Heavens

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The most detailed map of the Moon ever created has revealed never-before-seen craters at the lunar poles.

The map is also revealing secrets about the Moon's interior -- and hinting about Mars's interior as well.

C.K. Shum, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University, is part of the international research team that published the map in the February 13 issue of the journal Science.

The large and beautiful image displays the full variety of this impressive skyscape, spattered with clusters of young stars, large nebulae of dust and gas, dust pillars, globules, and adorned by one of the Universe's most impressive binary stars. It was produced by combining exposures through six different filters from the Wide Field Imager (WFI), attached to the 2.2 m ESO/MPG telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory, in Chile.

The images, produced by scientists at Durham University's Institute for Computational Cosmology, show the "Cosmic Dawn" - the formation of the first big galaxies in the Universe.

The Cosmic Dawn began as galaxies began to form out of the debris of massive stars which died explosively shortly after the beginning of the Universe. The Durham calculation predicts where these galaxies appear and how they evolve to the present day, over 13 billion years later.

WASHINGTON -- Astronomers using NASA's Swift satellite and Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope are seeing frequent blasts from a stellar remnant 30,000 light-years away. The high-energy fireworks arise from a rare type of neutron star known as a soft-gamma-ray repeater. Such objects unpredictably send out a series of X-ray and gamma-ray flares.

Astronomers today celebrated the formal acceptance of the first North American antenna by the Joint ALMA Observatory. ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, is a gathering armada of short-wavelength radio telescopes whose combined power will enable astronomers to probe with unprecedented sharpness phenomena and regions that are beyond the reach of visible-light telescopes. The observatory is being assembled high in the Chilean Andes by a global partnership.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 – Future telescopes, with mirrors half the size of a football field, will need special components to deal with the light they collect. Astronomers are turning to photonic devices that guide and manipulate light inside specially-designed materials. The greatest potential, which is described in the latest issue of Optics Express, the Optical Society's (OSA) open-access journal, may lie in a laser-based technique that carves out micron-sized light pathways in three dimensions.

Galaxies, including our own Milky Way, consist of hundreds of billions of stars. How did such gigantic galactic systems come into being? Did a central region with stars first form then with time grow? Or did the stars form at the same time throughout the entire galaxy? An international team led by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy is now much closer to being able to answer these questions.

The Coma Galaxy Cluster, in the northern constellation of Coma Berenices, the hair of Queen Berenice, is one of the closest very rich collections of galaxies in the nearby Universe. The cluster, also known as Abell 1656, is about 320 million light-years from Earth and contains more than 1000 members. The brightest galaxies, including NGC 4921 shown here, were discovered back in the late 18th century by William Herschel.

ESA is now gearing up to return to Russia to oversee preparations for the launch of its GOCE satellite – now envisaged for launch on 16 March 2009. This follows implementation of the corrective measures after the anomaly with the Rockot launcher that delayed the launch of GOCE by Eurockot Launch Services last October.

An advance party from ESA has just arrived at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia to arrange logistical matters while the team of engineers will arrive in mid-February.

India's first national Astronomy satellite- Astrosat- is to have key components assembled by the University of Leicester,

A team of engineers from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, has arrived at the University of Leicester's Space Research Centre to progress work on the satellite which is due for launch in 2009.

The team, who will be in Leicester until Friday 6th February, will work on the next phase of the mission, when hardware manufactured in India arrives in Leicester for inspection, testing and assembly into a space qualified X-ray camera.

COROT has found the smallest terrestrial planet ever detected outside the Solar System. The amazing planet is less than twice the size of Earth and orbits a Sun-like star. Its temperature is so high that it is possibly covered in lava or water vapour.

About 330 exoplanets have been discovered so far, most of which are gas giants with characteristics similar to Jupiter and Neptune.

The CoRoT satellite has discovered a planet only twice as large as the Earth orbiting a star slightly smaller than the Sun. It is the smallest extrasolar planet (planet outside our solar system) whose radius has ever been measured. The planet's composition is not yet certain, but it is probably made predominantly of rock and water. It orbits its host star in 20 hours, which is the shortest orbital period of all exoplanets found so far. Astronomers infer its temperature must be so high (over 1000 degrees C) that it should be covered in lava or superheated water vapour.

A pair of astronomers from Texas and Germany have used a telescope at The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory together with Hubble Space Telescope and many other telescopes around the world to uncover new evidence that the largest, most massive galaxies in the universe and the supermassive black holes at their hearts grew together over time.

Nanotechnologist Chris Lodewijk has succeeded in significantly increasing the sensitivity of the new supertelescopes in Chile. He will receive his PhD on this topic at Delft University of Technology on Monday 2 February.

Centaurus A is our nearest giant galaxy, at a distance of about 13 million light-years in the southern constellation of Centaurus. It is an elliptical galaxy, currently merging with a companion spiral galaxy, resulting in areas of intense star formation and making it one of the most spectacular objects in the sky. Centaurus A hosts a very active and highly luminous central region, caused by the presence of a supermassive black hole (see ESO 04/01), and is the source of strong radio and X-ray emission.