The Southern Owl Nebula planetary nebula (Photo ESO)

It’s nicknamed the Southern Owl Nebula and its an extraordinarily symmetrical and round planetary nebula. Using ESO’s VLT (Very Large Telescope) in Chile now it’s been possible to capture an extraordinary image of this dying star and what’s left around it. The result gives the impression of a sphere lit up like a ghost in the darkness of space.

Image showing two pair of stars, one in blue and one in read, born together and then one of them moves far away (Image courtesy Dana Berry/SkyWorks Digital, Inc.; SDSS collaboration)

An article published in recent days in “The Astrophysical Journal” describes a research showing that about 30% of the stars in the Milky Way – which means nearly one in three – moved dramatically from the orbit it had at its birth. This surprising result was achieved by a team of scientists who worked on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) observing for a four-year period 100,000 stars with the SDSS Apache Point Observatory Galactic Evolution Explorer (APOGEE) spectrograph.

Artistic concept of an aurora at the north pole of a brown dwarf (Image Chuck Carter and Gregg Hallinan/Caltech)

Its aurora is 10,000 times more powerful than any other ever seen, somuch as to be detectable, although with very sophisticated instruments, from a distance of 18 light years. It was found on a brown dwarf called LSR J1835+3259 using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), the Hale Telescope in California and the Keck Telescope in Hawaii. The results of this research have just been published in the journal “Nature”.

Photo of the surface of the area of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko known as Agilkia taken by the Philae lander from a 9 m height (Photo ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR)

A special issue of the journal “Science” describes an early analysis of data collected by the lander Philae in its descent to the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Its mission was short and ESA engineers can’t get a stable contact after those of recent weeks but the data collected were very helpful. Another very interesting study just appeared about the interaction of the comet with the solar wind.

The spaceplane SpaceShipTwo connnected to its mothership White Knight Two

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced the conclusions of the investigation on the incident that on October 31, 2014 caused the destruction of Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane SpaceShipTwo with the consequent death of its co-pilot and the injuring of its commander. It turned out that the co-pilot unlocked the braking system too early and the SpaceShipTwo design included no security system to avoid the catastrophic consequences of that mistake.