Where do we come from? What is the universe made of? Will the universe exist only for a finite time or will it last forever? These are just some of the questions that University of California, San Diego physicists are working to answer in the high desert of northern Chile.
Images taken by the framing camera onboard NASA's space probe Dawn show two enormous craters in the southern hemisphere of the asteroid Vesta, a remarkable protoplanet that is a time capsule of early planet formation in the solar system. Scientists have recently found that the asteroids that created these impact features also delivered dark, carbonaceous material to the protoplanet.
The quest for a twin Earth is heating up. Using NASA's Kepler spacecraft, astronomers are beginning to find Earth-sized planets orbiting distant stars. A new analysis of Kepler data shows that about 17% of stars have an Earth-sized planet in an orbit closer than Mercury.
Researchers from Canada, California, and Poland have devised a straightforward way to test an intriguing idea about the nature of dark energy and dark matter. A global array of atomic magnetometers—small laboratory devices that can sense minute changes in magnetic fields—could signal when Earth passes through fractures in space known as domain walls. These structures could be the answer to the universe’s darkest mysteries.
Researchers from the U.S. and Canada have proposed a method for cooling trapped antihydrogen which they believe could provide "a major experimental advantage" and help to map the mysterious properties of antimatter that have to date remained elusive.
A collaboration has made a precise measurement of elusive, nearly massless particles, and obtained a crucial hint as to why the universe is dominated by matter, not by its close relative, antimatter. The particles, called antineutrinos, were detected at the underground Daya Bay experiment, located near a nuclear reactor in China, 55 km north of Hong Kong.
Just in time for the holidays, NASA's Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn for more than eight years now, has delivered another glorious, backlit view of the planet Saturn and its rings.On Oct. 17, 2012, during its 174th orbit around the gas giant, Cassini was deliberately positioned within Saturn's shadow, a perfect location from which to look in the direction of the sun and take a backlit view of the rings and the dark side of the planet.
An international team of scientists has discovered that Tau Ceti, one of the closest and most Sun-like stars, may have five planets. The surprise finding was the result of combining more than 6,000 observations from three different instruments and applying intensive modeling to the data. New techniques allowed the scientists to find signals half the size previously thought possible.
Black holes, stellar coronae, and supernovae are all composed of hot plasma at several million degrees Celsius. The gases in these objects are powerful emitters of X-ray, but theoretical astrophysical have not yet been able to explain the observed intensities of these X-rays for the most prominent species, iron ions. A team has now successfully used an X-ray laser to perform spectroscopy on highly ionized iron ions, obtaining new insights not granted by previous methods and potentially leading to a solution to this 40-year-old puzzle.
In much the same way that a plane is jolted back and forth by invisible gusts of wind, turbulence is common in space, where chaotic motions affect the movements of ionized gas, or plasma. A research team led by the University of Iowa reports to have directly measured this turbulence for the first time in the laboratory.
While some theoretical physicists make predictions about astrophysics and the behavior of stars and galaxies, others work in the realm of the very small, which includes quantum physics. Such is the case at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where theoretical physicists at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics cover the range of questions in physics. Recently, they have made important strides in studying a concept in quantum physics called quantum entanglement, in which electron spins are entangled with each other.
On Friday, engineers are turning off the science instruments in preparation for Monday's big finale. After nearly a year circling the moon, NASA's Ebb and Flow will meet their demise when they crash—on purpose—into the lunar surface. Just don't expect to see celestial fireworks as it will happen on the dark side of the moon.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.