April 2019

The Falcon Heavy blasting off carrying the Arabsat-6A satellite (Photo courtesy SpaceX)

It was afternoon in Florida when SpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral on its first commercial mission. The most powerful rocket in activity launched the Arabsat-6A satellite, which after about 34 minutes separated from the rocket’s last stage entering a transit orbit from where it started the maneuvers that will take it towards a geostationary orbit within a bit more than two weeks.

One of the last images sent by Beresheet (Image courtesy SpaceIL. All rights reserved)

A little while ago the Israeli lander Beresheet attempted a Moon landing but something didn’t work perfectly in its propulsion system and probably crashed on the Moon’s surface. The latt information concerned a problem with the main engine that didn’t burn correctly and when the mission control center was able to reactivate it it was too late. Telemetry was lost when Beresheet was coming down too fast.

The Trace Gas Orbiter space probe detected water but not methane on Mars

Two articles published in the journal “Nature” report the main results of the first year of work of ESA and Roscosmos’ Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), part of the ExoMars program. One article concerns the impact of the global storm that covered the planet Mars with a dust on the water in the atmosphere, while the other article reports the lack of methane detections, at least for now frustrating the hopes of discovering its origin. A third article submitted to the journal “Proceedings of the Russian Academy of Science” offers the most detailed map created so far of water ice and hydrated minerals present immediately below the red planet’s surface.

The area surrounding the supermassive black hole in the Virgo A galaxy (Image EHT Collaboration)

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project with representatives of ALMA and APEX radio telescope researchers held a press conference, one of many held in the world to present the first EHT results. A project that for two years engaged a series of radio telescopes from around the world to combine their observations had the aim of peering directly into the environment surrounding a black hole and in particular the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, known as Sagittarius A*, and the one at the center of the Virgo A galaxy.

Artist's concept of a planetesimal orbiting the white dwarf SDSS J122859.93+104032.9 (Image courtesy University of Warwick/Mark Garlick)

An article published in the journal “Science” reports the discovery of what’s probably a fragment of a planet that orbits a white dwarf. A team of researchers led by the British University of Warwick used the Gran Telescopio Canarias of La Palma to study the debris disk that surrounds the white dwarf cataloged as SDSS J122859.93+104032.9 detecting anomalies in the emission lines that have been interpreted as the result of the presence of what has been called a planetesimal orbiting the star in about two hours.