News & Comment

  • Editorial |

    Before its demise, the Dawn spacecraft performed a series of low passes over the bright spots of dwarf planet Ceres. These high-resolution data highlight the nature of Ceres as an active ocean world with unique characteristics.

  • Comment |

    During the last 15 years the number of astronomy-related papers published by scientists in Venezuela has been continuously decreasing, mainly due to emigration. If rapid corrective actions are not implemented, professional astronomy in Venezuela could disappear.

    • Néstor Sánchez
  • News & Views |

    Secondary gas disks around main sequence stars may regenerate planetary atmospheres, potentially transforming desiccated rocky worlds into gas-enveloped sub-Neptunes that feature high metallicities and enhanced atmospheric C/O ratios.

    • Eve J. Lee
  • News & Views |

    Long believed to be a primitive body, Ceres is now an ocean world with deep brines at a regional and potentially global scale. Further studies at Ceres’s conditions and — above all — a follow-up mission are needed to study its evolution and potential habitability.

    • Julie Castillo-Rogez
  • News & Views |

    The LIGO/Virgo collaboration recently announced the detection of an unusual compact binary merger including either the most massive neutron star or the least massive black hole known. The formation path of such a binary system is still up for debate.

    • Mohammadtaher Safarzadeh
  • News & Views |

    A map of the helium abundance across much of the solar corona will allow us to connect in situ solar wind measurements to their sources and improve our understanding of the origins of the solar wind.

    • Michael Hahn
  • Editorial |

    The practice of peer review has only become commonplace fairly recently, and as such is continually undergoing revision. The latest progress has focused on reducing the load on those performing this community service and also reducing bias to ensure a fairer system for all.

  • Mission Control |

    The Emirates will shortly join the ranks of space-faring nations by sending an orbiter to Mars, aiming to make novel observations and inspire the country, write the mission leadership team.

    • O. Sharaf
    • , S. Amiri
    • , S. AlDhafri
    • , P. Withnell
    •  & D. Brain
  • Mission Control |

    As the Tianwen-1 spacecraft is scheduled for launch in late July or early August, the mission chief scientist and his team provide an overview focusing on the scientific objectives and instrumentation of China’s first Mars mission.

    • W. X. Wan
    • , C. Wang
    • , C. L. Li
    •  & Y. Wei
  • Comment |

    The historic launch of the first several hundred out of 12,000 planned Starlink satellites heralds the arrival of the era of ultra-large satellite constellations. If it will bring new opportunities or insurmountable challenges to astronomy will probably depend on whether you are conducting your observations in space or from the surface of the Earth.

    • Igor Levchenko
    • , Shuyan Xu
    • , Yue-Liang Wu
    •  & Kateryna Bazaka
  • Obituary |

    On 3 May 2020 the Greek and extended international astronomy community lost Professor Emeritus John Hugh Seiradakis, a highly impactful, wide-reaching researcher and educator, and mentor to generations of students.

    • Vassiliki Kalogera
    •  & Michael Kramer
  • Obituary |

    The space and planetary science community lost a great leader, Professor Weixing Wan, on 20 May 2020, aged 62. He was a world-leading space scientist and a pioneer in China’s planetary science programme.

    • Yong Wei
  • Editorial |

    On the anniversary of ROSAT’s launch, we reflect on the relevance and promise of X-ray observations in all fields of astronomy. Properly laying out a plan for the future of the field will allow it to continue flourishing.

  • News & Views |

    The measure of Titan’s incredibly large migration speed away from Saturn reveals that tidal dissipation depends on the orbital frequency. This new paradigm has many implications for the internal structure of Saturn and the history of its satellite system.

    • Aurélien Crida
  • Comment |

    eROSITA, a new X-ray telescope currently performing an all-sky survey of unprecedented depth, aims to provide insights into dark energy, dark matter, black holes and perhaps new phenomena that have so far been invisible.

    • Andrea Merloni
    • , Kirpal Nandra
    •  & Peter Predehl
  • Meeting Report |

    Key questions about ice on the red planet, its climate record and its potential for habitability were the subject of the seventh edition of the International Conference on Mars Polar Science and Exploration, held for the first time in the Southern Hemisphere.

    • Patricio Becerra
    • , Isaac B. Smith
    • , Andrea Coronato
    •  & Jorge Rabassa
  • News & Views |

    The discovery of four bright fast radio bursts with accurate localization on the sky and association with nearby galaxies enabled a statistical estimate of the baryon content in the intergalactic medium and intervening galaxy halos by measuring the amount of ionized gas towards these sources.

    • Michael Shull
  • News & Views |

    The detection of a ring galaxy at a redshift of z = 2.2, potentially a product of a past collision with a companion galaxy, provides new insights on ring formation and the evolution of disk galaxies in the early Universe.

    • Ronald J. Buta
  • Editorial |

    We are living in exceptional circumstances. It is not business as usual. There is no script, and where we end up after the global pandemic is partly up to us.

  • Mission Control |

    PolarLight is the first dedicated soft X-ray polarimeter in space since the 1970s and is attempting to reopen this long-awaited window in astronomy, explain Principal Investigator Hua Feng and Ronaldo Bellazzini.

    • Hua Feng
    •  & Ronaldo Bellazzini
  • Comment |

    The Spitzer Space Telescope returned infrared images and spectra with unprecedented sensitivity and resolution, enabling the characterization of the dust-enshrouded star formation of and within galaxies. This has yielded indicators of total star formation, used as unbiased tracers of the stellar production across cosmic times.

    • Daniela Calzetti
  • News & Views |

    The cosmic origin of the heaviest elements in the periodic table remains a mystery. Estimates of the physical locations of element-producing events within small galaxies that formed in the early Universe are now providing new clues.

    • Anna Frebel
    •  & Rebecca Surman
  • News & Views |

    The Curiosity rover is unveiling the persistence of habitable environments more than three-billion years ago at Gale crater, Mars. New analyses of Gale’s ancient sediments show that chemical processing of organic material occurred on a liquid-water rich and freezing early Mars.

    • Alberto G. Fairén
  • News & Views |

    In the event of accidental transmission of microbes to other planets, we must consider whether the local conditions would allow their proliferation. Whereas temperatures on Mars are usually hostile to life, liquid water is available from deliquescing salts.

    • John E. Hallsworth
  • News & Views |

    Measurements with a CubeSat gas pixel detector reveal a change in the Crab pulsar polarization after a glitch in the spin period, suggesting that starquakes alter the magnetosphere.

    • Mózsi Kiss
  • Obituary |

    Exoplanetary and Solar System science lost a major figure with the sudden passing of Professor Adam Showman on 16 March 2020 at the age of 51. He was recognized as the world’s leading authority in the field of atmospheric dynamics of exoplanets.

    • Jonathan J. Fortney
  • News & Views |

    A recent trial of distributed peer review for telescope time allocation at the European Southern Observatory echoes the findings of a similar scheme in place at Gemini Observatory since 2015, with both procedures reducing the time invested, financial costs and reviewer burden.

    • Morten Andersen
  • News & Views |

    One way for a relativistic jet to decelerate is by instabilities developing on its boundary, which are likely to be caused by continuous bombardment by stars from the host galaxy of the radio jet.

    • Núria Torres-Albà