July 2018

CK Vul

An article published in the journal “Nature Astronomy” describes the discovery of aluminum monofluoride (AlF) molecules containing aluminum-26, a radioactive isotope of this element, in interstellar space. A team of astronomers used the ALMA and NOEMA radio telescopes to trace its origins to the variable star CK Vulpeculae (CK Vul), the remnant of the merger between two stars observed from the Earth between 1670 and 1672 and called Nova Vulpecola 1670. It’s the first observation of aluminum-26 that leads to the identification of its origin, which occurred in a very rare event.

GRB 161219B and its echo

An article published in the journal “Astrophysical Journal” describes the study of a sort of echo generated by a gamma-ray burst cataloged as GRB 161219B emitted by a newborn black hole. The gamma-ray emissions lasted only seven seconds but emissions at other electromagnetic frequencies lasted even for weeks, which enabled a team of astronomers to use the ALMA radio telescope to study the ones at millimeter wavelengths. They offered other information on the gamma-ray burst and on the characteristics of its powerful jets.

Artist's impression of Sagittarius A* and S2

An article published in the journal “Astronomy & Astrophysics” describes a verification of a phenomenon predicted by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Scientists from the GRAVITY collaboration used observations conducted with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile to observe the effects of the motion of a star called S2 as it passes through the extreme gravitational field near the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Mars Express detections at Mars South Pole

An article published in the journal “Science” describes the discovery of an underground lake of liquid water on Mars. A team of researchers led by Roberto Orosei of the National Institute of Astrophysics and composed of researchers belonging to Italian research centers and universities used data collected by ESA’s Mars Express space probe’s MARSIS radar to collect evidence that at the south pole at about 1.5 kilometers of depth there’s water that is liquid.

Mars Proton Aurora

An article published in the journal “Nature Astronomy” describes the discovery of proton aurorae on the planet Mars. Scientists from NASA’s MAVEN mission were studying the red planet’s atmosphere using the space probe’s IUVS instrument and noticed a strange glow in its upper layers. The investigation led to the discovery of this rare type of aurora caused by energetic protons carried by the solar wind, a phenomenon that can occur on a large scale on Mars and perhaps also on Venus and Titan while it’s limited on Earth.