Huge Cosmic Structures Already Existed When the Universe Was a Baby

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF LIVE SCIENCE)

 

Huge Cosmic Structures Already Existed When the Universe Was a Baby

This image shows the region where the ancient galactic structure was found. The blue shading shows the area it covers. The red objects in the zoomed-in bits are the 12 galaxies.

This image shows the region where the ancient galactic structure was found. The blue shading shows the area it covers. The red objects in the zoomed-in bits are the 12 galaxies.
(Image: © NAOJ/Harikane et al.)

Astronomers have discovered the oldest cluster of galaxies ever seen, which dates to the early universe.

The discovery, which could help explain the shape of the modern cosmos, reveals 12 galaxies that existed in a clump 13 billion years ago — just about 700 million years after the Big Bang. We can see them now because they’re so far away in the expanding universe (13 billion light-years) that their starlight is only now reaching Earth. One of the galaxies, a mammoth named Himiko after a mythological Japanese queen, was discovered a decade ago by the same team.

Surprisingly, the other 11 galaxies aren’t clustered around the giant Himiko, the researchers wrote in a paper that will be published on Sept. 30 in The Astrophysical Journal and is available as a draft on the website arXiv. Instead, Himiko sits at the edge of the system, which the researchers call a “protocluster” because it’s so small and ancient compared to most of the clusters we can see in the universe..

Related: 11 Fascinating Facts About Our Milky Way Galaxy

“It is reasonable to find a protocluster near a massive object, such as Himiko. However, we’re surprised to see that Himiko was located not in the center of the protocluster but on the edge, 500 million light-years away from the center,” Masami Ouchi, a co-author of the paper and an astronomer at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and the University of Tokyo, said in a statement.

Understanding how galaxy clusters came to be turns out to be important for understanding the galaxies they contain. Most galaxies, including the Milky Way, show up in clumps with other galaxies, so the galaxies aren’t evenly distributed throughout the universe. And that clumping seems to affect their behavior, astronomers have said. Galaxies in high-density, clumped environments full of galaxies form stars in different ways than do galaxies in low-density environments empty of galaxies. And the impact of clumping seems to have changed over time, the researchers said.

In more recent times, the researchers wrote in the paper, “there is a clear trend that the star-formation activity of galaxies tends to be lower in high-density environment than low-density environment.”

So, clumped-up galaxies these days form stars less often than their more independent cousins do. It’s as if they’re aging faster in their clusters, the researchers wrote, becoming geriatric and giving up on making new stars.

But in the ancient universe, the trend seems to have been reversed. Galaxies in highly packed clusters formed stars faster, not slower, remaining young and spry compared with their cousins not in dense clusters.

Still, “protoclusters” like this one from the early eons of the universe are rarely found and are poorly understood, the researchers wrote. These clumps tend to be much smaller than modern examples, which can contain hundreds of galaxies.

The further back telescopes peer into time, the fewer proto-clusters turn up. It’s possible many of them are simply obscured by intergalactic dust. The astronomers hope, they wrote, that the new discovery will help flesh out the picture and explain how the state of things 13 billion years ago changed over time to produce that clustered universe we see today.

Originally published on Live Science.

Where Do Black Holes Lead?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF LIVE SCIENCE)

 

Where Do Black Holes Lead?

Artist's impression of a black hole.

Where does a black hole go?
(Image: © All About Space magazine)

So there you are, about to leap into a black hole. What could possibly await should — against all odds — you somehow survive? Where would you end up and what tantalizing tales would you be able to regale if you managed to clamor your way back?

The simple answer to all of these questions is, as Professor Richard Massey explains, “Who knows?” As a Royal Society research fellow at the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University, Massey is fully aware that the mysteries of black holes run deep. “Falling through an event horizon is literally passing beyond the veil — once someone falls past it, nobody could ever send a message back,” he said. “They’d be ripped to pieces by the enormous gravity, so I doubt anyone falling through would get anywhere.”

If that sounds like a disappointing — and painful — answer, then it is to be expected. Ever since Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity was considered to have predicted black holes by linking space-time with the action of gravity, it has been known that black holes result from the death of a massive star leaving behind a small, dense remnant core. Assuming this core has more than roughly three-times the mass of the sun, gravity would overwhelm to such a degree that it would fall in on itself into a single point, or singularity, understood to be the black hole’s infinitely dense core.

Related: 9 Ideas About Black Holes That Will Blow Your Mind

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The resulting uninhabitable black hole would have such a powerful gravitational pull that not even light could avoid it. So, should you then find yourself at the event horizon — the point at which light and matter can only pass inward, as proposed by the German astronomer Karl Schwarzschild — there is no escape. According to Massey, tidal forces would reduce your body into strands of atoms (or ‘spaghettification’, as it is also known) and the object would eventually end up crushed at the singularity. The idea that you could pop out somewhere — perhaps at the other side — seems utterly fantastical.

What about a wormhole?

Or is it? Over the years scientists have looked into the possibility that black holes could be wormholes to other galaxies. They may even be, as some have suggested, a path to another universe.

