In December 2010, a pair of mismatched stars in the southern constellation Crux whisked past each other at a distance closer than Venus orbits the sun. The system possesses a so-far unique blend of a hot and massive star with a compact fast-spinning pulsar. The pair's closest encounters occur every 3.4 years and each is marked by a sharp increase in gamma rays. The unique combination of stars, the long wait between close approaches, and periods of intense gamma-ray emission make this system irresistible to astrophysicists.
Like the faces of veterans comparing war wounds, the surface of our moon is scarred by a lifetime of damage—impact craters pockmarked with even more craters, sprayed ejecta, discolored regions laid down by volcanic flows. Studying these characteristics can reveal much about the processes that formed them, say Caltech graduate student Meg Rosenburg and her advisor Oded Aharonson, who have created the first comprehensive sets of maps revealing the roughness of the moon's surface.
Astronomers' research on celestial bodies may have an impact on the human body. Ohio State Univ. astronomers are working with medical physicists and radiation oncologists to develop a potential new radiation treatment—one that is intended to be tougher on tumors, but gentler on healthy tissue.
The first oxygen and nitrogen isotopic measurements of the sun are complete, demonstrating that they are very different from the same elements on Earth. These results were the top two priorities of NASA's Genesis mission, which crashed on reentry to Earth. But the Los Alamos National Laboratory's Solar Wind Concentrator survived the crash and eventually yielded today's solar secrets.
When finished, the 4.2-meter mirror being crafted by the Univ. of Arizona’s College of Optical Sciences for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope in Hawaii will be the largest telescope mirror ever pointed at the sun. Complicating the task of polishing this mirror is the shape: the telescope’s design calls for a complex off-axis paraboloid surface.
Based on water vapor plumes found by the spacecraft Cassini in 2005, researchers already suspected that Enceladus hid a liquid saltwater ocean. Now, based on the dynamics of plumes studied by the Cassini team, they are now more certain that 50 miles beneath the surface crust a large body of liquid water exists between the rocky core and the icy mantle.
Astronomers have probed into the distant universe and discovered that galaxies display one of two distinct behaviors: they are either awake or asleep, actively forming stars or are not forming any new stars at all.
NASA’s voyager to the innermost planet is the first to ever enter orbit around the planet, which has yielded important clues to both its origin and geological history. In addition to the presence of large amounts of sulfur and mysterious formations on crater floors, Messenger has also found evidence for the presence of water ice in shaded, dark areas away from the sun.
Astronomers think they have solved the mystery of an extraordinary flash spied in a faraway galaxy. First detected by NASA's Swift satellite on March 28 the blast was initially thought be a gamma-ray burst from a star collapsing. Now, weeks to studying the data have led them to conclude that a massive black hole devoured a star that wandered too close.
Using the deepest x-ray image ever taken, a Univ. of Michigan astronomer and her colleagues have found the first direct evidence that massive black holes were common in the early universe. This discovery from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory shows that very young black holes grew more aggressively than previously thought, in tandem with the growth of their host galaxies.
Around 2020, say scientists, sunspots may disappear for years, maybe decades. The effects from a calmer sun are mostly good, especially fewer disruptions of satellites and power systems. And, some researchers claim, it might mean a little less increase in global warming.
A North Carolina State Univ. astrophysicist hopes to gain better understanding of one of nature's most elusive particles—neutrinos—as well as the supernovae that spawn them.
Meteorites collected from a British Columbia meteoroid strike in British Columbia 11 years ago are among history’s best preserved. They reveal that asteroids not only hold the stuff of life, like carbon and amino acids—the building blocks of protein—they also are wildly different in the level of amino acids they have. And astronomers now have a theory as to why.
They're bright and blue—and a bit strange. They're a new type of stellar explosion that was recently discovered by a team of astronomers led by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Among the most luminous in the cosmos, these new kinds of supernovae could help researchers better understand star formation, distant galaxies, and what the early universe might have been like.
By studying the x-rays emitted when superheated gases plunge into distant and massive black holes, astrophysicists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have provided an important test of a long-standing theory that describes the extreme physics occurring when matter spirals into these massive objects.
Planetary scientists have long wondered why Mars is only about half the size and one-tenth the mass of Earth. As next-door neighbors in the inner solar system, probably formed about the same time, why isn't Mars more like Earth and Venus in size and mass? A paper published in Nature provides the first cohesive explanation and, by doing so, reveals an unexpected twist in the early lives of Jupiter and Saturn as well.
Univ. of Michigan astronomers examined old galaxies and were surprised to discover that they are still making new stars. The results provide insights into how galaxies evolve with time.
There is water inside the moon – so much, in fact, that in some places it rivals the amount of water found within the Earth. The finding from a scientific team including Brown University comes from the first-ever measurements of water in lunar melt inclusions. Those measurements show that some parts of the lunar mantle have as much water as the Earth's upper mantle.
All evidence for the existence of gravitational radiation has been indirect, but researchers now say that the addition of just one of the proposed detectors for the global network of gravitational radiation monitors would give them a much better chance at capturing these elusive, theoretical waves. Gravitational waves factor heavily in Einstein’s physics, and detecting these are the only way to directly observe a black hole.
A gamma-ray burst detected by NASA's Swift satellite in April 2009 has been newly unveiled as a candidate for the most distant object in the universe. At an estimated distance of 13.14 billion light years, the burst lies far beyond any known quasar and could be more distant than any previously known galaxy or gamma-ray burst.
A $1 billion NASA mission to investigate an asteroid with an unmanned probe won’t involve an actual landing on the rocky body, but it will feature an acrobatic grab of sample material from the surface. The mission is slated to launch in 2016 and will take four years to reach the asteroid and begin its study. The sample capsule will return to Earth in 2023.
For many movie stars, their age is a well-kept secret. In space, the same is true of the actual stars. Like our sun, most stars look almost the same for most of their lives. So how can we tell if a star is one billion or 10 billion years old? Astronomers may have found a solution—measuring the star's spin.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft and the European Southern Observatory are both tracking the growth of an epic thunderstorm on the gas giant Saturn. The storm, which was discovered in December 2010, has been raging for months and is now 3,000 miles wide. It is first such storm in more than 20 years, and also the first to be studied with infrared imaging.
Astronomers have found 10 potential planets as massive as Jupiter wandering through a slice of the Milky Way galaxy, following either very wide orbits or no orbit at all. And scientists think they are more common than the stars.
A new analysis of data from NASA's Galileo spacecraft has revealed that beneath the surface of Jupiter's volcanic moon Io is an "ocean" of molten or partially molten magma.