samedi 13 juin 2020

SpaceX Starlink 8 launch

SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Starlink Mission patch.

June 13, 2020

Falcon 9 carrying 58 Starlink satellites (Starlink-8) lift off

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 58 Starlink satellites (Starlink-8) and 3 PlanetLabs SkySats satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, on 13 June 2020, at 09:21 UTC (05:21 EDT).

SpaceX Starlink 8 launch & Falcon 9 first stage landing, 13 June 2020

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage (Block B1059) landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone-ship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported Dragon’s 19th and 20th resupply missions to the International Space Station.

Starlink Satellites Constellation

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the ninth batch of approximately 60 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband network, a mission designated Starlink 8. Three SkySat Earth-imaging satellites for Planet will launch as rideshare payloads on this mission. Delayed from late May in ripple effect from Starlink 7 delays. Delayed from June 12.

Related articles & link:

SpaceX Starlink 7 launch success

SpaceX - Starlink 6 launched into orbit

SpaceX Starlink 5 launched

SpaceX Starlink 4 launched

SpaceX - Starlink 3 launch success

SpaceX - SpaceX Starlink 2 launch Success

Panic wind among astronomers

SpaceX Starlink launched


Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Rocket Lab - Electron “Don’t Stop Me Now” launch

Rocket Lab - “Don’t Stop Me Now” Mission 12 patch.

June 13, 2020

Rocket Lab’s Electron Mission 12 launch

Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle launched the “Don’t Stop Me Now” mission from Launch Complex 1 on Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, on 13 June 2020, at 05:12 UTC (17:12 NZDT). “Don’t Stop Me Now” is a rideshare mission to launch five small satellites (ANDESITE for NASA, three NRO payloads, M2 Pathfinder satellite for the University of New South Wales Canberra Space) and Electron’s 12th mission.

Electron “Don’t Stop Me Now” launch

A Rocket Lab Electron rocket launches on its 12th flight on a rideshare mission. The rocket will carry three payloads into orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office, the U.S. government’s spy satellite agency, and the ANDESITE CubeSat for Boston University and NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative, which will study Earth’s magnetosphere and Space Weather. The M2 Pathfinder satellite, a collaboration between the Australian government and the University of New South Wales Canberra Space, will also be launched on a communications and technology demonstration mission. Rocket Lab has nicknamed the launch “Don’t Stop Me Now.” Delayed from March 29 due to coronavirus pandemic. Delayed from May. Scrubbed on June 11. 

Rocket Lab:

Credits: Video courtesy of Rocket Lab/SciNews/Image Text, Credits: Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

vendredi 12 juin 2020

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of June 8, 2020

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

June 12, 2020

Crew members on the International Space Station conducted research on capillary-based life support systems, collected high-resolution Earth observations and performed more science operations during the week of June 8.

Now in its 20th year of continuous human presence, the space station provides a platform for long-duration research in microgravity and for learning to live and work in space. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, once again launching astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil, increases the crew-time available for science on the orbiting lab.

Here are details on some of the microgravity investigations currently taking place:

Monitoring linear structures on Earth

Image above: The integrated Standard Imager for Microsatellites (iSIM), a new generation high-resolution binocular telescope for Earth observation on the space station. Image Credit: SATLANTIS.

The integrated Standard Imager for Microsatellites (iSIM) experiment from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) demonstrates a high-resolution optical binocular telescope developed by Spain’s SATLANTIS. The device combines optics, mechanics, electronics and control technology into a compact, efficient design that achieves high spatial resolution at significantly lower cost and shorter delivery times. The imager enables surveillance of irregular linear structures on Earth’s surface such as coastlines, pipelines and critical facilities to detect changes in real time. During the week, crew members worked with robotics operators on the ground to install the device on the exterior of the space station and initiate operations.

Toward lighter, more reliable life support systems

During the week, crew members set up and performed various operations for the Capillary Structures for Exploration Life Support (Capillary Structures) investigation. Systems to recover water and purify air represent the most important elements of a crewed spacecraft as well as some of the heaviest and most complex hardware. Current life support systems on the space station, for example, use equipment with rotating or moving devices that could cause contamination should they break or fail. Lightweight, simpler life support technology is needed for future space missions.

Image above: NASA astronauts Doug Hurley (foreground) and Bob Behnken, who flew the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the space station during SpaceX Demonstration Mission-2, are pictured briefing mission controllers about their experience in the new vehicle. Image Credit: NASA.

Capillary forces – the interaction of a liquid with the solid sides of a narrow tube that draws the fluid up the tube – act even in the absence of gravity. This investigation studies using capillary structures of specific shapes to manage fluid and gas mixtures for systems to recycle water and remove carbon dioxide from cabin air on spacecraft. Relying on geometry instead of rotation or materials properties to separate liquids and gases could create systems more robust, lighter and simpler than current ones.

Multiple measures of bubbles

Animation above: NASA astronaut Doug Hurley performs operations for the Electrolysis Measurement investigation. Animation Credit: NASA.

Electrolytic Gas Evolution Under Microgravity (Electrolysis Measurement) examines the influence of gravity on electrolytic gas evolution. This process, which uses electrodes to pass an electric current through a substance and separate out gases in the form of bubbles, could be used in microfluidic devices to produce oxygen in spacecraft and future human habitations on the Moon and Mars. This ongoing experiment is expected to process 30 total samples over the next several weeks, and during this week, crew members performed a series of sample exchanges.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- Scientists are studying melting of materials in the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF). Reactions of the raw materials melted to make glass and metals with the crucible or container that holds them can cause imperfections. To prevent these reactions, scientists use static electricity to cause the materials to levitate or float, which is much easier in microgravity than on Earth.

- For The ISS Experience, astronauts film different aspects of crew life, execution of science and the international partnerships involved on the space station. Footage will be used to create a virtual reality series that gives audiences a tangible experience of the challenges of adapting to life in space, the work and science conducted on the space station and the human interaction between astronauts.