Such an idea has been floating around for some time: Einstein teamed up with Nathan Rosen to theorize bridges that connect two different points in space-time in 1935. But it gained some fresh ground in the 1980’s when physicist Kip Thorne — one of the world’s leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity — raised a discussion about whether objects could physically travel through them.

“Reading Kip Thorne’s popular book about wormholes is what first got me excited about physics as a child,” Massey said. But it doesn’t seem likely that wormholes exist.

Indeed, Thorne, who lent his expert advice to the production team for the Hollywood movie Interstellar, wrote: “We see no objects in our universe that could become wormholes as they age,” in his book “The Science of Interstellar” (W.W. Norton and Company, 2014). Thorne told Space.com that journeys through these theoretical tunnels would most likely remain science fiction, and there is certainly no firm evidence that a black hole could allow for such a passage.

Artist’s concept of a wormhole. If wormholes exist, they might lead to another universe. But, there’s no evidence that wormholes are real or that a black hole would act like one.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

But, the problem is that we can’t get up close to see for ourselves. Why, we can’t even take photographs of anything that takes place inside a black hole — if light cannot escape their immense gravity, then nothing can be snapped by a camera. As it stands, theory suggests that anything which goes beyond the event horizon is simply added to the black hole and, what’s more, because time distorts close to this boundary, this will appear to take place incredibly slowly, so answers won’t be quickly forthcoming.

“I think the standard story is that they lead to the end of time,” said Douglas Finkbeiner, professor of astronomy and physics at Harvard University. “An observer far away will not see their astronaut friend fall into the black hole. They’ll just get redder and fainter as they approach the event horizon [as a result of gravitational red shift]. But the friend falls right in, to a place beyond ‘forever.’ Whatever that means.”

Maybe a black hole leads to a white hole

Certainly, if black holes do lead to another part of a galaxy or another universe, there would need to be something opposite to them on the other side. Could this be a white hole — a theory put forward by Russian cosmologist Igor Novikov in 1964? Novikov proposed that a black hole links to a white hole that exists in the past. Unlike a black hole, a white hole will allow light and matter to leave, but light and matter will not be able to enter.

Scientists have continued to explore the potential connection between black and white holes. In their 2014 study published in the journal Physical Review D, physicists Carlo Rovelli and Hal M. Haggard claimed that “there is a classic metric satisfying the Einstein equations outside a finite space-time region where matter collapses into a black hole and then emerges from a while hole.” In other words, all of the material black holes have swallowed could be spewed out, and black holes may become white holes when they die.

Far from destroying the information that it absorbs, the collapse of a black hole would be halted. It would instead experience a quantum bounce, allowing information to escape. Should this be the case, it would shed some light on a proposal by former Cambridge University cosmologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking who, in the 1970’s, explored the possibility that black holes emit particles and radiation — thermal heat — as a result of quantum fluctuations.

Red shifting Star Orbiting Super massive Black Hole Demonstrates Einstein Prediction
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“Hawking said a black hole doesn’t last forever,” Finkbeiner said. Hawking calculated that the radiation would cause a black hole to lose energy, shrink and disappear, as described in his 1976 paper published in Physical Review D. Given his claims that the radiation emitted would be random and contain no information about what had fallen in, the black hole, upon its explosion, would erase loads of information.

This meant Hawking’s idea was at odds with quantum theory, which says information can’t be destroyed. Physics states information just becomes more difficult to find because, should it become lost, it becomes impossible to know the past or the future. Hawking’s idea led to the ‘black hole information paradox’ and it has long puzzled scientists. Some have said Hawking was simply wrong, and the man himself even declared he had made an error during a scientific conference in Dublin in 2004.

So, do we go back to the concept of black holes emitting preserved information and throwing it back out via a white hole? Maybe. In their 2013 study published in Physical Review Letters, Jorge Pullin at Louisiana State University and Rodolfo Gambini at the University of the Republic in Montevideo, Uruguay, applied loop quantum gravity to a black hole and found that gravity increased towards the core but reduced and plonked whatever was entering into another region of the universe. The results gave extra credence to the idea of black holes serving as a portal. In this study, singularity does not exist, and so it doesn’t form an impenetrable barrier that ends up crushing whatever it encounters. It also means that information doesn’t disappear.

Maybe black holes go nowhere

Yet physicists Ahmed Almheiri, Donald Marolf, Joseph Polchinski and James Sully still believed Hawking could have been on to something. They worked on a theory that became known as the AMPS firewall, or the black hole firewall hypothesis. By their calculations, quantum mechanics could feasibly turn the event horizon into a giant wall of fire and anything coming into contact would burn in an instant. In that sense, black holes lead nowhere because nothing could ever get inside.

This, however, violates Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Someone crossing the event horizon shouldn’t actually feel any great hardship because an object would be in free fall and, based on the equivalence principle, that object — or person — would not feel the extreme effects of gravity. It could follow the laws of physics present elsewhere in the universe, but even if it didn’t go against Einstein’s principle it would undermine quantum field theory or suggest information can be lost.

Related: 11 Fascinating Facts About Our Milky Way Galaxy

Artist’s impression of a tidal disruption event which occurs when a star passes too close to a super massive black hole.

