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What the solar system looked like as a “toddler”

May 27, 2015 11:01 am | by Sarah Collins, Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

An international team of astronomers has identified a young planetary system which may aid in understanding how our own solar system formed and developed billions of years ago. Using the Gemini Planet Imager at the Gemini South telescope in Chile, the researchers identified a disc-shaped bright ring of dust around a star only slightly more massive than the sun, located 360 light-years away in the Centaurus constellation.

Similarities between aurorae on Mars and Earth

May 27, 2015 10:31 am | by Aalto Univ. | News | Comments

A team of researchers has, for the first time, predicted the occurrence of aurorae visible to...

One step closer to mimicking gamma-ray bursts

May 27, 2015 9:56 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Using ever-more energetic lasers, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have...

Uncovering the mysteries of cosmic explosions

May 21, 2015 4:06 pm | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

An automated software system developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory played a key role in...

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Hubble observes one-of-a-kind star nicknamed “Nasty”

May 21, 2015 3:52 pm | by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered surprising new clues about a hefty, rapidly aging star whose behavior has never been seen before in our Milky Way galaxy. In fact, the star is so weird that astronomers have nicknamed it "Nasty 1," a play on its catalog name of NaSt1. The star may represent a brief transitory stage in the evolution of extremely massive stars.

World’s biggest atom smasher sets energy record

May 21, 2015 11:55 am | by Associated Press | News | Comments

Scientists operating the world's biggest particle collider say they have set a new energy record ahead of the massive machine's full restart in June. The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, says it succeeded late Wednesday in smashing together protons at 13 trillion electronvolts.

Finding the fluffiest galaxies

May 21, 2015 11:34 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

A fluffy galaxy is hard to find, but that didn’t stop a Yale Univ. astronomer and an international research team from identifying the fluffiest galaxies in the universe. These “ultra-diffuse” galaxies are located about 300 million light years from Earth, in the Coma cluster of galaxies. What makes them fluffy? It is this: Although they are as wide as our own Milky Way galaxy, they harbor only 1% as many stars.

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Astronomers observe supernova colliding with its companion star

May 21, 2015 7:51 am | by Allie Akmal, Caltech | News | Comments

Type Ia supernovae, one of the most dazzling phenomena in the universe, are produced when small dense stars called white dwarfs explode with ferocious intensity. At their peak, these supernovae can outshine an entire galaxy. Although thousands of supernovae of this kind were found in the last decades, the process by which a white dwarf becomes one has been unclear.

Geologists fine-tune search for life on Mars

May 14, 2015 2:23 pm | by Brendan Lynch, KU News Service | Videos | Comments

For centuries, people have imagined the possibility of life on Mars. But long-held dreams that Martians could be invaders of Earth, or little green men, or civilized superbeings, all have been undercut by missions to our neighboring planet that have, so far, uncovered no life at all.

Water was plentiful in early universe

May 13, 2015 12:17 pm | by American Friends of Tel Aviv Univ. | News | Comments

Astronomers have held that water was a relative latecomer to the universe. They believed any element heavier than helium had to have been formed in the cores of stars and not by the Big Bang itself. Since the earliest stars would have taken some time to form, mature and die, it was presumed that it took billions of years for oxygen atoms to disperse throughout the universe and attach to hydrogen to produce the first interstellar "water".

Probing secrets of the universe inside a metal box

May 13, 2015 8:13 am | by Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

The Standard Model of particle physics, sometimes called "The Theory of Almost Everything," is the best set of equations to date that describes the universe's fundamental particles and how they interact. Yet the theory has holes.

Preparing weather forecasts for planets beyond our solar system

May 13, 2015 7:42 am | by Sean Bettam, Univ. of Toronto | News | Comments

"Cloudy for the morning, turning to clear with scorching heat in the afternoon." While this might describe a typical late-summer day in many places on Earth, it may also apply to planets outside our solar system, according to a new study by an international team of astrophysicists.

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The dark side of star clusters

May 13, 2015 7:26 am | by ESO | News | Comments

Globular star clusters are huge balls of thousands of stars that orbit most galaxies. They are among the oldest known stellar systems in the universe and have survived through almost the entire span of galaxy growth and evolution.

Lopsided star explosion holds key to supernova mysteries

May 8, 2015 10:34 am | by Ker Than, Caltech | News | Comments

New observations of a recently exploded star are confirming supercomputer model predictions made at Caltech that the deaths of stellar giants are lopsided affairs in which debris and the stars' cores hurtle off in opposite directions. While observing the remnant of supernova (SN) 1987A, NuSTAR recently detected the unique energy signature of titanium-44.

Fresh evidence for how water reached Earth

May 7, 2015 8:11 am | by Univ. or Warwick | News | Comments

Water delivery via asteroids or comets is likely taking place in many other planetary systems, just as it happened on Earth, new research strongly suggests. Led by the Univ. of Warwick, the research finds evidence for numerous planetary bodies, including asteroids and comets, containing large amounts of water.

Astronomers unveil the farthest galaxy

May 6, 2015 9:01 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

An international team of astronomers has pushed back the cosmic frontier of galaxy exploration to a time when the universe was only 5% of its present age. The team discovered an exceptionally luminous galaxy more than 13 billion years in the past and determined its exact distance from Earth using the powerful MOSFIRE instrument on the W.M. Keck Observatory’s 10-m telescope, in Hawaii. It is the most distant galaxy currently measured.

A hot start to the origin of life?

