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Hubble Monitors Changing Weather and Seasons at Jupiter and Uranus

Astronomy News - 1 hour 51 min ago
Portal origin URL: Hubble Monitors Changing Weather and Seasons at Jupiter and UranusPortal origin nid: 486253Published: Thursday, March 23, 2023 - 10:00Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: Hubble – as interplanetary meteorologist – is keeping track of the outer planets' weather, as it does every year.Portal image: Lower half of Jupiter. Cloud bands of rusty-orange, dull yellow, white, and brown. Swirling ovals and turbulent waves of clouds bound by the bands. Yellow-orange moon, Io, just right of center. It casts its shadow toward the planet's left limb.

First results from ESO telescopes on the aftermath of DART’s asteroid impact

Astronomy News - 23 March 2023 - 10:38am
Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), two teams of astronomers have observed the aftermath of the collision between NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft and the asteroid Dimorphos. The controlled impact was a test of planetary defence, but also gave astronomers a unique opportunity to learn more about the asteroid’s composition from the expelled material.

A helium-burning white dwarf binary as a supersoft X-ray source

Astronomy News - 23 March 2023 - 10:37am

Nature, Published online: 22 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-05714-4

Analysis of a supersoft X-ray source shows an accretion disk whose optical spectrum is completely dominated by helium, suggesting that it is a white dwarf binary accreting helium from a hydrogen-free donor star.

A compelling explanation for the enigmatic small object ‘Oumuamua

Astronomy News - 23 March 2023 - 10:37am

Nature, Published online: 22 March 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00797-5

Seemingly contradictory observations of the first known interstellar object are reconciled in a model that presents a simple and physically realistic framework for understanding the object’s many peculiarities.

Black holes up close

Astronomy News - 23 March 2023 - 10:37am

Nature, Published online: 22 March 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-05768-4

The current observations and understanding of black holes is reviewed, and the future of the field of black-hole astrophysics is discussed.

Asteroids that speed up unexpectedly may be ‘dark comets’ in disguise

Astronomy News - 23 March 2023 - 10:35am

Some asteroids appear to accelerate in ways that can’t be accounted for by gravity, suggesting they might be firing out invisible jets of gas

Fissures on ocean moons may be too rare to provide conditions for life

Astronomy News - 23 March 2023 - 10:35am

Fractures on the seafloors of Europa and Enceladus are thought to provide energy and nutrients crucial for any life that might exist there, but they may not experience enough stress to crack

Active volcano shows Venus is a living planet

Astronomy News - 23 March 2023 - 10:34am
Science, Volume 379, Issue 6637, Page 1076-1077, March 2023.

ALMA and its Partners Celebrate 10 Years of Groundbreaking Science

Astronomy News - 14 March 2023 - 10:30am

13 March 2023 marks the tenth anniversary of the world’s largest radio telescope—the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which ESO is a partner. Over the past decade, ALMA has revolutionised our understanding of the Universe by revealing new insights into the formation of planets, stars, and galaxies; deciphering the chemistry of the Cosmos; and has been a crucial component in obtaining the first images of black holes.

To mark this milestone, ALMA celebrates today with Chilean authorities, ambassadors, representatives of the scientific community and local communities at the observatory site near San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. The ceremony and an accompanying art performance will be live streamed through ALMA Social Networks and website.

"ALMA has transformed our understanding of the Universe and opened new research frontiers," said Dr Sean Dougherty, Director of ALMA. "We are very proud of the accomplishments of the past decade and excited about the discoveries over the next ten years."

Since its inauguration in 2013, the astronomical community has produced more than 3000 scientific publications using ALMA data, with groundbreaking discoveries ranging from forming planets and stars to detecting complex organic molecules in the Universe’s early years. One of ALMA’s best-known achievements was its contribution to the Event Horizon Telescope project, which captured the first image of a black hole in the centre of the M87 galaxy and also the one in the centre of the Milky Way.

ALMA’s success is due to its cutting-edge technology developed through an international collaboration of 21 countries from North America, Europe, and East Asia. The telescope consists of 66 antennas, spread over 16 kilometres on the Chajnantor plateau of the Chilean Andes, 5,000 metres above sea level. A partnership of ESO, NAOJ, and NRAO operates ALMA, whose observations have provided valuable data to astronomers worldwide to answer some of the most fundamental questions about the Universe.