(Image credit: All About Space magazine)

A black hole of uncertainty

Step forward Hawking once more. In 2014, he published a study in which he eschewed the existence of an event horizon — meaning there is nothing there to burn — saying gravitational collapse would produce an ‘apparent horizon’ instead.

This horizon would suspend light rays trying to move away from the core of the black hole, and would persist for a “period of time.” In his rethinking, apparent horizons temporarily retain matter and energy before dissolving and releasing them later down the line. This explanation best fits with quantum theory — which says information can’t be destroyed — and, if it was ever proven, it suggests that anything could escape from a black hole.

Hawking went as far as saying black holes may not even exist. “Black holes should be redefined as metastable bound states of the gravitational field,” he wrote. There would be no singularity, and while the apparent field would move inwards due to gravity, it would never reach the center and be consolidated within a dense mass.

And yet anything which is emitted will not be in the form of the information swallowed. It would be impossible to figure out what went in by looking at what is coming out, which causes problems of its own — not least for, say, a human who found themselves in such an alarming position. They’d never feel the same again!

One thing’s for sure, this particular mystery is going to swallow up many more scientific hours for a long time to come. Rovelli and Francesca Vidotto recently suggested that a component of dark matter could be formed by remnants of evaporated black holes, and Hawking’s paper on black holes and ‘soft hair’ was released in 2018, and describes how zero-energy particles are left around the point of no return, the event horizon — an idea that suggests information is not lost but captured.

This flew in the face of the no-hair theorem which was expressed by physicist John Archibald Wheeler and worked on the basis that two black holes would be indistinguishable to an observer because none of the special particle physics pseudo-charges would be conserved. It’s an idea that has got scientists talking, but there is some way to go before it’s seen as the answer for where black holes lead. If only we could find a way to leap into one.

‘Black hole’ photographed on Jupiter

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NEWS HUB )

 

‘Black hole’ photographed on Jupiter

  • 22/09/2019
  • Dan Satherley

Watch: Scientists discover planet with closest resemblance to Earth so far. Credits: Video – Newshub; Image – NASA

Stunning new images shot by NASA’s Juno spacecraft appear to show a massive black hole on the surface of Jupiter.

The photographs were taken earlier this month as Juno’s elliptical orbit took it close to the gas giant – only 8000 km from the top of its clouds.

Jupiter and its new 'black hole'.
Jupiter and its new ‘black hole’. Photo credit: NASA

But rather than an abyss from which there is no escape, Jupiter’s latest feature is just a shadow cast by one of its moons, Io, as it blocked the sun during an eclipse.

Io is about the same size as Earth’s moon. Because it’s so far away, in the Jovian sky Io appears about four times the size as the sun – so its shadow is large and relatively sharp, compared to eclipses here on Earth, Universe Today reports.

Another view of the 'hole'.
Another view of the ‘hole’. Photo credit: NASA

Last week it was reported a volcano is set to erupt on Io.

Jupiter’s other distinctive feature – its giant red spot – is a storm that is expected to dissipate one day.

News hub.

 

Where Do Black Holes Lead?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF LIVE SCIENCE)

 

Where Do Black Holes Lead?

Artist's impression of a black hole.

Where does a black hole go?
(Image: © All About Space magazine)

So there you are, about to leap into a black hole. What could possibly await should — against all odds — you somehow survive? Where would you end up and what tantalizing tales would you be able to regale if you managed to clamor your way back?

The simple answer to all of these questions is, as Professor Richard Massey explains, “Who knows?” As a Royal Society research fellow at the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University, Massey is fully aware that the mysteries of black holes run deep. “Falling through an event horizon is literally passing beyond the veil — once someone falls past it, nobody could ever send a message back,” he said. “They’d be ripped to pieces by the enormous gravity, so I doubt anyone falling through would get anywhere.”

If that sounds like a disappointing — and painful — answer, then it is to be expected. Ever since Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity was considered to have predicted black holes by linking space-time with the action of gravity, it has been known that black holes result from the death of a massive star leaving behind a small, dense remnant core. Assuming this core has more than roughly three-times the mass of the sun, gravity would overwhelm to such a degree that it would fall in on itself into a single point, or singularity, understood to be the black hole’s infinitely dense core.

Related: 9 Ideas About Black Holes That Will Blow Your Mind

CLOSE
Volume 0%

The resulting uninhabitable black hole would have such a powerful gravitational pull that not even light could avoid it. So, should you then find yourself at the event horizon — the point at which light and matter can only pass inward, as proposed by the German astronomer Karl Schwarzschild — there is no escape. According to Massey, tidal forces would reduce your body into strands of atoms (or ‘spaghettification’, as it is also known) and the object would eventually end up crushed at the singularity. The idea that you could pop out somewhere — perhaps at the other side — seems utterly fantastical.

What about a wormhole?

Or is it? Over the years scientists have looked into the possibility that black holes could be wormholes to other galaxies. They may even be, as some have suggested, a path to another universe.

Such an idea has been floating around for some time: Einstein teamed up with Nathan Rosen to theorise bridges that connect two different points in space-time in 1935. But it gained some fresh ground in the 1980s when physicist Kip Thorne — one of the world’s leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein’s general theory of relativity — raised a discussion about whether objects could physically travel through them.

