An article published in the journal “Science” describes the discovery of the supernova ASASSN-15lh, the brightest discovered so far. A team of astronomers led by Subo Dong, of the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University, China, studied this explosion that is extraordinary even by the standards of these events: it’s more than twice as bright as the one that held the record, about 200 times brighter than the average supernova, 570 billion times brighter than the Sun, and 20 times brighter than all the stars in the Milky Way put together.
NASA announced the companies selected for the new contracts for cargo transport to the International Space Station. This is the second selection so the agency calls them CRS-2 (Commercial Resupply Services 2) and concern the transport of supplies as well as the disposal of waste or otherwise of what is no longer needed and the transport of cargo from the Station to return it to NASA. This time the agency selected three companies reneweing the contracts with SpaceX and Orbital ATK and also selecting Sierra Nevada Corporation.
An article published in the journal “Nature” describes research that led to the confirmation of the presence of water ice exposed on the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The VIRTIS instrument on ESA’s Rosetta space probe recorded the data that were analyzed to determine the composition of the surface top layer, which is mainly a dark material, dried and rich in organic substances containing a small part of water ice. On the comet there’s a lot of ice but it’s interesting to examine that on the surface because it allows us to understand better some of its creation processes, even underground.
An article published in the journal “Astronomy & Astrophysics” describes the discovery of the the most energetic pulses ever detected in a pulsar. An international team of scientists used the two MAGIC (Major Atmospheric Gamma-ray Imaging Cherenkov) telescopes at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma, Canary Islands, to observe the Crab pulsar.
NASA has activated the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (PDCO), its program for the detection and tracking of space objects belonging to the NEO (Near-Earth Object) category, meaning the type whose orbit is close to that of Earth. This office is part of the agency’s Planetary Science Division, will be responsible for coordinating all projects connected to NEO-type asteroids and comets and will have a leading role in coordinating efforts with other agencies and governments about potential impact threats.