Mar 3, 2020 - Science

NASA spacecraft snaps a fortuitous shot of a black hole 30,000 light-years away

Gif: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/MIT/Harvard

Sometimes the best photos are taken by accident. NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was exploring an asteroid not far from Earth when it unexpectedly caught sight of a black hole 30,000 light-years away.

What they found: OSIRIS-REx detected the black hole using an instrument designed to measure the effect solar particles are having on its target asteroid, Bennu.

  • The spacecraft was able to spot the black hole as it ate material from its companion star, causing the system to glow in X-ray light.
  • Japan's MAXI telescope first discovered the black hole system — named MAXI J0637-430 — in November 2019, with NASA's NICER also detecting the X-rays emitted by the binary not long after.

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Earth adopted a new "mini-moon"

Gemini Observatory's image of 2020 CD3. Photo: NSF/AURA/G. Fedorets

A likely "mini-moon" found orbiting Earth last month is moving away from our planet now, but it could be a harbinger of new small moons to come.

Why it matters: Objects like this one — which is thought to be a washing machine-sized asteroid captured by Earth's gravity — could allow scientists to one day study space rocks without needing to head all the way out to the asteroid belt.

Go deeperArrowMar 3, 2020 - Science

Iron rain on an alien world

Artist's illustration of the iron rain. Photo: ESO/M. Kornmesser

A telescope in Chile has found a world 640 light-years from Earth that rains liquid iron, adding to the strange tapestry of planets far from our own.

Why it matters: The more that scientists understand about planets circling other stars, the closer they get to finding out just how unique (or common) our solar system — and therefore life — is.

Go deeperArrowMar 17, 2020 - Science

Curiosity rover captures a Martian panorama

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The hiking on Mars must be pretty sweet. A new panoramic image taken by NASA's Curiosity shows the mountains of the Red Planet in all their glory.

Why it matters: The 1.8-billion-pixel panorama is the highest-resolution photo of its kind taken by Curiosity so far.

Go deeperArrowMar 10, 2020 - Science