Tagged With astronomy

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There's no drama quite like space drama. And Juno's flight to Jupiter has been about as dramatic as a sci-fi thriller can get. Last October, Juno's engine system malfunctioned, causing NASA to delay the orbiter's planned approach into a 14-day "science orbit". This February, NASA decided to forego the science orbit engine burn entirely, keeping the spacecraft in its much longer 53.5 day orbit. But today, we're finally getting some good news.

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Everyone knows the cure for existential ennui is the Three P's: Pail (of ice cream), Pink Floyd, and Pretty space pictures. While we can't provide you with ice cream or a psychedelic experience, we can offer you some truly sublime galaxy simulations that are sure to fill the void inside you — for now.

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It's almost certainly not aliens, but once again, Tabby's Star is acting hella weird. The star that first became our planetary obsession back in the spring of 2015 — when astronomer Jason Wright suggested its weird flickering behaviour might be the result of an alien megastructure — is, once again, flickering. But unlike previous stellar glitches, astronomers are now prepared to study it in the act.

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Ever since astronomers announced the discovery of an Earth-sized exoplanet less than five light years down the cosmic street, the question on every good space cadet's mind has been whether or not we can colonise it. We aren't going to know if Proxima b is habitable until we can point some very powerful telescopes at it, which won't happen until next year. But until then, scientists are playing around with models — and one such modelling effort recently came to some promising conclusions.

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Io is the closest thing we have to Hell in our Solar System, a Jovian moon that features hundreds of active volcanoes and expansive lakes filled with lava. New observations suggests that the largest of these lakes, Loki Patera, produces enormous waves that repeatedly flow around the molten surface.

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Fast radio bursts are split-second intergalactic blips of radio waves we've detected over the last decade. You'd think that if we pointed our telescopes and other space cameras in the direction these bursts came from, we'd spot something else, too. But to date, we have nothing — just radio waves.

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With Ridley Scott's latest instalment in his classic Alien franchise, now's the perfect time to wildly speculate about extraterrestrials. In Alien: Covenant and so many other movies like it, our cosmic neighbours turn out to be real arseholes. They're always trying to conquer Earth, or eat humans, or do other weird stuff, like hunt Arnold Schwarzenegger in the jungle. If you aren't Arnold Schwarzenegger, this usually ends pretty badly.

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On Thursday, May 4, Hubble dropped a "cute" press release comparing a new image of a galaxy cluster to the Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2. It was a timely yet mega-dad corny way to make the image of the galaxy cluster Abell 370 seem relevant. While there's literally no connection between the James Gunn movie and the galaxy cluster, located roughly four billion light years away, that didn't stop literally everyone from trying to make this A Thing.

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Today, Cassini prepares to once again boldly go where no spacecraft has gone before: into the gap between Saturn and its rings. While we're all excited to see the the results of Cassini's second dive, astronomers are still parsing through the findings from her first. And some, including a soundscape generated from the emptiness, are pretty freaky.

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Saturn's icy moon Enceladus is the latest target in the perennial excitement around finding extraterrestrial life. Its warm subterranean ocean is thought to contain all the right ingredients to harbour alien microbes, which would arguably be the biggest scientific discovery in human history. While finding microbes — even biosignatures on places like Mars — would be incredible, perhaps we're overlooking something critical in the search for life in our solar system, specifically intelligent life. Take that, tiny microbes.

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The hunt for Planet 9 — a hypothetical, Neptune-sized object beyond Pluto — has stirred the scientific community since last year year, when a pair of Caltech astronomers argued in favour of the idea. Those intrepid scientists — Mike Brown, best known as the guy who killed Pluto, and Konstantin Batygin — are currently spearheading a search for this elusive giant. Recently, a network of citizen scientists have followed suit. The problem, of course, is we still haven't found it. So what's it going to take?

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It was 1:56PM Thursday afternoon AEST when a Deep Space Network receiver picked up a signal from NASA's Cassini orbiter as it emerged from its first trip through the gap between Saturn and the gas giant's rings. In the ensuing data came pictures of the planet's north pole and cloud tops from only 3000km away — our closest look yet at the upper part of Saturn's atmosphere, where the pressure is about the same as it is at sea level on Earth.

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For so many nerds, the Hubble space telescope feels more like a friend than a hunk of metal in the cold vacuum of space — a friend whose job you're super jealous of. The 'scope, which launched on the space shuttle Discovery in 1990, has sent back some of the most incredible images from the final frontier — over 1.3 million observations of planets, galaxies and more, all while hurling about our planet at 27,359km/h from its vantage point in low Earth orbit.

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Earth is exhausting — excruciatingly so, if you're a young curmudgeon like me. At times, performing even the most mundane tasks, like commuting on a crowded, smelly subway car, feels like an Olympic marathon designed to test one's patience. Space compels us because it forces us to think outside this myopic view of ourselves — not in a "Dust in the Wind" way, but in the sense that we're tiny flecks of star stuff lucky to be members of something so vast and incredible.

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Image Cache: Sometimes, the majesty of the final frontier — a cold, unfeeling space — has the power to make our eyes misty. The images from NASA's Cassini mission have often been able to do this, and since the spacecraft is dying soon, it makes the experience all the more emotional. Before it goes out in a blaze of glory, Cassini has been sending back some of the most incredible images of Saturn and its moons — but one of its latest from Saturn's rings is especially spectacular.

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When NASA's Opportunity rover landed on Mars in 2004, it settled at the bottom of a crater in an interplanetary hole-in-one shot that would make even a golf champion jealous. When the rover trundled out of its unexpected hole, it left behind its landing platform. Now, 13 years later, we've caught our best glimpse yet of this historic landing site and the crap NASA left behind.