- Hourglass, another JAXA investigation, examines the behavior under different gravity conditions of various granular materials that simulate regolith, a dust that covers the surface of planets and planetary-like bodies.

Space to Ground: The Storm Above: 06/12/2020

Related links:

Expedition 63:

Commercial Crew Program:

Standard Imager for Microsatellites (iSIM):

Capillary Structures:

Electrolysis Measurement:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/John Love, Lead Increment Scientist Expedition 63.

Best regards,

Universe’s coolest lab creates bizarre quantum matter in space

ISS - Cold Atom Lab (CAL) patch.

12 June 2020

Physicists have made a Bose–Einstein condensate on the International Space Station — allowing them to probe the mysteries of quantum physics in detail. 

Image above: The International Space Station is home to the Cold Atom Lab — one of the coldest places in the known Universe. Image Credit: NASA.

For 25 years, physicists have used an exotic state of matter made from ultracold atoms to probe quantum behaviour at the macroscopic scale. Now, they can do it in space.

The feat comes from physicists behind NASA’s US$100-million Cold Atom Lab, which began operating on the International Space Station in June 2018. The results are a proof-of-principle showing that the laboratory can successfully exploit the microgravity of space in ways that should allow scientists to create phenomena that would be impossible on Earth. The facility is on track to become the coldest place in the known Universe.

A Recipe for Cooling Atoms to Almost Absolute Zero

“I think it’s just an amazing achievement,” says Courtney Lannert, a theoretical physicist at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. The findings were published1 in Nature on 11 June.

Exotic behaviour

First created in 1995, Bose–Einstein condensates form when clouds of atoms are chilled to just above absolute zero. At this temperature, the particles’ wave-like quantum nature dominates, and they coalesce into a single macroscopic quantum object, which physicists can use to investigate exotic behaviour.

On Earth, gravity limits studies on these clouds because they quickly disperse unless gravity’s effects are counteracted with strong magnetic fields. But in microgravity, the condensates last longer, allowing for more precise studies. And because weak magnetic ‘traps’ for the atoms can be used in space, physicists can chill them to even lower temperatures, in part by harnessing a technique that cools condensates by allowing them to expand. “Most quantum physicists would say cold-atom experiments are cool, but to make them cooler you have to take them to space,” says Kamal Oudrhiri, CAL mission manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Image above: Cold Atom Lab Physics Package. Shown here, the "physics package" inside NASA's Cold Atom Lab, where ultracold clouds of atoms called Bose-Einstein condensates are produced. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The researchers used CAL’s precise lasers and high vacuum to produce condensates that lived for longer than a second at 200 trillionths of a degree above absolute zero, on par with some of the most successful experiments on Earth. In future experiments, the team plans to go down to a record 20 trillionths of a degree and create condensates that last for 5 seconds, says Oudrhiri. That would make it the coldest place in the known Universe.

Dishwasher-sized lab

The condensate isn’t the first produced in space. Experiments on rockets that temporarily cross the barrier into space — as well as those using drop towers on Earth — have provided indications of how this phase of matter behaves in microgravity. But CAL is the first lab of its kind to exist in this environment permanently, says Maren Mossman, a physicist at Washington State University in Pullman, and could be just the first of a series of space-based cold-atom labs. Its success was not a given, she says; CAL puts kit that typically fills an entire lab into a space the size of a dishwasher.

And these are just the first results to come from the lab. Mossman is part of a team that is using CAL to create Efimov states, groups of particles that bind in threes but not twos and have long fascinated physicists.

What’s So Cool About NASA’s Cold Atom Lab?

Other teams have also started experiments to create phenomena possible only in the ISS environment. Lannert’s team, for example, has begun producing 30-micrometre-wide bubbles of condensate. Under Earth’s gravity, these would collect to form a bowl or pancake shape. The features of bubbles — being thin and edgeless — mean that they should create whirlpools, known as vortices, with novel behaviours, she says. “The shape is not possible unless you remove the force of gravity. So far, it’s looking really good in terms of the trap doing what we expect it to do.”

‘Heart surgery’ in space

Already the most complex experiment ever on the ISS, the facility got a mind-bending upgrade in January. Over eight days, NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir installed an atom interferometer, a process Oudrhiri likens to performing heart surgery in space. The interferometer splits a cloud into two quantum states — with each atom effectively existing in two places at once — before reuniting them to produce an interference pattern. This pattern acts as a sensitive gauge of forces around the condensate, which physicists can use to test fundamental laws of nature or to search for dark energy. Tests in May — when the coronavirus lockdown meant that the remotely operated CAL was the United States’ only operational cold-atom lab — show that the atom interferometer is working as planned, says Oudrhiri.

Animation above: This artist's illustration shows six finely tuned lasers being used to slow down atoms inside NASA's Cold Atom Lab, which chills atoms to almost absolute zero. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The compact nature of CAL meant that compromises had to be made in its abilities, and it is not ideal for every experiment because it suits the needs of multiple projects, says Lannert. “But the trade-off is more than worth it,” she adds. It also allows physicists without their own extensive labs to perform these experiments. “We’re at a small liberal-arts college, and being able to take data on this machine is just super exciting.”

NATURE: doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-01773-z

Related links:

Bose–Einstein condensates:

Cold Atom Lab (CAL):

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Text, Image, Videos, Animation (mentioned), Credits: NATURE/Elizabeth Gibney/NASA/JPL-Caltech.


High School Students Build Lockers for Trip to the International Space Station

NASA - HUNCH Program logo.

June 12, 2020

Pulling that final zipper closed on a stuffed suitcase or getting the tailgate of a packed car shut is a true feeling of victory at the start of any road trip. Sending supplies to the International Space Station—including on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight that launched the first astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule May 30 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida—requires a different packing method and special lockers to transport supplies.

Image above: Marshall’s Bill Gibson, left, and Bob Zeek with the HUNCH lockers that they completed after the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close and kept students from finishing manufacturing. Image Credits: NASA/Bob Zeek.

