SPECIAL NOTE FOR GRADE SCHOOL TEACHERS: THIS IS A GREAT TEACHING OPPORTUNITY TO GET YOUR STUDENTS INVOLVED WITH THE NASA SPACE PROGRAM. Five weeks remain for you to add your name to a microchip that will ride aboard the Europa Clipper spacecraft as it explores Jupiter’s moon Europa. It’s not every day that members of the public have the chance to send their names into deep space -- all the way to Jupiter and its moon Europa. But with NASA’s Europa Clipper, you have that opportunity. Names will ride aboard the spacecraft as it journeys 1.8 billion miles (2.6 billion kilometers) to this icy moon, where an ocean hides beneath a frozen outer shell. The deadline to join the mission’s “Message in a Bottle” campaign is only five weeks away. The campaign closes at 11:59 PM EST, December 31, 2023.
X-rays imaged by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory combined with infrared data from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope were used to detect the most distant black hole ever discovered. The extremely distant black hole is located in the galaxy UHZ1 in the direction of the galaxy cluster Abell 2744, which was used as a gravitation lens in these observations. Abell 2744 is only about 3.5 billion light-years from Earth. UHZ1 is behind Abell 2744 and much farther away. At some 13.2 billion light-years away, UHZ1 is seen when the universe was only 3% of its current age. These new results may help explain how some of the first supermassive black holes in the Universe formed. It is believed that UHZ1 formed directly from the collapse of a huge cloud of gas rather than from the compression of a huge galaxy, which would not have had time to form this early in the Universe.
Welcome to the night sky report for November 2023 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. This month, hunt for the fainter constellations of fall, including Pisces, Aries, and Triangulum. They will guide you to several galaxies, including the spiral galaxies M74 and M33. Saturn rides high during the month and Venus and Jupiter are visible on opposite sides of the sky. Also, the Leonid meteors peak this month. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.
A fully automated process, including a brand-new artificial intelligence (AI) tool, has successfully detected, identified, and classified its first supernova without human intervention. Developed by an international collaboration led by Northwestern University, the new system automates the entire search for new supernovae across the night sky — effectively removing humans from the process. Not only does this rapidly accelerate the process of analyzing and classifying new supernova candidates, it also bypasses human error.
Sixty-five years ago, in 1958, several government programs in the US that had been pursuing spaceflight combined to form NASA. At the time, Stephen G. Alexander, now Associate Professor of Physics at Miami University in Ohio was only 3 years old. As a professor for nearly 30 years, he now realizes that, like countless others who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, NASA’s missions have had a profound impact on his life and career path. From John Glenn’s first flight into orbit to the Hubble telescope, the agency’s legacy has inspired generations of scientists. This is his reflection on NASA's legacy.
Welcome to the night sky report for October 2023 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. The crisp, clear October nights are full of celestial showpieces for the deep sky gazer. Find Pegasus, the flying horse of Greek myth, to pinpoint dense globular star clusters and galaxies. Look for M15, NGC 7331, and M31 - the Andromeda Galaxy. A "Ring of Fire" solar eclipse across the Americas on October 14th is this month's top highlight. Plus the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus strike some lovely poses for stargazers and planet watchers to enjoy. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.
For decades, what researchers knew about planet formation was based primarily on our own Solar System. It is widely agreed that Earth and the other rocky planets accreted from the disk of dust and gas that surrounded our Sun in its youth. However, the explosion of exoplanet research over the past decade has offered new and different approaches to modeling the Earth’s embryonic state. Using a newly developed model, researchers were able to demonstrate that early in Earth’s existence, our planet’s water could have originated from interactions between the hydrogen-rich atmospheres and magma oceans of the planetary embryos that comprised Earth’s formative years. Their findings could explain not only the abundance of Earth’s water, but also its current overall oxidized state.
