Astrophysicists recoil from hints that the universe is lopsided

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A view of the IS-901 satellite from MEV-1 during approach from approximately 20 metres, with Earth in the background.Northrop Grumman

For the first time ever, a space ‘tow truck’ has rescued a commercial satellite. US aerospace-technology company Northrup Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle-1, or MEV-1, docked with Intelsat 901, an ageing communications satellite, in late February. Last Friday, MEV-1 adjusted the satellite’s inclination and orbit to give it a new lease on life. MEV-1 itself has a lifespan of 15 years, and can dock to and undock from multiple satellites.

Ars Technica | 3 min read

A map of 850 distant galaxy clusters hints that the Universe might not be uniform. Combining data from US, European and Japanese X-ray space telescopes, researchers have revealed galaxy clusters that were around 30% brighter or fainter than expected, suggesting that their distances had been poorly estimated. Taking these clusters as beacons of the rate of cosmic expansion, the findings would mean that one region is expanding slower than the rest of the Universe, and another is expanding faster. Astrophysicist Megan Donahue comments that a lopsided expansion “would be astonishing and depressing” because it suggests that our understanding of the Universe could be permanently incomplete.

Scientific American | 6 min read

Reference: Astronomy & Astrophysics paper

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US President Donald Trump’s decision to withhold funding from the WHO is wrong and must be reversed, argues a Nature editorial.

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Nature | 5 min read

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Nature | 5 min read

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With contributions by Davide Castelvecchi, Emma Stoye and David Cyranoski.

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