Four such lockers launched on Demo-2 were built by students from around the country through a program called NASA HUNCH—High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware. HUNCH’s goal is to empower and inspire students through a project-based learning program and by providing opportunities to students to play an active role in the space program.

One student-built locker also will return to Earth from the space station at the end of the mission. The lockers contain important supplies for space station maintenance and daily operations.

Image above: Lockers built by students in the HUNCH Program undergo final assembly at Clear Creek High School in Houston prior to their deliver to the space station program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Students from around the country helped manufacture the units for the International Space Station. Image Credits: NASA/Bob Zeek.

“It is exciting for us and the students,” said Bob Zeek, NASA HUNCH co-founder and project resource manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “Even with 70 HUNCH-built lockers delivered to the International Space Station Program and 58 of those flying to the space station, the Demo-2 flight adds a new flavor.”

Each locker is comprised of approximately 280 components, including 41 parts machined by the students and more than 200 rivets, fasteners and bearings. The pieces are manufactured with high precision to the tight tolerances required of any piece of hardware making the journey to the orbiting laboratory.

Animation above: NASA astronaut Doug Hurley moves one of the student-built HUNCH lockers inside of the Crew Dragon capsule on June 1. Animation Credit: NASA.

Schools in all four time zones across the United States contributed to the creation of the lockers, including schools that regionally supported the Johnson Space Center, Glenn Research Center, Kennedy Space Center, Marshall Space Flight Center and Langley Research Center. For example, students from Grissom High School in Huntsville, Alabama, created the rear close-out plates, while the integration of the lockers was done at Clear Creek High School in League City, Texas.

Industrial Machining Specialists—a commercial firm and a NASA HUNCH partner located near the Career Academies of Decatur—helps manufacture parts for SpaceX employing HUNCH graduates.

Launched in the four lockers stowed beneath the seats of astronauts Hurley and Behnken were:

- Liquid cooling ventilation garments used by astronauts to help maintain proper body temperature during spacewalks.

- Glenn Harnesses, which are used to ensure astronauts can properly run on the space station’s treadmill. Exercise helps to keep the crew’s bones and muscles strong during their time in space.
- Shoes and other miscellaneous items.

Each student and instructor signs the lockers they helped build and when the units are in orbit, the astronauts take pictures with the lockers, providing the builders a memento of their efforts.

Image above: The student-built HUNCH lockers loaded onto the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule prior to flight. The signatures of students who contributed to the project can be seen on the front of the locker. Image Credits: SpaceX/NASA.

HUNCH is an important asset for the International Space Station program, and the demand for the lockers the program creates is only increasing.

“We are contracted to deliver 40 or more lockers per year, and that is up from 20 required before the Commercial Crew Program and other resupply vehicles came online,” Zeek said.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, which forced schools to finish their academic year virtually, Zeek and fellow Marshall HUNCH mentor, Bill Gibson, were allowed to complete locker production to meet the flight deadline. They used the fabrication facility set up at the Career Academies of Decatur.

“We picked up where the students left off,” Zeek said.

Benefits for Humanity: Engaging the Next Generation

Video above: NASA provides materials, equipment and mentoring to each of the team across the country as part of HUNCH. The program organizers help teams complete their projects to near expert quality over the course of their studies while keeping the students as safe as possible when working with the machinery. Video Credit: NASA.

HUNCH started in 2003 with two schools in Alabama and one in Texas. Now, 277 schools in 44 states participate in six focus areas: design and prototyping, software, hardware, sewn flight articles, video and media and culinary arts. The program has produced more than 1,500 items for flight or training for the space station program, representing approximately 20,000 individual flight parts, with nearly 1,300 parts flown to the space station or delivered for flight.

For more information about NASA HUNCH, visit here:

Related links:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/JSC/International Space Station Program Research Office/Will Bryan.


Hubble Glimpses a Galaxy Among Many

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

June 12, 2020

Looking deep into the universe, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope catches a passing glimpse of the numerous arm-like structures that sweep around this barred spiral galaxy, known as NGC 2608. Appearing as a slightly stretched, smaller version of our Milky Way, the peppered blue and red spiral arms are anchored together by the prominent horizontal central bar of the galaxy.

In Hubble photos like this, bright foreground stars in the Milky Way will sometimes appear as pinpoints of light with prominent light flares known as diffraction spikes, an effect of the telescope optics.  A star with these features is seen in the lower right corner of the image, and another can be spotted just above the pale center of the galaxy. The majority of the fainter points around NGC 2608, however, lack these features, and upon closer inspection they are revealed to be thousands of distant galaxies. NGC 2608 is just one among an uncountable number of kindred structures.

Similar expanses of galaxies can be observed in other Hubble images such as the Hubble Deep Field, which recorded over 3,000 galaxies in one field of view.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: ESA (European Space Agency)/NASA/Rob Garner/Image, Animation Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Riess et al.

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Rideshare service for light satellites to launch on Vega

ARIANESPACE - Launches Speak Louder Than Words patch.

June 12, 2020

Europe’s next Vega launch will premiere a new dispenser called the Small Spacecraft Mission Service, or SSMS. It will transport more than 50 satellites at once into orbit on the first rideshare mission dedicated to light satellites. Liftoff from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana is set for next week.

Artist's view of Vega VV16 with SSMS and SAT-AIS

The SSMS is Europe’s response to the call for affordable and timely launches for small satellites. Until now these customers have relied on spare capacity riding ‘piggyback’ alongside a primary satellite but spaces are limited and finding a match with mission requirements is difficult.

“This flight heralds a new era in rideshare opportunities for small satellites and shows our commitment to extending Europe’s access to space capabilities to serve European institutions, strengthen our space industry and grow our economy,” commented Renato Lafranconi, Vega Exploitation Programme Manager at ESA.

“New customers are keen to take their place on our next rideshare. This gives us a lot of confidence that this new service will become a vital element of the Vega launch service.”

