Researchers at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics love a good pair of merging white dwarfs, but their most recent discovery of an orbiting pair is interesting beyond just being a galactic rarity. This new pair is the fastest orbiting pair of white dwarfs ever seen, completing an orbit every 39 minutes. What's more, in several million years their orbits will decay to the point that they collide, merge, and are reborn as a single star.
On March 19th, the moon will be closer to Earth than it's been since 1992. The full moon that night will appear about 14 percent larger and significantly brighter than usual, but despite the brightness, the supermoon has a dark side. Supermoons have been linked to massive natural disasters in the past, from earthquakes to floods--but that connection is typically touted by astrologists. Astronomers and scientists, with typical drollness, say a catastrophe is unlikely.
As astronomers continue mining data from the Kepler telescope, the planetary peculiarities keep on coming. We've already seen the smallest rocky world, 54 planets in a Goldilocks comfort zone around their stars, and even the possibility of planets sharing the same orbit.
In a cosmic first, the Kepler telescope has discovered two planets sharing the same orbit. There is a theory that says our moon was created when a body sharing our orbit crashed into Earth, but up until now no one had found evidence of co-orbiting planets elsewhere in the universe.
Space is getting pretty crowded -- there are a couple thousand satellites orbiting Earth, not to mention destroyed-satellite debris and at least one zombiesat. Adding new ones is increasingly difficult, because there's only so much room for satellites to sit in specific, geostationary orbits.
A theory first proposed by a physicist/science fiction writer may provide a solution. In a new study, engineers from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland claim to have worked out a system of displaced orbits, first proposed in 1984 by American physicist Robert Forward.
Every now and again someone raises a stern warning about the amount of space junk orbiting Earth. Those warnings are usually met with general indifference, as very few of us own satellites or travel regularly to low Earth orbit.
Remember that zombiesat that stopped taking commands from the ground last month? It's plodding toward its first potential victim, a television satellite called AMC-11. As a result that satellite's operator, SES World Skies, is choreographing an intricate, unprecedented orbital maneuver that will shift AMC-11 out of harm's way and bring in a second satellite behind the wandering Galaxy 15, which lost touch with handlers on Earth on April 5.
"A maneuver of this nature and complexity -- I'm not aware of anyone having done this before," the chief technology officer of SES told the BBC.