Astronomy / Astrophysics

Blogs about Astronomy and Astrophysics

From the left, the globular cluster Omega Centauri, its central area, and the area where the intermediate-mass black hole is probably located

An article published in the journal “Nature” reports evidence that the globular cluster Omega Centauri contains an intermediate-mass black hole. A team of researchers led by Maximilian Häberle of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg, Germany, used two decades of observations conducted with the Hubble Space Telescope to find that evidence. They did this by tracing the orbit of seven stars at the center of Omega Centauri that are moving fast due to an object with a mass that is at least 8,200 times the Sun’s. This also confirms the hypothesis that this star cluster is what remains of a dwarf galaxy absorbed by the Milky Way.

The quasar cataloged as RX J1131-1231, or simply RX J1131 (Image ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, A. Nierenberg)

A new image captured by the James Webb Space Telescope depicts the quasar cataloged as RX J1131-1231, or simply RX J1131. About six billion light-years away from Earth, it’s visible in three different copies, recognizable in the upper part of the bright ring in the center of the image, due to a gravitational lensing effect generated by a galaxy between it and Earth. In particular, MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) was used to observe RX J1131 with different mid-infrared filters as part of an observation program that studies dark matter.

Aganippe Fossa

ESA has published an image captured by its Mars Express space probe’s High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) instrument of Aganippe Fossa, a formation that has the appearance of a scar on the surface of the planet Mars which is truly colossal given that it’s approximately 600 kilometers long. This rift valley is a geological formation of the type called graben in jargon. There are no certainties about its formation but it’s probably linked to lava flows under the enormous volcanoes of the Tharsis region, starting with Arsia Mons, the closest to Aganippe Fossa.

The protostar forming within the L1527 molecular cloud observed by the James Webb Space Telescope's MIRI instrument

A new image captured by the James Webb Space Telescope reveals new details of a protostar forming within the molecular cloud cataloged as L1527. The MIRI instrument offered new information on the ongoing processes that are leading to the birth of a new star. An accretion disk is barely visible edge-on and is important because the protostar is still absorbing materials from it and planets could form within it in the future. During its formation, the protostar emits jets of gas that collide with the remains of the surrounding cloud, generating the structures MIRI sees in a color that is blue in the top image (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI) thanks to the presence of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), compounds that are common in space.

At the top left a sample taken from the asteroid Bennu and in the subsequent panels increasingly zoomed views of a fragment that broke off along a bright vein that contains phosphate, captured under an electron microscope

An article published in the journal “Meteoritics & Planetary Science” reports the results of the preliminary analysis of the samples of material from asteroid Bennu brought back to Earth by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx space probe. A team of researchers conducted morphological and chemical analyzes of the samples, finding a lot of carbon and nitrogen together with organic compounds, all very important components for life forms of the Earth’s type.

The surprise came from the discovery of magnesium-sodium phosphate, which wasn’t detected by the instruments aboard OSIRIS-REx. This compound forms in water-rich environments and suggests that Bennu may be a fragment of a primordial world that had an ocean. The researchers mentioned Enceladus, Saturn’s moon with a subterranean ocean where sodium phosphate was found, and suggest a possible link to Bennu.