“Reading Kip Thorne’s popular book about wormholes is what first got me excited about physics as a child,” Massey said. But it doesn’t seem likely that wormholes exist.

Indeed, Thorne, who lent his expert advice to the production team for the Hollywood movie Interstellar, wrote: “We see no objects in our universe that could become wormholes as they age,” in his book “The Science of Interstellar” (W.W. Norton and Company, 2014). Thorne told Space.com that journeys through these theoretical tunnels would most likely remain science fiction, and there is certainly no firm evidence that a black hole could allow for such a passage.

Artist’s concept of a wormhole. If wormholes exist, they might lead to another universe. But, there’s no evidence that wormholes are real or that a black hole would act like one.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

But, the problem is that we can’t get up close to see for ourselves. Why, we can’t even take photographs of anything that takes place inside a black hole — if light cannot escape their immense gravity, then nothing can be snapped by a camera. As it stands, theory suggests that anything which goes beyond the event horizon is simply added to the black hole and, what’s more, because time distorts close to this boundary, this will appear to take place incredibly slowly, so answers won’t be quickly forthcoming.

“I think the standard story is that they lead to the end of time,” said Douglas Finkbeiner, professor of astronomy and physics at Harvard University. “An observer far away will not see their astronaut friend fall into the black hole. They’ll just get redder and fainter as they approach the event horizon [as a result of gravitational red shift]. But the friend falls right in, to a place beyond ‘forever.’ Whatever that means.”

Maybe a black hole leads to a white hole

Certainly, if black holes do lead to another part of a galaxy or another universe, there would need to be something opposite to them on the other side. Could this be a white hole — a theory put forward by Russian cosmologist Igor Novikov in 1964? Novikov proposed that a black hole links to a white hole that exists in the past. Unlike a black hole, a white hole will allow light and matter to leave, but light and matter will not be able to enter.

Scientists have continued to explore the potential connection between black and white holes. In their 2014 study published in the journal Physical Review D, physicists Carlo Rovelli and Hal M. Haggard claimed that “there is a classic metric satisfying the Einstein equations outside a finite space-time region where matter collapses into a black hole and then emerges from a while hole.” In other words, all of the material black holes have swallowed could be spewed out, and black holes may become white holes when they die.

Far from destroying the information that it absorbs, the collapse of a black hole would be halted. It would instead experience a quantum bounce, allowing information to escape. Should this be the case, it would shed some light on a proposal by former Cambridge University cosmologist and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking who, in the 1970s, explored the possibility that black holes emit particles and radiation — thermal heat — as a result of quantum fluctuations.

Redshifting Star Orbiting Supermassive Black Hole Demonstrates Einstein Prediction
Volume 0%

“Hawking said a black hole doesn’t last forever,” Finkbeiner said. Hawking calculated that the radiation would cause a black hole to lose energy, shrink and disappear, as described in his 1976 paper published in Physical Review D. Given his claims that the radiation emitted would be random and contain no information about what had fallen in, the black hole, upon its explosion, would erase loads of information.

This meant Hawking’s idea was at odds with quantum theory, which says information can’t be destroyed. Physics states information just becomes more difficult to find because, should it become lost, it becomes impossible to know the past or the future. Hawking’s idea led to the ‘black hole information paradox’ and it has long puzzled scientists. Some have said Hawking was simply wrong, and the man himself even declared he had made an error during a scientific conference in Dublin in 2004.

So, do we go back to the concept of black holes emitting preserved information and throwing it back out via a white hole? Maybe. In their 2013 study published in Physical Review Letters, Jorge Pullin at Louisiana State University and Rodolfo Gambini at the University of the Republic in Montevideo, Uruguay, applied loop quantum gravity to a black hole and found that gravity increased towards the core but reduced and plonked whatever was entering into another region of the universe. The results gave extra credence to the idea of black holes serving as a portal. In this study, singularity does not exist, and so it doesn’t form an impenetrable barrier that ends up crushing whatever it encounters. It also means that information doesn’t disappear.

Maybe black holes go nowhere

Yet physicists Ahmed Almheiri, Donald Marolf, Joseph Polchinski and James Sully still believed Hawking could have been on to something. They worked on a theory that became known as the AMPS firewall, or the black hole firewall hypothesis. By their calculations, quantum mechanics could feasibly turn the event horizon into a giant wall of fire and anything coming into contact would burn in an instant. In that sense, black holes lead nowhere because nothing could ever get inside.

This, however, violates Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Someone crossing the event horizon shouldn’t actually feel any great hardship because an object would be in free fall and, based on the equivalence principle, that object — or person — would not feel the extreme effects of gravity. It could follow the laws of physics present elsewhere in the universe, but even if it didn’t go against Einstein’s principle it would undermine quantum field theory or suggest information can be lost.

Related: 11 Fascinating Facts About Our Milky Way Galaxy

Artist’s impression of a tidal disruption event which occurs when a star passes too close to a supermassive black hole.

