Reviews & Analysis

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  • The short and regular bursts in massive black hole systems known as quasi-periodic eruptions have intrigued — and puzzled — astronomers since their discovery. Two such sources recently discovered by SRG/eROSITA suggest that they could be the electromagnetic counterparts to a type of gravitational-wave sources called extreme mass-ratio inspirals.

    • Tingting Liu
    News & Views
  • The detection of two transition metals in the remnant of a supernova lends support to a mechanism for the explosion of a massive star called the neutrino-driven convective supernova engine, where a plume of hot material re-invigorates a stalled shockwave.

    • Patrick Young
    News & Views
  • Modelling future trajectories in astrophysics finds it will take 60 years before women form even a third of academic workforces. Targets and affirmative action reduce the wait, but systemic cultural change is needed for more immediate equity.

    • Pauline Leonard
    News & Views
  • Planets assemble by energetic collisions between rocky bodies, releasing energy sufficient to generate primitive atmospheres. New laboratory experiments capture this process in action by direct measurement of gases released from heated meteorites.

    • Paolo A. Sossi
    News & Views
  • Tidal disruption events are an excellent probe for supermassive black holes in distant inactive galaxies because they emit bright multi-wavelength flares that last several months to years. AT2019dsg represents the first potential association of neutrino emission with such an explosive event.

    • Kimitake Hayasaki
    News & Views
  • The Mars Subsurface Water Ice Mapping (SWIM) project aims at determining the regions where near-surface ice is most likely to be present, according to the combination of all the available datasets. Focusing on the northern mid-latitudes, they identify in particular Deuteronilus Mensae and Arcadia Planitia as promising sites.

    • G. A. Morgan
    • N. E. Putzig
    • B. A. Campbell
    Perspective
  • The largest ever simulation of astrophysical turbulence substantially improves our understanding of how energy injection on large interstellar scales governs how stars form on small scales.

    • Christopher F. McKee
    • James M. Stone
    News & Views
  • The discovery of giant X-ray bubbles above and below the centre of the Milky Way confirms that the central supermassive black hole was once more than 100 million times brighter than its current state.

    • Jun Kataoka
    News & Views
  • This Review Article summarizes our current understanding of ionized outflows in active galactic nuclei, observed in absorption in the ultraviolet and X-ray wavelengths, including the most relevant observations as well as their origin and acceleration mechanisms.

    • Sibasish Laha
    • Christopher S. Reynolds
    • Daniel Proga
    Review Article
  • The commercial development of small satellites provides a unique opportunity to the astronomical community to overcome terrestrial limitations such as geography, atmosphere and planetary motion at a fraction of the cost of traditional space-based astronomy missions.

    • Philip Allen
    • Jamie Wickham-Eade
    • Markos Trichas
    Perspective
  • Recently, nanosatellite capabilities, driven by commercial and scientific innovation, have led to the development of high-performance satellite payloads and subsystems. This article reflects on the history, current state and future of the field.

    • J. Douglas Liddle
    • Antony P. Holt
    • Edward J. Stevens
    Perspective
  • In the context of near-Earth space becoming increasingly privatized and crowded due to the launch of satellite constellations, space must be viewed as an ancestral global commons that contains the heritage and future of humanity’s scientific and cultural practices.

    • Aparna Venkatesan
    • James Lowenthal
    • Monica Vidaurri
    Perspective
  • The number of small satellites has grown hugely in the past decade, from tens of satellites per year in the mid-2010s to a projection of tens of thousands in orbit by the mid-2020s. This presents both problems and opportunities for observational astronomy. Small satellites offer complementary cost-effective capabilities to both ground-based astronomy and larger space missions. Compared with ground-based astronomy, these advantages are not just in the accessibility of wavelength ranges where the Earth’s atmosphere is opaque, but also in stable, high-precision photometry, long-term monitoring and improved areal coverage. Astronomy has a long history of new observational parameter spaces leading to major discoveries. Here we discuss the potential for small satellites to explore new parameter spaces in astrophysics, drawing on examples from current and proposed missions, and spanning a wide range of science goals from binary stars, exoplanets and Solar System science to the early Universe and fundamental physics.

    • Stephen Serjeant
    • Martin Elvis
    • Giovanna Tinetti
    Perspective
  • Radio observations from the Low Frequency Radio Array suggest that magnetic fields in high-redshift clusters are of similar strength as their local counterparts. This finding implies that magnetic fields evolve differently than predicted by cosmological simulations.

    • Kenda Knowles
    News & Views
  • On a magnetar’s surface, magnetic fields can create permanent sunspot-like structures. Accounting for heat diffusion and magnetic evolution in a magnetar’s crust in the latest simulations improves agreement with observations.

    • Daniele Viganò
    News & Views
  • Comparing microphysical models of aerosol production to Hubble Space Telescope transit spectra reveals a surprisingly simple transition between atmospheres with hydrocarbon hazes, silicate clouds and clear skies.

    • Nicolas B. Cowan
    • Emily Rauscher
    News & Views