May 6, 2015 8:01 am | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

DNA is synonymous with life, but where did it originate? One way to answer this question is to try to recreate the conditions that formed DNA’s molecular precursors. These precursors are carbon ring structures with embedded nitrogen atoms, key components of nucleobases, which themselves are building blocks of the double helix.

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First evidence of changing conditions on a super Earth

May 5, 2015 8:36 am | by Sarah Collins, Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

Astronomers have detected wildly changing temperatures on a super Earth, the first time any atmospheric variability has been observed on a rocky planet outside the solar system, and believe it could be due to huge amounts of volcanic activity, further adding to the mystery of what had been nicknamed the “diamond planet”.

Pulsar with widest orbit ever detected

May 4, 2015 11:25 am | by National Radio Astronomy Observatory | News | Comments

A team of highly determined high school students discovered a never-before-seen pulsar by painstakingly analyzing data from the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT). Further observations by astronomers using the GBT revealed that this pulsar has the widest orbit of any around a neutron star and is part of only a handful of double neutron star systems.

“Nanoflares” superheat sun’s corona

May 4, 2015 9:44 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

New research by NASA, Rice Univ. and the Univ. of Glasgow details the first solid evidence of why the sun’s atmosphere is 300 times hotter than its 10,340 F surface. The answer, according to Rice astrophysicist Stephen Bradshaw and his colleagues, involves intermittent “nanoflares,” bursts of hot plasma in the corona that have a billion times less energy than regular flares but still reach temperatures of 18 million degrees Fahrenheit.

New exoplanet too big for its star

May 1, 2015 10:23 am | by Australian National Univ. | News | Comments

The Australian discovery of a strange exoplanet orbiting a small cool star 500 light-years away is challenging ideas about how planets form. In the past two decades more than 1,800 extrasolar planets (or exoplanets) have been discovered outside our solar system orbiting around other stars. The host star of the latest exoplanet, HATS-6, is classed as an M-dwarf, which is one of the most numerous types of stars in galaxy.

High-resolution images, taken through the observatory’s New Solar Telescope, show the atmosphere above the umbrae to be finely structured, consisting of hot plasma intermixed with cool plasma jets as wide as 100 kilometers.

NJIT's new solar telescope unveils the complex dynamics of sunspots' dark cores

April 30, 2015 11:22 am | by New Jersey Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Groundbreaking images of the Sun captured by scientists at NJIT’s Big Bear Solar Observatory (BBSO) give a first-ever detailed view of the interior structure of umbrae—the dark patches in the center of sunspots—revealing dynamic magnetic fields responsible for the plumes of plasma that emerge as bright dots interrupting their darkness.

The Pillars of Creation revealed in 3-D

April 30, 2015 7:51 am | by Richard Hook, ESO, Public Information Officer | News | Comments

Using the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers have produced the first complete 3-D view of the famous Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula, Messier 16. The new observations demonstrate how the different dusty pillars of this iconic object are distributed in space and reveal many new details.

Astronomers find runaway galaxies

April 24, 2015 8:01 am | by Christine Pulliam, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics | News | Comments

We know of about two dozen runaway stars, and have even found one runaway star cluster escaping its galaxy forever. Now, astronomers have spotted 11 runaway galaxies that have been flung out of their homes to wander the void of intergalactic space.

Tau Ceti: The next Earth? Probably not

April 23, 2015 8:37 am | by Nikki Cassis, Arizona State Univ. | News | Comments

As the search continues for Earth-size planets orbiting at just the right distance from their star, a region termed the habitable zone, the number of potentially life-supporting planets grows. In two decades we have progressed from having no extrasolar planets to having too many to search. Narrowing the list of hopefuls requires looking at extrasolar planets in a new way.

Black hole hunters tackle a cosmic conundrum

April 21, 2015 8:31 am | by Dartmouth College | News | Comments

Dartmouth College astrophysicists and their colleagues haven’t only proven that a supermassive black hole exists in a place where it isn't supposed to be, but in doing so have opened a new door to what things were like in the early universe. Henize 2-10 is a small irregular galaxy that is not too far away in astronomical terms: 30 million light-years.

Pulsing light may indicate supermassive black hole merger

April 20, 2015 10:11 am | by Abby Robinson, Univ. of Maryland | News | Comments

As two galaxies enter the final stages of merging, scientists have theorized that the galaxies' supermassive black holes will form a "binary," or two black holes in such close orbit they are gravitationally bound to one another. In a new study, astronomers at the Univ. of Maryland present direct evidence of a pulsing quasar, which may substantiate the existence of black hole binaries.

A cold cosmic mystery solved

April 20, 2015 8:31 am | by Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa | News | Comments

In 2004, astronomers examining a map of the radiation leftover from the Big Bang (the cosmic microwave background, or CMB) discovered the Cold Spot, a larger-than-expected unusually cold area of the sky. The physics surrounding the Big Bang theory predicts warmer and cooler spots of various sizes in the infant universe, but a spot this large and this cold was unexpected.

Astronomers probe inner region of young star and its planets

April 20, 2015 7:36 am | by Daniel Stolte, Univ. of Arizona Communications | News | Comments

Astronomers have probed deeper than before into a planetary system 130 light-years from Earth. The observations mark the first results of a new exoplanet survey called LEECH (LBT Exozodi Exoplanet Common Hunt). The planetary system of HR8799, a young star only 30 million years old, was the first to be directly imaged, with three planets found in in 2008 and a fourth one in 2010.

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