Kepler-78b is a planet that shouldn’t exist. This scorching lava world circles its star every eight and a half hours at a distance of less than one million miles — one of the tightest known orbits. According to current theories of planet formation, it couldn’t have formed so close to its star, nor could it have moved there.
“This planet is a complete mystery,” says astronomer David Latham of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). “We don’t know how it formed or how it got to where it is today. What we do know is that it’s not going to last forever.”
“Kepler-78b is going to end up in the star very soon, astronomically speaking,” agrees CfA astronomer Dimitar Sasselov.
Not only is Kepler-78b a mystery world, it is the first known Earth-sized planet with an Earth-like density. Kepler-78b is about 20 percent larger than Earth, with a diameter of 9,200 miles, and weighs almost twice as much. As a result it has a density similar to Earth’s, which suggests an Earth-like composition of iron and rock.
Read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131030142915.htm
Voyager 1 appears to have at long last left our solar system and entered interstellar space, says a University of Maryland-led team of researchers
Carrying Earthly greetings on a gold plated phonograph record and still-operational scientific instruments — including the Low Energy Charged Particle detector designed, built and overseen, in part, by UMD’s Space Physics Group — NASA’s Voyager 1 has traveled farther from Earth than any other human-made object. And now, these researchers say, it has begun the first exploration of our galaxy beyond the Sun’s influence.
“It’s a somewhat controversial view, but we think Voyager has finally left the Solar System, and is truly beginning its travels through the Milky Way,” says UMD research scientist Marc Swisdak, lead author of a new paper published online this week in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Swisdak and fellow plasma physicists James F. Drake, also of the University of Maryland, and Merav Opher of Boston University have constructed a model of the outer edge of the Solar System that fits recent observations, both expected and unexpected.
Read more: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130815133726.htm
By Shaunacy Ferro @ popsci.com
Fourth of July is the perfect time to watch fiery masses streak across the sky. This speedy guy, the comet ISON, looks like it pretty much fits that bill. Except that it’s actually quite icy at its core, and it’s barreling toward the sun at around 48,000 miles per hour, faster than any firework.
This five-second loop of video is a compression of images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope over a period of 43 minutes in May, during which ISON covered 34,000 miles.
Read more: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-07/hubble-catches-comet-ison-hurtling-across-sky
Comet C/2012 S1 ISON was discovered on Sept. 21 in pictures taken with 15.7-inch reflecting telescope of the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) in Russia. This photo was taken on Sept. 22. Credit: Ernesto Guido, Giovanni Sostero and Nick Howes
A new comet was discovered inching across Cancer the Crab in the morning sky may knock your socks off next fall. Based on a preliminary orbit, it could become a very bright object beginning in November 2013 for both northern and southern hemisphere sky watchers. C/2012 S1 (ISON), its formal name, was found by Russian amateurs Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok of the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON), a network of observers who track man-made space debris.
On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second. The CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth’s magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, causing aurora to appear on the night of Monday, September 3.
The image above includes an image of Earth to show the size of the CME compared to the size of Earth.
ScienceDaily (July 20, 2012) — Astronomers have just released the highest-resolution images ever taken of the Sun’s corona, or million-degree outer atmosphere, in an extreme-ultraviolet wavelength of light. The 16-megapixel images were captured by NASA’s High Resolution Coronal Imager, or Hi-C, which was launched on a sounding rocket on July 11th. The Hi-C telescope provides five times more detail than the next-best observations by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.
These photos of the solar corona, or million-degree outer atmosphere, show the improvement in resolution offered by NASA’s High Resolution Coronal Imager, or Hi-C (bottom), versus the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (top). Both images show a portion of the sun’s surface roughly 85,000 by 50,000 miles in size. Hi-C launched on a sounding rocket on July 11, 2012 in a flight that lasted about 10 minutes. The representative-color images were made from observations of ultraviolet light at a wavelength of 19.3 nanometers (25 times shorter than the wavelength of visible light). (Credit: NASA)
“Even though this mission was only a few minutes long, it marks a big breakthrough in coronal studies,” said Smithsonian astronomer Leon Golub (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), one of the lead investigators on the mission.
Understanding the Sun’s activity and its effects on Earth’s environment was the critical scientific objective of Hi-C, which provided unprecedented views of the dynamic activity and structure in the solar atmosphere.