(Image credit: All About Space magazine)

A black hole of uncertainty

Step forward Hawking once more. In 2014, he published a study in which he eschewed the existence of an event horizon — meaning there is nothing there to burn — saying gravitational collapse would produce an ‘apparent horizon’ instead.

This horizon would suspend light rays trying to move away from the core of the black hole, and would persist for a “period of time.” In his rethinking, apparent horizons temporarily retain matter and energy before dissolving and releasing them later down the line. This explanation best fits with quantum theory — which says information can’t be destroyed — and, if it was ever proven, it suggests that anything could escape from a black hole.

Hawking went as far as saying black holes may not even exist. “Black holes should be redefined as metastable bound states of the gravitational field,” he wrote. There would be no singularity, and while the apparent field would move inwards due to gravity, it would never reach the center and be consolidated within a dense mass.

And yet anything which is emitted will not be in the form of the information swallowed. It would be impossible to figure out what went in by looking at what is coming out, which causes problems of its own — not least for, say, a human who found themselves in such an alarming position. They’d never feel the same again!

One thing’s for sure, this particular mystery is going to swallow up many more scientific hours for a long time to come. Rovelli and Francesca Vidotto recently suggested that a component of dark matter could be formed by remnants of evaporated black holes, and Hawking’s paper on black holes and ‘soft hair’ was released in 2018, and describes how zero-energy particles are left around the point of no return, the event horizon — an idea that suggests information is not lost but captured.

This flew in the face of the no-hair theorem which was expressed by physicist John Archibald Wheeler and worked on the basis that two black holes would be indistinguishable to an observer because none of the special particle physics pseudo-charges would be conserved. It’s an idea that has got scientists talking, but there is some way to go before it’s seen as the answer for where black holes lead. If only we could find a way to leap into one.

Russia Says It Will Keep Source of Hole (and Air Leak) on Soyuz Secret— But NASA Wants to Know

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)

 

Russia Says It Will Keep Source of Hole (and Air Leak) on Soyuz Secret— But NASA Wants to Know: Report

Russia's Soyuz MS-09 crew spacecraft is is shown docked to the International Space Station (ISS). The MS-09 carried NASA astronaut Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, the European Space Agency's Alexander Gerst and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev to the ISS in June 2018.

Russia’s Soyuz MS-09 crew spacecraft is is shown docked to the International Space Station (ISS). The MS-09 carried NASA astronaut Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, the European Space Agency’s Alexander Gerst and cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev to the ISS in June 2018.
(Image: © NASA)

Amid reports that the Russians will keep the cause of an air leak discovered at the International Space Station in 2018 secret, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has promised to speak personally with the head of the Russian space agency.

“They have not told me anything,” Bridenstine said during a Houston energy conference question session Thursday (Sept. 19), according to the Houston Chronicle. But he emphasized that he wants to keep good relations with the Russians, one of the two chief partners on the orbiting complex.

“I don’t want to let one item set [the relationship] back, but it is clearly not acceptable that there are holes in the International Space Station,” he said, referring to the 2-millimeter (0.08 inches) hole that the Expedition 56 crew found in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, a crew vehicle that was docked to the station.

Bridenstine’s comments came in the wake of a report by Russia’s state-run international news agency RIA Novosti, in which Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos (the Russian space agency), suggested his agency found what created the hole last year, but would not disclose the results outside of Roscosmos.

Related: Hole That Caused Leak in Russian Spacecraft Possibly Traced to Assembly or Testing

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Space Station’s Cabin Pressure Loss Explained by NASA
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“What happened is clear to us, but we won’t tell you anything,” Rogozin said at a meeting with participants at a science conference, according to a computer-translated page from RIA Novosti’s Russian-language report on Wednesday (Sept. 18).

After NASA reported a slow drop in cabin pressure at the station on Aug. 29, 2018, the crew of Expedition 56 located the cause of the air leak in the orbital compartment of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, nearly three months after the vessel arrived at the International Space Station with three new crewmembers on board.

The astronauts plugged the hole using epoxy, gauze and heavy-duty tape, and the Russians launched an investigation. In the first few weeks, Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin first speculated that a micrometeoroid might have punched the hole, then suggested the hole could have been drilled by a human either accidentally or deliberately.

Space station astronauts patched a small hole in the upper orbital module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft (left) on Aug. 30, 2018.

(Image credit: NASA/Space.com)

NASA and Roscosmos, however, issued a joint statement in mid-September 2018 after the two agency chiefs spoke by phone. The agencies “agreed on deferring any preliminary conclusions and providing any explanations until the final investigation has been completed,” Roscosmos and NASA said in their statement.

Roscosmos is currently the only agency capable of launching crew members to space since NASA retired the space shuttle in 2011. NASA is readying American commercial crew vehicles from Boeing and SpaceX and expects to start running crewed test flights as early as this year. But for now, the Soyuz is the only way astronauts can fly to and from the International Space Station.

