Massimo Luciani

The Sentinel-5P satellite blasting off atop a Rockot vehicle (Photo ESA)

A few hours ago, the Sentinel-5P satellite of the Copernicus / GMES program, blasted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia, on a Rockot with a Briz-KM upper stage rocket. The satellite regularly separated from the rocket’s last stage and after about an hour and a half started sending signals.

The Sentinel-5P – where “P” stands for Precursor – satellite is the first of the Copernicus constellation devoted to atmospheric monitoring. The term Precursor is due to the fact that it’s the forerunner of the future Sentinel-5 satellite and represents a step forward compared to Envisat. It will complement the EUMETSAT’s MetOp meteorological satellites and work in coordination with the Suomi-NPP American mission, which began in 2011 with similar aims.

The supernova MUSSES1604D (Image courtesy Institute of Astronomy, the University of Tokyo)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes a research that provides evidence that the explosion of a supernova was triggered by the detonation of a helium layer on the surface of a white dwarf. A team of researchers led by Ji-an Jiang of the University of Tokyo used the Subaru telescope with follow-up observations using the Gemini-North telescope to study MUSSES1604D, a type Ia supernova. Their conclusion is that a white dwarf stole helium from a companion star and it formed a layer that at one point exploded, triggering the supernova.

The Eridania basin (Image NASA)

An article published in the journal “Nature Communications” describes the discovery of evidence of the existence of very ancient hydrothermal deposits on a seabed in the Eridania region on Mars. A team of researchers studied data collected by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) space probe to reconstruct the presence of massive deposits in a basin in the red planet’s southern hemisphere. It’s a type of environment favorable to the birth of life forms, similar to that in which scientists think life on Earth was born.

Illustration of the possible dust cloud around Tabby's star (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An article published in “The Astrophysical Journal” describes a research that offers an explanation of the many sudden brightness changes observed in Tabby’s star in recent years. A team of researchers co-ordinated by the University of Arizona used data collected by NASA’s Spitzer and Swift space telescopes and the Belgian AstroLAB IRIS observatory concluding that this phenomenon is caused by a dense cloud of dust orbiting the star.

Two possible pairs of supermassive black holes

Two articles, one recently accepted for publication in “The Astrophysical Journal” and one published in the journal “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society” (MRAS), describe as many researches on pairs of supermassive black holes. In total, five candidates could form as many pairs of black holes with masses millions of times the Sun’s at the center of galaxies. At a time when gravitational wave research obtained historical results, very powerful sources could be very useful for new studies.