Ridley Scott quipped that science fiction isn’t dead, it’s just not fiction anymore. With Scott’s quote in mind, another improbable week of discovery unfolded in the Cosmos with astronomers searching for a gargantuan black hole only to find, instead, a “nest of darkness” to the discovery of a ancient galaxy at the dawn of time that defies understanding.
Meet the Unsung Heroes behind Humanity’s Improbable Journey to an Alien Ocean –The author of a new book reveals the hidden human history of NASA’s in-development Europa Clipper mission, reports Lee Billings for Scientific American. “The spacecraft, just now on the verge of being built, could launch later this decade to Europa, an enigmatic moon of Jupiter that boasts an enormous ocean—bigger than all of Earth’s oceans combined—beneath an icy crust. Called Europa Clipper, the mission could lift off as soon as 2024 to study the moon’s subsurface abyss with the goal of gauging its potential habitability and the distinct possibility of discovering a “second genesis” there ”
Hunting for a Giant Black Hole, Astronomers Found a Nest of Darkness, reports Dennis Overbye for The New York Times. No Gargantua dwells at the heart of stellar cluster NGC 6397. Instead, a few dozen smaller black holes seem to be swarming around in there, throwing their considerable masses around.
The Milky Way –“A Dynamic Museum of Ancient Merging Relics, River-like Streams of Stars”, reports The Daily Galaxy. The Milky Way is a dynamic museum of ancient merging relics, river-like streams of stars stripped from dwarf satellite galaxies that flow through the galaxy revealing its history and structure that allow astronomers to better understand how galaxies in the universe have formed and evolved.
Newly discovered galaxy ‘defies understanding’, say astronomers –Scientists found a galaxy dating back to the early years of the universe, but appearing to be billions of years too old for that, reports Sky News.
One of our most basic assumptions about the universe may be wrong, reports New Scientist –A fundamental tenet of the modern model of cosmology is coming into question. A survey of more than 1 million galaxies across the cosmos has shown that the distribution of matter may not be the same in every direction, which could upend much of what we understand about the universe.
A New ‘Super-Earth’ Detected –“This is the Kind of Planet We’ve Been Dreaming About for Decades”, treports The Daily Galaxy. There was a time not too many decades ago when an astronomer suggesting the existence of life-bearing planets beyond our solar system would be considered heresy, albeit without the punishment of house arrest suffered by Galileo until his death in 1642.
Can Alien Smog Lead Us to Extraterrestrial Civilizations? asks Meghan Herbst for Wired –“Kopparapu is at the forefront of an emerging field in astronomy that is aiming to identify technosignatures, or technological markers we can search for in the cosmos. No longer conceptually limited to radio signals, astronomers are looking for ways we could identify planets or other spacefaring objects by looking for things like atmospheric gases, lasers, and even hypothetical sun-encircling structures called Dyson spheres.”
“Cities of Galaxies” –Most Dense Cluster in the Primitive Universe Discovered, reports The Daily Galaxy –Ancient galaxy clusters have been described as “the dark skeletons of the cosmos.” Astronomers at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) have found the most densely populated galaxy cluster in formation in the primitive universe. The researchers predict that this structure, among the largest astronomical objects in the Universe, which is at a distance of 12.5 billion light years from us, will have evolved becoming a cluster similar to the 1,300 galaxies of the Virgo Cluster, a neighbor of the Local Group of galaxies to which harbors our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
The New History of the Milky Way –Over the past two years, astronomers have rewritten the story of our galaxy reports Charlie Wood for Quanta. He begins lyrically: “When the Khoisan hunter-gatherers of sub-Saharan Africa gazed upon the meandering trail of stars and dust that split the night sky, they saw the embers of a campfire. Polynesian sailors perceived a cloud-eating shark. The ancient Greeks saw a stream of milk, gala, which would eventually give rise to the modern term ‘galaxy’.”
Ancient Behemoth Galaxies –“Fed by Cosmic Filaments of Dark-Matter Haloes”–New research shows that during the early universe cosmic filaments ferried cold gas and embryonic, node-shaped galaxies to a dark matter halo, where it all clumped together to form massive galaxies. The larger the galaxy, the more cold gas it needs to coalesce and to grow from a source of cold molecular gases totaling as much as 100 billion times the mass of our sun, reports The Daily Galaxy.
A new generation takes on the cosmological constant, reports Physics World. –The long-standing problem of the cosmological constant, described both as “the worst prediction in the history of physics” and by Einstein as his “biggest blunder”, is being tackled with renewed vigor by today’s cosmologists. Rob Lea investigates.
In Hawaii, an ancient observatory offers lessons for modern stargazers –Physicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein spans the whitewashed history of astronomy in her new book, ‘The Disordered Cosmos’, reports Popular Science.