Pluto May Have Rings

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune all have rings, leaving Pluto as the only outer planet without rings. But PSI Senior Scientist Henry Throop would love to change that. Using both giant telescopes on Earth, and a small spacecraft currently on its way to Pluto, Throop is searching for signs that Pluto may have rings orbiting it, just like its neighbors. Astronomers expect that Pluto could well have rings, they’ve just never been discovered. Until now astronomers haven’t found any rings. Throop is working with NASA’s New Horizons mission, which is sending a spacecraft to Pluto, to arrive in 2015.

ALMA Result Reveals Starving Galaxies

Astronomers using the partially completed ALMA observatory have found compelling evidence for how star-forming galaxies evolve into ‘red and dead’ elliptical galaxies, catching a large group of galaxies right in the middle of this change. According to lead investigator Dr. Carol Lonsdale of the North American ALMA Science Center at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, Virginia, despite ALMA’s great sensitiviy to detecting starbursts, they saw nothing, or next to nothing, which is exactly what they hoped it would see. For these observations, ALMA was tuned to look for dust warmed by active star-forming regions.

European Space Agency Planck Spacecraft Finishes Its Mission

ESA officials announced that the High Frequency Instrument (HFI), one of two sensors aboard the European Space Agency’s Planck spacecraft, ran out of its vital coolant as planned on January 14. Without the coolant, the instrument can’t detect the faint cosmic microwave background (CMB), the remnant radiation left over from the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. According to researchers the instrument did its job, completing five full-sky surveys of the CMB since the spacecraft’s May 2009 launch. Planck’s mission called for a minimum of two such surveys. Researchers have already announced some initial results from the Planck mission.

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