In just over a week's time NASA's Phoenix Lander is due to launch for Mars where it will probe the arctic landscape searching for conditions favourable for past or present life. UK scientists from Imperial College London and the University of Bristol have provided hardware and are involved in the science operations.
The launch is scheduled for 1035 am GMT (0535 am EDT) on 3rd August (3 week launch window) with the spacecraft starting its journey onboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Phoenix will descend and land on the Red Planet's northern plains, in the area known as Vastitas Borealis, in May 2008, where it will claw down into the icy soil.
Supermassive black holes have been discovered to grow more rapidly in young galaxy clusters, according to new results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. These "fast-track" supermassive black holes can have a big influence on the galaxies and clusters that they live in.
Using Chandra, scientists surveyed a sample of clusters and counted the fraction of galaxies with rapidly growing supermassive black holes, known as active galactic nuclei (or AGN). The data show, for the first time, that younger, more distant galaxy clusters contained far more AGN than older, nearby ones.
Galaxy clusters are some of the largest structures in the Universe, consisting of many individual galaxies, a few of which contain AGN.
Astronomers have found a debris disk around HD 15115. As seen from Earth, the edge-on disk resembles a needle sticking out from the star.
Astronomers think the disk's odd imbalanced look is caused by dust following a highly elliptical orbit about the star. The lopsided disk may have been caused by the gravity of planets sweeping up debris in the disk or by the gravity of a nearby star.
The observations were made by Paul Kalas, James Graham, and Michael P. Fitzgerald, all from the University of California at Berkeley.
The disk, seen edge-on, is the dense blue line extending from the star to the upper right and lower left of the image.
Frigid geysers spewing material up through cracks in the crust of Pluto’s companion Charon and recoating parts of its surface in ice crystals could be making this distant world into the equivalent of an outer solar system ice machine.
Evidence for these ice deposits comes from high-resolution spectra obtained using the Gemini Observatory’s Adaptive Optics system, ALTAIR coupled with the near-infrared instrument NIRI. The observations, made with the Frederick C. Gillett Gemini North telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, show the fingerprints of ammonia hydrates and water crystals spread in patches across Charon, and have been described as the best evidence yet for the existence of these compounds on worlds such as Charon.
The orbiting X-ray telescopes XXM-Newton and Chandra have caught a pair of galaxy clusters merging into a giant cluster. The discovery adds to existing evidence that galaxy clusters can collide faster than previously thought.
When individual galaxies collide and spiral into one another, they discard trails of hot gas that stretch across space, providing signposts to the mayhem. Recognising the signs of collisions between whole clusters of galaxies, however, is not as easy.
When individual galaxies collide and spiral into one another, they discard trails of hot gas that stretch across space, providing signposts to the mayhem.
ESA’s Venus Express and NASA’s MESSENGER looked at Venus in tandem for a few hours in June. Here is the first set of images.
The orbital geometry of Venus Express when MESSENGER skimmed past Venus on 5 June meant that the two spacecraft were not at the same location (with respect to the surface of the planet) at the exact same time. So how could they make true joint observations of the same regions and phenomena? Scientists came up with a highly creative solution.
Bye-bye Venus. As NASA’s MESSENGER departed from planet Venus on 5 June 2007 to continue its journey towards Mercury, its Wide Angle Camera captured a sequence of 50 images (480-nm wavelength filter) showing the planet disappearing in the distance.
A unique set of observations, obtained with ESO's VLT, has allowed astronomers to find direct evidence for the material that surrounded a star before it exploded as a Type Ia supernova. This strongly supports the scenario in which the explosion occurred in a system where a white dwarf is fed by a red giant.
Because Type Ia supernovae are extremely luminous and quite similar to one another, these exploding events have been used extensively as cosmological reference beacons to trace the expansion of the Universe.
Left: artist's impression of the favoured configuration for the progenitor system of SN2006X before the explosion.
Dr. Giovanna Tinetti ( read her interview with Scientific Blogging's Douglas Blane here
) of the European Space Agency and UCL’s Department of Physics & Astronomy has discovered that a planet passing in front of its ‘sun’ absorbs starlight in a way that can only be explained by the presence of water vapour in its atmosphere. This is the first time that astronomers have been able to confirm that water is present on an extra-solar planet.
‘Extra-solar’ planets are those outside our Solar System and more than 200 have been discovered orbiting stars close to our own Sun.
One year after the beginning of its scientific operations, the high-capability infrared satellite AKARI continues to produce stunning views of the infrared Universe.
Launched in February 2006, AKARI is making a comprehensive, multi-wavelength study of the sky in infrared light, helping to gain a deeper understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies, stars and planetary systems. The mission is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) project with ESA and international participation.
In the course of last year, AKARI performed all-sky observations in six wavelength bands. More than 90 percent of the entire sky has so far been imaged.
Using natural ‘gravitational lenses’, an international team of astronomers claim to have found a hint of a population of the most distant galaxies yet seen - the light we see from them today left more than 13 thousand million years ago, when the Universe was just 500 million years old.
Team leader Professor Richard Ellis, Steele Professor of Astronomy at Caltech, will present images of these faint and distant objects in his talk on Wednesday 11 July at the ‘From IRAS to Herschel and Planck’ conference at the Geological Society in London.