Interesting Astronomy Stories of 2009: April/May/June
International Year of Astronomy
The International Year of Astronomy continues with stories from April through June.
The Hubble Space Telescope receives its final servicing. The shuttle Atlantis astronauts repaired two inactive instruments, installed two new ones and gave Hubble a major overhaul that will keep it working into 2014. They also installed a soft capture device to make it easier for a robotic spacecraft to attach to Hubble and guide it safely back to Earth when it comes time to retire the telescope.
The Swift satellite found a gamma-ray burst from a star that died when the universe was 640 million years old. It was the most distant explosion ever seen. It was also the most distant object ever discovered.
A NASA spacecraft discovered an impact basin, called Rembrandt, about 430 miles in diameter on the surface of Mercury. It was also the first time scientists had seen such well-exposed terrain on such a large impact basin floor.
ESA’s XMM-Newton space borne observatory has probed closer than ever to the edge of a super-massive black hole in the center of a distant galaxy. Observations reveal the black hole is spinning so rapidly and eating matter so quickly that is may be consuming the equivalent of two Earth’s per hour!
A 50 year-old method for finding exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) found its first exoplanet. The star VB10 is located 20 light-years away in the constellation Aquila and is the smallest known star with an orbiting planet. The planet named VB 10b is a gas giant with a mass 6 times greater than our Jupiter and its orbit is the same distance away from its star as Mercury is from the our Sun.
The New Jersey Institute of Technology unveiled a new 1.6 meter aperture solar telescope, the largest solar telescope in the world. This instrument will allow better observations of dynamic storms and space weather which could have significant effects on Earth.
More Interesting Stories of 2009:
My source for the stories I chose for each month is Astronomy Magazine Newsletters. Pictures came from various sources and are noted below each picture.