The two agencies are the chief partners on the space station, and have been working together to build and maintain the 21-year-old orbiting complex since the early 1990s. Bridenstine and other NASA officials have thus repeatedly emphasized the level of trust between their agency and Roscosmos, which includes several missions before ISS. NASA and the Soviet Union ran a joint mission in 1975 called Apollo-Soyuz, and the new Russian nation partnered with NASA for shuttle flights to the space station Mir between 1994 and 1998.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at [email protected]

Astronomers Have Seen Signs of “Life” at the Center of Messier 110

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SCITECH.COM)

 

Astronomers Have Seen Signs of “Life” at the Center of Messier 110

Messier 110

Located in the constellation Andromeda, M110 was discovered in 1773 by Charles Messier. It is a satellite galaxy of the Andromeda galaxy (M31) and a member of the Local Group, which is made up of the galaxies located closest to the Milky Way (our Milky Way is considered a member of the Local Group as well). M110 is approximately 2,690,000 light-years away from Earth and has a magnitude of 8. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, L. Ferrarese et al.

Many of the best-loved galaxies in the cosmos are remarkably large, close, massive, bright, or beautiful, often with an unusual or intriguing structure or history. However, it takes all kinds to make a universe — as demonstrated by this Hubble image of Messier 110.

Messier 110 may not look like much, but it is a fascinating near neighbor of our home galaxy, and an unusual example of its type. It is a member of the Local Group, a gathering of galaxies comprising the Milky Way and a number of the galaxies closest to it. Specifically, Messier 110 is one of the many satellite galaxies encircling the Andromeda galaxy, the nearest major galaxy to our own, and is classified as a dwarf elliptical galaxy, meaning that it has a smooth and almost featureless structure. Elliptical galaxies lack arms and notable pockets of star formation — both characteristic features of spiral galaxies. Dwarf elliptical are quite common in groups and clusters of galaxies, and are often satellites of larger galaxies.

Because they lack stellar nurseries and contain mostly old stars, elliptical galaxies are often considered “dead” when compared to their spiral relatives. However, astronomers have spotted signs of a population of young, blue stars at the center of Messier 110 — hinting that it may not be so “dead” after all.

Messier 110 is featured in Hubble’s Messier catalog, which includes some of the most fascinating celestial objects that can be observed from Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. See the NASA-processed image and other Messier objects in Hubble’s Messier Catalog.

M110 is an elliptical galaxy, which means that it has a smooth and nearly featureless structure. Elliptical galaxies do not have arms or regions of star formation. They are oftentimes considered “dead” compared to spiral galaxies, and the stars in elliptical galaxies are often older than those in other galaxies. However, there is evidence that a population of young blue stars exists at the center of M110. This small elliptical galaxy has approximately 10 billion stars, as well as at least eight globular clusters (the brightest of which can be seen with large telescopes).

This Hubble observation was taken in visible and near-infrared light with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. The core of M110 is seen toward the lower right of the image, with the galaxy’s globular clusters and numerous stars shown as points of light throughout the frame. Also featured in this Hubble image are large clouds of gas and dust, seen as dark splotches (one large region is located near the middle of the image and another, smaller one appears above the galaxy’s core). Hubble took these observations of M110 to study the development of globular clusters located in the galaxy.

M110 Star Chart

This star chart for M110 represents the view from mid-northern latitudes for the given month and time.
Credit: Image courtesy of Stellarium

With a telescope, M110 is fairly easy to spot near the core of the much larger and brighter Andromeda galaxy. Smaller telescopes will only reveal a faint, diffuse patch of light, while larger telescopes will unveil an oval shape with a brighter core. The best time to view M110 is during November.

India: As Lunar night falls, hope of contacting Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander fades

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

As Lunar night falls, hope of contacting Chandrayaan-2’s Vikram lander fades, say experts

Vikram is not designed to withstand temperatures of -180 degrees C and the electronics onboard will become unviable after the lunar night, equivalent to fourteen days on Earth. It will also run out of charge if the solar panels were not deployed after the ‘hard-landing’.

INDIA Updated: Sep 21, 2019 06:12 IST

Anonna Dutt
Anonna Dutt
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Live telecast of soft landing of Vikram module of Chandrayaan 2 on lunar surface in Bengaluru.
Live telecast of soft landing of Vikram module of Chandrayaan 2 on lunar surface in Bengaluru.(PTI)

The beginning of lunar night between Friday and Saturday at the landing site of Vikram lander marked the end of Indian Space Research Organization’s (Isro’s) hope of re-establishing communication with it.

Vikram is not designed to withstand temperatures of -180 degrees C and the electronics on-board will become unviable after the lunar night, equivalent to fourteen days on Earth. It will also run out of charge if the solar panels were not deployed after the ‘hard-landing’.

The temperature is about 130 degrees C during the day.

Isro scientists have been trying to communicate with the lander since September 7, when the last phase of the 15-minute powered descent did not go as planned. Scientists lost communication with the lander when it was just 2.1 km above the lunar surface.

“We can now say that there is no hope of Isro communicating with the lander, the mission life of the lander-rover is over. The mission was designed to conduct experiments during the lunar day and does not have the kind of shielding that can keep the electronics warm and functioning,” said Nirupam Roy, assistant professor of Physics at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.

“And, it was unnecessary too. The fourteen days were sufficient for the lander-rover to conduct all the experiments and send back the data. The shielding would have just added weight and cost to the mission,” he added.

