The Big Bang theory says the visible portion of the universe was smaller than an atom when, in a split second, it exploded, cooled and expanded rapidly, much faster than the speed of light. The European Space Agency's Planck space probe has looked back at the afterglow of the Big Bang, and results released today have now added about 80 million years to the universe's age, putting it 13.81 billion years old.
After taking measurements of sudden, drastic changes in radiation levels, researchers have reported that NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, now more than 11 billion miles from the Sun, left the heliosphere dominated by the Sun and has passed outside our solar system. Anomalous cosmic rays, which are cosmic rays trapped in the outer heliosphere, all but vanished, dropping to less than 1% of previous amounts.
A team of international scientists, including a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory astrophysicist, has made the most detailed examination yet of the atmosphere of a Jupiter-size like planet beyond our solar system. The finding provides astrophysicists with additional insight into how planets are formed.
Shining in the infrared with the energy of a trillion suns and producing a thousand new suns per year, newly discovered “starburst galaxies” represent what the most massive galaxies in our cosmic neighborhood looked like in their star-making youth. The discovery of these “abnormal” galaxies was recently made by the new Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile, which was formally dedicated this week.
Life as we know it is based upon the elements of carbon and oxygen. Now a team of physicists, including one from North Carolina State University, is looking at the conditions necessary to the formation of those two elements in the universe. They’ve found that when it comes to supporting life, the universe leaves very little margin for error.
The Mars rover Curiosity drilled into its first rock a month ago. Now scientists will reveal what's inside. Gathering at NASA headquarters Tuesday, the rover team will detail the minerals and chemicals found in a pinch of ground-up rock. The results come seven months after Curiosity made a dramatic landing in an ancient crater near the equator.
A new analysis of data from NASA’s Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter shows that molten rock may have been present on the Moon more recently and for longer periods than previously thought. Differentiation—a settling out of rock layers as liquid rock cools—would require thousands of years and a fluid rock sea at least six miles deep.
A pair of newly discovered stars is the third-closest star system to the Sun, according to a recent paper published by a Penn State University astrophysicist. At 6.5 light years, the duo is the closest star system discovered since 1916, and is expected to attract considerable attention from planet hunters.
NASA’s Martian rover hunkered down Wednesday after the sun unleashed a blast that raced toward Mars. While Curiosity was designed to withstand punishing space weather, its handlers decided to power it down as a precaution since it suffered a recent computer problem. While the hardy rover slept, the Opportunity rover and two NASA spacecraft circling overhead carried on with normal activities.
The Hubble constant is a fundamental quantity that measures the current rate at which our universe is expanding; it is critical for gauging the age and size of our universe. One of the largest uncertainties plaguing past measurements of the Hubble constant has involved the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud, our nearest neighboring galaxy. A team of astronomers have now managed to improve the measurement of the distance to our nearest neighbor galaxy and, in the process, refine the calculation that helps measure the expansion of the universe.
Chemists have recently shown that conditions in space are capable of creating complex dipeptides—linked pairs of amino acids—that are essential building blocks shared by all living things. The discovery opens the door to the possibility that these molecules were brought to Earth aboard a comet or possibly meteorites, catalyzing the formation of proteins (polypeptides), enzymes and even more complex molecules, such as sugars, that are necessary for life.
In tiny test tubes, researchers at the Cosmic Ice Lab at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center can reproduce reactions in ice from almost any time and place in the history of the solar system, including some that might help explain the origin of life. But to do so, they must use ice that produced with intense cold and low pressure, conditions that rarely occur on Earth.
NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbits our planet every 95 minutes, building up increasingly deeper views of the universe with every circuit. Its wide-eyed Large Area Telescope (LAT) sweeps across the entire sky every three hours, capturing gamma rays from sources across the universe. A Fermi scientist has transformed LAT data of a famous pulsar into a mesmerizing movie that visually encapsulates the spacecraft's complex motion.
An international team including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists has definitively measured the spin rate of a supermassive black hole for the first time. The findings, made by the two X-ray space observatories, NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton, solve a long-standing debate about similar measurements in other black holes and will lead to a better understanding of how black holes and galaxies evolve.
An online vote to name Pluto's two newest, itty-bitty moons is over. And No. 1 is Vulcan, a name suggested by actor William Shatner, who played Capt. Kirk in the original "Star Trek" TV series. The contest was conducted by SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., the research base for the primary moon hunter. The 10 astronomers who made the discoveries will take the voting results into account, as they come up with what they consider to be the two best names.
Even dying stars could host planets with life—and if such life exists, we might be able to detect it within the next decade. This encouraging result comes from a new theoretical study of Earth-like planets orbiting white dwarf stars. Researchers found that we could detect oxygen in the atmosphere of a white dwarf's planet much more easily than for an Earth-like planet orbiting a sun-like star.
Researchers have used the 3D simulation capabilities of the supercomputers at the Texas Advanced Computing Center to predict the formation of accretion disks and relativistic jets that warp and bend more than previously thought, shaped both by the extreme gravity of the black hole and by powerful magnetic forces generated by its spin. Their highly detailed models of the black hole environment contribute new knowledge to the field.
By analyzing Mercury's rocky surface, scientists have been able to partially reconstruct the planet's history over billions of years. Now, drawing upon the chemical composition of rock features on the planet's surface, scientists have proposed that Mercury may have harbored a large, roiling ocean of magma very early in its history, shortly after its formation about 4.5 billion years ago.
A team of scientists including two Yale University astronomers has discovered the smallest planet yet detected. In recently published research, the scientists reported finding a planetary system, Kepler-37, with three planets. Two of them are smaller than Earth, and one of these is smaller than Mercury, the smallest of the eight planets in Earth's solar system.
Scientists have found more than 50 tiny fragments of a meteor that exploded over Russia's Ural Mountains with the power of dozens of atomic bombs. Most are less than a centimeter in diameter, but locals saw a big meteorite fall into the lake on Friday, leaving a 6-m-wide hole in the ice. A meteor up to 50-60 cm could eventually be found in the lake.
After sifting through four years of data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, a research team has found the first unambiguous evidence of how cosmic rays are born. The new study confirms what scientists have long suspected: Cosmic rays—energetic particles that pelt Earth from all directions—are born in the violent aftermath of supernovas, exploding stars throughout the galaxy.
A meteor that scientists estimate weighed 10 tons (11 tons) streaked at supersonic speed over Russia's Ural Mountains on Friday, setting off blasts that injured nearly 1,000 people and frightened countless more. The Russian Academy of Sciences said in a statement that the meteor over the Chelyabinsk region entered the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of at least 54,000 kph (33,000 mph) and shattered about 30-50 km (18-32 miles) above ground.
According to Jay Melosh, a distinguished professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences and physics and aerospace engineering at Purdue University, if the asteroid rapidly approaching us this week were to impact rather than nearly miss Earth, it would explode with a four-megaton force near what the military calls optimum height for damage. This asteroid would release only half the energy of the Siberian strike in 1917, but the 30,000-foot detonation height could cause significant property damage and loss of life.
Earth-like worlds may be closer and more plentiful than anyone imagined. Astronomers reported Wednesday that the nearest Earth-like planet may be just 13 light-years away—or some 77 trillion miles. That planet hasn't been found yet, but should be there based on the team's study of red dwarf stars. Galactically speaking, that's right next door.
Researchers searching the galaxy for planets that could pass the litmus test of sustaining water-based life must find whether those planets fall in what’s known as a habitable zone. New work, led by a team of Penn State University researchers, will help scientists in that search.