Astronomy / Astrophysics

The sky around the star 51 Pegasi (Image ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2)

A team of astronomers used the HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher) instrument at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile to obtain for the first time a direct detection of the spectrum of visible light from an exoplanet. It’s 51 Pegasi b, already well known by astronomers because it was the first exoplanet discovered among those orbiting a star on the main sequence.

The Hubble Space Telescope (Photo NASA)

On April 24, 1990, the Space Shuttle Discovery was launched in its STS-31 mission. In its cargo bay it carried a really special payload, the Hubble Space Telescope. The day after it was deployed in its orbit, just over 550 km (about 342 miles) altitude. On June 25, Hubble sent its first images, which revealed a flaw in its primary mirror that reduced its usefulness. The first of a series of service missions turned what had threatened to turn into a terrible failure into a symbol for science and technology that goes far beyond astronomy.

Picture of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken on March 12, 2015 at 5.13 UTC. No jets are coming from the bottom area (Image ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

ESA’s space probe Rosetta identified new jets of gas and dust emerge from the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The images were taken using the OSIRIS camera on March 12, 2015 and were presented last week during EGU2015 (European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2015) in Vienna. The activity on the comet keeps on increasing but it took some luck to detect new jets.

The search for life beyond our solar system requires unprecedented cooperation across scientific disciplines. NASA's NExSS collaboration includes those who study Earth as a life-bearing planet (lower right), those researching the diversity of solar system planets (left), and those on the new frontier, discovering worlds orbiting other stars in the galaxy (upper right) (Image NASA)

NASA has announced the creation of the NExSS (Nexus for Exoplanet System Science), coalition, an initiative dedicated to the search for life on planets outside the solar system. It puts together different disciplines because this research goes beyond just astronomy: for example, it’s of interest to planetary and climate science researchers.

A map of the cosmic microwave background with inserts showing the Cold Spot as seen by PS1 and Planck Surveyor (Image ESA/Planck collaboration. Graphics by Gergő Kránicz)

When astronomers started studying a map of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB or CMBR), the residue of the earliest stages of the universe, they found what was called the Cold Spot. That’s a huge area colder than expected which could be the largest single cosmic structure never identified. According to an international team of scientists consists of a cosmic supervoid which about 1.8 billion light years across.