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With Hubble’s help, former “oldest galaxy” regains title

December 12, 2012 4:57 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

A galaxy that was once thought to be the oldest known has regained its lost title after a record-long series of exposures by the Hubble Space Telescope revealed that it is in fact 13.3 billion years old, 100 million years older than previously thought. The study, which looked back to when the universe was just 4% of its present age, found six other similarly ancient galaxies.

Black branes and blackfolds: Revealing new study on black holes

December 11, 2012 11:25 am | News | Comments

Black holes are surrounded by many mysteries, but now researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, have come up with new groundbreaking theories that can explain several of their properties. The research shows that black holes have properties that resemble the dynamics of both solids and liquids.

Do we live in a computer simulation? Idea can be tested

December 11, 2012 8:20 am | by Vince Stricherz, UW | News | Comments

A decade ago, a British philosopher put forth the notion that the universe we live in might in fact be a computer simulation run by our descendants. While that seems far-fetched, perhaps even incomprehensible, a team of physicists at the University of Washington has come up with a potential test to see if the idea holds water.

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Researchers reveal structure of carbon's "Hoyle state"

December 10, 2012 12:07 pm | News | Comments

A North Carolina State University researcher has taken a "snapshot" of the way particles combine to form carbon-12, the element that makes all life on Earth possible. And the picture looks like a bent arm.

X-ray vision can reveal the moment of birth of violent supernovae

December 7, 2012 11:31 am | News | Comments

A team of astronomers led by the University of Leicester in the U.K.has uncovered new evidence that suggests that X-ray detectors in space could be the first to witness new supernovae that signal the death of massive stars. The possibility stems from the finding that gamma-ray bursts from the largest supernovae are accompanied unique thermal X-ray signatures that can be observed by detectors now in place.

Below surface, moon reveals a "shattered" history

December 6, 2012 12:07 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Results presented Wednesday at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco show that the moon took a beating in its early days, far more than previously believed. Detailed gravity mapping by NASA’s Ebb and Flow spacecraft show the extent to which the moon was broken up and shattered from bombardment by asteroids and comets.

When the first stars blinked on

December 6, 2012 7:53 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

As far back in time as astronomers have been able to see, the universe has had some trace of heavy elements, such as carbon and oxygen. These elements, originally churned from the explosion of massive stars, formed the building blocks for planetary bodies, and eventually for life on Earth. Now, researchers have peered far back in time, to the era of the first stars and galaxies, and found matter with no discernible trace of heavy elements.

Cosmic radio waves mimic chirping of “alien birds”

December 5, 2012 10:20 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

NASA's Van Allen Probes have been exploring the hostile radiation belts surrounding Earth for just three months. But already measurements in unprecedented detail have been taken. Scientists said Tuesday these waves can provide an energy boost to radiation belt particles, somewhat like ocean waves can propel a surfer on Earth. What's more, these so-called chorus waves operate in the same frequency as human hearing so they can be heard.

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Paradigm shift offers a new look at the beginning of time

November 29, 2012 1:50 pm | News | Comments

A new paradigm for understanding the earliest eras in the history of the universe has been developed by scientists at Penn State University. Using techniques from an area of modern physics called loop quantum cosmology, developed at Penn State, the scientists now have extended analyses that include quantum physics farther back in time than ever before.

Record-setting X-ray jet discovered

November 28, 2012 1:07 pm | News | Comments

A jet of X-rays from a supermassive black hole 12.4 billion light years from Earth has been detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This is the most distant X-ray jet ever observed and gives astronomers a glimpse into the explosive activity associated with the growth of supermassive black holes in the early universe.

Discovery of “super Jupiter” sheds new light on planet birth

November 20, 2012 10:52 am | News | Comments

Capturing an image of extrasolar planets is difficult, and they exist for very few of the almost 850 exoplanets which are known. A team of researchers has recently obtained an image of a “super Jupiter” about 13 times the mass of Jupiter, circling a star 2.5 times the mass of our own sun. The similarity of this planet to ordinary, lower-mass planets makes it an important test case for current models of how planets are born.

Hubble helps find candidate for most distant object in the Universe yet observed

November 16, 2012 10:06 am | News | Comments

By combining the power of the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and one of nature’s zoom lenses, astronomers have found what is probably the most distant galaxy yet seen in the universe. The object offers a peek back into a time when the Universe was only 3% of its present age of 13.7 billion years.

Born-again star foreshadows fate of solar system

November 15, 2012 1:35 pm | News | Comments

Astronomers have found evidence for a dying sun-like star coming briefly back to life after casting its gassy shells out into space, mimicking the possible fate our own solar system faces in a few billion years. This new picture of the planetary nebula Abell 30, located 5,500 light-years from Earth, is a composite of visible images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and X-ray data from ESA's XMM-Newton and NASA's Chandra space telescopes.