Nuclear reactions in the Sun and in nuclear power plants regularly convert matter into energy. Now, using Einstein’s famous E = mc² equation in reverse, scientists have converted light energy directly into matter. Scientists used the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, to create matter directly from collisions of light. Gregory Breit and John A. Wheeler predicted this process in 1934, but it has never been achieved in a single direct step. The researchers accelerated two beams of heavy gold ions to close to the speed of light in opposite directions. At such speeds, each gold ion is surrounded by packets of light (that is, real photons) generated by the ion’s perpendicular magnetic and electric fields. When the ions graze past one another without colliding, the photons interact to produce electrons (matter) and positrons (antimatter). The momentum and angular distributions of the resulting electron-positron pairs indicate, within the high-precision limits of the experiment, that these particles come from real photons. This makes the experiment a direct demonstration of the Breit-Wheeler effect.
Welcome to the night sky report for September 2023 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. This September, Venus returns to the early morning skies as a bright beacon in the east, the full moon at the end of the month is a Harvest Moon, and if you have access to dark skies away from urban light pollution, you might be able to glimpse the faint, glowing pillar of the zodiacal light. Pegasus becomes increasingly prominent in the southeastern sky, allowing stargazers to locate globular clusters M2 (NGC 7089), M30 (NGC 7099), as well as a nearby double star, Alpha Capricorni, which is an optical double (but not a binary pair). The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.
Since the 17th century, when Isaac Newton and Christiaan Huygens first debated the nature of light, scientists have been puzzling over whether light is best viewed as a wave or a particle — or perhaps, at the quantum level, even both at once. Now, researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey have revealed a new connection between the two perspectives, using a 350-year-old mechanical theorem — ordinarily used to describe the movement of large, physical objects like pendulums and planets — to explain some of the most complex behaviors of light waves.
A new study of the orbital motions of long-period, widely separated, binary stars (referred to as wide binaries) provides conclusive evidence that standard Newtonian gravity breaks down at extremely low acceleration. The study carried out by Kyu-Hyun Chae, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Sejong University in Seoul, used data collected from 26,500 wide binary star systems within 650 light years, as observed by the European Space Agency (ESA) Gaia Space Telescope. Why study wide binaries? Because galactic disks and wide binaries share some similarities in their orbits, though wide binaries follow highly elongated orbits while hydrogen gas particles in a galactic disk follow nearly circular orbits. The clincher, however, is this -- Unlike galactic rotation curves, which can in principle be attributed to either dark matter or modified gravity, wide binary dynamics cannot be affected by dark matter, even if it existed. All the observed effects can only be explained by modified gravity. If these results can be confirmed as a breakdown of Newtonian Dynamics by independent analyses, and in time with even better and more precise data, then indeed we will be able to conclude that gravitation is Milgromian rather than Newtonian and there will be no further need for the fabricated concept of dark matter. The implications for astrophysics, cosmology, and for fundamental physics will be immense.
Welcome to the night sky report for August 2023 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. Saturn reaches opposition this month, meaning it's at its biggest and brightest for the year, and visible all night. The "shooting stars" of the annual Perseid meteors are a must-see overnight on August 12th. And this month brings two full moons – the second of which is a "Super Blue Moon." In August, a number of star-studded figures soar overhead. Look for the constellation Lyra, shaped as a small parallelogram, which points to Epsilon Lyrae and the Ring Nebula. You can also spot three bright summer stars: Vega, Deneb, and Altair, which form the Summer Triangle. And August is a great month to learn an easy-to-spot constellation – Cygnus the swan. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase. Get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.
An international team led by astronomers from Curtin University in Australia and the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) has discovered a new type of stellar object, the ultra-long period magnetar - a rare type of star with extremely strong magnetic fields that can produce powerful bursts of energy. The discovery has important implications for our understanding of the physics of neutron stars and the behavior of magnetic fields in extreme environments. It also raises new questions about the formation and evolution of magnetars and could shed light on the origin of mysterious phenomena such as fast radio bursts.
From our cosmic backyard in the solar system to distant galaxies near the dawn of time, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has delivered on its promise of revealing the universe like never before in its first year of science operations. “In just one year, the James Webb Space Telescope has transformed humanity’s view of the cosmos, peering into dust clouds and seeing light from faraway corners of the universe for the very first time. Every new image is a new discovery, empowering scientists around the globe to ask and answer questions they once could never dream of.” -- NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. NASA has selected an ambitious set of observations for year two as the James Webb Telescope begins its second operational orbit around the Sun.