Space


Artistic impression of the Milky Way galaxy. The blue halo of material surrounding the galaxy indicates the expected distribution of the mysterious dark matter. ESO/L. Calçada, CC BY

By Geraint Lewis, University of Sydney

A team of scientists using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to make the most detailed global map yet of the glow from a giant, oddball planet orbiting another star, an object twice as massive as Jupiter and hot enough to melt steel, called WASP-43b.

WASP-43b is a world of extremes, where winds howl at the speed of sound from a 3,000-degree-Fahrenheit dayside to a pitch-black nightside when temperatures plunge to a relatively cool 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, still hot enough to melt silver.


A once-in-a-century supernova, dubbed SN2014J, in a the nearby galaxy Messier 82 - the Cigar Galaxy - 12 million light-years away has been spotted; a pulsating dead star beaming with the energy of about 10 million suns. The object, previously thought to be a black hole because it is so powerful, is in fact a pulsar - the incredibly dense rotating remains of a star. 

Dom Walton, a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech who works with NuSTAR data, says that with its extreme energy, this first ultraluminous pulsar takes the top prize in the weirdness category. Pulsars are typically between one and two times the mass of the sun. This new pulsar presumably falls in that same range but shines about 100 times brighter than theory suggests something of its mass should be able to.


Gamma rays are the highest-energy form of radioactive waves known in the universe but how they're made and where they come from have been something of a mystery. 

Using highly detailed radio telescope images, a team of astronomers have pinpointed the location where an explosion on the surface of a star, known as a nova, emitted gamma rays.  A nova occurs in a star that is part of a binary system – two stars orbiting one another. One star, known as a dense white dwarf, steals matter from the other and the interaction triggers a thermonuclear explosion that flings debris into space.

It was from this explosion from a system known as V959 Mon, located some 5,000 light years from Earth, that the researchers think the gamma rays were emitted.



Just before totality on a total lunar eclipse. Credit: Flickr/John Johnson, CC BY-NC-SA

By Tanya Hill, Museum Victoria

At least twice a year, Earth comes between the sun and the moon. The result is a lunar eclipse, where we see the splendid sight of Earth’s shadow falling across the moon.



Astronomers have discovered an asteroid called 2014 OL339, that is the latest quasi-satellite of Earth – a space rock that orbits the sun but is close enough to Earth to look like a companion.

Our planet has one permanently bound satellite - the Moon, but also a likely large number of mini-moons or transient irregular natural satellites, and temporary natural retrograde satellites or quasi-satellites.