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BOSS uses quasars to probe dark energy in early universe

November 13, 2012 7:51 am | News | Comments

By collecting tens of thousands of quasar spectra, the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) has measured the large-scale structure of the early universe for the first time. Like backlights in the fog, the quasars illuminate clouds of hydrogen gas along the line of sight. No other technique can reach back over 10 billion years to probe structure at a time when the expansion of the universe was still decelerating and dark energy was yet to turn on.

Comet collisions every six seconds explain 17-year-old stellar mystery

November 9, 2012 1:04 pm | News | Comments

Every six seconds, for millions of years, comets have been colliding with one another near a star in the constellation Cetus called 49 CETI, which is visible to the naked eye. Over the past three decades, astronomers have discovered hundreds of dusty disks around stars, but only two—49 CETI is one—have been found that also have large amounts of gas orbiting them. Until now, the answer was unclear as to why.

Chile's ALMA probes for origins of universe

October 29, 2012 11:08 am | by Luis Andres Henao, Associated Press | News | Comments

Earth's largest radio telescope is growing more powerful by the day on this remote plateau high above Chile's Atacama desert, where visitors often feel like they're planting the first human footprints on the red crust of Mars. So far, 43 of the 66 radio antennas have been set up and point skyward like 100-ton white mushrooms. When fully assembled, its vision will be up to ten times sharper than NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

Satellite data reveals power of solar wind

October 25, 2012 12:28 pm | by Karen C. Fox, NASA | News | Comments

A new study based on data from European Space Agency’s Cluster mission shows that it is easier for the solar wind to penetrate Earth’s magnetic environment, the magnetosphere, than had previously been thought. Scientists have, for the first time, directly observed the presence of certain waves that show Earth’s atmosphere behaving more like a sieve than a barrier.

VISTA creates largest ever catalogue of center of our galaxy

October 24, 2012 11:41 am | News | Comments

A new image of the Milky Way created by the survey telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory incorporates more than ten times more stars—84 million—than previous studies. The new 9-billion pixel image is so large it would be 7 by 9 m if printed.

Atom optics to help detect the imperceptible

October 22, 2012 8:43 am | by Lori Keesey | News | Comments

Predicted by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, the waves occur when massive celestial objects move and disrupt the fabric of space-time. But by the time these waves reach Earth, they are so weak that the planet expands and contracts less than an atom in response. No instrument or observatory has ever directly detected them. A pioneering technology capable of atomic-level precision is now being developed to detect what so far has remained imperceptible.

Earth-sized planet found just outside solar system

October 17, 2012 3:20 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

A medium-sized planet that has recently been located by astronomers at Geneva Observatory in Europe is just four light-years away, which is about the closest an extra-solar planet can get to Earth. It is the type of planet they've been searching for across the Milky Way galaxy and they found it circling Alpha Centauri B, a star right next door.

Dark matter filament studied in 3D for the first time

October 17, 2012 8:29 am | News | Comments

Extending 60 million light-years from one of the most massive galaxy clusters known, the filament of dark matter examined recently by the Hubble Space Telescope is part of the cosmic web that constitutes the large-scale structure of the Universe, and is a leftover of the very first moments after the Big Bang. If the high mass measured for the filament is representative of the rest of the Universe, then these structures may contain more than half of all the mass in the Universe.

Solar wind particles likely source of water locked inside lunar soils

October 15, 2012 11:12 am | News | Comments

The most likely source of the water locked inside soils on the moon's surface is the constant stream of charged particles from the sun known as the solar wind, a University of Michigan researcher and his colleagues have concluded. Over the last five years, spacecraft observations and new laboratory measurements of Apollo lunar samples have overturned the long-held belief that the moon is bone-dry.

Nearby super-Earth likely a diamond planet

October 11, 2012 11:58 am | News | Comments

Located by Yale University researchers, a new planet—called 55 Cancri e—has a radius twice Earth’s, and a mass eight times greater, making it a “super-Earth.” Forty light-years away, the placement and chemical signature suggest to planetary scientists that it is composed primarily of carbon, iron, silicon carbide, and silicates. Much of that carbon would in the form of graphite or diamond.

Physicist may have solved the Pioneer anomaly

October 10, 2012 10:30 am | News | Comments

The Pioneer spacecraft, two probes launched into space by NASA in the early 70s, seemed to violate the Newtonian law of gravity by decelerating anomalously as they traveled. Nothing in physics was able to explain this effect, but a physicist in Missouri believes the confusion can be readily explained by the effect of the expansion of the universe.

The art and science of guessing a Nobel Prize

October 5, 2012 5:11 pm | News | Comments

Guessing who will win a Nobel Prize is a bit like forecasting the stock market: Experts don't seem to do it any better than laymen. So if you hear professors and pundits predicting the "God particle" will be the theme of the physics prize next week, or that an American writer—finally—is due for the literature award, check their track record.

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