Space Stories: Merging Galaxies, Anniversary for TESS, and Helicopter Flights on Mars

Image (Credit): Arp 220 as captured by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. (NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Alyssa Pagan)

Here are some recent stories of interest.

PetaPixel:Webb Captures Star-Forming Galactic Merger Brighter Than 1 Trillion Suns’”

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured a stunning “smash-up” of two spiral galaxies. Collectively called Arp 220, the collision of the pair of galaxies has facilitated massive star formation. Arp 220 is located within the constellation Serpens, about 250 million light-years from Earth. Arp 220 gets its namesake because it is the 220th object in Hallton Art’s Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies. Arp 220 is “peculiar” because it’s an ultra-luminous infrared galaxy (ULIRG), and the nearest ULIRG to Earth.’s TESS Celebrates Fifth Year Scanning the Sky for New Worlds’”

Now in its fifth year in space, NASA’s TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) remains a rousing success. TESS’s cameras have mapped more than 93% of the entire sky, discovered 329 new worlds and thousands more candidates, and provided new insights into a wide array of cosmic phenomena, from stellar pulsations and exploding stars to supermassive black holes.

NASA:NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Completes 50th Flight’”

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has completed its 50th flight on Mars. The first aircraft on another world reached the half-century mark on April 13, traveling over 1,057.09 feet (322.2 meters) in 145.7 seconds. The helicopter also achieved a new altitude record of 59 feet (18 meters) before alighting near the half-mile-wide (800-meter-wide) “Belva Crater.”

Space Stories: Volcanoes on Venus, Exoplanet Radio Signals, and Bright Baby Jupiter

Image (Credit): Map of volcanoes located on Venus. (Washington University in St. Louis)

Here are some recent stories of interest.

Washington University in St. Louis: “Scientists Share ‘Comprehensive’ Map of Volcanoes on Venus — all 85,000 of Them

Byrne and Hahn’s new study includes detailed analyses of where volcanoes are, where and how they’re clustered, and how their spatial distributions compare with geophysical properties of the planet such as crustal thickness. Taken together, this work provides the most comprehensive understanding of Venus’ volcanic properties — and perhaps of any world’s volcanism so far. That’s because, although we know a great deal about the volcanoes on Earth that are on land, there are still likely a great many yet to be discovered under the oceans. Lacking oceans of its own, Venus’ entire surface can be viewed with Magellan radar imagery.

CNN: “Repeating Radio Signal Leads Astronomers to an Earth-Size Exoplanet

Astronomers have detected a repeating radio signal from an exoplanet and the star that it orbits, both located 12 light-years away from Earth. The signal suggests that the Earth-size planet may have a magnetic field and perhaps even an atmosphere…Scientists noticed strong radio waves coming from the star YZ Ceti and the rocky exoplanet that orbits it, called YZ Ceti b, during observations using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array of telescopes in New Mexico. The researchers believe the radio signal was created by interactions between the planet’s magnetic field and the star.

ScienceNews: “Baby Jupiter Glowed so Brightly it Might have Desiccated its Moon

A young, ultrabright Jupiter may have desiccated its now hellish moon Io. The planet’s bygone brilliance could have also vaporized water on Europa and Ganymede, planetary scientist Carver Bierson reported March 17 at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. If true, the findings could help researchers narrow the search for icy exomoons by eliminating unlikely orbits. Jupiter is among the brightest specks in our night sky. But past studies have indicated that during its infancy, Jupiter was far more luminous. “About 10 thousand times more luminous,” said Bierson, of Arizona State University in Tempe.

Space Stories: An Exoplanet’s Atmosphere, A Cosmic Explosion, and Stars Halfway to the Andromeda Galaxy

Here are some recent stories of interest. “Weather Report: Expect Scattered, Patchy Clouds Made Up of Silicates on Planet VHS 1256 b

Ever had hot sand whip across your face? That’s a soothing experience compared to the volatile conditions discovered high in the atmosphere of planet VHS 1256 b. Researchers using NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope proved that its clouds are made up of silicate particles, ranging from fine specks to small grains. Plus, its near-constant cloud cover is on the move! The team projects that the silicates swirling in these clouds periodically get too heavy and rain into the depths of the planet’s atmosphere. Webb’s observations also show clear signatures of water, methane and carbon monoxide, and provide evidence for carbon dioxide. This is only the beginning of the team’s research – many more findings are expected as they continue to dig in to Webb’s “downpour” of data.

