January 14, 2005. The Huygens probe was falling to Titan(yt). Released after a seven year trip on Cassini, the tiny lander was mankind's first attempt to land on a moon of another world - and nobody knew what would happen next. Its signals, no more powerful than a walkie-talkie, were to be gathered by the mothership and the science relayed back to Earth. More than a light-hour away back at home planet, radio telescopes were also listening not to decode data - far too weak at that distance, even for the most powerful receivers - but to see whether they could hear Huygens at all. A job for radio engineers, not for heroes. Sometimes, though, you have to be both. [more inside]
Spectacular jets powered by the gravitational energy of a supermassive black hole in the core of the elliptical galaxy Hercules A (pdf) illustrate the combined imaging power of two of astronomy's cutting-edge tools, the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, and the recently upgraded Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in west-central New Mexico.
In the telling it has the contours of a creation myth: At a time of great evil and great terror, a small group of scientists, among the world’s greatest minds, secluded themselves in the desert. In secrecy and silence they toiled at their Promethean task. They sought the ultimate weapon, one of such great power as to end not just their war, but all war. They hoped their work would salvage the future. They feared it could end everything. - Prometheus in the desert: from atom bombs to radio astronomy, New Mexico's scientific legacy