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NASA precisely measures expansion of universe

October 4, 2012 10:01 am | News | Comments

The Hubble constant is named after the astronomer Edwin P. Hubble, who astonished the world in the 1920s by confirming our universe has been expanding since it exploded into being 13.7 billion years ago. This constant, or rate of expansion, is accelerating, and determining the expansion rate is critical for understanding the age and size of the universe. Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have announced the most precise measurement yet of the Hubble constant.

Measuring the universe's 'exit door'

September 27, 2012 12:06 pm | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The point of no return: In astronomy, it's known as a black hole. Black holes that can be billions of times more massive than our sun may reside at the heart of most galaxies. Such supermassive black holes are so powerful that activity at their boundaries can ripple throughout their host galaxies. Now, an international team, has, for the first time, measured the radius of a black hole at the center of a distant galaxy.

Slow-moving rocks better odds that life crashed to Earth from space

September 24, 2012 9:54 am | News | Comments

Microorganisms that crashed to Earth embedded in the fragments of distant planets might have been the sprouts of life on this one, according to new research. The research team reports that under certain conditions there is a high probability that life came to Earth during the solar system's infancy when Earth and its planetary neighbors orbiting other stars would have been close enough to each other to exchange lots of solid materials.

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Researchers brew up organics on ice

September 19, 2012 4:52 am | News | Comments

Would you like icy organics with that? Maybe not in your coffee, but researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory are creating concoctions of organics, or carbon-bearing molecules, on ice in the laboratory, then zapping them with lasers. Their goal: to better understand how life arose on Earth.

Astrophysicists get first images for Dark Energy Camera

September 17, 2012 7:08 am | News | Comments

When the Dark Energy Camera opened its giant eye last week and began taking pictures of the ancient light from far-off galaxies, more than 120 members of the Dark Energy Survey eagerly awaited the first snapshots. Those images have now arrived.

Thirty-five years later, Voyager 1 is heading for the stars

September 5, 2012 8:01 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Today marks the 35th anniversary of Voyager 1's launch to Jupiter and Saturn. Since leaving the ringed gas giant behind many years ago, Voyager 1 has rocketed toward an invisible boundary that no human spacecraft has ever ventured beyond. Scientists now say, based on instrument readings, that it is about to leave our solar system and venture into interstellar space.

Simulating the birth of a planet

September 5, 2012 7:51 am | News | Comments

Over the past few decades, the hunt for extrasolar planets has yielded incredible discoveries. Now, planetary researchers have a new tool—simulated models of how planets are born. A team of researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are using supercomputers to model and simulate the protostellar disks that precede the formation of planet.

Explosion of galaxy formation lit up early universe

September 5, 2012 6:54 am | News | Comments

New data from the South Pole Telescope indicates that the birth of the first massive galaxies that lit up the early universe was an explosive event, happening faster and ending sooner than suspected. Extremely bright, active galaxies formed and fully illuminated the universe by the time it was 750 million year old, or about 13 billion years ago, according to a researcher from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Orbiter finds evidence of ice in lunar crater

August 30, 2012 12:44 pm | News | Comments

Scientists using the Mini-RF radar on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have successfully estimated the maximum amount of ice likely to be found inside a permanently shadowed lunar crater located near the moon's South Pole. Their results, which offer more definite support to prior findings, show as much as 5 to 10% of the material, by weight, could be patchy ice.

Researchers reproduce plasma loops to help understand solar physics

August 21, 2012 6:18 am | News | Comments

Sunny skies reign supreme in one California Institute of Technology laboratory, which has recreated so-called plasma loops that emanate from the sun’s surface. Considered to be possible precursors to solar flares, which release sometimes damaging radiation, these loops may be used to serve as a warning system for massive flares.

Big Bang theory challenged by big chill

August 20, 2012 4:09 am | News | Comments

The start of the universe should be modeled not as a Big Bang, but more like water freezing into ice, according to a team of theoretical physicists at the University of Melbourne and RMIT University. The have suggested that by investigating the cracks and crevices common to all crystals our understanding of the nature of the universe could be revolutionized.

Star births seen on cosmic scale in distant galaxy

August 16, 2012 5:37 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists using NASA's Chandra X-Ray telescope have found a galaxy that gives births to more stars in a day than ours does in a year. Even more puzzling to astronomers than its prolific nature its age. At 6 billion years old, the large, mature galaxy shouldn’t be producing that many stars.

Recreating a slice of the universe

August 15, 2012 9:07 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and their colleagues at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies have invented a new computational approach that can accurately follow the birth and evolution of thousands of galaxies over billions of years.

