Astronomy / Astrophysics

Image showing Milky Way, local interstellar cloud, the solar system and Cassini near Saturn (Image ESA; dust grain inset: NASA/JPL; Saturn image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

An article published in the journal “Science” describes the analysis of the composition of interstellar dust that entered the solar system and was intercepted by the Cassini space probe. Among the instruments on board there’s the Cosmic Dust Analyser (CDA), which over the years of its mission has collected millions of dust samples: 36 of them were found to be of interstellar origin.

The colors changing on the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Image ESA/ATG medialab; Data: ESA/Rosetta/VIRTIS/INAF-IAPS/OBS DE PARIS-LESIA/DLR; G. Filacchione et al (2016))

An article published in the journal “Icarus” describes the change in colors and brightness found on the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by ESA’s Rosetta space probe. These are the first findings of a study and concern the months immediately following Rosetta’s arrival in the comet’s orbit, in August 2014.

Stephen Hawking and his daughter Lucy in 2008 at NASA's 50th anniversary (Image NASA/Paul Alers)

Yesterday, at a press conference, the Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner officially announced the Starshot project that aims to build interstellar probes. The idea is to create tiny probes with a sail driven by a laser operated from Earth so they can reach 20% of the speed of light to reach the Alpha Centauri system in just over two decades. The physicist Stephen Hawking and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg support the project.

Artistic illustration of the Kepler Space Telescope (Image NASA)

NASA announced that it succeeded in restoring the Kepler space telescope after a few days it entered Emergency Mode. The mission’s engineers restored the communications during the last Sunday but the time table to resume its work is still to be determined. Communications also made it possible to start downloading telemetry and event data to determine the causes of the emergency.

The galaxy NGC 1600 with a close-up in the inset taken by Hubble (Image NASA, ESA, and Z. Levay (STScI))

An article published in the journal “Nature” describes the discovery of one of the biggles black holes found so far. Using data collected from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii, an international team of astronomers discovered a supermassive black hole with a mass estimated at around 17 billion times the Sun in the galaxy NGC 1600. It’s an extraordinary mass considering that it’s inside a galaxy very large but fairly isolated.