Satellites being integrated onto the SSMS payload dispenser

Maximising the number of satellites on each Vega launch lowers the cost per ridesharing customer. The SSMS can be used for a dedicated rideshare or to fit clusters of small satellites on the launch of a large satellite.

“This SSMS dispenser makes effective use of every available space thanks to a modular design approach. The lower section is hexagonal and can hold six nanosatellites or up to a dozen CubeSat deployers. The upper section is used for microsatellites, minisatellites and small satellites. The lower section can also be used independently, coupled with a larger satellite replacing the top section.

The hexagonal module, a central column, towers, a supporting platform and a set of standard satellite interface spacers are assembled to suit each mission and combination of satellites. For this flight, we are using a configuration called Flexi-3, weighing just 330 kg,” explained Giorgio Tumino, managing ESA’s Vega and Space Rider development programmes.

SAB Aerospace in the Czech Republic and Bercella in Italy designed and manufactured this modular dispenser for ESA’s Vega prime contractor Avio. The component structures are made of very low-density aluminium ‘sandwich’ panels protected by carbon-fibre reinforced polymer skins. This makes it very lightweight and rigid.

SSMS modular parts

The SSMS can accommodate any combination of 0.2 kg CubeSats up to 500 kg minisatellites, from a main large satellite with smaller companions, to multiple small satellites, or dozens of individual CubeSats.

“Our objective is to ensure maximum flexibility, with an SSMS dispenser able to be assembled very close to the launch date and to meet the requirements of any mission,” Giorgio added.

European public and research institutions and industry customers generally commission small satellites for low orbit applications in science, Earth observation, telecommunication and technology development.

Artist's view of Vega VV16 with SSMS

Among the eight European states represented in the flight aggregate were four ESA payloads – the 100 kg ESAIL microsatellite and three CubeSats: SIMBA, Picasso and FSSCat which carries pioneering technology named Φ-sat-1. Watch an animation of the launch of Vega and the release of ESAIL.

When Vega flight VV16 reaches space, the satellite payloads will be progressively released from the SSMS dispenser in a coordinated sequence at a Sun-synchronous orbit, about 500 km above Earth.

Then, Vega’s Attitude Vernier Upper Module (AVUM) upper stage will reignite its thrusters one last time to start its descent with the SSMS towards Earth to burn up on atmospheric reentry to avoid becoming space debris.

Animation of Vega VV16 launch and satellite deployment

This proof-of-concept flight aims to prove the technical and financial viability of the rideshare service. ESA has leading expertise and long-standing experience in managing these types of programmes and mitigating risks. For this flight, ESA has collaborated with the European Union, which has partly funded this mission under the Horizon 2020 programme – part of the Contribution Agreement between ESA and the EU for growing space technologies in Europe. Working together like this on a common goal supports Europe’s position on the global space market by establishing alliances that can reinforce existing and future programmes.

Vega is a 30 m-high, four-stage vehicle designed to accommodate between 300 kg and 1.5 tonnes of payload depending on the orbit and altitude. In the future, Vega’s reignitable upper stage AVUM will allow rideshare missions to deliver payloads to three separate orbits per mission.

Watch the video below to see how this mission was taken from manufacture to flight, featuring interviews with ESA experts with news on future developments.

SSMS inaugural flight on Vega

Related article:

ESAIL maritime satellite ready for launch

Related links:




Space Transportation:

Vega launcher:


Vega Flight VV16:

Images, Videos, Text, Credits: ESA/J. Huart/M. Pedoussaut.


jeudi 11 juin 2020

NASA’s New Horizons Conducts the First Interstellar Parallax Experiment

NASA - New Horizons Mission patch.

June 11, 2020

For the first time, a spacecraft has sent back pictures of the sky from so far away that some stars appear to be in different positions than we'd see from Earth.

More than four billion miles from home and speeding toward interstellar space, NASA's New Horizons has traveled so far that it now has a unique view of the nearest stars. “It’s fair to say that New Horizons is looking at an alien sky, unlike what we see from Earth,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. “And that has allowed us to do something that had never been accomplished before — to see the nearest stars visibly displaced on the sky from the positions we see them on Earth.”

Animation above: This two-frame animation of Proxima Centauri blinks back and forth between New Horizons and Earth images of each star, clearly illustrating the different view of the sky New Horizons has from its deep-space perch.

On April 22-23, the spacecraft turned its long-range telescopic camera to a pair of the “closest” stars, Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359, showing just how they appear in different places than we see from Earth. Scientists have long used this “parallax effect” – how a star appears to shift against its background when seen from different locations -- to measure distances to stars.

Animation above: This two-frame animation of Wolf 359 blinks back and forth between New Horizons and Earth images of each star, clearly illustrating the different view of the sky New Horizons has from its deep-space perch.

An easy way to see parallax is to place one finger at arm’s length and watch it jump back and forth when you view it successively with each eye. Similarly, as Earth makes it way around the Sun, the stars shift their positions. But because even the nearest stars are hundreds of thousands of times farther away than the diameter of Earth’s orbit, the parallax shifts are tiny, and can only be measured with precise instrumentation.

“No human eye can detect these shifts,” Stern said.

But when New Horizons images are paired with pictures of the same stars taken on the same dates by telescopes on Earth, the parallax shift is instantly visible. The combination yields a 3D view of the stars “floating” in front of their background star fields. 

Images above: Stereo for 3D Glasses: These anaglyph images can be viewed with red-blue stereo glasses to reveal the stars' distance from their backgrounds. On the left is Proxima Centauri and on the right is Wolf 359.

“The New Horizons experiment provides the largest parallax baseline ever made -- over 4 billion miles -- and is the first demonstration of an easily observable stellar parallax,” said Tod Lauer, New Horizons science team member from the National Science Foundation's National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory who coordinated the parallax demonstration.

