The massive galaxy cluster Abell 2744 takes on a ghostly look in this view by the Hubble Space Telescope, where the total starlight from the cluster has been artificially colored blue. This reveals that not all the starlight is contained within the galaxies, which appear as bright blue-white blobs in the image. A fraction of the starlight is dispersed throughout the cluster, as seen in the darker blue regions. The source of this so-called ‘intracluster light’, were rogue stars which were ejected from their host galaxies when the latter were destroyed in past cataclysmic collisions within the cluster. NASA, ESA, M. Montes (IAC), and J. Lotz, M. Mountain, A. Koekemoer, and the HFF Team (STScI)
The Universe is full of stray cosmic objects: rogue planets that have broken free from the gravitational pull of their host stars, comets and asteroids that have been slingshot out of their planetary systems and brown dwarfs that have been cast away from their stellar nurseries, while left to wonder endlessly into the dark depths of interstellar space. On a larger cosmic scale, the list of castaway objects includes the stars that have been ejected from their host galaxies during earlier epochs of the Universe, when the former were obliterated in head-on cataclysmic collisions inside galaxy clusters, leaving their stars to roam freely in the empty intergalactic void. Now, just in time for Halloween, scientists have announced that the Hubble Space Telescope has for the first time managed to directly observe the ‘ghost light’ of these stray, orphaned stars inside the massive galaxy cluster Abell 2744, during a series of observations that were conducted as part of the Frontier Fields program.
Continue reading Hubble Observes the ‘Ghost Light’ of Orphaned Stars Inside Galaxy Cluster
Rosetta & Philae at comet 67P. Credit: ESA–C. Carreau/ATG medialab
Europe’s Rosetta orbiter has reached the orbit from which it will dispatch the small Philae lander to touchdown on the ‘head’ of a comet for the first time in human history.
Continue reading Rosetta Reaches Comet Lander Delivery Orbit
From Cory Bergman (@corybe) on Twitter: “Photo of #SpaceShipTwo debris from @ABC23News’ helicopter.” Image Credit: @ABC23News and @corybe on Twitter
This morning over the desert in Mojave, California, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, designed to ferry tourists to altitudes of 62 miles above Earth, broke up in flight shortly after firing its engines resulting in a crash that killed one pilot and seriously injured another, said a report by NBC News. The NBC report further stated that the crash resulted in a “two-mile swath” of debris across the desert. At present time, the names of the pilots involved in the crash have not been released; they were Scaled Composite test pilots. The space plane flew out of the Mojave Air and Space Port carried under its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, which landed safely.
Continue reading BREAKING: Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Breaks Up, Crashes Over California Desert
From NASA: “Chandra observations of the Perseus and Virgo galaxy clusters suggest turbulence may be preventing hot gas there from cooling, addressing a long-standing question of galaxy clusters do not form large numbers of stars.” Image Credit: NASA/CXC/Stanford/I. Zhuravleva et al
This week, NASA announced that the Chandra X-ray Observatory, now in its 15th year of operation and described as “NASA’s flagship mission for X-ray astronomy,” may have discovered why some galaxy clusters do not form stars as expected: turbulence, the same kind that plagues airplane flights in poor weather. While people on Earth definitely don’t enjoy the effects of turbulence, it turns out that the phenomenon also may not be conducive to the genesis of stars.
Continue reading Rough Cosmic Waters: Chandra X-ray Observatory Reveals ‘Turbulent’ Effect of Black Holes
An artist’s impression showing exocomets orbiting the star Beta Pictoris. After analyzing archival observations that had been made with the HARPS spectrograph at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, astronomers have discovered two families of exocomets around this nearby young star. Image Credit: ESO/L. Calçada
With the recent close flyby of comet Siding Spring from the surface of Mars and the upcoming landing of Rosetta’s Philae lander on 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, comets have taken center stage during the last few months. Yet not all of the action surrounding these small cosmic “dirty snowballs” is limited to our side of the galaxy only. Akin to the discovery of exoplanets, exocomets have also been detected orbiting other stars as well, like 49 Ceti, Eta Corvi, and HD 100546. Around one of these stars, called Beta Pictoris, hundreds of exocomets are constantly producing large amounts of gas and dust through a perpetual process of collision and evaporation, providing astronomers with a valuable insight into the similar processes that have taken place during the early days of our own Solar System.
