The region on the planet Mercury where the Messenger space probe crashed (Image NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

NASA has confirmed that a few hours ago the Messenger (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging) space probe ended its mission by crashing on the surface of the planet Mercury. Messenger ran out of fuel and some maneuvers were recently programmed to prolong its life of a few more days. Eventually, even the helium normally used to pressurize the propellant was released in a jet that gave the probe one last push. It was a very successful mission that allowed us to discover many things about Mercury.

The Hubble Space Telescope (Photo NASA)

On April 24, 1990, the Space Shuttle Discovery was launched in its STS-31 mission. In its cargo bay it carried a really special payload, the Hubble Space Telescope. The day after it was deployed in its orbit, just over 550 km (about 342 miles) altitude. On June 25, Hubble sent its first images, which revealed a flaw in its primary mirror that reduced its usefulness. The first of a series of service missions turned what had threatened to turn into a terrible failure into a symbol for science and technology that goes far beyond astronomy.

The search for life beyond our solar system requires unprecedented cooperation across scientific disciplines. NASA's NExSS collaboration includes those who study Earth as a life-bearing planet (lower right), those researching the diversity of solar system planets (left), and those on the new frontier, discovering worlds orbiting other stars in the galaxy (upper right) (Image NASA)

NASA has announced the creation of the NExSS (Nexus for Exoplanet System Science), coalition, an initiative dedicated to the search for life on planets outside the solar system. It puts together different disciplines because this research goes beyond just astronomy: for example, it’s of interest to planetary and climate science researchers.

A map of the cosmic microwave background with inserts showing the Cold Spot as seen by PS1 and Planck Surveyor (Image ESA/Planck collaboration. Graphics by Gergő Kránicz)

When astronomers started studying a map of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB or CMBR), the residue of the earliest stages of the universe, they found what was called the Cold Spot. That’s a huge area colder than expected which could be the largest single cosmic structure never identified. According to an international team of scientists consists of a cosmic supervoid which about 1.8 billion light years across.