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JUICE launches to Jupiter and its moons. A new JWST image of supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. Machine learning cleans up the Universe, and improves images of a black hole’s event horizon. Terran 1 is dead, long live Terran R.

JUICE Launch

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JUICE is on its way to Jupiter’s Icy Moons. The mission launched on top of the Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. JUICE will now take 4 gravity assists (3 at Earth and one at Venus) to reach the Jupiter system. It will explore Ganymede, Calisto and Europa, mainly focusing on Ganymede – the largest moon in our solar system. However, for now, we will need to be patient. JUICE will arrive at its destination only in 2031.

Webb’s View of Supernova Remnant Cassiopeia A

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James Webb keeps producing stunning images of famous regions of space. This time we got a look at the Cassiopeia A, which is a remnant of a supernova explosion. It’s 11,000 lightyears away from us. But the object is rather big, approximately 10 lightyears across. As it always happens with Webb images, we have amazing details thanks to its size and resolution. And the IR spectrum helps to look into all the dust and clouds.

More about JWST’s view of Cassiopeia A

Machine Learning helps Astronomy

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AI has generated a lot of headlines lately with Chat GPT, Bing and other projects. But it’s not only about tech giants. With the help of machine learning algorithms, scientists enhanced the famous Event Horizon Telescope’s image of the M87 supermassive black hole. The algorithm they used is called PRIMO and it was trained on multiple simulations of black holes. As you can see, the result is a much sharper image with more details. It’s interesting how this approach can be used with other images.

More about AI enhancements

Telescopes Could Get Flexible Mirrors

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JWST was at the limit of what kind of telescope you can cram inside a standard rocket fairing. Much of the development costs went into making a powerful telescope that could unfold with the magic of origami. Researchers have created a paper-thin telescope mirror on a flexible sheet that can be rolled up and stowed into a rocket fairing. After launch, the telescope could be unrolled and shifted into a traditional parabolic shape to make astronomical observations.

More about flexible space mirrors

Terran-1 Is Dead. Long Live Terran-R!

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ARABSAT BADR-8 Mission Control Audio




This is the vehicle trajectory and mission control audio without any additional commentary. There may be very long periods of silence. For our full hosted webcast, visit

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When Black Holes Merge, They’ll Ring Like a Bell



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When two black holes collide, they don’t smash into each other the way two stars might. A black hole is an intensely curved region of space that can be described by only its mass, rotation, and electric charge, so two black holes release violent gravitational ripples as merge into a single black hole. The new black hole continues to emit gravitational waves until it settles down into a simple rotating black hole. That settling down period is known as the ring down, and its pattern holds clues to some of the deepest mysteries of gravitational physics.

Gravitational wave observatories such as the Laser Interferometry Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) have mostly focused on the inspiral period of black hole mergers. This is the period where the two black holes orbit ever closer to each other, creating a rhythmic stream of strong gravitational waves. From this astronomers can determine the mass and rotation of the original black holes, as well as the mass and rotation of the merged black hole. The pattern of gravitational waves we observe is governed by Einstein’s general relativity equations, and by matching observation to theory we learn about black holes.

General relativity describes gravity extremely well. Of all the gravitational tests we’ve done, they all agree with general relativity. But Einstein’s theory doesn’t play well with the other extremely accurate physical theory, quantum mechanics. Because of this, physicists have proposed modifications to general relativity that are more compatible with quantum theory. Under these modified theories, there are subtle differences in the way merged black holes ring down, but observing those differences hasn’t been possible. But a couple of new studies show how we might be able to observe them in the next LIGO run.

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The modified Teukolsky equation. Credit: Li, Dongjun, et al

In the first work, the team focused on what is known as the Teukolsky Equation. First proposed by Saul Teukolsky, the equations are an efficient way of analyzing gravitational waves. The equations only apply to classical general relativity, so the team developed a way to modify the equations for modified general relativity models. Since the solutions to both the Teukolsky and modified Teukolsky equations don’t require a massive supercomputer to solve, the team can compare black hole ring downs in various gravitational models.

The second work looks at how this would be done with LIGO data. Rather than focusing on general differences, this work focuses on what is known as the no-hair theorem. General relativity predicts that no matter how two black holes merge, the final merged black hole must be described by only mass, rotation, and charge. It can’t have any “hair”, or remnant features of the collision. In some modified versions of general relativity, black holes can have certain features, which would violate the no-hair theorem. In this second work, the authors show how this could be used to test general relativity against certain modified theories.

LIGO has just begun its latest observation run, so it will be a while before there is enough data to test. But we may soon have a new observational test of Einstein’s old theory, and we might just prove it isn’t the final theory of gravity after all.

Reference: Li, Dongjun, et al. “Perturbations of spinning black holes beyond General Relativity: Modified Teukolsky equation.” Physical Review X 13.2 (2022): 021029.

Reference: Ma, Sizheng, Ling Sun, and Yanbei Chen. “Black hole spectroscopy by mode cleaning.” Physical Review Letters 130.2 (2023): 141401.

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There’s a Polar Cyclone on Uranus’ North Pole



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Uranus takes 84 years to orbit the Sun, and so that last time that planet’s north polar region was pointed at Earth, radio telescope technology was in its infancy.

But now, scientists have been using radio telescopes like the Very Large Array (VLA) the past few years as Uranus has slowly revealing more and more of its north pole. VLA microwave observations from 2021 and 2022 show a giant cyclone swirling around this region, with a bright, compact spot centered at Uranus’ pole. Data also reveals patterns in temperature, zonal wind speed and trace gas variations consistent with a polar cyclone.

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Uranus as seen by NASA’s Voyager 2. Credit: NASA/JPL

Scientists have long known that Uranus’ south pole has a swirling feature. When Voyager 2 flew past Uranus in 1986, it detected high wind speeds there. However, the way the planet was tilted did not allow Voyager to see the north pole.

But the VLA in New Mexico has now been studying Uranus the past several years, and observations collected in 2015, 2021, and 2022 were able to peer deep into Uranus’ atmosphere. The thermal emission data showed that circulating air at the north pole seems to be warmer and drier, which are the hallmarks of a strong cyclone.

“These observations tell us a lot more about the story of Uranus. It’s a much more dynamic world than you might think,” said Alex Akins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, who is lead author of a new study published in Geophysical Letters. “It isn’t just a plain blue ball of gas. There’s a lot happening under the hood.”

The researchers said the cyclone on Uranus is similar to the polar cyclones observed by the Cassini mission at Saturn. With the new findings, cyclones (which rotate in the same direction their planet rotates) or anti-cyclones (which rotate in the opposite direction) have now been identified at the poles on every planet in our solar system that has an atmosphere. The researchers said this confirms a broad truth that planets with substantial atmospheres – whether the worlds are made of rock or gas – all show signs of swirling vortexes at the poles.

Uranus’ north pole is now in springtime. As it continues into summer, astronomers hope to see even more changes in its atmosphere.

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