Hubble Source Catalog. The catalog provides one-stop shopping for measurements of objects observed with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
Nearly 500 million miles from the Sun lies a moon orbiting Jupiter that is slightly larger than the planet Mercury and may contain more water than all of Earth's oceans. Temperatures are so cold, though, that water on the surface freezes as hard as rock and the ocean lies roughly 100 miles below the crust. Nevertheless, where there is water there could be life as we know it. Identifying liquid water on other worlds big or small is crucial in the search for habitable planets beyond Earth. Though the presence of an ocean on Ganymede has been long predicted based on theoretical models, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope found the best evidence for it. Hubble was used to watch aurorae glowing above the moon's icy surface. The aurorae are tied to the moon's magnetic field, which descends right down to the core of Ganymede. A saline ocean would influence the dynamics of the magnetic field as it interacts with Jupiter's own immense magnetic field, which engulfs Ganymede. Because telescopes can't look inside planets or moons, tracing the magnetic field through aurorae is a unique way to probe the interior of another world.
Ongoing hydrothermal activities within Enceladus
Nature 519, 7542 (2015). doi:10.1038/nature14262
Authors: Hsiang-Wen Hsu, Frank Postberg, Yasuhito Sekine, Takazo Shibuya, Sascha Kempf, Mihály Horányi, Antal Juhász, Nicolas Altobelli, Katsuhiko Suzuki, Yuka Masaki, Tatsu Kuwatani, Shogo Tachibana, Sin-iti Sirono, Georg Moragas-Klostermeyer & Ralf Srama
Detection of sodium-salt-rich ice grains emitted from the plume of the Saturnian moon Enceladus suggests that the grains formed as frozen droplets from a liquid water reservoir that is, or has been, in contact with rock. Gravitational field measurements suggest a regional south polar subsurface ocean of about 10 kilometres thickness located beneath an ice crust 30 to 40 kilometres thick. These findings imply rock–water interactions in regions surrounding the core of Enceladus. The resulting chemical ‘footprints’ are expected to be preserved in the liquid and subsequently transported upwards to the near-surface plume sources, where they eventually would be ejected and could be measured by a spacecraft. Here we report an analysis of silicon-rich, nanometre-sized dust particles (so-called stream particles) that stand out from the water-ice-dominated objects characteristic of Saturn. We interpret these grains as nanometre-sized SiO2 (silica) particles, initially embedded in icy grains emitted from Enceladus’ subsurface waters and released by sputter erosion in Saturn’s E ring. The composition and the limited size range (2 to 8 nanometres in radius) of stream particles indicate ongoing high-temperature (>90 °C) hydrothermal reactions associated with global-scale geothermal activity that quickly transports hydrothermal products from the ocean floor at a depth of at least 40 kilometres up to the plume of Enceladus.
Regulation of star formation in giant galaxies by precipitation, feedback and conduction
Nature 519, 7542 (2015). doi:10.1038/nature14167
Authors: G. M. Voit, M. Donahue, G. L. Bryan & M. McDonald
The Universe’s largest galaxies reside at the centres of galaxy clusters and are embedded in hot gas that, if left undisturbed, would cool quickly and create many more new stars than are actually observed. Cooling can be regulated by feedback from accretion of cooling gas onto the central black hole, but requires an accretion rate finely tuned to the thermodynamic state of the hot gas. Theoretical models in which cold clouds precipitate out of the hot gas via thermal instability and accrete onto the black hole exhibit the necessary tuning. Recent observational evidence shows that the abundance of cold gas in the centres of clusters increases rapidly near the predicted threshold for instability. Here we report observations showing that this precipitation threshold extends over a large range in cluster radius, cluster mass and cosmic time. We incorporate the precipitation threshold into a framework of theoretical models for the thermodynamic state of hot gas in galaxy clusters. According to that framework, precipitation regulates star formation in some giant galaxies, while thermal conduction prevents star formation in others if it can compensate for radiative cooling and shut off precipitation.