Bright deposits, at least one of which is made up of water ice, are detected in the permanent shadows of 10 craters in the northern polar area of the dwarf planet Ceres. This means that Ceres traps water ice at high latitudes, like the Moon and Mercury.
First year anniversary collection
In January 2017, we published the first issue of Nature Astronomy, a new journal for the astronomy, astrophysics and planetary science communities. Nature Astronomy was launched with the aim of bridging these communities, publishing significant and novel results, while also offering a platform for community-focused pieces, comments, perspectives and reviews. During our first year, we published papers covering a diverse array of topics ranging from the Sun, planets of our Solar system, exoplanets, stars, galaxies, black holes, cosmology, instrumentation and everything in between. In this Collection, we showcase some of this content, divided into four broad categories according to topic. We look forward to another exciting year ahead of us.
Sign in to your nature.com account for free access to content in this Collection*. If you do not have a nature.com account, you can register for one here.
*All articles in the ‘Community’ and ‘Mission Control’ sections are free to access for nature.com registrants for a limited time.
From planets to our Galaxy
The New Horizons spacecraft performed a flyby of Pluto and its system in July 2015, providing more than 50 Gb of high-resolution images and data that transformed our view and understanding of the dwarf planet. This Review summarizes its main discoveries.
Images from ESA's Rosetta mission show, in real time, the processes that sculpt the surface of a comet, which is revealed to have a pristine icy interior surrounded by an evolved surface.
The Sun is a magnetically active rotating star. Simultaneous observations with the STEREO and SDO space missions reveal solar analogues of planetary Rossby waves that will help forecast space weather.
A previously unidentified class of variable stars has been found in OGLE survey data, characterized by periodic brightness variations on ~30-min timescales, amplitudes of ~0.3 mag and temperatures of ~30,000 K. They are potentially evolved low-mass stars.
The first extraterrestrial detections of a member of the organohalogen family of molecules have been made towards comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko and low-mass protostar IRAS 16293-2422. Chloromethane, considered to be a biomarker, can form efficiently abiotically.
Orbital parameters for the seventh Earth-sized transiting planet around star TRAPPIST-1 are reported, along with an investigation into the complex three-body resonances linking every member of this planetary system.
As scientists, the terminology we choose influences our thinking as it carries our messages to colleagues and the public. In the face of pressure to turn science into clickbait, maintaining precision in the language we use is critical to dispel misinformation and, more broadly, to enable scientific progress.
Atmospheres within the Solar System are known to exhibit seasonal changes. Observations with the Kepler spacecraft hint at analogous periodic weather variations in an exoplanet atmosphere.
The authors present evidence that the lunar soil contains oxygen ions from Earth that escape our atmosphere and reach the Moon through the Earth’s magnetospheric wind. The lunar surface possibly contains clues about the history of Earth’s atmosphere.
We have found many Earth-sized worlds but we have no way of determining if their surfaces are Earth-like. This makes it impossible to quantitatively compare habitability, and pretending we can risks damaging the field.
Can the recent Discovery mission selections be used as tea leaves to understand the future directions of NASA? In an age of many programmes being used to advance administrative and programmatic goals, Discovery appears to be driven almost entirely by science and by NASA's goal of cheaper missions.
A bright outburst of activity from the nucleus of comet 67P, observed by Rosetta in July 2015, is traced back to a cliff that partially collapsed at the same time as the outburst, establishing a link between the two events. The collapse has also exposed the fresh ice present under the surface.
The detection of temporal variations in the peak of the phase curve of the hot giant exoplanet HAT-P-7 b is explained by changes in wind speed and cloud coverage in its atmosphere. Such ‘weather’ has never before been observed on a giant exoplanet.
Planetary nebulae, traditionally seen as an endpoint of single stars, exhibit a variety of morphologies that cannot be explained in a single-star scenario. It is becoming clearer that perhaps even the majority of planetary nebulae result from binary interactions.
On the 50th anniversary of the discovery of pulsars Jocelyn Bell Burnell reflects on their detection, our current understanding of these stars and the new era of discovery ushered in by next-generation radio observatories.
The authors put together measurements of ions and neutral atoms from Cassini and the two Voyagers and find that the heliosphere responds quickly (with a lag of 2–3 years) to the solar cycle and that it is bubble-shaped and not tail-shaped, as usually schematized.
The authors detect hard X-ray emission produced by plasma heated at ≥10 million kelvin from a quiescent active region of the Sun, providing clear observational evidence of plasma heating by nanoflares, and hinting at their important role in coronal heating.