New Horizons probe

"The New Horizons spacecraft is truly a mission of firsts, and this demonstration of stellar parallax is no different" said Kenneth Hansen, New Horizons program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The New Horizons spacecraft continues to speed away from Earth toward interstellar space and is continuing to return exciting new data for planetary science."

Working in Stereo

Lauer, New Horizons Deputy Project Scientist John Spencer, of SwRI, and science team collaborator, astrophysicist, Queen guitarist and stereo imaging enthusiast Brian May created the images that clearly show the effect of the vast distance between Earth and the two nearby stars.

Images above: Parallel Stereo of Proxima Centauri: Use a stereo viewer for these images; if you don’t have a viewer, change your focus from the image by looking "through" it (and the screen) and into the distance. This creates the effect of a third image in the middle, and try setting your focus on that third image. The New Horizons image is on the left.

“It could be argued that in astro-stereoscopy -- 3D images of astronomical objects – NASA’s New Horizons team already leads the field, having delivered astounding stereoscopic images of both Pluto and the remote Kuiper Belt object Arrokoth,” May said. “But the latest New Horizons stereoscopic experiment breaks all records. These photographs of Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359 – stars that are well-known to amateur astronomers and science fiction aficionados alike -- employ the largest distance between viewpoints ever achieved in 180 years of stereoscopy!”

The companion images of Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359 were provided by the Las Cumbres Observatory, operating a remote telescope at Siding Spring Observatory in Australia, and astronomers John Kielkopf, University of Louisville, and Karen Collins, Harvard and Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, operating a remote telescope at Mt. Lemmon Observatory in Arizona.

Image above: Parallel Stereo of Wolf 359: Use a stereo viewer for these images; if you don’t have a viewer, change your focus from the image by looking "through" it (and the screen) and into the distance. This creates the effect of a third image in the middle, and try setting your focus on that third image. The New Horizons image is on the left.

“The professional and amateur astronomy communities had been waiting to try this, and were very excited to make a little space exploration history,” said Lauer. “The images collected on Earth when New Horizons was observing Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359 really exceeded my expectations.”

Download the images (and learn more about creating and posting your own parallax perspectives) at

An Interstellar Navigation First

Throughout history, navigators have used measurements of the stars to establish their position on Earth. Interstellar navigators can do the same to establish their position in the galaxy, using a technique that New Horizons has demonstrated for the first time. While radio tracking by NASA’s Deep Space Network is far more accurate, its first use is a significant milestone in what may someday become human exploration of the galaxy.

At the time of the observations, New Horizons was more than 4.3 billion miles (about 7 billion kilometers) from Earth, where a radio signal, traveling at the speed of light, needed just under 6 hours and 30 minutes to reach home.

Launched in 2006, New Horizons is the first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. It explored Pluto and its moons in July 2015 -- completing the space-age reconnaissance of the planets that started 50 years earlier -- and continued on its unparalleled voyage of exploration with the close flyby of Kuiper Belt object Arrokoth in January 2019. New Horizons will eventually leave the solar system, joining the Voyagers and Pioneers on their paths to the stars.

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, designed, built and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The MSFC Planetary Management Office provides the NASA oversight for the New Horizons. Southwest Research Institute, based in San Antonio, directs the mission via Principal Investigator Stern, and leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning. New Horizons is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

For more information about New Horizons, visit:

Animations, Images, Text, Credits: NASA/Tricia Talbert/Grey Hautaluoma/Joshua Handal/JPL/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Michael Buckley.


Crew Gears Up for Spacewalks, Continues Space Science

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

June 11, 2020

Two spacewalks are set to continue upgrading power systems at the International Space Station at the end of the month. The Expedition 63 crew is getting ready for the summer excursions while also researching a variety of space phenomena to benefit Earth and space industries.

Two NASA astronauts will exit the orbital lab on June 26 and July 1 to continue replacing batteries that store and distribute power collected from the solar arrays. They will work on the outer portion of the truss structure, or the Port-6 truss, disconnecting and removing the old nickel hydrogen batteries. Following that, new lithium-ion batteries will be installed in their place and powered up by mission controllers on the ground.

Image above: Expedition 36 Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy is pictured in July 9, 2013, during a six-hour, seven-minute spacewalk at the space station. Image Credit: NASA.

The two spacewalkers are following up on the battery swap work that begun last year and continued into January. The complex repair job has been taking place on both the starboard and port sides of the station’s truss structure. That is where the basketball court-sized solar arrays are located. The solar arrays slowly rotate around the truss structure and track the sun but are locked into place during the spacewalks.

Station Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineer Bob Behnken spent the morning resizing U.S. spacesuits before splitting up for a variety of science activities. Cassidy spent the rest of the day configuring the new Spectrum imager that will view the cellular growth of plants in multiple wavelengths. Behnken continued more space bubbles research to promote advanced oxygen and medicine delivery systems.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

NASA Flight Engineer Doug Hurley started Thursday on life support maintenance before continuing to unpack Japan’s HTV-9 resupply ship in the afternoon. The two cosmonauts, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, spread out in the station’s Russian segment focusing on life support maintenance, window inspections and Earth atmospheric studies.

Related links:

Expedition 63:

Commercial Crew Program:

Truss structure:

Battery swap work:

Spectrum imager:

Space bubbles research:

HTV-9 resupply ship:

Earth atmospheric studies:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

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NASA Selects Astrobotic to Fly Water-Hunting Rover to the Moon

NASA - ARTEMIS Program logo.

June 11, 2020

NASA has awarded Astrobotic of Pittsburgh $199.5 million to deliver NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023.

The water-seeking mobile VIPER robot will help pave the way for astronaut missions to the lunar surface beginning in 2024 and will bring NASA a step closer to developing a sustainable, long-term presence on the Moon as part of the agency’s Artemis program.

Image above: Illustration of NASA's Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) on the surface of the Moon. Image Credits: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter.