ESO has been a key stakeholder in the planning and development of ALMA since its inception, most notably providing 25 of the 66 antennas. One of the reasons why ALMA is such a powerful telescope is its ability to change, repositioning its antennas to carry out different astronomical observations. Each antenna weighs over 100 tonnes, and they are relocated with two enormous transporters provided by ESO, each 20 metres long, 10 metres wide and 6 metres high. Various European institutions collaborated to develop several of ALMA's 10 receivers — the detectors that capture radio waves from space. ESO also provided the ALMA residencia, which offers pleasant living conditions for the staff working temporarily on site in the harsh Atacama Desert. Finally, ESO contributes to the joint operations of the facility with the other partners and acts as the focal point for liaison with the European science community

ALMA is an integral part of ESO’s suite of world-leading observatories,” said Xaiver Barcons, ESO Director General. “It complements the Very Large Telescope, one of the most powerful and productive telescopes in the optical range since 25 years, by delivering fantastic science at sub/millimetre wavelengths. ALMA is an excellent example of what we can achieve with international collaboration in science. An endeavour like ALMA would have simply not been possible for one country alone. The many scientific successes ALMA achieved in its first ten years of operation show us that working together is the best way to drive scientific progress worldwide.

To mark this milestone, ALMA is hosting a series of events during 2023, which kick off today at the observatory site. The participants will renew the "Tribute to Mother Earth" ceremony, performed by a local community leader, and tour the observatory facilities accompanied by scientists and engineers. The day will close with an immersive artistic performance of light and sound. The ceremony and the art performance will be live streamed through ALMA Social Networks and website. A complete list of activities celebrating the first decade can be found on the ALMA website.

Asteroid headed toward Earth may arrive on Valentine's Day 2046 - Nasa

Astronomy News - 11 March 2023 - 3:35pm

The space rock has about a 1 in 560 chance of hitting this planet, the agency says.

Hubble Spots a Star-Forming Spiral

Astronomy News - 11 March 2023 - 3:34pm
Portal origin URL: Hubble Spots a Star-Forming SpiralPortal origin nid: 486013Published: Friday, March 10, 2023 - 08:00Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: The irregular spiral galaxy NGC 5486 hangs against a background of dim, distant galaxies in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.Portal image: An irregularly shaped spiral galaxy. Its spiral arms are difficult to distinguish. The edges are faint and the core has a pale glow. It is dotted with small, wispy, pink regions where stars are forming.

Astronomers find missing link for water in the Solar System

Astronomy News - 9 March 2023 - 9:41am
Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have detected gaseous water in the planet-forming disc around the star V883 Orionis. This water carries a chemical signature that explains the journey of water from star-forming gas clouds to planets, and supports the idea that water on Earth is even older than our Sun.

Humanity’s quest to discover the origins of life in the universe

Astronomy News - 9 March 2023 - 9:37am

For thousands of years, humanity and science have contemplated the origins of life in the Universe. While today’s scientists are well-equipped with innovative technologies, humanity has a long way to go before we fully understand the fundamental aspects of what life is and how it forms.

“We are living in an extraordinary moment in history,” said Professor Didier Queloz, who directs the Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe at Cambridge and ETH Zurich’s Centre for Origin and Prevalence of Life. While still a doctoral student, Queloz was the first to discover an exoplanet – a planet orbiting a star other than our Sun. The discovery led to him being awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics.

In the three decades since Queloz’s discovery, scientists have discovered more than 5,000 exoplanets. Trillions more are predicted to exist within our Milky Way galaxy alone. Each exoplanet discovery raises more questions about how and why life emerged on Earth and whether it exists elsewhere in the universe.

Technological advancements, such as the James Webb Space Telescope and interplanetary missions to Mars, give scientists access to huge volumes of new observations and data. Sifting through all this information to understand the emergence of life in the universe will take a big, multidisciplinary network.

In collaboration with chemist and fellow Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak and astronomer Dimitar Sasselov, Queloz announced the formation of such a network at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Washington, DC. The Origins Federation brings together researchers studying the origins of life at Cambridge, ETH Zurich, Harvard University, and The University of Chicago.

Together, Federation scientists will explore the chemical and physical processes of living organisms and environmental conditions hospitable to supporting life on other planets. “The Origins Federation builds upon a long-standing collegial relationship strengthened through a shared collaboration in a recently completed project with the Simons Foundation,” said Queloz.

These collaborations support the work of researchers like Dr Emily Mitchell from Cambridge's Department of Zoology. Mitchell is co-director of Cambridge’s Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe and an ecological time traveller. She uses field-based laser-scanning and statistical mathematical ecology on 580-million-year-old fossils of deep-sea organisms to determine the driving factors that influence the macro-evolutionary patterns of life on Earth.

Speaking at AAAS, Mitchell took participants back to four billion years ago when Earth’s early atmosphere - devoid of oxygen and steeped in methane – showed its first signs of microbial life. She spoke about how life survives in extreme environments and then evolves offering potential astrobiological insights into the origins of life elsewhere in the universe.

“As we begin to investigate other planets through the Mars missions, biosignatures could reveal whether or not the origin of life itself and its evolution on Earth is just a happy accident or part of the fundamental nature of the universe, with all its biological and ecological complexities,” said Mitchell.

