Category: Space

NASA team studies middle-aged Sun by tracking motion of Mercury

Like the waistband of a couch potato in midlife, the orbits of planets in our solar system are expanding. It happens because the Sun’s gravitational grip gradually weakens as our star ages and loses mass. Now, a team of NASA and MIT scientists has indirectly measured this mass loss and other solar parameters by looking at changes in Mercury’s orbit.

Neutron-star merger yields new puzzle for astrophysicists

The afterglow from the distant neutron-star merger detected last August has continued to brighten – much to the surprise of astrophysicists studying the aftermath of the massive collision that took place about 138 million light years away and sent gravitational waves rippling through the universe.

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

Dust is everywhere—not just in your attic or under your bed, but also in outer space. To astronomers, dust can be a nuisance by blocking the light of distant stars, or it can be a tool to study the history of our universe, galaxy, and Solar System.

North, east, south, west: The many faces of Abell 1758

Resembling a swarm of flickering fireflies, this beautiful galaxy cluster glows intensely in the dark cosmos, accompanied by the myriad bright lights of foreground stars and swirling spiral galaxies. A1758N is a sub-cluster of Abell 1758, a massive cluster containing hundreds of galaxies. Although it may appear serene in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, the sub-cluster actually comprises two even smaller structures currently in the turbulent process of merging.

New technique for finding life on Mars

Researchers demonstrate for the first time the potential of existing technology to directly detect and characterize life on Mars and other planets. The study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, used miniaturized scientific instruments and new microbiology techniques to identify and examine microorganisms in the Canadian high Arctic—one of the closest analogs to Mars on Earth. By avoiding delays that come with having to return samples to a laboratory for analysis, the methodology could also be used on Earth to detect and identify pathogens during epidemics in remote areas.

Image: Gaia avionics model

ESA’s Gaia observatory was launched in December 2013, and is now surveying our Milky Way, creating one of the most accurate-ever maps of the stars in our home galaxy and helping to answer questions about its origin and evolution.

New power generation and propulsion system for satellites

Researchers at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid have designed and patented a new propellantless system for satellites that allows generation of electric power and on-board thrust. This innovation, which has led to two national patents, has attracted the interest of the European Space Agency and of the space industry.

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