“The VIPER rover and the commercial partnership that will deliver it to the Moon are a prime example of how the scientific community and U.S. industry are making NASA’s lunar exploration vision a reality,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Commercial partners are changing the landscape of space exploration, and VIPER is going to be a big boost to our efforts to send the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024 through the Artemis program.”

VIPER’s flight to the Moon is part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) initiative, which leverages the capabilities of industry partners to quickly deliver scientific instruments and technology demonstrations to the Moon. As part of its award, Astrobotic is responsible for end-to-end services for delivery of VIPER, including integration with its Griffin lander, launch from Earth, and landing on the Moon.

During its 100-Earth-day mission, the approximately 1,000-pound VIPER rover will roam several miles and use its four science instruments to sample various soil environments. Versions of its three water-hunting instruments are flying to the Moon on earlier CLPS lander deliveries in 2021 and 2022 to help test their performance on the lunar surface prior to VIPER’s mission. The rover also will have a drill to bore approximately 3 feet into the lunar surface.

“CLPS is a totally creative way to advance lunar exploration,” said NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen. “We’re doing something that’s never been done before – testing the instruments on the Moon as the rover is being developed. VIPER and the many payloads we will send to the lunar surface in the next few years are going to help us realize the Moon’s vast scientific potential.”

NASA Moon Rover Books Ride to the Moon

Video above: NASA’s water-seeking robotic Moon rover just booked a ride to the Moon’s South Pole. Astrobotic of Pittsburgh has been selected to deliver the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, to the Moon in 2023. During its 100-Earth-day mission, the approximately 1,000-pound rover will roam several miles and use its four science instruments to sample various soil environments in search of water ice. Its survey will help pave the way for a new era of human missions to the lunar surface and will bring us a step closer to developing a sustainable, long-term robotic and human presence on the Moon as part of the Artemis program. Video Credits: NASA/Ames Research Center.

VIPER will collect data – including the location and concentration of ice – that will be used to inform the first global water resource maps of the Moon. Scientific data gathered by VIPER also will inform the selection of future landing sites for astronaut Artemis missions by helping to determine locations where water and other resources can be harvested to sustain humans during extended expeditions. Its science investigations will provide insights into the evolution of the Moon and the Earth-Moon system.

NASA has previously contracted with three companies to make CLPS deliveries to the Moon beginning in 2021. Astrobotic is scheduled to make its first delivery of other instruments to the lunar surface next year. In April, the agency released a call for potential future lunar surface investigations and received more than 200 responses. CLPS is planned to provide a steady cadence of two delivery opportunities to the lunar surface each year.

“It is an enormous honor and responsibility to be chosen by NASA to deliver this mission of national importance,” said Astrobotic CEO John Thornton. “Astrobotic’s lunar logistics services were created to open a new era on the Moon. Delivering VIPER to look for water, and setting the stage for the first human crew since Apollo, embodies our mission as a company.” 

VIPER is a collaboration between various NASA entities and agency partners. The spacecraft, lander and launch vehicle that will deliver VIPER to the surface of the Moon will be provided through NASA’s CLPS initiative as a partnership with industry for delivering science and technology payloads to and near the lunar surface. CLPS is part of the Lunar Discovery and Exploration Program managed by the agency’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The VIPER mission is part of SMDs Planetary Science Division. NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley is managing the VIPER mission, as well as leading the mission’s science, systems engineering, real-time rover surface operations and flight software. The rover hardware is being designed and built by NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston and the instruments are provided by Ames, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and commercial partner Honeybee Robotics in Altadena, California.

For more information about VIPER, visit:


Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sean Potter/Grey Hautaluoma/Joshua Handal/JSC/Jenny Knotts/Rachel Kraft/Ames Research Center/Alison Hawkes.

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NASA’s IBEX Charts 11 Years of Change at Boundary to Interstellar Space

NASA - IBEX Mission patch.

June 11, 2020

Far, far beyond the orbits of the planets lie the hazy contours of the magnetic bubble in space that we call home.

This is the heliosphere, the vast bubble that is generated by the Sun’s magnetic field and envelops all the planets. The borders of this cosmic bubble are not fixed. In response to the Sun’s gasps and sighs, they shrink and stretch over the years.

Now, for the first time, scientists have used an entire solar cycle of data from NASA’s IBEX spacecraft to study how the heliosphere changes over time. Solar cycles last roughly 11 years, as the Sun swings from seasons of high to low activity, and back to high again. With IBEX’s long record, scientists were eager to examine how the Sun’s mood swings play out at the edge of the heliosphere. The results show the shifting outer heliosphere in great detail, deftly sketch the heliosphere’s shape (a matter of debate in recent years), and hint at processes behind one of its most puzzling features. These findings, along with a newly fine-tuned data set, are published in The Astrophysical Journal Supplements on June 10, 2020.

IBEX, short for the Interstellar Boundary Explorer, has been observing the boundary to interstellar space for more than 11 years, showing us where our cosmic neighborhood fits in with the rest of the galaxy.

“It’s this very small mission,” said David McComas, the principal investigator for the mission at Princeton University in New Jersey. IBEX is just as big as a bus tire. “It’s been hugely successful, lasting much longer than anybody anticipated. We’re lucky now to have a whole solar cycle of observations.”

11 Years Charting Edge of Solar System

Video above: For the first time, scientists have used an entire solar cycle of data from NASA’s IBEX spacecraft to study how the heliosphere—the vast magnetic bubble of space that we live in—changes over time. Video Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Joy Ng.

Mapping the solar system’s edge, one particle at a time

The heliosphere is filled with the solar wind, the constant flow of charged particles from the Sun. The solar wind rushes out in all directions, a million miles per hour, until it butts against the interstellar medium, winds from other stars that fill the space between them.

As the Sun wades through the interstellar medium, it generates a hot, dense wave much like the wave at the front of a boat coursing through the sea. Our cosmic neighborhood is called the Local Fluff, for the cloud of superhot gases that blooms around us. Where the solar wind and Local Fluff meet forms the edge of the heliosphere, called the heliopause. Just inside that lies a turbulent region called the heliosheath.

