Astronomy / Astrophysics

Pluto and Charon photographed by the New Horizon space probe on July 11, 2015 (Photo NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI)

Today, NASA’s New Horizons space probe will carry out the much anticipated Pluto flyby. When at NASA’s mission control center it’s early morning, it will pass at a distance that will reach a minimum of 12,500 kilometers (about 7,800 miles) from the dwarf planet. All New Horizons’ instruments will be used to analyze Pluto as ever before but some time will be devoted also to its moons, particularly Charon.

Scheme of the observation of the supermassive black hole PKS 1830-211 through gravitational lensing (Image ESA/ATG medialab)

An article published in the journal “Nature Physics” describes the study conducted on the supermassive black hole known as PKS 1830-211 using observations made with ESA’s Integral and NASA’s Fermi and Swift space telescopes. The peculiarity is that these observations used a gravitational lensing effect created by a galaxy to explore the inner regions of the area around the black hole and the gamma rays that come from it.

Composite of images of the Venus transit taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 5, 2012 (Image NASA/Goddard/SDO)

In the journal “Nature Communications” an article was published on the study of images of the planet Venus taken during its transit, its passage between the Sun and the Earth, which occurred in June 2012, taken by two satellites: NASA’s SDO and NASA and JAXA’s Hinode. This research allowed to look at Venusian atmosphere in a different way measuring the way it absorbs the different types of light. This type of study allows to get important clues about the presence of various chemical elements in the atmosphere’s layers. It will also be useful to improve the techniques to examine exoplanets’ atmosphere.

This artist’s impression shows a supernova and associated gamma-ray burst driven by a magnetar (Image ESO)

An article published in “Nature” describes the research conducted by an international team led by Jochen Greiner of the Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Garching, Germany who studied a gamma-ray burst (GRB) detected on December 9, 2011 by NASA’s Swift satellite and called GRB 111209A. It was an exceptional phenomenon because it lasted more than three hours when gamma-ray bursts typically last from a few seconds to a few minutes. It was the first case of GRB associated with a supernova, called SN 2011kl, which produced a magnetar, a neutron star with an incredibly strong magnetic field.

Top, artistic representation of the NuSTAR space telescope (NASA/JPL-Caltech). Bottom left, one of the galaxies observed with the NuSTAR space telescope (Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA, ESA). Bottom right, artistic concept of a supermassive black hole hidden by dust and gas in its host galaxy (NASA/ESA)

Yesterday at the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting (NAM2015), at the Venue Cymru centre in Llandudno, Wales, evidence were presented of the discovery of supermassive black holes found thanks to the NASA’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) space telescope. An international team led by astronomers at the British Durham University detected the high energy X-ray emission from five black holes that were previously hidden by dust and gas.