News & Comment

  • Obituary |

    A pioneer of millimetre-wave astronomy, Norio Kaifu was an incomparable leader, person of spirit, colleague and friend.

    • Masahiko Hayashi
  • Editorial |

    The stunning picture of a black hole shadow that was released by the Event Horizon Telescope highlights the power of collaborative projects, as no single person, telescope or nation could have captured such an image.

  • News & Views |

    After 30 years of searching, the helium hydride ion, the first chemical bond that was formed in the Universe, has finally been detected outside the laboratory, in the interstellar medium. It was seen in planetary nebula NGC 7027 using the GREAT spectrometer aboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.

    • Stephen Lepp
  • Mission Control |

    SCExAO is an instrument on the Subaru Telescope that is pushing the frontiers of what is possible with ground-based direct imaging of terrestrial exoplanets, explains Thayne Currie, on behalf of the SCExAO team.

    • Thayne Currie
  • News & Views |

    While the measurements of the Hubble constant from the local distance ladder and the cosmic microwave background radiation appear to disagree, given a sufficient number of localized detections, gravitational waves may possibly shed light on the tension.

    • Hsin-Yu Chen
  • Comment |

    South Africa is looking forward to hosting the IAU General Assembly in 2024 — the first on the African continent. The meeting will come at a time of burgeoning scientific prosperity for the growing community of indigenous South African and African astronomers.

    • David A. H. Buckley
  • News & Views |

    Measurement of the diffraction pattern of starlight during an asteroid occultation opens up new territory in stellar angular size determinations.

    • Gerard T. van Belle
  • Mission Control |

    The OSIRIS-REx mission has reached its target, asteroid Bennu, and is engaging in reconnaissance and early science observations in preparation for sample collection. Principal investigator team Heather Enos and Dante Lauretta provide an overview.

    • H. L. Enos
    •  & D. S. Lauretta
  • Comment |

    The new generation of sample return missions from small bodies will deliver to us fresh witnesses from the early Solar System. In-depth laboratory analysis of retrieved samples will allow us to look in unprecedented detail at the formation and evolution of organic materials in asteroids.

    • Rosario Brunetto
    •  & Cateline Lantz
  • Comment |

    On 27 June 2018 the Hayabusa2 spacecraft arrived at the carbonaceous asteroid Ryugu — a top-shaped asteroid with a very dark surface and many boulders. After a careful search for a safe and flat landing site, the first touchdown successfully took place on 22 February 2019.

    • Hikaru Yabuta
  • Comment |

    Japanese and US missions returning samples from the carbon-rich asteroids Ryugu and Bennu are the latest steps in probing our Solar System’s smallest bodies, near and far, for clues to our own origins and directions for our future exploration.

    • Richard P. Binzel
  • Comment |

    After the return of Hayabusa from asteroid Itokawa in 2010, the Japanese space agency JAXA developed a plan to investigate how our planet became habitable. The Hayabusa2 spacecraft mission to the asteroid Ryugu is just one part of this exploration that aims to track water and organics throughout our Solar System.

    • Masaki Fujimoto
    •  & Elizabeth J. Tasker
  • News & Views |

    In 1951, three separate research groups established radio astronomy as a contender to the dominance of optical astronomy. Using the interstellar 21-cm line, they provided a method to look deeper into our own Galaxy and back in time to the birth of all galaxies.

    • Emma Chapman
  • Editorial |

    NASA’s spacecraft OSIRIS-REx is planning to bring back a sample from a near-Earth asteroid in 2023, and it has just delivered its first scientific results. It is only one of the projects from various space agencies that will put small bodies and sample return into the spotlight in the upcoming decade.

  • Comment |

    Do black holes rotate, and if yes, how fast? This question is fundamental and has broad implications, but still remains open. There are significant observational challenges in current spin determinations, but future facilities offer prospects for precision measurements.

    • Ari Laor
  • Comment |

    The PLOAD — Portuguese Language Office of Astronomy for Development — was established in 2015 by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) with the goal of promoting astronomy as a tool for sustainable development in Portuguese-speaking countries.

    • Alan Alves-Brito
    • , Patrícia F. Spinelli
    • , Valente A. Cuambe
    • , Ivanilda Cabral
    • , Joana Latas
    •  & Rosa Doran
  • News & Views |

    The winds from growing supermassive black holes appear to be located tens of parsecs from the centres of their host galaxies. This location fits with the idea that these outflows influence the progression of star formation.

    • Sarah C. Gallagher
  • Editorial |

    Since the field’s inception, the study of active galactic nuclei has been central to extragalactic astronomy. The plurality of ways in which these objects can be observed and their numerous links to other fields of astronomy maintain their continued relevance.

  • Comment |

    The existence of Earth’s Trojan asteroids is not well constrained and represents a major gap in our inventory of small bodies in near-Earth space. Their discovery would be of high scientific and human interest.

    • Renu Malhotra
  • Mission Control |

    Until now, radio astronomers had to choose between sensitivity or field of view. The new Apertif system provides both, enabling studies of low-mass galaxies, galaxy interactions and fast radio bursts, write Betsey Adams and Joeri van Leeuwen.

    • Elizabeth A. K. Adams
    •  & Joeri van Leeuwen
  • News & Views |

    Since the discovery of the first repeating fast radio burst in 2016, debate has raged over whether it represented a distinct population. With the recent detection of a second repeater using CHIME, the debate is closer to being settled.

    • Emily Petroff
  • Editorial |

    The International Astronomical Union celebrates its centenary this year, with a membership that is increasing in diversity and working towards inclusion.

  • News & Views |

    Recent observations with the Gaia satellite have confirmed that the cores of cooling white dwarf stars undergo crystallization, as predicted half a century ago.

    • Hugh M. Van Horn
  • Comment |

    Scientific outreach involving people with disabilities does not require specific techniques for specific conditions. An inclusive approach involving complementary senses not only helps those with disabilities but everyone else as well.

    • Enrique Pérez-Montero
  • News & Views |

    Microphotonic frequency combs are chip-based light sources, until now confined to optics laboratories. Improved stabilities usher these devices out of the lab and into high-resolution astronomic spectrometer systems.

    • Piotr Roztocki
    •  & Roberto Morandotti
  • News & Views |

    Astronomers around the world are keen and confident public communicators, with academic leaders in senior positions being the most active. They enjoy engaging with the public, with no rewards expected.

    • Marina Joubert