Black holes absorb everything and emit nothing, yet relativistic jets of plasma are observed to emanate from systems hosting accreting black holes. We now know exactly how far from the black hole these processes take place.
An elevation of 0.1 light-seconds for the optical jet base in an accreting Galactic black hole system
A delay between rapid optical and X-ray flux variations from an accreting black-hole binary is reported together with a brightening radio jet, indicating a characteristic elevation of the radiative jet base of 0.1 light-seconds above the black hole.
Global-scale Rossby waves develop in planets’ atmospheres and influence their weather. Now, similar waves, driven by magnetism, are unambiguously detected on the Sun. They can possibly help the forecasting of solar activity and related space weather.
Chloromethane (CH3Cl) has been observed towards a low-mass protostar and comet 67P, making it the first organohalogen detected in space. The species was previously considered to be a biomarker, but the authors suggest viable alternative abiotic formation routes.
Beyond the Milky Way
The motion of the Local Group is due to the gravitational pull of nearby concentrations of galaxies and clusters — superclusters — but the push from a giant underdense region may be just as important.
The detection and characterization of a large-scale ordered magnetic field through a gravitational lens in a galaxy beyond the local volume allows us to elucidate how such magnetic fields come about, supporting a mean-field dynamo origin.
The detection of a tailed radio galaxy in a galaxy cluster conjoined to a region of diffuse radio emission confirms that radio galaxies provide the energetic electrons needed to explain the origin of this enigmatic emission.
The detection of gravitational waves is the culmination of many decades of persistent theoretical, observational and engineering work. While heralded as surprising, that the first detected wavescame from binary black holes was indeed theoretically expected.
The acceptance of dark matter came slowly despite its abundance. Jaco de Swart and colleagues reconstruct the history of how dark matter brought astronomers to cosmology in their Review Article, which is part of the Insight on dark matter.
From the first hints of unseen matter in the Universe to the present body of evidence for dark matter, James Peebles outlines the significant developments in observation and theory in the 1970s in this Insight Perspective.
The biggest black holes in the Universe were in place soon after the Big Bang. Explaining how they formed so rapidly is a daunting challenge, but the latest simulations give clues to how this may have occurred.
Black holes grow by accreting mass, but the process is messy and redistributes gas and energy into their environments. New evidence shows that magnetic processes mediate both the accretion and ejection of matter.
Quantifying the effect of active galactic nuclei (AGNs) on their hosts requires knowledge of their life cycle. This review on AGN archaeology summarizes the main recent findings regarding the AGN life cycle from optical and radio observations.
Orbiting supermassive black holes in the centres of nearby galaxies contribute to a gravitational-wave background over the whole sky. Networks of millisecond pulsars are sensitive to this signal. Creating maps of this background using information from known galaxies can help us to project when (and how) we may observe it.
Early observations of the flaring object ASASSN-15lh led astronomers to cast it as the most luminous supernova ever. Now, convincing evidence indicates that this object is not as it seemed. In fact, fitting it into any known box is a challenge.
The destruction of stars by supermassive black holes appears to be rarer than predicted. A candidate stellar disruption in a kind of galaxy that is usually obscured may explain why.
The presence of a large underdensity, the dipole repeller, is predicted based on a study of the velocity field of our Local Group of galaxies. The combined effects of this super-void and the Shapley concentration control the local cosmic flow.
The first detection of electromagnetic emission from a gravitational wave source bridges the gap between one of the most energetic phenomena in the Universe and their dark, difficult to detect progenitors.
Multi-wavelength data from a cluster–cluster merger reveals that relativistic electrons ejected from near an actively accreting black hole are efficiently re-accelerated at a cluster shock to produce characteristically diffuse radio emission.
We calculate the continuous nanohertz gravitational-wave emission from individual supermassive black hole binaries and the gravitational-wave background they generate, which will be observable with pulsar timing arrays.
Transient object ASASSN-15lh was previously cast as the most luminous supernova ever discovered. Now, however, there is convincing evidence that its flare was a tidal disruption event: a rapidly-spinning black hole tearing apart a neighbouring star.
We are at an interesting juncture in cosmology. Despite vast improvements in the measurement accuracy of the Hubble constant, a recent tension has arisen that is either signalling new physics or as-yet unrecognized uncertainties.
The discovery of groups of dwarf galaxies in extremely isolated environments provides direct observational evidence of hierarchical assembly at small galactic scales.