Continue reading The Case of the Exocomets Around Beta Pictoris
The Atlas V’s Russian-built RD-180 engine ramps up to full power, ahead of a perfect liftoff at 1:21 p.m. EDT Wednesday, 29 October. The launch came just 19 hours after Tuesday’s Antares failure. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace
As the dust settled at Wallops Island, Va., following yesterday’s catastrophic loss of Orbital Sciences’ fifth Antares booster—carrying the ORB-3 Cygnus cargo ship, bound for the International Space Station (ISS)—the effort to continue delivering U.S. launch vehicles into space continued unabated today (Wednesday, 29 October), with the successful 50th flight of an Atlas V. Liftoff of the venerable Atlas, which is operated by United Launch Alliance (ULA), took place precisely on time at 1:21 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., approximately 870 miles (1,400 km) to the south of Wallops. The mission lasted 3.5 hours and perfectly inserted the eighth satellite of the Block IIF Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation into a medium Earth orbit, at an altitude of 11,047 nautical miles (20,460 km), where it will provide critical positioning, velocity, and timing assets for worldwide users.
Continue reading ULA Successfully Delivers GPS IIF-8 Into Orbit on 50th Atlas V Mission
An aerial view of the Wallops Island launch facilities taken by the Wallops Incident Response Team Oct. 29, following the failed launch attempt of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket Oct. 28.
Image Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility Incident Response Team completed their initial assessment of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island today, only 24 hours after the launch of an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket exploded just seconds after leaving its seaside launch pad to resupply the International Space Station and its crew Tuesday evening. Today’s assessment gave investigators their first real look at the damage caused to property, infrastructure, and environment, but it will take weeks—and likely even months—before the investigation gives NASA and Orbital Sciences a better understanding of what exactly went wrong and how the catastrophic explosion has impacted the surrounding environment.
Continue reading Investigators Complete Initial Assessment in Aftermath of Antares Explosion
Antares exploding just seconds after liftoff Monday evening on Wallops Island, Va. Photo Credit: Alex Polimeni / AmericaSpace
This evening everything seemed perfect for Orbital Sciences Corporation to launch their Antares rocket to deliver the Cygnus cargo resupply ship to the International Space Station; the weather was 100 percent GO, the range was green, and the skies were clear, but an anomaly occurred just seconds after liftoff, causing a catastrophic explosion of the Antares booster above the launch pad.
Continue reading PRESS SITE VIDEO: Antares Explodes Seconds After Taking Flight to Space Station
Like a scene from a horror movie, Orbital’s dream of resupplying the International Space Station (ISS) crashes cruelly back to Earth. Photo Credit: NASA
Following a frustrating 24-hour delay, caused by the presence of an unauthorized watercraft in the Launch Danger Zone, the heart was torn from Orbital Sciences Corp. today (Tuesday, 28 October), following the explosion—just six seconds after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. EDT—of its fifth Antares booster from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va. A gorgeous sunset, near-perfect weather conditions, and an exceptionally smooth countdown might have seemed the ideal prelude for a successful flight of the third dedicated Cygnus cargo mission (ORB-3) to the International Space Station (ISS). That success has now been shattered and Antares indefinitely grounded as Orbital seeks to understand what caused its largest home-grown cryogenic rocket to vanish in a ball of fire.
Continue reading Wallops Personnel Safe After ‘Catastrophic’ Failure of ORB-3 Launch
Artist’s impression of a Block IIF GPS satellite in orbit. Image Credit: U.S. Air Force
Adding to an already impressive tally of accolades, United Launch Alliance (ULA) is ready to stage its 12th flight of the year, delivering the Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-8 satellite into a medium orbit, some 11,047 nautical miles (20,460 km) above Earth. Liftoff is presently targeted for 1:21 p.m. EDT Wednesday, 29 October, from Space Launch Complex (SLC)-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at the opening of an 18-minute “window.” It marks the fourth GPS mission of 2014—following hard on the heels of GPS IIF-5 in February, GPS IIF-6 in May, and GPS IIF-7 in August—as ULA progresses toward completion of the 12-strong “Interim” Block IIF constellation of global positioning, velocity, and timing satellites. The mission will be undertaken by the workhorse Atlas V, flying in its “401” configuration, which boasts a 13-foot-diameter (4-meter) payload fairing, no strap-on boosters, and a single-engine Centaur upper stage.
Continue reading ULA Prepares to Launch Fourth GPS Satellite of 2014