Space

Astronomers recently took precise measurements of the closest pair of failed stars to the Sun, the binary brown dwarf system WISE J104915.57-531906.1, and the results suggest that the system harbors a third, planetary-mass object.

Failed stars are known as brown dwarfs and have a mass below 8% of the mass of the Sun—not massive enough to burn hydrogen in their centers. This particular system, Luhman 16AB, was discovered earlier this year and is only 6.6 light-years away.


Astronomers have discovered huge active plumes containing water vapour being released from the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. 

Jupiter's moon Europa has been a focus of extraterrestrial research for some time now as there were clear indications that it harbors a liquid ocean beneath its icy crust. Lorenz Roth of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas and Joachim Saur of the University of Cologne have used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to prove that there is water vapor erupting near its south pole.

The water plumes are in comparison to earth geysers immensely large and reach heights of approximately 200 km. Europa has a circumference of 3200 km and is thereby comparable in size with the Moon.


This is an interesting question I was asked recently on the space show. It's inspired by this 5 note theme from the 1970s movie.

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It's the theme tune from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (composed by John Williams), of course, the music the extraterrestrials use to communicate with humans in the movie. Is that just a rather fun movie idea? Or was the director Spielberg on to something, might we be able to communicate with ETs perhaps more readily in music than in other ways?

Over a year after being launched, NASA's Van Allen Probes mission continues to unravel the mysteries of Earth's high-energy radiation belts that encircle our planet and pose hazards to orbiting satellites and astronauts - termed the Van Allen Radiation Belts.  


Astronomers have identified the glowing wreck of a star that exploded a mere 2,500 years ago — the blink of an eye in astronomical terms - and revealed an astrophysical novelty of the Milky Way.


A model has shown that the subsurface ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa may have deep currents and circulation patterns with heat and energy transfers capable of sustaining biological life.

Astronomers believe Europa is one of the planetary bodies in our solar system most likely to have conditions that could sustain life, an idea reinforced by magnetometer readings from the Galileo spacecraft detecting signs of a salty, global ocean below the moon's icy shell. Without direct measurements of that ocean, scientists have to rely on magnetometer data and observations of the moon's icy surface to account for oceanic conditions below the ice.


Separate teams of scientists have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets, the first study to conclusively measure and compare the profiles and intensities of these signatures on multiple worlds.

The five planets - WASP-17b, HD209458b, WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b - are hot Jupiters, massive worlds that orbit close to their stars. The strengths of their water signatures varied. WASP-17b, a planet with an especially puffed-up atmosphere, and HD209458b had the strongest signals. The signatures for the other three planets, WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b, also are consistent with water.


In boxing a devastating puncher has heavy hands. On a cosmic scale, the high-speed 'jets' spat out by black holes pack a lot of power because they contain heavy atoms, astronomers have found. Black-hole jets recycle matter and energy into space and can affect when and where a galaxy forms stars.

Astronomers have known for decades that black-hole jets contain electrons, which are low-mass particles, but using the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton space telescope and CSIRO's Compact Array radio telescope in northwest NSW, a research team found the first evidence of heavy atoms — iron and nickel — in the jets from a 'typical' black hole known as 4U1630-47.


Our Galaxy may have been swallowing "pills" — clouds of gas with a magnetic wrapper — to keep making stars for the past eight billion years, according to CSIRO astronomer Dr. Alex Hill and colleagues, in their study of the Smith Cloud, a large gas cloud falling into our Galaxy from intergalactic space.

Named after its discoverer, Gail Bieger (née Smith), the Smith Cloud is at least two million times the mass of our Sun. If it were visible to the naked eye, it would look 20 times wider than the full Moon. The Smith Cloud is one of thousands of "high velocity clouds" of hydrogen gas flying around the outskirts of our Galaxy.  


A few months ago astronomers created a new 3-D map of stars at the center of our Galaxy which cleared showed the bulge at its core.

Previous explanations suggested that the stars that form the bulge are in banana-like orbits, but a paper published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society suggests that the stars probably move in peanut-shell or figure of eight-shaped orbits instead.