Astronomy / Astrophysics

Photos of the Imhotep region on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko where water ice on the surface was confirmed (Image ESA/Rosetta/NavCam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0)

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes research that led to the confirmation of the presence of water ice exposed on the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The VIRTIS instrument on ESA’s Rosetta space probe recorded the data that were analyzed to determine the composition of the surface top layer, which is mainly a dark material, dried and rich in organic substances containing a small part of water ice. On the comet there’s a lot of ice but it’s interesting to examine that on the surface because it allows us to understand better some of its creation processes, even underground.

Image of the Crab nebula and pulsar obtained combining photos taken by the Hubble and Chandra space telescopes (Optical: NASA/HST/ASU/J. Hester et al. X-Ray: NASA/CXC/ASU/J. Hester et al.)

An article published in the journal “Astronomy & Astrophysics” describes the discovery of the the most energetic pulses ever detected in a pulsar. An international team of scientists used the two MAGIC (Major Atmospheric Gamma-ray Imaging Cherenkov) telescopes at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma, Canary Islands, to observe the Crab pulsar.

Gamma ray map of the sky created using the new Fermi Space Telescope catalog (Image NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration)

At the 227th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Kissimmee, Florida there was a presentation of significant improvements that NASA obtained to the performance of its Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The data collected by its Large Area Telescope (LAT) instrument were analyzed again in what was called Pass 8 with a new software. That allowed to discover new gamma ray sources that previously weren’t identified. At the same time it was possible to improve the ability of the LAT to determine the direction of the incoming gamma rays.

Eta Carinae's Homunculus Nebula photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope (Image NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team)

An article published in “The Astrophysical Journal Letters” describes a research that led to the discovery of stars really out of the ordinary. Those are binary systems consisting of two very massive stars where immense eruptions can take place. These systems are twins of Eta Carinae, which became famous for the eruption sighted in the 19th century. Examining observations made using the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes a group of researchers found 5 candidates in other galaxies.

Runaway stars with their bow shocks. On the right one taken by the WISE space telescope, the other two were taken by the Spitzer space telescope

Analyzing the observations made using NASA’s Spitzer WISE space telescopes, many runaway stars were discovered. Those stars are called that way for the remarkable speed they’re moving at in space. One way to identify a potential runaway star is to seek what in jargon is called “bow shock” and indicates the area between a magnetosphere and a surrounding environment. It’s an arc-shaped structure that extends in front of the star and can be very extensive.