Hubble went into safe mode when one of its three working gyroscopes failed, leaving mission managers with a weighty challenge: They could try getting a glitchy gyro working again, bringing the telescope’s pointing system back to its normal three-gyro mode. Otherwise, they would have to go to a one-gyro procedure for pointing at observational targets, and keep the second gyro in reserve.
Called the Event Horizon Telescope, or EHT, the project is “the biggest telescope in the history of humanity,” EHT director Shep Doeleman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics says in the book. EHT unifies far-flung radio telescopes through a technique called very long baseline interferometry, which involves combining the light waves spotted by each telescope to determine how the light adds up, through a process called interference.
A new calculation shows that if space is an ocean, we’ve barely dipped in a toe. The volume of observable space combed so far for E.T. is comparable to searching the volume of a large hot tub for evidence of fish in Earth’s oceans, astronomer Jason Wright at Penn State and colleagues say in a paper posted online September 19 at arXiv.org.
Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which arrived at the near-Earth asteroid on June 27 after a journey of more than three years, released the MINERVA-II1 container from a height of about 60 meters (SN Online: 6/27/18). The container then released two 18-centimeter-wide, cylindrical rovers. Because Ryugu’s gravity is so weak, the rovers can hop using rotating motors that generate a torque and send them airborne for about 15 minutes.
Astronomers have finally found the last of the missing universe. It’s been hiding since the mid-1990s, when researchers decided to inventory all the “ordinary” matter in the cosmos--stars and planets and gas, anything made out of atomic parts. (This isn’t “dark matter,” which remains a wholly separate enigma.)
A massive number of new signals have been discovered coming from the notorious repeating fast radio source FRB 121102 - and we can thank artificial intelligence for these findings. Researchers at the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) project Breakthrough Listen applied machine learning to comb through existing data, and found 72 fast radio bursts that had previously been missed.
Evidence for Planet Nine continues to mount, but there may be a good reason why scientists have yet to find it - it may be hiding. In October 2017, NASA released a statement saying that Planet Nine may be 20 times further from the Sun than Neptune is, going so far as to say "it is now harder to imagine our solar system without a Planet Nine than with one."
Daisies who pursue the Space Science Explorer badge will observe the sun, moon and sky, while Brownies tackling the Space Science Adventurer badge will delve into the planets, moon phases and constellations. Juniors, aka Space Science Investigators, will explore the celestial motion, the dimensions of constellations, and the size and scale of the solar system.
The US community faces a daunting task. Each generation of facilities is getting more expensive and harder to build. Operational costs are mounting. Meanwhile, the research budgets of the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA have remained more or less flat since the 1990s (see ‘Astronomical costs’). Hard decisions have been made to close old but still-productive telescopes, which has proved insufficient to pay for new ones. And these pressures will only get worse as more big projects come online.
Researchers have detected a rogue planet traveling the void between stars some 20 light years away. Rogue planets or brown dwarfs (which this might be) aren’t exactly rare, cosmologically speaking, but they tend to be very difficult to see. And yet, the way we found this particular planet/brown dwarf suggests we might locate other similar stellar objects through an application of the same technique.