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What I missed: Juice, supernova origins, Vesta’s secrets and an invisible exoplanet

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Cosmic dust close to Orion's belt. Credit: ESO/APEX (MPIfR/ESO/OSO)/T. Stanke et al./Igor Chekalin/Digitized Sky Survey 2

I took a couple of weeks off blogging while I had my exams at the start of the month. This is what I missed.

ESA has approved a billion-euro mission to Jupiter’s icy moons, called Juice (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer). The spacecraft will (hopefully) launch in 2022 and reach Jupiter eight years later in 2030. When it gets there it will first fly by Europa a couple of times before moving out to higher latitudes to look down on the poles and magnetic field of Jupiter, before slowing down to study the subsurface ocean and geology of Ganymede. The BBC has a nice round up of the announcement with a few of interviews, including one with Imperial’s own Michele Dougherty.

Also at the BBC, Jonathan Amos dons clean room gear to go and have a look at the Mid-Infrared Instrument (Miri) for the James Webb Space Telescope, before it gets shipped to NASA.

The origin of a type of stellar explosion known as a type 1a supernova (that has been catching my eye for a while now) has been cleared up a little, or muddied further, depending on which way you look at it. Apparently, both explanations that have been put forward to explain the impressive death of certain stars could be right. I might write a longer post about this, if I get the time.

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft revealed that asteroid Vesta is a survivor of the formation of planets in the early solar system, and plenty more to boot.

Kepler finds an invisible exoplanet. Or rather, researchers detected it based on its interactions with other planets, they didn’t “see” it directy. Also, check out the last author’s affiliation on the paper that announced the result.

A beautiful time lapse of Iceland and its midnight sun that just won the Grand Prize in the X Prize Foundation’s video contest “Why Do You Explore?”. And a beautiful picture of some cosmic dust.

Finally, a little self promotion: With some fellow masters students, I’m co-running a radio show on Imperial’s student radio station. I was there on Wednesday talking about the not-so-supermoon you might have seen the other weekend. You can listen to past episodes here or listen live every Wednesday from 12-1 London time. Check it out if you like science and/or people messing up on live radio!

Did anything else notable happen while I wasn’t looking?

Kelly Oakes About the Author: Kelly Oakes has a master's in science communication and a physics degree, both from Imperial College London. Now she spends her days writing about science. Follow on Twitter @kahoakes.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. jtdwyer 2:42 am 05/14/2012

    Regarding the conditions that might produce type Ia supernovae, the source research report abstract concludes:
    “An additional implication is that either SN Ia progenitor systems have highly asymmetric outflows that are also aligned with the SN explosion or SNe Ia come from a variety of progenitor systems where SNe Ia from systems with strong outflows tend to have more kinetic energy per unit mass than those from systems with weak or no outflows.”

    Foley et al, (2012), “Linking Type Ia Supernova Progenitors and their Resulting Explosions”, http://arxiv.org/abs/1203.2916

    Wouldn’t “SNe Ia from systems with strong outflows tend to have more kinetic energy per unit mass than those from systems with weak or no outflows” infer that the true peak emission luminosity of Ia SNe are NOT consistent?

    Also, for Ia SNe produced from a white dwarf’s accretion of material from a main sequence companion star, might not their peak emission luminosity also vary depending on the metalicity of such stars, which varies with distance and the age of the universe?

    While the consistent peak emission luminosity of nearby Ia SNe peak have been verified, as I understand it’s not possible to evaluate high-z SNe… If there is variation, particularly with distance, wouldn’t the conclusion that universal expansion is accelerating be invalidated?

    Link to this
  2. 2. jtdwyer 2:50 am 05/14/2012

    Also, while it’s been nearly a month now, didn’t you and everyone else associated with SA miss:

    “Serious Blow to Dark Matter Theories?”, http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1217/

    The announcement was also covered in news reports at Nature and many other sites…

    “Survey finds no hint of dark matter near Solar System”, http://www.nature.com/news/survey-finds-no-hint-of-dark-matter-near-solar-system-1.10494

    Link to this
  3. 3. Kelly Oakes in reply to Kelly Oakes 5:59 am 05/14/2012

    I did mention the dark matter (or lack thereof) in a quick roundup a few weeks ago, but didn’t have anything especially to add so didn’t go into it further. I’m not sure if it was covered elsewhere on SA.

    On the supernovae, you’ve identified the main reason why people care about this stuff so much – type Ia supernovae are used as a rung on the cosmic distance ladder. As far as I know, nobody is too worried about the accelerating universe at the moment (there’s a good discussion here), but, as is always the case, only time will tell…

    Link to this
  4. 4. jtdwyer 8:05 am 05/14/2012

    Kelly Oakes – Sorry I missed the ‘missing matter’ mention…

    Thanks much for the very good blog link!

    Link to this

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