Particles called energetic neutral atoms, or ENAs, that are formed in this distant region of space are the focus of IBEX’s surveys. They’re created when hot, charged particles like the ones in the solar wind collide with cold neutrals like those flowing in from interstellar space. Zippy solar wind particles can snatch electrons from lumbering interstellar atoms, becoming neutral themselves.

The journey of these particles begins long before IBEX detects them. Past the planets, past the asteroid belt and the Kuiper Belt, to the edge of the heliosphere, it takes about a year for a gust of solar wind to race 100 times the distance between the Sun and Earth. Along the way, the solar wind picks up ionized atoms of interstellar gases that have wriggled in to the heliosphere. The solar wind that arrives at the edge is not the same wind that left the Sun a year before.

Artist's view of IBEX. Image Credit: NASA

Solar wind particles might spend another six months roving the chaos of the heliosheath, the gulf between the heliosphere’s two outer boundaries. Inevitably, some collide with interstellar gases and become energetic neutrals. It takes the neutral particles close to another year for the return trip, traversing the space from the edge of the heliosphere to reach IBEX — if the particles happened to be heading in precisely the right direction. Of all the neutral particles formed, only a few actually make it to IBEX. The whole trip takes two to three years for the highest-energy particles in IBEX’s observing range, and even longer at lower energies or more distant regions.

IBEX takes advantage of the fact that neutral atoms like these aren’t diverted by the Sun’s magnetic field: Fresh neutral particles bound away from collisions in nearly a straight line.

IBEX surveys the skies for the particles, noting their direction and energy. The spacecraft only detects about one every other second. The result is a map of the interstellar boundary, crafted from the same principle a bat uses to echolocate its way through the night: monitor an incoming signal to learn more about one’s surroundings. By studying where the neutrals come from, and when, IBEX can trace the remote boundaries of our heliosphere.

“We’re so lucky to observe this from inside the heliosphere,” said Justyna Sokol, a visiting scientist on the Princeton team. “These are processes that happen at very small distances. When you observe other stars that are very far away, you observe distances of light years, from outside their astrospheres.” Even the distance between the Sun and the nose of the heliosphere is tiny compared to many, many light years. 

Using IBEX’s 11-plus years of data, McComas and his team were able to study changes that evolve over time and are key to understanding our place in space.

The solar wind is constant, but the wind is not steady. When the wind gusts, the heliosphere inflates like a balloon, and neutral particles surge at the outer fringes. When the wind calms, the balloon contracts; neutral particles dwindle. The ensuing seesaw of neutral particles, the scientists reported, consistently echoed two to three years after the changes in the wind — reflecting their journey to the edge of this balloon and back.

“It takes so many years for these effects to reach the edge of the heliosphere,” said Jamey Szalay, another Princeton researcher on the team. “For us to have this much data from IBEX, finally allows us to make these long-term correlations."

Shaping up the heliosphere

From 2009 to 2014, the wind blew fairly low and steady, a gentle breeze. The heliosphere contracted. Then came a surprise swell in the solar wind, as if the Sun heaved a great sigh. In late 2014, NASA spacecraft orbiting Earth detected the solar wind pressure increase by about 50% (it has since remained high for several years).

Two years later, the billowing solar wind led to a flurry of neutral particles in the heliosheath. Another two years later, they filled most of the nose of the heliosphere. Eventually, they crested over the heliosphere’s north and south poles.

These changes were not symmetric. Each observed bump traced the quirks of the heliosphere’s shape. The scientists were surprised at how clearly they saw the tidal wave of solar wind pushing out the heliopause.

“Time and the neutral particles have really painted the distances in the shape of the heliosphere for us,” McComas said.

Image above: As the Sun wades through the interstellar medium, it generates a hot, dense wave like the wave at the front of a boat coursing through the sea. In this illustration, this is the boundary in darker blue. IBEX has helped scientists determine the shape of the heliosphere, which has a comet-like tail.
Video Credits: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Conceptual Imaging Lab.

Overall, this paints a picture of the heliosphere that is shaped something like a comet. The shape of the heliosphere has been a matter of debate in recent years. Some have argued our bubble in space is spherical as a globe; others suggested it is closer to a croissant. But in this study, McComas said, IBEX data clearly shows the heliosphere’s response to the solar wind push was asymmetric — so the heliosphere itself must be asymmetric too. The Sun is situated close to the front, and as the Sun hurtles through space, the heliotail trails much farther behind, something like the streaking tail of a comet.

Tackling IBEX’s biggest puzzle

IBEX’s many years of data have also brought scientists closer to an explanation for one of the heliosphere’s more puzzling features, known as the IBEX ribbon. The ribbon remains one of IBEX’s biggest discoveries. Announced in 2009, it refers to a vast, diagonal swath of energetic neutrals, painted across the front of the heliosphere. It’s long puzzled scientists: Why should any part of the boundary should be so different from the rest?

Over time, IBEX has indicated that what forms the ribbon is very different than what forms the rest of the interstellar sky. It is shaped by the direction of the interstellar magnetic field. But how are ribbon particles produced? Now, the scientists report that it’s very likely a secondary process is responsible, causing the journey of a certain group of energetic neutral particles to roughly double.

Image above: The ribbon remains one of IBEX’s biggest discoveries. It refers to a vast, diagonal swath of energetic neutrals, painted across the front of the heliosphere. Image Credits: NASA/IBEX.

After becoming energetic neutrals, rather than ricochet back toward IBEX, this group of particles would streak in the opposite direction, across the heliopause and into interstellar space. There, they’d get a taste of the Local Fluff, cruising until some would inevitably collide with passing charged particles, losing an electron once again and becoming tied to the surrounding magnetic field.

Another two years or so pass, and the charged particles might collide yet again with slower peers, stealing electrons like they’ve done before. After this brief migration beyond the heliosphere, the twice-born energetic neutrals might eventually re-enter, hurtling back toward home.