For the Vikram lander to be able to communicate, it should have enough power and the antenna should be properly oriented. There are two ways that the Vikram could communicate either with the Orbiter going around the moon or directly with the Earth.

“The Vikram lander communicates in two frequencies – the X band that is high bandwidth (better quality) but very focused, which could be picked by the orbiter when it is over the landing site. The other S-band, which has lower bandwidth, but is omni-directional can be used to communicate with the Earth, but even the antenna should be facing the Earth without anything in between. However, with the lunar night setting in, there is no possibility of communicating with the lander, even if it had survived the landing,” said Jatan Mehta, former science officer of TeamIndus, a Bangalore-based private company that aims to send a lander-rover to the moon.

First Published: Sep 20, 2019 23:50 IST

Hubble telescope spies water raining on distant world

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCIENCE)

 

Hubble telescope spies water raining on distant world

The exoplanet is just twice the diameter of Earth, and could potentially host life.
The Hubble Space Telescope following grapple of the giant observatory by the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

The Hubble Space Telescope can see exoplanets when they pass in front of their stars. Credit: NASA

Astronomers have spotted hints of water raining in the atmosphere of a planet beyond the Solar System.

The discovery is a rare glimpse of water molecules around a distant world that is not much bigger than Earth. Named K2-18 b, the planet is 34 parsecs (110 light-years) from Earth in the constellation Leo. Notably, it lies in the ‘habitable zone’ around its star — the distance at which liquid water could exist, making extraterrestrial life possible in its hydrogen-rich atmosphere.

“That’s the exciting thing about this planet,” says Björn Benneke, a planetary astronomer at the University of Montreal in Canada. He is the lead author of a paper describing the discovery that was posted on the arXiv preprint server on 10 September1.

A competing team of scientists reports their own analysis of the same planet on 11 September in Nature Astronomy2. That paper′s lead author, planetary astronomer Angelos Tsairas of the University College London (UCL), says that the finding is exciting because the planet is just twice the diameter of Earth, and because little is known about the atmospheres of such small worlds.

Astronomers have previously found water in the atmospheres of gas-giant exoplanets, but studying a distant planet’s atmosphere gets harder as the planet gets smaller. Scientists have been pushing the limits to try to scrutinize planets that are smaller than Neptune but larger than Earth — a category that turns out to be surprisingly common among the thousands of exoplanets found so far.

Flickering light

Benneke and his colleagues decided to look at K2-18 b because it falls in that range. They used the Hubble Space Telescope to watch as the planet passed in front of its star, temporarily dimming its light, on eight different occasions.

The scientists analysed how the color of the star’s light changed as it filtered through the planet’s atmosphere. They combined this with data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, which examines more wavelengths of light. The researchers concluded that they were seeing water vapor in the planet′s atmosphere as well as signs that that vapor was condensing into liquid water.

It is the first time astronomers have seen such a water cycle — changing from gas to liquid and back again — on a small, distant world.

The UCL team that authored the second paper analysed the Hubble data from Benneke’s group. The observations had been uploaded to a publicly accessible archive immediately after being collected.

The UCL researchers came up with three possible explanations for what they were seeing, any one of which is equally likely. In the first scenario, the planet has no clouds and 20–50% of its atmosphere is water. In the second and third scenarios, which involve different amounts of clouds and other molecules in the atmosphere, the planet’s atmosphere contains between 0.01% and 12.5% water.

Further questions

But the presence of water alone doesn’t mean that a planet is a good place to look for life, a point illustrated by one of Earth’s closest neighbors, Venus. It’s an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of its star that once had water vapor in its atmosphere — but the Sun’s rays have stripped away much of that water, leaving its surface barren.

K2-18 b might be equally unpromising. “It is highly unlikely that this world is habitable in any way that we understand based on life as we know it,” says Hannah Wakeford, a planetary astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

Still, finding water in the planet’s atmosphere is “extremely exciting”, says Neale Gibson, an astrophysicist at Trinity College Dublin, “and the fact that two teams find the same result is very encouraging”. Future observations, such as those that the James Webb Space Telescope will collect after its planned 2021 launch, should help pin down exactly what this distant world is like.

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-02721-2

References

  1. 1.

    Benneke, B. et al. Preprint at http://arxiv.org/abs/1909.04642(2019).

India Just Found Its Lost Vikram Lander on the Moon

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)

 

India Just Found Its Lost Vikram Lander on the Moon, Still No Signal

The Indian Space Research Organisation's Chandrayaan-2 moon orbiter is shown studying the lunar surface from above in this still image from a video animation.

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s Chandrayaan-2 moon orbiter is shown studying the lunar surface from above in this still image from a video animation.
(Image: © India Space Research Organisation)

India’s Chandrayaan-2 orbiter circling the moon has spotted the country’s lost Vikram lander on the lunar surface, but there is still no signal from the lander, according to Indian media reports.

K Sivan, chief of the Indian Space Research Organisation, said today (Sept. 8) that the Vikram lander was located by Chandrayaan-2 and efforts to restore contact the probe will continue for at least 14 days, according to a Times of India report.

