Intriguing pair of satellites caught with the eVscope

If you often look at the evening dark sky in a clear area far away from the city, you have probably seen a speck of light which moves with respect to the star, that’s probably a distant satellite that shines because it reflects the light of the sun at high altitude. According to NASA’s Orbital Debris Program office, there are an  about 21,000 large debris (>10 cm) and satellites orbiting around Earth right now, so much more than you can see with your naked eye.

The eVscope is designed to pinpoint and image Deep Sky Objects (nebulae, galaxies), but we have already shown its potential to observe dwarf planet like Pluto, as well as asteroid like Florence. Because the telescope can image targets as faint as those astronomical bodies, we thought that it will also be able to image small satellites and debris as well passing serendipitously in the field of view. This is what happened a few days ago.

Animation made of 8 frames recorded with the eVscope showing the detection of two satellites
Animation made of 8 frames recorded with the eVscope showing the detection of two satellites

Another smoking gun in the search for life in Enceladus’ ocean

This illustration shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
This illustration shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Today, NASA-funded scientists announced a major new step in the search for life on Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth-largest moon, thanks to new data collected by the NASA/ESA Cassini mission.

Enceladus has attracted a lot of interest because it has an active pole that spews jets of material into outer space. During its last flyby over that pole, an instrument on board the Cassini spacecraft detected the presence of a biomarker—molecular hydrogen. This suggests that the ocean we know lies beneath the moon’s surface could indeed contain an ecosystem similar to the ones we find in deep-sea hydrothermal vents on Earth.

Proxima Centauri b: Have we just found Earth’s cousin right on our doorstep?

What began as a tantalizing rumor has just become an astonishing fact. Today a group of thirty-one scientists, led by Guillem Anglada-Escude at the Queen Mary University of London, UK, announced the discovery of a terrestrial exoplanet orbiting Proxima Centauri. The discovery of this planet, Proxima Centauri b, is a huge breakthrough not just for astronomers but for all of us. Here’s why.

This artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System. The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image to the upper-right of Proxima itself. Proxima b is a little more massive than the Earth and orbits in the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri, where the temperature is suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser
This artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System. The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image to the upper-right of Proxima itself. Proxima b is a little more massive than the Earth and orbits in the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri, where the temperature is suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface.
Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

First Discovery Of An Earth-Sized Planet In The Habitable Zone

Source: SETI Institute Press-release

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – For the first time, an Earth-sized planet has been found in the habitable zone of its star. This discovery not only proves the existence of worlds that might be similar to our own, but will undoubtedly shape future investigations of exoplanets that could have terrestrial surface environments.

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Artistic view of a Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of its star. Credit: D. Futselaar/SETI Institute

Surprising discovery: a ring around an asteroid

Some may say that our universe is full of beauty, others argue that it is our solar system that surprises us the most, but ultimately I will say that it is the world of small solar system bodies which is strikingly full of diversity. Today’s announcement of the discovery of rings around the Centaur Chariklo by an international team of astronomers is a vivid proof that small solar system bodies have not yet revealed all their secrets.

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Asteroid Minerva finds its magical weapons in the sky

The International Astronomical Union has chosen the names Aegis and Gorgoneion for the two moons of the asteroid (93) Minerva.  My team discovered the small moons in 2009 using the W. M. Keck Telescope and its adaptive optics system. We proposed the names after receiving input from the public.

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Artistic view of the Triple Asteroid System (93) Minerva. The 150km primary at the center is surrounded by its two moons S/(93) 1 Aegis and S/(93) 2 Gorgoneion.

Another fireball on Jupiter?

An amateur astronomer reported the visual detection of a fireball on Jupiter at 11:35 UT (September 10 2012) last night. It was confirmed on a video recorded from Texas. This is the 6th impact of Jupiter detected so far.

A screen capture from the video recorded on September 10 2012 at 11:35 UT by George. The video was captured with a 12" LX200GPS, 3x Televue Barlow, and Point Grey Flea 3 camera. http://georgeastro.weebly.com/jupiter.html

Searching for Fragments of the Sutter’s Mill Meteorite

An update about the Sutter’s Mill Meteorite that I mentioned yesterday. A few hours ago, I saw the pieces that Peter Jenniskens brought at the SETI Institute. I am not a meteorite expert but they indeed look like a carbonaceous chondrite meteorite. The fragments are black, with tiny white flecks scattered through the interior. On the surface, one can see black coating due to the heating during the passage through the Earth atmosphere.

Fragments of the Sutter's Mill Meteorites brought by Peter Jennisken at the SETI Institute (1cm cube is added for scale) (credit: F. Marchis)