The Most Amazing Space Stories This Week!
In this artist's rendering, a disk of material has formed around a supermassive black hole after a star was shredded by the cosmic beast. The material heats up as it falls toward the black hole, and flashes of X-ray light near the center of the disk result in light echoes that allow astronomers to map the structure of the funnel-like flow. Using these light echoes, new research has revealed strong gravity effects around a normally quiet black hole.
Credit: NASA/Swift/Aurore Simonnet, Sonoma State U.

Pluto has a splashy secret, a monster black hole shakes violently awake, Juno prepares for a deep dive and Britain's space future is questioned — it's's best news stories of the week.

Pluto's underground oceans revealed

Pluto might host a liquid ocean beneath its thick crust of ices, new research suggests. The planet's long canyons suggest an expanding surface, rather than the contracted one that would have formed if the long-ago ocean froze completely. [Full Story: Pluto May Harbor a Liquid Ocean]

Also: Graphite Found at Pluto Moon Charon and Dwarf Planet Ceres

There and back again

During its first-ever live launch webcast, Blue Origin successfully launched and landed their fourth reusable rocket. The New Shepard rocket carried an empty crew capsule into suborbital space, and then they both landed separately about a minute apart. [Full Story: Blue Origin Aces 4th Reusable Rocket Launch (and Landing) in Live Webcast]

What's next for British spaceflight

British citizens voted to leave the European Union, but will their space scientists have to leave the European Space Agency? In fact, ESA isn't an EU organization — but in other spaceflight areas the exit could have an effect. [Full Story: Britain's Quitting the EU, But Will It Be Forced Out of EU Space Programs?]

Ready to dive

NASA's Juno spacecraft will begin its orbit of Jupiter July 4, braving the gas giant's staggering radiation and intense electric and magnetic fields to bring back new planetary insights from the most dangerous region in the solar system. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory produced a new video, "Jupiter: Into the Unknown," to dramatize those dangers. [Full Story: Jupiter Orbital Insertion: Juno's Dive Into the Unknown]

Young Neptune raises questions

A Neptune-sized planet is the youngest ever seen passing in front of a star: the whippersnapper is only 5 million to 10 million years old. It's nearly 10 times closer to its star than Mercury is to the sun and orbits every five days, prompting scientists to consider whether it could have formed that close in or if it raced inward later. [Full Story: Rare Newborn Planet May Be the Youngest Ever Detected]

Strawberry in the sky

June's full moon, called the "Strawberry Moon," shone spectacularly in the sky Monday, prompting a torrent of gorgeous photographs from readers all over the world. For the first time in 70 years, the full moon exactly coincided with the summer solstice: the beginning of summer and the longest day (and shortest night) of the year. [Full Story: Delicious 'Strawberry Moon' Photos: Rare Solstice Lunar Show Wows Stargazers]

A beast awakes

A monster black hole at the center of a faraway galaxy woke up from dormancy to shred a star that wandered too close, emitting a firework blast of radiation that let researchers map the black hole and the whirling disk of debris that encircles it. [Full Story: Sleeping Black Hole Awakens to Devour Doomed Star]

Tissue test request

NASA and the Methuselah Foundation's New Organ Alliance have begun a new contest, soliciting lab-grown human organ tissues to help study the harmful environmental effects of exposure to space. [Full Story: NASA Seeks Lab-Grown Tissue for Space-Radiation Studies]

Hi, neighbors

SETI researchers used a powerful radio telescope to listen in on a nearby star system for signs of alien communications. The star, called Trappist 1, is only 40 lightyears away — and likely has three exoplanets that could be friendly to the development of life. [Full Story: SETI Eavesdrops on Nearby Star in Smart Alien Hunt]

Communications go

United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket successfully boosted a military communications satellite into orbit Friday, the fifth and final satellite in the military's MUOS satellite communications array. This fifth satellite is an on-orbit spare for the group. [Full Story: Military Satellite Launched Into Orbit by United Launch Alliance]

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