Extended IBEX data helped the scientists connect the ribbon to the particles’ long interstellar tour. Particles forming the ribbon have journeyed some two years more than the rest of the neutral particles observed. When it came to the solar wind spike, the ribbon took another two years after the rest of the heliosphere to even start responding.

Far exceeding its initial mission of two years, IBEX will soon be joined by another NASA mission, IMAP — short for the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe, for which McComas also serves as principal investigator. The mission is scheduled to launch in late 2024.

“IMAP presents a perfect opportunity to study, with great resolution and sensitivity, what IBEX has begun to show us, so that we will really get a detailed understanding of the physics out there,” McComas said.

Related links:

IBEX’s biggest discoveries:

IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer):

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/GSFC/Lina Tran.


Bizarre nearby star offers clues to origins of mysterious fast radio bursts

NASA - Swift Mission patch.

June 11, 2020

The first fast radio burst detected in our Galaxy comes from a magnetized star, and could help to explain these cosmic enigmas.

An artist's impression of a magnetar.Credit: ESO/L. Calçada.

For a fraction of a second in late April, a hyper-magnetized star in the Milky Way suddenly blasted out radio energy. Now scientists say that this sudden, strange blip could help to explain one of astronomy’s biggest puzzles: what powers the hundreds of other mysterious fast radio bursts (FRBs) that have been spotted much farther away in the Universe.

The star, known as SGR 1935+2154, is a magnetar — a dense, spinning ember left behind after a supernova and wrapped in intense magnetic fields. Many astronomers think that fast radio bursts — brief but powerful cosmic flashes that flare for just milliseconds — come from magnetars, but haven’t been able to show the link.

“I wouldn’t say it’s the nail in the coffin that we’ve figured out that fast radio bursts come from magnetars,” says Emily Petroff, an astronomer at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. “But it’s by far the most promising piece of evidence that we’ve found.”

Preliminary papers describing the burst, which is the first to be detected in the Milky Way, have flooded the arXiv preprint server in recent days.

Until now, the closest known fast radio burst happened around 150 million parsecs (490 million light years) from Earth. This magnetar is in our Galaxy just 10,000 parsecs away, making it close enough for astronomers to have a great view as it sizzles with activity. “Here is something that gets close to the insane intensity of cosmic FRBs, but that is happening not so far away,” says Sarah Burke Spolaor, an astronomer at West Virginia University in Morgantown. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn about at least one of the sources that could be causing FRBs.”

Cake-tin telescope

The show began on 27 April, when satellites including NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory spotted γ-rays streaming from SGR 1935+2154. The star is one of about 30 known magnetars in the Milky Way; these occasionally go through spurts of activity during which they emit radiation at different wavelengths. The next day, the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope in Penticton, Canada, detected a huge radio flash occurring to the side of its field of view — from the place in the sky where the magnetar lay1.

Swift Observatory spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA

The CHIME team had been hoping to pick up radio emission from SGR 1935+2154. But they were expecting faint radio pulses. Instead, “we got something much more exciting”, says Paul Scholz, an astronomer at the University of Toronto who led the analysis.

A second research team got even luckier by catching the intense burst full-on. The STARE2 radio telescope is made of low-tech antennas — each consists of a metal pipe with two cake tins attached — at two locations in California and one in Utah. STARE2 has been observing the sky since last year, hoping to catch something resembling a fast radio burst in the Milky Way. On 28 April, it did exactly that, detecting the same radio pulse that CHIME saw2. “I was so excited that it took me a little bit of time to open up the data and inspect it, to make sure it was real,” says Chris Bochenek, a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena who works on STARE2. “Chris messaged us on Slack, and fairly unrepeatable things were said,” says Vikram Ravi, an astronomer at Caltech and Bochenek’s co-adviser.

Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME)

Energy outburst

The radio flash is by far the brightest ever seen from a magnetar in the Milky Way, and could offer clues to what causes fast radio bursts seen elsewhere in the Universe.

Because magnetars are spinning quickly and have powerful magnetic fields, they have huge reservoirs of energy that can produce outbursts. One idea about the source of these outbursts is that something happening inside the magnetar — such as a ‘starquake’, analogous to an earthquake — could crack its surface and release energy. Another possibility is that the highly magnetized environment around the magnetar somehow produces the burst.

Astronomers might be able to narrow down these possibilities by studying both the radio burst from SGR 1935+2154 and bursts in other wavelengths of light that happened simultaneously, says Laura Spitler, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy in Bonn, Germany. Several satellites detected X-ray bursts from the magnetar at around the same time as the radio emission. It is the first time astronomers have detected these signals in other wavelengths; seeing them was possible only because the magnetar is so close to Earth.

But some mysteries remain. For one thing, the 28 April burst was about 1,000 times less energetic than fast radio bursts seen in distant galaxies. And some distant bursts repeat at intervals that can’t easily be explained as coming from a magnetar. Perhaps some, but not all, fast radio bursts come from magnetars, says Petroff.

Astronomers still want to collect as many examples of fast radio bursts as they can, both near and far away. “Each serves as a kind of backlight shining through all the material between us and the source,” says Jason Hessels, an astronomer at the University of Amsterdam. Scientists have recently started to use that information to map the distribution of matter in the Universe6.

“There’s an exciting future to the field,” says Hessels, “even if this is more or less the answer to where the bursts are coming from.”

doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-01666-1


1. The CHIME/FRB Collaboration. Preprint at arXiv (2020).

2. Bochenek, C. D. et al. Preprint at arXiv (2020).

3. Borghese, A. et al. Preprint at arXiv (2020).

4. Tavani, M. et al. Preprint at arXiv (2020).

5. Li, C. K. et al. Preprint at arXiv (2020).

6. Macquart, J.-P. et al. Nature 581, 391–395 (2020).

Related links:

Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy:

STARE2 radio telescope:

Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME):

NASA's Swift Observatory:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NATURE/Alexandra Witze.