The Guardian: “Cosmic Explosion Last Year May be ‘Brightest Ever Seen’”

A cosmic explosion that blinded space instruments last year may be the brightest ever seen, according to astronomers. The blast took place 2bn light years from Earth, producing a pulse of intense radiation that swept through the solar system in October last year. The cosmic event, known as a gamma-ray burst (GRB), produced some of the strongest and brightest explosions in the universe, triggering detectors on multiple spacecraft. The October blast was deemed so exceptional that astronomers said it was the brightest of all time since the beginning of human civilisation. “Milky Way Stars Found Nearly Halfway to Andromeda Galaxy

Astronomers have discovered a slew of stars lingering in the far fringes of our galaxy. And when we say far, we mean far. The most distant of these stars is located more than 1 million light-years away. That’s almost halfway to our largest galactic neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, which is located some 2.5 million light-years away. “This study is redefining what constitutes the outer limits of our galaxy,” said Raja GuhaThakurta, professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz, in a news release. “Our galaxy and Andromeda are both so big, there’s hardly any space between the two galaxies.”

Study Findings: Framework for the Architecture of Exoplanetary Systems

Image (Credit): Artist’s rendering of the four classes of planetary system architecture discussed in the paper below. (© NCCR PlanetS, / Tobias Stierli)

Astronomy and Astrophysics abstract:

We present a novel, model-independent framework for studying the architecture of an exoplanetary system at the system level. This framework allows us to characterise, quantify, and classify the architecture of an individual planetary system. Our aim in this endeavour is to generate a systematic method to study the arrangement and distribution of various planetary quantities within a single planetary system. We propose that the space of planetary system architectures be partitioned into four classes: similar, mixed, anti-ordered, and ordered. We applied our framework to observed and synthetic multi-planetary systems, thereby studying their architectures of mass, radius, density, core mass, and the core water mass fraction. We explored the relationships between a system’s (mass) architecture and other properties. Our work suggests that: (a) similar architectures are the most common outcome of planet formation; (b) internal structure and composition of planets shows a strong link with their system architecture; (c) most systems inherit their mass architecture from their core mass architecture; (d) most planets that started inside the ice line and formed in-situ are found in systems with a similar architecture; and (e) most anti-ordered systems are expected to be rich in wet planets, while most observed mass ordered systems are expected to have many dry planets. We find, in good agreement with theory, that observations are generally biased towards the discovery of systems whose density architectures are similar, mixed, or anti-ordered. This study probes novel questions and new parameter spaces for understanding theory and observations. Future studies may utilise our framework to not only constrain the knowledge of individual planets, but also the multi-faceted architecture of an entire planetary system. We also speculate on the role of system architectures in hosting habitable worlds.

Citation: L. Mishra, Y. Alibert, S. Udry, C. Mordasini, A framework for the architecture of exoplanetary systems. I. Four classes of planetary system architecture, Astronomy and Astrophysics (Accepted December 2022).

Study-related stories:

Space Quote: Google’s Expensive Mistake Regarding the JWST

Image (Credit): Actual image of the exoplanet 2M1207b (red) around its star 2M1207A. (European Southern Observatory)

“What new discoveries from the James Webb space telescope (JWST) can I tell my nine-year old about?”

-The one question put to Google’s Bard AI program, which was designed to rival Microsoft’s ChatGPT. In response, Bard stated the JWST took the very first pictures of an exoplanet, which was incorrect. The first image of an exoplanet can be seen above, taken by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope back in 2004. The exoplanet, called 2M1207 b, is a gas giant about five times the mass of Jupiter. Following the erroneous feedback, the stock of Google’s parent Alphabet dropped about $100 billion in value. Below is an image from another exoplanet spotted by the JWST last year, called HIP 65426 b, which is about six to eight times the mass of Jupiter.

Image (Credit): First direct image of an exoplanet by the JWST. The exoplanet, called HIP 65426 b, is about 6 to 8 times the mass of Jupiter and only 15 to 20 million years old. The Earth is about 4.5-billion-year-old Earth. (NASA/ESA/CSA, A Carter (UCSC), the ERS 1386 team, and A. Pagan (STScI))