Astronomers discover 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter

The discovery provides insight into why the Jupiter system looks the way it does.

Astronomers have uncovered ten more moons orbiting around Jupiter, bringing the planet’s total satellite count to 79, reports Loren Grush for The Verge. Astronomers at Carnegie Institution for Science found these moons in March 2017 using the Blanco 4-meter telescope in Chile. Since the discovery, the moons have been observed multiple times and their exact orbits have been submitted for approval from the International Astronomical Union.

The moons are fairly small and break down into three different types. Two orbit closer to Jupiter, moving in the same direction the planet spins. Nine are about 15.5 million miles from the planet and revolve in the opposite direction, moving against Jupiter’s rotation. In this region, one of the moon’s that astronomer’s call Valetudo is moving with Jupiter’s spin, going in the opposite direction of all the other moons in the same area. “It’s basically driving down the highway in the wrong direction,” Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at Carnegie who led the discovery team, told The Verge. “That’s a very unstable situation. Head-on collisions are likely to happen in that situation.”

With this discovery, scientists believe it’s evidence that moon-on-moon collisions have happened in Jupiter’s past. Astronomers argue that the nine moons moving in the same direction far out from Jupiter, may actually be pieces of a bigger moon that existed long ago. Sheppard agrees, explaining “[w]e think, originally, there were three parent bodies, and, somehow, each of those parent bodies got broken apart. And a big question is: what broke those objects apart?” Valetudo provides a plausible explanation: with it going in opposition to other moons in the area, numerous head-on collisions likely occurred, reducing these celestial bodies to the small sizes observed today.

Telescope gives glimpse of Milky Way’s center

The MeerKAT telescope provides astronomers with a brand new glimpse of the center of the Milky Way.

A brand new mega-telescope has taken the best picture of the Milky Way’s center on record.

The new technology — known as MeerKAT radio telescope — is made up of 64 small dishes that work to detect radio waves. All of the devices sit in the Karoo region of South Africa and are much more sensitive than any other similar object.

That extra sensitivity is key because it allowed MeerKAT to image the region around the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy — which sits 25,000 light-years away — in great detail.

The colors in the image reveal the brightness of the radio waves detected, and they range from red to orange to white.

While the picture seems like nothing more than a giant fireball at first glance, it reveals may new features.

For example, it shows compact sources of the long, magnetized filaments that come off the Milky Way’s central region, and it also provides a new look into previously unknown supernova remnants and star-forming regions.

The filaments are particularly important because, while researchers have spent decades analyzing them, nobody understands why they are only near the black hole.

“This image is remarkable,”said Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, a researcher at Northwestern University, according to Newsweek“It shows so many features never before seen, including compact sources associated with some of the filaments, that it could provide the key to cracking the code and solve this three-decade riddle.”

Another reason the image is so special is because the center of the Milky Way is notoriously hard to photograph. Not only is it incredibly far away, but it also sits behind the constellation Sagittarius, which hides it from optical telescopes.

MeerKAT gets around that because it is able to detect certain radio wavelengths that other machines cannot.

“We wanted to show the science capabilities of this new instrument,” said Fernando Camilo, chief scientist of the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), which built and operates MeerKAT, according to Science Alert. “The center of the galaxy was an obvious target: unique, visually striking and full of unexplained phenomena – but also notoriously hard to image using radio telescopes … Although it’s early days with MeerKAT, and a lot remains to be optimised, we decided to go for it – and were stunned by the results.”

Astronomers capture ghostly particle in Antarctic ice sheet

The new discovery could usher in a new era of neutrino astronomy.

A ghostly particle was captured in a patch of ice beneath the South Pole in September of last year by the IceCube Antarctic detector—the orbiting Fermi Gammaray Space Telescope. Astronomers believe that this particle—a neutrino, electrically neutral and almost massless—likely came for a far off blazar, a hugely bright source of radiation powered by a supermassive black hole. The new finding could mark the founding event of neutrino astronomy, writes Daniel Clery in Science.

These particles are known as ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays because they exude a million times more energy than those produced in earthbound particle accelerators. Astronomers have yet to unequivocally pinpoint the source that boosts these particles to massive energies, but have speculated that it could be neutron stars, gamma ray bursts, hypernovae, or radiation-spewing black holes. However, they believe that whatever the source, high energy neutrinos are a likely byproduct. The IceCube neutrino detector captures these elusive particles in a cubic kilometer of Antarctic ice. Based on the location, timing, and brightness of the detected light, researchers can reconstruct the path and energy of the neutrino.

Last September’s ensnared neutrino, called IceCube-170922A, is calculated to have an energy of 290 TeV, and has offered scientists a clear track back into space. Six days after the observation, the Fermi team reported the satellite discovered a blazar, called TXS 0506+056, was especially bright, having started to flare, and less than 0.1° away from the neutrino’s path. Blazars are distant cosmic beacons powered by supermassive black holes that fire jets of particles from their poles. Though it’s not clear whether TXS 0506+056 was flaring when IceCube-170922A started its journey to Earth, Pierre Sokolsky of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City has hope, saying “it’s a very mouthwatering observation and I very much hope it will be confirmed.”

Pieces of ‘fireball’ meteorite found in Botswana

Researchers have successfully tracked down pieces of the small meteorite that recently exploded above Africa.

Meteorite hunters have recovered a fragment of a small asteroid that crashed down to Earth on June 2nd after burning up in the atmosphere above Botswana.

The space rock exploded a few hours after researchers first detected it, breaking into several pieces upon contact with Earth’s atmosphere.

After that initial impact, the asteroid then exploded and turned into what is known as a “fireball” meteor. That means it created a bright flash of light as it sped across the sky.

As soon as skywatchers spotted the falling rock, teams of meteor experts set out to find any pieces that may have survived the harsh trip down to the ground.

Five days after the hunt began, a team made up of geoscientists from local universities and research institutes uncovered the first piece. Soon after, a group of international scientists joined the search and recovered a second piece in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve.

Astronomers then further narrowed down potential locations by collecting and analyzing footage from surveillance cameras.

“After disruption, the asteroid fragments were blown by the wind while falling down, scattering over a wide area,” said officials with the University of Helsinki, according to Studying the footage allowed them to “get better constraints on the position and altitude of the fireball’s explosion.”

Astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey first detected the asteroid 8 hours before it hit Earth. At the time they determined the rock measured roughly 6 feet across.

While that size was much too small to send an alert, the team did use impact prediction models to see where it may have landed and help in the search.

Some of the pieces have been recovered, and astronomers will continue to look for more as the days go on. Finding the fragments is important because they could lead to new research and help scientists get a better idea of what the rock was like.

“We see it as our mandate and duty to respond quickly to events like this one and to recover the material, both for research purposes and as part of the heritage of Botswana,” said Alexander Proyer, leader of the expedition, according to Popular Mechanics. “This meteorite is a priceless piece of rock that the people of Botswana will want to enjoy seeing on display for generations to come.”