The 51 Eridani system photographed by the Gemini Planet Imager (Image Gemini Observatory and J. Rameau (UdeM) and C. Marois NRC Herzberg)

Planet 51 Eridani b is the first discovered using the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), an instrument that started operating at the beginning of 2014 with the express purpose of directly detecting planets outside the solar system. This is the smallest exoplanet observed directly so far and its characteristics suggest that resembles Jupiter when it was very young. The results of this research were published in the journal “Science”.

Picture of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko near the perihelion (Photo ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

During the day yesterday the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko passed the perihelion, the point of closest approach to the Sun. ESA’s Rosetta space probe was at a distance of about 327 kilometers (about 203 miles) and with its NAVCAM instrument took a series of pictures to document the comet’s activities. Thanks to the heat it’s been receiving from the Sun the spectacular jets of gas generated by ice sublimation will continue for a few weeks.

The appearance of a typical galaxy at different wavelenghts in the GAMA survey (Image ICRAR/GAMA and ESO)

An international team of astronomers examined the data of more than 200,000 galaxies at different electromagnetic wavelengths. The conclusion is that in a section of the universe the energy output today is about half compared to two billion years ago. In essence, the universe is dying but you need not worry because it’s an extremely slow process. This research was presented at the International Astronomical Union XXIX General Assembly and will be published in the journal “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society”.

The space lettuce growing system (Photo Orbital Technologies/NASA)

Yesterday the crew of the International Space Station ate some salad. It seems a very trivial act but it was based on lettuce grown on the Station as part of the Veg-01 experiment that is specifically intended to study the growth of plants in a microgravity environment. The ultimate goal is to enable self-sufficiency in the food production during outer space trips and in space colonies.

Gamma-ray burst map showing a ring 5 billion light years across (Image courtesy Lajos Balazs)

An article published in the journal “Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society” describes the discovery of what appears to the largest structure of the universe. It’s a ring of nine gamma-ray bursts, which means as many galaxies, for a length of 5 billions light years. This ring, though it’s not really a circle, seems to contradict the current models and in particular the cosmological principle, the idea that the distribution of matter in the universe is uniform at a large enough scale.