“We have found the location of Lander Vikram on [the] lunar surface and Orbiter has clicked a thermal image of Lander,” Sivan told the ANI news service in an interview, adding that attempts to communicate with the lander are ongoing.

Video: The Moment India Lost Contact with the Vikram Moon Lander
Related: 
India’s Chandrayaan-2 Mission to the Moon in Photos

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Communications Lost With India’s Lunar Lander During Descent
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The Vikram lander went silent Friday (Sept. 6) while attempting a first-ever landing near the moon’s south pole. ISRO lost contact with Vikram when the lander was just 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) above the lunar surface, raising fears that it may have crashed on the moon. The Vikram lander is India’s first moon lander, and is carrying the country’s first lunar rover, called Pragyan.

ISRO officials have not yet released the Chandrayaan-2 image of Vikram on the lunar surface or described the potential condition of the lander. But they have said that despite the lander’s presumed failed moon landing, the craft has already demonstrated key technologies for future missions.

The Vikram Lander followed the planned descent trajectory from its orbit of 35 km (22 miles) to just below 2 km above the surface,” ISRO officials wrote in an update Saturday (Sept. 7). “All the systems and sensors of the Lander functioned excellently until this point and proved many new technologies such as variable thrust propulsion technology used in the Lander.”

Related: We Came Very Close:’ Indian PM Modi Lauds Chandrayaan-2 Team

As ISRO tries to regain contact with the Vikram moon lander, the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft is doing well in lunar orbit, the space agency said. In fact, the orbiter could last well beyond its planned one-year mission.

“The Orbiter camera is the highest resolution camera (0.3m) in any lunar mission so far and shall provide high resolution images which will be immensely useful to the global scientific community,” ISRO officials said in the Sept. 7 statement. “The precise launch and mission management has ensured a long life of almost 7 years instead of the planned one year.”

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s Chandrayaan-2 moon orbiter is shown studying the lunar surface from above in this still image from a video animation.

(Image credit: India Space Research Organisation)

The Chandrayaan-2 orbiter is equipped with eight different science instruments to study the moon from above. Those instruments include: a high resolution camera, a lunar terrain mapping camera; a solar X-ray monitor; an imaging infrared spectrometer; a dual frequency synthetic aperture radar for studying moon water ice and lunar mapping; a sensor to study the moon’s thin exosphere; and a dual frequency radio science experiment to study the moon’s ionosphere.

Chandrayaan-2 is India’s second mission to the moon after the Chandrayaan-1 mission of 2008 and 2009. An instrument on that first mission discovered the spectral signature for water across wide swaths of the moon, with big concentrations at the lunar poles, where permanently shadowed craters allow water ice to stay frozen.

Watch India’s Chandrayaan-2 Launch and Land on Moon in New Animation
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The Chandrayaan-2 Orbiter aims to pick up where its predecessor left off.

“This was a unique mission which aimed at studying not just one area of the Moon but all the areas combining the exosphere, the surface as well as the sub-surface of the moon in a single mission,” ISRO officials said in the update. “The Orbiter has already been placed in its intended orbit around the Moon and shall enrich our understanding of the moon’s evolution and mapping of the minerals and water molecules in the Polar Regions, using its eight state-of-the-art scientific instruments.”

Email Tariq Malik at [email protected] or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. Original article on Space.com.

Have a news tip, correction or comment? Let us know at [email protected]

India’s Attempt To Land Rover At Moon’s South Pole Fails

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR)

 

India’s Attempt To Land Rover At Moon’s South Pole Fails

Indian Space Research Organization employees react as they learn that mission control lost communication with its unmanned landing module moments before it touched down on the moon’s south pole Saturday (local time.)

Aijaz Rahi/AP

India’s attempt to become the first country to land a robotic mission at the Moon’s south pole has failed, after engineers lost contact with the Vikram lander — part of the Chandrayaan-2 probe.

Scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation lost signal from the lander as it hovered over the surface, moments away from what would have been a successful soft-landing.

In a statement ISRO’s Mission Control Center provided a brief explanation of what went wrong, saying the unmanned landing module’s “descent was as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km. Subsequently, communication from Lander to the ground stations was lost.”

“Data is being analyzed,” ISRO added.

India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi — who watched the final moments of the attempt — offered words of encouragement to the Chandrayaan team, which has been working on the $150 million project.

“India is proud of our scientists!” wrote Modi on Twitter. “They’ve given their best and have always made India proud. These are moments to be courageous, and courageous we will be!”

Scientists were hoping to land the robotic spacecraft between two craters about 375 miles from the moon’s unexplored south pole.

The lander was supposed to release a small solar-powered rover equipped with instruments to collect and analyze the moon’s 4-billion-year-old soil.

A successful touchdown would have vaulted India into an exclusive club of countries that have successfully completed a soft landing on the lunar surface. So far, only the former Soviet Union, the United States and China have accomplished it.

Several of the early U.S. and Soviet attempts at a soft, robotic, landing on the moon in the 1960s were unsuccessful.

Part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, an orbiter, remains in operation.

Saturday’s disappointing lunar mission comes a little more than a decade after India launched the Chandrayaan-1, a satellite that fired a projectile into the moon’s South Pole in search of water.