Space is filled with types of light we can’t see — from infrared signals released by hot stars and galaxies, to the cosmic microwave background. Some of this invisible light that fills space takes the form of X-rays, the source of which has been hotly contended over the past few decades. A new study confirms some ideas about where these X-rays come from, shedding light on our solar neighborhood’s early history. But it also reveals a new mystery — an entire group of X-rays that don’t come from any known source.
A black hole destroying a star, an event astronomers call ‘stellar tidal disruption,’ releases an enormous amount of energy, brightening the surroundings in an event called a flare. Two new studies characterize tidal disruption flares by studying how surrounding dust absorbs and re-emits their light, like echoes. This approach allowed scientists to measure the energy of flares from stellar tidal disruption events more precisely than ever before.
Scientists using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have made the first detections of X-rays from Pluto. These observations offer new insight into the space environment surrounding the largest and best-known object in the solar system’s outermost regions.
For the first time, scientists have directly mapped Earth’s fluctuating magnetic field and resulting electrical currents to aurora, thanks to northern lights observations from NASA’s THEMIS mission.
Early in the morning of Sept. 1, 2016, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, caught both Earth and the moon crossing in front of the sun. SDO keeps a constant eye on the sun, but during SDO’s semiannual eclipse seasons, Earth briefly blocks SDO’s line of sight each day — a consequence of SDO’s geosynchronous orbit.
Ever since the 1950s discovery of the solar wind — the constant flow of charged particles from the Sun — there’s been a stark disconnect between this outpouring and the sun itself. The details of the transition from defined rays in the corona, the sun’s upper atmosphere, to the solar wind have been, until now, a mystery.