A newly imaged black hole shines in the Milky Way, the Webb telescope’s plan in the last stage of commissioning, and controversy arises about communicating with aliens. These are some of the top stories this week from Space.com.
Sagittarius A* in all its glory
Historic new images of the black hole in the Milky Way released Thursday (May 12), the first ever obtained of Sagittarius A*, reveal some key differences when compared with M87’s black hole. Both were obtained by the Event Horizon Telescope and show how much the supermassive black holes differ in size and activity.
Webb’s final weeks of commissioning will include some new tricks
After the James Webb Space Telescope released a stunning new picture of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way, investigators charted the path forward for the $10 billion telescope in the coming months. Webb will be tested like never before, slewing across hot and cold attitudes to track faster-moving objects.
Should Earth reveal its location to aliens? It’s complicated.
Two teams of astronomers plan to send messages into space to attempt communicate with any intelligent aliens who may be out there listening. But there are numerous worries about the ethics, ranging from the type of message that we should be sending to whether it is a good idea to discuss our location to strangers in the first place.
Sally Ride just got a new statue
The first American woman to ride in space is getting a new monument. The Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York will host a statue featuring Sally Ride, a NASA astronaut and one of a handful of known LGBTQ+ flyers. The statue of the late astronaut will be honored during a public ceremony on June 17, a day before the 39th anniversary of Ryan’s first launch.
Ingenuity Mars helicopter in recovery from a power issue
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) came back into contact with the Ingenuity Mars helicopter on May 5. Dust on its solar panels is the factor behind it missing an expected call about two days before with the Perseverance Mars rover that relays its commands, the agency reported May 6.
‘Invisible’ frost and dust avalanches come to light on Mars
Scientists may have finally figured out why Mars has so much frost only visible in infrared light, instead of visible. Scientists suggest that the frost may be camouflaged by dust, based on data from NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter.
DARPA wants to test nuclear moon technology in 2026
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced it is looking for proposals May 4 to further develop a nuclear thermal rocket engine for an expected flight demonstration in Earth orbit by 2026. It’s part of the U.S. military’s larger push to keep an eye on cislunar (Earth-moon) space.
A Marsquake-hunting spacecraft just recorded its largest tremble
NASA’s InSight lander detected a magnitude 5 quake on the surface of Mars on May 4, which easily overtakes the previous record-holder, a 4.2-magnitude quake from August 2021. The newly measured Marsquake is the strongest such trembling recorded on any other planet but Earth.
China seeks ‘Earth 2.0’ with a proposed telescope
China plans to send an Earth 2.0 Telescope aloft to search for new exoplanets, if a proposal from the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory is approved. Plans call for the spacecraft to search for dimming of stars as planets transit across them, from sun-Earth Lagrange point 2, about 930,000 miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth.
A cosmological mystery may have a gravitational explanation
The strength of gravity may have changed as the universe evolved, a physicist proposes in a new paper. The model, described in a paper published in the preprint database arXiv, discusses the effect on the universe’s expansion, particularly a very rapid period of growth in its early history.