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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
Astronomers have found indirect evidence of a new type of black hole, and they're now making advances toward seeing one for the first time.
Why it matters: Known as intermediate-mass black holes, these mysterious objects could be the key to unlocking how galaxies evolved, revealing more about why our universe looks the way it does.
The big picture: Black holes are an extreme laboratory by which sweeping theories can be put to the test.
Details: Scientists think intermediate-mass black holes may exist, but it's not clear how they form or where exactly they might be hiding today.
"If you have a small and a large, it's weird to just not have the medium."— NASA astronomer Varoujan Gorjian told Axios
Where it stands: Astronomers have found dozens of possible intermediate-mass black holes, yet none have been confirmed.
Yes, but: If they do collide, intermediate-mass black holes likely produce strong gravitational waves at a frequency that competes with seismic activities on Earth — like cars driving by or waves crashing on the shore — making them harder for LIGO and Virgo to distinguish.
What's next: The European Space Agency's LISA mission — expected to launch in the mid-2030s — will be able to measure mergers between intermediate-mass black holes even in the distant universe, hopefully giving scientists an answer to the mystery once and for all.
SpaceX's uncrewed Crew Dragon mission at launch. Photo: SpaceX
Boeing and SpaceX — tasked with building spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station for NASA — are not likely to launch people to orbit before the end of the year.
Why it matters: The Commercial Crew program is tasked with ending NASA's reliance on Russia's Soyuz rocket but has faced technical delays and budget shortfalls for years, leaving the space agency dependent on Russia's spaceflight capabilities.
Details: SpaceX suffered a setback earlier this year when one of its Crew Dragon vehicles exploded during a ground test.
Between the lines: NASA wants to give SpaceX and Boeing flexibility in their flight schedules in the name of safety.
The intrigue: NASA currently spends more than $80 million per seat for astronauts to fly to the station aboard Russian Soyuz rockets, with the final purchased flight expected to launch in March 2020.
What to watch: Bridenstine recently questioned whether SpaceX is focused on the Commercial Crew program and is set to visit the company's headquarters in California on Thursday to check in on its progress.
Jupiter as seen by Juno. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill
NASA's Juno spacecraft has a new lease on life thanks to a 10.5-hour maneuver to keep the Jupiter-studying probe out of the huge planet's shadow.
Why it matters: Without the maneuver, Juno's mission would have likely ended when the spacecraft entered Jupiter's shadow in November, plunging the bus-sized probe into darkness for about 12 hours, draining its solar-charged batteries.
Details: Mission managers used Juno's reaction-control thrusters to shift the spacecraft's orbital velocity by 126 mph, according to NASA.
What's next: Juno will continue to gather data about Jupiter's atmosphere, weather — including giant polar cyclones — and interior during its 53-day orbits.
Intelligent ways to search for extraterrestrials (Adam Mann, The New Yorker)
Swarm of tiny satellites could relay messages by year’s end (Debra Werner, Space News)
Starship updates could use more details on human health and survival (Loren Grush, The Verge)
NASA's 1st all-female spacewalk planned for this month (Axios)
Scientists win Nobel Prize in physics for work with exoplanets, cosmology (Axios)
Saturn as seen by Cassini in 2017. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SScI
Scientists have found 20 never-before-seen moons orbiting Saturn, making it the planet with the most known moons in our solar system.
Details: The new moons are each about 3 miles across, and 17 of them orbit the ringed planet in retrograde — going the opposite direction of Saturn's rotation, according to an announcement from Carnegie Science.
Go deeper: Enter a contest to help name the newly discovered moons from now until Dec. 6.
Photo: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Alves et al.
Two young stars are being born from turbulent disks of gas and dust in a new photo taken by the ALMA telescope in Chile.
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