July 2018

The Progress MS-9 cargo spacecraft blasting off atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket (Image NASA TV)

A few hours ago the Progress MS-9 spacecraft blasted off atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. After about nine minutes it successfully separated from the rocket’s last stage and was placed on its ultra-fast track in its resupply mission to the International Space Station also called Progress 70 or 70P. After less than 4 hours it reached the International Space Station docking with its Pirs module.

Artist's impressione of the Milky Way and the Sausage dwarf galaxy (Image courtesy V. Belokurov (Cambridge, UK); Based on image by ESO/Juan Carlos Muñoz)

A series of articles published in the journals “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society” and “The Astrophysical Journal Letters” or on the arXiv website describe various aspects of a study on the consequences of the merger of the Milky Way and a dwarf galaxy nicknamed Sausage. A team of astronomers used data collected by ESA’s Gaia space probe to reconstruct that event from 8-10 billion years ago that profoundly influenced the Milky Way.

Jupiter and its aurora

An article published in the journal “Science” describes a research on the influence shown on the aurorae at Jupiter’s poles by its moons Io and Ganymede. A team led by Alessandro Mura of the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome, Italy, analyzed data collected in particular from the NASA’s Juno space probe’s JIRAM instrument, discovering that Io leaves a series of long traces in Jupiter’s aurorae while Ganymede leaves a double “shadow” in them.

The Eta Carinae system (Image NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team)

An article published in the journal “Nature Astronomy” describes a research on the Eta Carinae system, which consists of two giant blue stars with an overall brightness millions of times the Sun’s. A team led by astrophysicist Kenji Hamaguchi of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center used observations carried out with the NuSTAR telescope between March 2014 and June 2016 and other space telescopes to conclude that the two stars are probably accelerating very high energy particles and that some will reach the Earth in the form of cosmic rays.

The PDS 70 system (Image ESO/A. Müller et al.)

Two articles to be published in the journal “Astronomy & Astrophysics” describe the discovery and characterization of a planet still in its formation phase orbiting the young star PDS 70. Two teams of astronomers used the SPHERE instrument installed on ESO’s VLT to obtain for the first time images of a planet while it’s forming in what is still more or less a disk of gas and dust around the star. Called PDS 70b, the planet is a gas giant that could be larger than expected for its age.