The founding centres of the Origins Federation are The Origins of Life Initiative (Harvard University), Centre for Origin and Prevalence of Life (ETH Zurich), the Center for the Origins of Life (University of Chicago), and the Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe (University of Cambridge).

The Origins Federation will pursue scientific research topics of interest to its founding centres with a long-term perspective and common milestones. It will strive to establish a stable funding platform to create opportunities for creative and innovative ideas, and to enable young scientists to make a career in this new field. The Origins Federation is open to new members, both centres and individuals, and is committed to developing the mechanisms and structure to achieve that aim.

“The pioneering work of Professor Queloz has allowed astronomers and physicists to make advances that were unthinkable only a few years ago, both in the discovery of planets which could host life and the development of techniques to study them,” said Professor Andy Parker, head of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory. “But now we need to bring the full range of our scientific understanding to bear in order to understand what life really is and whether it exists on these newly discovered planets. The Cavendish Laboratory is proud to host the Leverhulme Centre for Life in the Universe and to partner with the Origins Federation to lead this quest.”

Scientists from the University of Cambridge, ETH Zurich, Harvard University, and the University of Chicago have founded the Origins Federation, which will advance our understanding of the emergence and early evolution of life, and its place in the cosmos.

ETH Zurich/NASAL-R: Emily Mitchell, Didier Queloz, Kate Adamal, Carl Zimmer

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ELT MORFEO Instrument Passes Preliminary Design Review

Astronomy News - 7 March 2023 - 9:09am

MORFEO, an upcoming instrument for ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), has recently passed its preliminary design review. MORFEO’s adaptive optics system will use special sensors to measure the blurring effects of the Earth’s atmosphere, correcting them with deformable mirrors. This will allow astronomers to get an unprecedented view into the universe, offering detailed observations of distant galaxies and stars at the centre of the Milky Way.

Ground-based telescopes like ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope can only work to their full potential with adaptive-optics systems that correct for the turbulence of the Earth’s atmosphere, which makes stars twinkle and blurs our view of the cosmos. In addition to sophisticated systems, including a large deformable mirror, that correct for atmospheric distortions as light travels through the ELT, the telescope will also have MORFEO (the Multiconjugate adaptive Optics Relay For ELT Observations; previously known as MAORY). This instrument, which has now passed its preliminary design review, will add a key layer of correction that will make it possible for the ELT to obtain images as sharp as those taken in space.

MORFEO will work with the ELT’s camera, Multi-AO Imaging CamerA for Deep Observations (MICADO), which requires very stable and sharp images to precisely measure the positions, brightness, and motions of stars, one of its scientific goals. By re-imaging the light coming from the telescope and further correcting for distortions, MORFEO will enable MICADO to capture perfect images across its large field of view in the near-infrared. This will allow the ELT to observe distant galaxies and stars at the centre of the Milky Way in unprecedented detail.

To achieve this, MORFEO will use deformable mirrors and other state-of-the-art systems, such as the ELT’s laser guide stars, to correct for turbulence in different layers of the Earth’s atmosphere. These systems will help MORFEO obtain a 3D map of atmospheric turbulence, and correct it in the images obtained by MICADO.

MORFEO will be one of four instruments on the ELT when it is first used to take astronomical images after construction is finished later this decade. When operational, the ELT will tackle the biggest astronomical challenges of our time, from tracking down potentially habitable Earth-like exoplanets to studying the very first stars and galaxies. The telescope, in particular its sophisticated adaptive-optics systems, builds on and continues ESO's 60-year success story of international collaboration in astronomy and sharing resources and expertise.

More Information

The MORFEO project is managed, together with ESO, by an international consortium composed of three research institutes: the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF), Italy, the Grenoble Institute for Planetary Sciences and Astrophysics (IPAG), France, and the University of Galway, Ireland.

Astrobiologists train an AI to find life on Mars

Astronomy News - 7 March 2023 - 9:08am

Nature, Published online: 06 March 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00683-0

An artificial-intelligence model trialled in Chile’s Atacama Desert could one day detect signs of life on other planets.

How to understand wormholes and their weird quantum effects

Astronomy News - 7 March 2023 - 9:08am

Classical relativity suggests that nothing could pass through a wormhole and exit, but quantum effects change that, says space reporter Leah Crane

Galaxies’ missing matter may be found – but now there’s too much of it

Astronomy News - 6 March 2023 - 10:05am

Most galaxies seemed to be missing a huge proportion of the matter we expected them to have – now researchers may have found its hiding spot, but the discovery contradicts accepted models of galaxy formation

Are telescopes on the Moon doomed before they’ve even been built?

Astronomy News - 4 March 2023 - 1:59pm

Nature, Published online: 03 March 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-00635-8

Booming exploration and commercial activity could ruin the quiet environment of the lunar far side.