August 2019

A gamma-ray burst from 2016 might have originated from a neutron star merger

An article published in the journal “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society” reports a study on the short-duration gamma-ray burst cataloged as GRB160821B that has characteristics that match those of the merger of neutron stars observed at both electromagnetic waves and gravitational waves on August 17, 2017. A team of researchers led by Eleonora Troja of the University of Maryland used data collected from various telescopes to compare the two events and the 2016 one was observed since its early hours providing new information on the initial phase of what’s called a kilonova.

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft approaching the International Space Station. In the foreground the Soyuz MS-13 (Image NASA TV)

A few hours ago the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft, which blasted off about last Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, has reached the International Space Station. The integration test with the Soyuz 2.1a rocket was successful and the spacecraft reached its destination, even if it’s a few days late after the first docking attempt had to be aborted.

Artist's illustration of the exoplanet LHS 3844b (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC))

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports a study of the exoplanet LHS 3844b, a super-Earth discovered in 2018 thanks to NASA’s TESS space telescope. For this targeted study, a team of researchers led by Laura Kreidberg of the Harvard and Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics used the Spitzer space telescope to examine its surface and see if it had an atmosphere. The result is that LHS 3844b probably doesn’t have an atmosphere or it’s very thin and is perhaps covered by materials of volcanic origin such as the lunar “mare”. In essence, more than a super-Earth it could be a super-Mercury.

The Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft during its docking attempt (Image NASA)

A few hours ago the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft, which blasted off about two days ago from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, attempted to dock with the International Space Station but a communications problem forced to abort the maneuver. Cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Alexander Skvortsov are working together with the Russian space agency Roscosmos to retry the docking on Monday while the Soyuz MS-14 remains at a safe distance.