Illustration of our traditional view of the Van Allen belts (Image NASA Goddard/Duberstein)

An article published in “Journal of Geophysical Research” describes a study on the Van Allen belts, two donut-shaped energetic formations surrounding the Earth. Two twin spacecraft originally called the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) and later Van Allen probes were launched by NASA on August 30, 2012 to study the belts and are allowing us to learn a lot about them. The latest discovery concerns the variability of their shape.

Artistic concept of the quasar galaxy W2246-0526 (Image NRAO/AUI/NSF; Dana Berry / SkyWorks; ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

The ALMA radio telescope allowed us to study the extraordinary events taking place in the galaxy W2246-0526, the brightest we know. It’s a quasar because its core is powered by a supermassive black hole that has a considerable activity that generates enormous jets of particles and high-energy radiation. This one in particular is part of a special category of quasars because it’s full of dust that absorbs a lot of radiation. However, the consequence of this activity is a turbulent activity that is expelling the gas.

The Jason-3 satellite right after blasting off atop a Falcon 9 rocket (Photo NASA/Bill Ingalls)

It was morning in California when the Jason-3 satellite was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Vandenberg U.S. Air Force Base. After nearly an hour it separated from the rocket’s upper stage and started deploying its solar panels. It will operate from a low Earth orbit of polar type, which means that it will pass over the poles, with an altitude between 1,328 and 1,380 kilometers (825 to 860 miles).

The galaxy that hosts ASASSN-15lh before its explosion taken by the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) [Left], and the supernova by the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGT) 1-meter telescope network [Right] (Image courtesy The Dark Energy Survey, B. Shappee and the ASAS-SN team))

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.

Artistic concept of the Dream Chaser Cargo System docked with the International Space Station (Image courtesy Sierra Nevada Corporation. All rights reserved)

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.