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Approaching the border between primordial plasma and ordinary matter

August 15, 2012 3:51 am | News | Comments

A new energy scan study at Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider has revealed the first hints of a possible boundary separating ordinary nuclear matter, composed of protons and neutrons, from the seething soup of their constituent quarks and gluons that permeated the universe 14 billion years ago.

Scientist discovers plate tectonics on Mars

August 10, 2012 7:19 am | News | Comments

For years, many scientists had thought that plate tectonics existed nowhere in our solar system but on Earth. Now, a University of California, Los Angeles scientist has discovered that the geological phenomenon, which involves the movement of huge crustal plates beneath a planet's surface, also exists on Mars.

First public data release from biggest spectroscopic sky survey

August 8, 2012 5:26 am | by Paul Preuss | News | Comments

In what is just the first of three data releases from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey’s Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), spectra has been published from 535,995 newly observed galaxies, 102,100 quasars, and 116,474 stars. The ambitious survey is designed to measure the large-scale clustering of matter in the universe.

First public data release from BOSS

August 8, 2012 4:49 am | News | Comments

Now available to the public: spectroscopic data from over 500,000 galaxies up to 7 billion light years away, over 100,000 quasars up to 11.5 billion light years away, and many thousands of other astronomical objects in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey's Data Release 9. This is the first data from BOSS, the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists, the largest spectroscopic survey ever for measuring evolution of large-scale galactic structure.

Shredded star heralds a new era for testing relativity

August 6, 2012 6:09 am | News | Comments

Last year, astronomers discovered a quiescent black hole in a distant galaxy that erupted after shredding and consuming a passing star. Now researchers have identified a distinctive X-ray signal observed in the days following the outburst that comes from matter on the verge of falling into the black hole. Called a quasi-periodic oscillation, or QPO, this tell-tale signal helps scientist test principles of general relativity.

New accelerator helps scientists understand workings of the universe

August 6, 2012 6:00 am | by Carol C. Bradley and William G. Gilroy | News | Comments

Housed inside a new 40-foot-tall tower, a new 5 MV accelerator at the Universitty of Notre Dame is helping to recreate stellar nuclear processes in the laboratory to complement the observational studies of new earth- and space-based telescopes that trace past and present nucleosynthesis processes in the cosmos.

Vaporizing the Earth to help find Earth-like planets

August 3, 2012 7:50 am | by Diana Lutz | News | Comments

In science fiction novels, evil overlords and hostile aliens often threaten to vaporize the Earth. Now, scientists are not content just to talk about vaporizing the Earth. They want to understand what it would be like if it happened. Why? Because such knowledge helps them determine the atmospheric composition of exoplanets.

The culprit that polluted the solar system

August 3, 2012 5:32 am | News | Comments

For decades it has been thought that a shock wave from a supernova explosion triggered the formation of our Solar System. Material from the exploding star generated cloud of dust and gas, which collapsed to form the Sun and its surrounding planets. New work from the Carnegie Institution provides the first fully 3D models for how this process could have happened.

NASA to athletic Mars rover: 'Stick the landing'

July 31, 2012 8:24 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

NASA's most ambitious and expensive Mars mission yet begins with the red planet arrival late Sunday of the smartest interplanetary rover ever built. But before Curiosity can start rolling it must survive a complicated touchdown so risky it's been described as "seven minutes of terror"—the time it takes to go from 13,000 mph to a complete stop.

Astronomers find pulsar with a tremendous hiccup

July 24, 2012 8:21 am | News | Comments

Using data analysis methods, an international collaboration of researchers dug an unusual gamma-ray pulsar out of imagery from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The pulsar they found is radio-quiet, very young, and, during the observation period, experienced the strongest rotation glitch ever observed for a gamma-ray-only pulsar. The shift was so strong, the pulsar seemed to disappear.

Tiny “Firefly” satellite may solve mystery about lightning

July 20, 2012 10:46 am | by Cheryl Dybas, NSF | News | Comments

CubeSats are fully-instrumented satellites the size of a half-gallon milk carton. Several are in orbit around the Earth, including Firefly, a CubeSat is designed to help solve the mystery of a phenomenon that's linked with lightning: terrestrial gamma rays, or TGFs. By using its small but powerful instrumentation,Its designers hope that Firefly will provide the first direct evidence for a relationship between lightning and TGFs.

Colorful science sheds light on solar heating

July 19, 2012 2:04 pm | News | Comments

A new visualization technique created by Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center produces images of the sun reminiscent of Van Gogh, with broad strokes of bright color splashed across a yellow background. But it's science, not art. The color of each pixel contains a wealth of information about the 12-hour history of cooling and heating at that particular spot on the sun.

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