Space

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has captured an extreme and rare event in the regions immediately surrounding the supermassive black hole Markarian 335: a compact source of X-rays that sits near the black hole - the corona - has moved closer to the black hole over a period of just days. 

Researchers have reported registering three possible occasions of the total destruction of stars by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies. 

They astrophysicists used data obtained by X-ray orbiting observatories ROSAT and XMM-Newton. The former was put into orbit in 1990 and served until 1999, XMM-Newton since, and combined they gathered enough information to detect very rare events, such as the destruction of stars by supermassive black holes.


At the ends of the Universe there are black holes billions of times the mass of our sun. These giant quasars feed on interstellar gas, swallowing large quantities of it non-stop - and that is how they can be detected: The light that is emitted by the gas as it is sucked in and crushed by the black hole's gravity travels for eons across the Universe until it reaches our telescopes.

Looking at the edges of the Universe is looking into the past. These far-off, ancient quasars appear to us in their "baby photos" taken less than a billion years after the Big Bang: monstrous infants in a young Universe.


Researchers have come step closer to understanding the birth of the sun.

A team led by Dr Maria Lugaro and Professor Alexander Heger, from Monash University, have investigated the solar system's prehistoric phase and the events that led to the birth of the sun. They used radioactivity to date the last time that heavy elements such as gold, silver, platinum, lead and rare-earth elements were added to the solar system matter by the stars that produced them.


I thought I'd post this because there are many who haven't followed the latest findings, who still think that present day life on the surface of Mars is absolutely impossible because of UV light, ionizing radiation, and perchlorates, and because the atmosphere is in almost perfect chemical equilibrium. 

That is indeed what most scientists believed, prior to about 2008. But it is now generally agreed in the field that if there do turn out to be nutritious warm and wet habitats on the surface of Mars, they will be habitable. 

The UAE plans its first Arab spaceship to Mars in 7 years. What's more, they plan to land it on Mars. With this, they are aiming high indeed, as Mars is probably the most difficult place to land a spacecraft in the inner solar system.

I have no idea what their plans are, but it could be a wonderful opportunity to do something truly astonishing - and fly some of the innovative light weight Mars craft that have been developed over the years.

Io, the innermost of Jupiter's four large "Galilean" moons, is about the same size as Earth's moon, some 2,300 miles across, but it is very different than our moon. So different it is the only other place in the solar system that shares one trait that Earth has - volcanoes erupting extremely hot lava.

Because of Io's low gravity, large volcanic eruptions produce an umbrella of debris that rises high into space and that can be seen from Earth. Last August, astronomers did just that, capturing three massive volcanic eruptions within a two-week period.

It may be that these rare "outbursts", sending material hundreds of miles above the surface, might be much more common than astronomers thought.


Scientists have recently gathered some of the strongest evidence to date to explain what makes the sun's outer atmosphere so much hotter than its surface. The new observations of the small-scale extremely hot temperatures are consistent with only one current theory - nanoflares – a constant peppering of impulsive bursts of heating, none of which can be individually detected, provide the mysterious extra heat.


Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have unexpectedly discovered the most distant galaxy that acts as a cosmic magnifying glass. Seen here as it looked 9.6 billion years ago, this monster elliptical galaxy breaks the previous record-holder by 200 million years.

These "lensing" galaxies are so massive that their gravity bends, magnifies, and distorts light from objects behind it, a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Finding one in such a small area of the sky is so rare that you would normally have to survey a region hundreds of times larger to find just one.


Observations by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope of several stellar eruptions, called novae, firmly establish these relatively common outbursts almost always produce gamma rays, the most energetic form of light.

"There's a saying that one is a fluke, two is a coincidence, and three is a class, and we're now at four novae and counting with Fermi," said Teddy Cheung, an astrophysicist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, and the lead author of a paper reporting the findings in the Aug. 1 edition of the journal Science.