2017

The Cygnus spece cargo ship blasting off atop an Antares rocket (Photo NASA/Bill Ingalls)

A little while ago Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft blasted off atop an Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), part of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) on Wallops Island. After about nine minutes it successfully separated from the rocket’s last stage went en route to its destination. This is its eighth official mission, called Orbital-8 or simply Orb-8 but also CRS OA-8, to transport supplies to the International Space Station for NASA.

The first iPTF14hls explosion (Image courtesy Arcavi et ​al. ​2017, ​Nature)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes the discovery of a supernova that seems to have exploded more than once. Called iPTF14hls, it was identified in 2014 by the Intermediate Palomar Transient Factory but in that position a supernova had already been recorded in 1954. It could be the first case discovered of a type of supernova called a pulsational pair-instability supernova, in which a star is so hot and massive that it produces in its core antimatter that causes periodic explosions.

The galaxy NGC 253 with its molecules (Image ESO/J. Emerson/VISTA, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Ando et al. Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit)

An article published in “The Astrophysical Journal” describes the discovery of 8 molecular clouds within the galaxy NGC 253 in which 19 different complex molecules have been identified. A team of researchers led by Ryo Ando of the University of Tokyo used the ALMA radio telescope to detect the “signatures” of those molecules including thioformaldehyde, methanol, acetic acid, hydrogen cyanide, propyne and other organic molecules, the first detection of that kind outside the Milky Way.

Scheme of Enceladus interior (Image Surface: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute; interior: LPG-CNRS/U. Nantes/U. Angers. Graphic composition: ESA)

An article published in the journal “Nature Astronomy” describes a research that presents a possible explanation for the long-term existence of hydrothermal activities and an underground ocean of liquid water on Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons. A team of researchers led by Gaël Choblet of the University of Nantes in France analyzed data collected by the Cassini space probe concluding that a porous core can be a key factor in generating heat for billions of years supporting an environment potentially favorable to life.

Artist's concept of the Proxima Centauri system (Image ESO/M. Kornmesser)

An article published in the magazine “Astrophysical Journal Letters” describes the discovery of a cold dust ring around Proxima Centauri, the star closest to the solar system. A team of researchers led by Guillem Anglada from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (CSIC), Granada, Spain, used the ALMA radio telescope to locate that ring that extends for a distance between one and four times that of the Earth from the Sun. There might also be a second ring, much farther from its star, a situation that makes the researchers think of a complex solar system.