Space Features of the Week (20 January)

Here my periodic summary of some of the space news worth discussing this week. As usual, I have provided a link and included my comments, so that you can go & pick the ones that interest you the most.

Hubble Gazes Into a Black Hole of Puzzling Lightness

This image taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) onboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captures a galaxy in the Virgo constellation.

This is what it sounds like, a real riddle. NASA explains: “The beautiful spiral galaxy visible in the centre of the image is known as RX J1140.1+0307, a galaxy in the Virgo constellation imaged by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and it presents an interesting puzzle. At first glance, this galaxy appears to be a normal spiral galaxy, much like the Milky Way, but first appearances can be deceptive! The Milky Way galaxy, like most large galaxies, has a supermassive black hole at its centre, but some galaxies are centred on lighter, intermediate-mass black holes. RX J1140.1+0307 is such a galaxy — in fact, it is centred on one of the lowest black hole masses known in any luminous galactic core. What puzzles scientists about this particular galaxy is that the calculations don’t add up. With such a relatively low mass for the central black hole, models for the emission from the object cannot explain the observed spectrum. There must be other mechanisms at play in the interactions between the inner and outer parts of the accretion disk surrounding the black hole.”

To see finally the face of Peggy

What’s Peggy? A moonlet embedded, so to speak, in the middle of Saturn’s Rings, which to date has never been photographed. But wait – this can be the right year. Thanks to Cassini, “scientists studying the splendour of Saturn’s rings are hoping soon to get a resolved picture of an embedded object they know exists but cannot quite see.”

How the insights of the Large Hadron Collider are being made open to everyone

One of the lesser known initiatives of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) is an ambitious plan to make all its research in particle physics available to everyone, with a big global collaboration inspired by the way scientists came together to make discoveries at the LHC. This initiative is called SCOAP, the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access in Particle Physics Publishing, and is now about to enter its fourth year of operation. It’s a worldwide collaboration of more than 3,000 libraries (including six in Australia), key funding agencies and research centres in 44 countries, together with three intergovernmental organisations.” It’s not just talking. They have already made about 13,000 scientific articles available and more it’s to come.

“Songs of a Distant Earth” –The ESO’s Search for Planets of Alpha Centauri

Science may soon imitate fiction. In Arthur C. Clarke’s The Songs of a Distant Earth, scientists discover the sun will go supernova in the year 3600, and a massive effort is undertaken to spread humanity to the stars, using robotic probes carrying embryos to seed nearby systems. One of the first destinations is Pasadena, a planet of Alpha Centauri, where a thriving colony is established. The discovery in 2016 of planet Proxima b, around Proxima Centauri, the third and faintest star of the Alpha Centauri system, spurred the European Southern Observatory (ESO) to sign an agreement with the Breakthrough Initiatives to adapt the Very Large Telescope instrumentation in Chile to conduct a search for planets in the nearby star system Alpha Centauri. Such planets could be the targets for an eventual launch of miniature space probes by the Breakthrough Starshot initiative.” I suggest reading the whole article and have a look at the videos it references, they’re quite interesting.


  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    A moonlet embedded in the middle of Saturn’s rings? This is the first I’ve heard of it, and it adds a further layer of fascination to the most fascinating planet in our system. Worth keeping an eye on! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Steph P. Bianchini (Post author)

      It’s amazing, isn’t it? I’m really looking forward Cassini’s Gran Finale this year!

  2. sjhigbee

    As ever, a potpourri of interesting space stories worth following up – many thanks for sharing Steph:)

    1. Steph P. Bianchini (Post author)

      Thanks Sarah 🙂


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