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Universe’s hidden supermassive black holes revealed

July 6, 2015 10:45 am | by Leighton Kitson, Durham Univ. | News | Comments

Astronomers have found evidence for a large population of hidden supermassive black holes in the universe. Using NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) satellite observatory, the team of international scientists detected the high-energy x-rays from five supermassive black holes previously clouded from direct view by dust and gas.

Sandia's Z machine receives funding aimed at fusion energy

June 30, 2015 8:35 am | by DOE, Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

A two-year, $3.8 million award has been received by Sandia National Laboratories and the...

Z machine solves Saturn’s 2-billion-year age problem

June 26, 2015 1:45 pm | by Sandia National Laboratories | News | Comments

Planets tend to cool as they get older, but Saturn is hotter than astrophysicists say it should...

Discovering a new stage in the galactic lifecycle

June 25, 2015 12:30 pm | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

On its own, dust seems fairly unremarkable. However, by observing the clouds of gas and dust...

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Spectrum of life

June 23, 2015 12:15 pm | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

To find life in the universe, it helps to know what it might look like. If there are organisms on other planets that do not rely wholly on photosynthesis, how might those worlds appear from light-years away? That’s among the questions a Univ. of Washington team sought to answer in research published in Astrobiology.

Is salt the key to unlocking the interiors of Neptune, Uranus?

June 23, 2015 8:02 am | by Carnegie Institution | News | Comments

The interiors of several of our solar system’s planets and moons are icy, and ice has been found on distant extrasolar planets, as well. But these bodies aren’t filled with the regular kind of water ice that you avoid on the sidewalk in winter. The ice that’s found inside these objects must exist under extreme pressures and high-temperatures, and potentially contains salty impurities, too.

Galactic crashes fuel quasars

June 18, 2015 4:19 pm | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

When galaxies collide, bright things happen in the universe. Using the Hubble Space Telescope’s infrared vision, astronomers have unveiled some of the previously hidden origins of quasars, the brightest objects in the universe. A new study finds that quasars are born when galaxies crash into each other and fuel supermassive, central black holes.

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Scientists find methane in Mars meteorites

June 17, 2015 9:00 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

An international team of researchers has discovered traces of methane in Martian meteorites, a possible clue in the search for life on the Red Planet. The researchers examined samples from six meteorites of volcanic rock that originated on Mars. The meteorites contain gases in the same proportion and with the same isotopic composition as the Martian atmosphere.

Best observational evidence of first-generation stars

June 17, 2015 8:31 am | by ESO | News | Comments

Astronomers have long theorized the existence of a first generation of stars that were born out of the primordial material from the Big Bang. All the heavier chemical elements were forged in the bellies of stars. This means that the first stars must have formed out of the only elements to exist prior to stars: hydrogen, helium and trace amounts of lithium.

Atmospheric signs of volcanic activity could aid search for life

June 11, 2015 10:25 am | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Planets with volcanic activity are considered better candidates for life than worlds without such heated internal goings-on. Now, graduate students at the Univ. of Washington have found a way to detect volcanic activity in the atmospheres of exoplanets, or those outside our solar system, when they transit, or pass in front of their host stars.

A celestial butterfly emerges from its dusty cocoon

June 10, 2015 9:57 am | by ESO | News | Comments

Some of the sharpest images ever made with ESO's Very Large Telescope have, for the first time, revealed what appears to be an ageing star giving birth to a butterfly-like planetary nebula. These observations of the red giant star L2 Puppis, from the ZIMPOL mode of the newly installed SPHERE instrument, also clearly showed a close stellar companion.

Exiled stars explode far from home

June 4, 2015 8:21 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Sharp images obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope confirm that three supernovae discovered several years ago exploded in the dark emptiness of intergalactic space, having been flung from their home galaxies millions or billions of years earlier. Most supernovae are found inside galaxies containing hundreds of billions of stars, one of which might explode per century per galaxy.

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Pluto’s moons tumbling in absolute chaos

June 4, 2015 7:53 am | by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

If you lived on one of Pluto's moons, you might have a hard time determining when, or from which direction, the sun will rise each day. Comprehensive analysis of data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows that two of Pluto's moons, Nix and Hydra, wobble unpredictably.

How to weigh the Milky Way

June 3, 2015 8:18 am | by Columbia Univ. | News | Comments

What if your doctor told you that your weight is somewhere between 100 and 400 lbs.? With any ordinary scale every patient can do better at home. Yet, one patient can't: the Milky Way. Even though today we peer deeper into space than ever before, our home galaxy's weight is still unknown to about a factor of four.

Unraveling the origins of lunar swirls

June 1, 2015 11:27 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

As the closest object in the night sky, Earth’s moon and its craters have long been studied. These craters have been formed over billions of years by impacts from both asteroids and comets. A new study examines how cometary impacts may transform the surface of the moon in ways distinct from asteroidal impacts, producing unique signatures that are consistent with observations of mysterious, ghost-like features called “lunar swirls."

Circular orbits identified for small exoplanets

June 1, 2015 10:50 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Viewed from above, our solar system’s planetary orbits around the sun resemble rings around a bulls-eye. Each planet, including Earth, keeps to a roughly circular path, always maintaining the same distance from the sun. For decades, astronomers have wondered whether the solar system’s circular orbits might be a rarity in our universe.

Astronomers make real-time, 3-D movies of plasma tubes drifting overhead

June 1, 2015 8:27 am | by Univ. of Sydney | Videos | Comments

By creatively using a radio telescope to see in 3-D, astronomers have detected the existence of tubular plasma structures in the inner layers of the magnetosphere surrounding the Earth. For over 60 years, scientists believed these structures existed, and by imaging them for the first time a Univ. of Sydney team provided visual evidence they are really there.

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Sharp-eyed Alma spots a flare on red giant star

May 29, 2015 11:21 am | by Chalmers Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

Super-sharp observations with the telescope Alma have revealed what seems to be a gigantic flare on the surface of Mira, one of the closest and most famous red giant stars in the sky. Activity like this in red giants, similar to what we see in the sun, comes as a surprise to astronomers. The discovery could help explain how winds from giant stars make their contribution to our galaxy's ecosystem.

Merging galaxies break radio silence

May 28, 2015 11:20 am | by Hubble Information Centre | News | Comments

In the most extensive survey of its kind ever conducted, a team of scientists have found an unambiguous link between the presence of supermassive black holes that power high-speed, radio-signal-emitting jets and the merger history of their host galaxies. Almost all of the galaxies hosting these jets were found to be merging with another galaxy, or to have done so recently.

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 the naked eye on a planet other than Earth. Mars' upper atmosphere may be indeed closer to Earth's than previously thought. Researchers showed that the upper atmosphere of Mars glows blue depending on the activity of the sun.

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 produced a record high number of electron-positron pairs, opening exciting opportunities to study extreme astrophysical processes, such as black holes and gamma-ray bursts.

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 the discovery of supernova iPTF 14atg and could provide insight, a virtual Rosetta stone, into future supernovae and their underlying physics.

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.

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".

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