A time-dependent dark energy component of the Universe may be able to explain tensions between local and primordial measurements of cosmological parameters, shaking current confidence in the concept of a cosmological ‘constant’.
Our currently accepted model of a hierarchically growing, dark-matter dominated Universe predicts rare isolated groups of dwarf galaxies. The discovery of seven such systems may point to the building blocks of present-day intermediate-mass galaxies.
A faint galaxy has been detected in the very early Universe thanks to deep observations and a massive cluster gravitationally magnifying its emission. One out of only five such galaxies known, this detection constrains how the Universe was reionized.
Recent observations reveal tension between various cosmological probes. Assuming dark energy to be non-constant, depending on redshift, may relieve this tension. The Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument survey will be able to confirm this result.
Scientists are comfortable in their own communities but other groups working on similar phenomena at different length scales could provide unexpected insights. Collaborations are more likely to uncover common underlying principles.
Gender discrimination is very much an issue in academia generally and in astronomy specifically. Through machine learning techniques, astronomy papers authored by women are shown to have 10% systematically fewer citations than those authored by men.
We all harbour subconscious expectations about people based on their apparent membership of groups, such as gender, ethnicity or age. Research shows that these expectations can lead us to undervalue some people's contributions, inhibiting their success and thus negatively impacting our entire field.
Through involvement in CHIME, ALMA, the Jansky VLA and the Murchison Widefield Array, Canada is well placed in current radio astronomy facilities and the future looks even brighter, with strategic interest in the SKA and the Next Generation VLA.
Using a sample of more than 200,000 publications over a 65-year period, it is found that astronomy papers led by women receive 10% fewer citations than those led by men, consistent with studies in other related disciplines.
US astronomy decadal surveys advise government on how to optimize the scientific return on national investments in astronomy research. The 2020 survey will guide our community into the future, but current strains in an otherwise world-leading astronomy programme may affect this collective exercise.
Neil Gehrels passed away on 6 February 2017. A pioneer of observational high-energy astrophysics, he was an exceptional leader, scholar, colleague and friend.
Following the completion of the largest single-dish radio telescope ever built, the real work may now begin, explain Rendong Nan and Haiyan Zhang.
Using a radio telescope with no moving parts, the dark energy speeding up the expansion of the Universe can be probed in unprecedented detail, says Keith Vanderlinde, on behalf of the CHIME collaboration.
From near-Earth asteroids to superluminous supernovae and gravitational wave counterparts, the Zwicky Transient Facility will soon scan for transient phenomena, explain Eric Bellm and Shrinivas Kulkarni.
It's not often that an astronomical object gets its own dedicated observatory, but as the planet Beta Pictoris b moves in front of its host star, its every move will be watched by bRing, eager to discover more about the planet's Hill sphere, explains Matthew Kenworthy.
Woken from the deep sleep of a hibernated spacecraft, NEOWISE now monitors the population of near-Earth objects for science and Earth protection purposes, explains Principal Investigator Amy Mainzer.
ALMA's Band 1 receivers will open up the 7 mm window to the 66 antennas on Chajnantor Plateau. Oscar Morata and Ted Huang relate the expected delivery schedule and science goals for these instruments.
NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter has just returned its early science results after spending a year orbiting the ‘King of the Solar System’. Principal Investigator Scott Bolton summarizes what we have learnt.
NASA's New Horizons mission to the outer Solar System has revolutionized our understanding of the Pluto–Charon system. But, Richard P. Binzel explains, this is only half the story of this intrepid spacecraft, as it voyages even further through the Kuiper Belt.
The NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini–Huygens mission ends in a ‘Grand Finale’ this month, after 13 years in orbit around Saturn. The ESA and NASA JPL project scientists Nicolas Altobelli, Linda J. Spilker and Scott G. Edgington give an overview of the last moments of Cassini’s operational lifetime.
The Event Horizon Telescope, an Earth-sized interferometer, aims to capture an image of a black hole’s event horizon to test the theory of general relativity and probe accretion processes, explains project director Shep Doeleman.
The Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer telescope will provide a rapid response to gravitational wave event triggers in order to locate optical counterparts for subsequent multi-wavelength follow-up, explains Danny Steeghs.
The Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) is looking for neutron stars and pulsars from its perch on the International Space Station. Keith Gendreau and Zaven Arzoumanian provide an overview of its capabilities.
Forty years ago, the two Voyager spacecraft left Earth to begin one of the most rewarding voyages of human discovery ever to have been undertaken. Project Scientist Ed Stone recounts his treasured moments from the mission.