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Sharp-eyed Alma spots a flare on red giant star

May 29, 2015 11:21 am | by Chalmers Univ. of Technology | News | Comments

Super-sharp observations with the telescope Alma have revealed what seems to be a gigantic flare on the surface of Mira, one of the closest and most famous red giant stars in the sky. Activity like this in red giants, similar to what we see in the sun, comes as a surprise to astronomers. The discovery could help explain how winds from giant stars make their contribution to our galaxy's ecosystem.

Merging galaxies break radio silence

May 28, 2015 11:20 am | by Hubble Information Centre | News | Comments

In the most extensive survey of its kind ever conducted, a team of scientists have found an unambiguous link between the presence of supermassive black holes that power high-speed, radio-signal-emitting jets and the merger history of their host galaxies. Almost all of the galaxies hosting these jets were found to be merging with another galaxy, or to have done so recently.

What the solar system looked like as a “toddler”

May 27, 2015 11:01 am | by Sarah Collins, Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

An international team of astronomers has identified a young planetary system which may aid in understanding how our own solar system formed and developed billions of years ago. Using the Gemini Planet Imager at the Gemini South telescope in Chile, the researchers identified a disc-shaped bright ring of dust around a star only slightly more massive than the sun, located 360 light-years away in the Centaurus constellation.

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Similarities between aurorae on Mars and Earth

May 27, 2015 10:31 am | by Aalto Univ. | News | Comments

A team of researchers has, for the first time, predicted the occurrence of aurorae visible to the naked eye on a planet other than Earth. Mars' upper atmosphere may be indeed closer to Earth's than previously thought. Researchers showed that the upper atmosphere of Mars glows blue depending on the activity of the sun.

One step closer to mimicking gamma-ray bursts

May 27, 2015 9:56 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

Using ever-more energetic lasers, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have produced a record high number of electron-positron pairs, opening exciting opportunities to study extreme astrophysical processes, such as black holes and gamma-ray bursts.

Mars Rover’s ChemCam gets sharper vision

May 22, 2015 7:51 am | by Nancy Amrbosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover’s ChemCam instrument just got a major capability fix, as Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists uploaded a software repair for the auto-focus system on the instrument. The team realized last November that a small laser used to focus the ChemCam telescope on its target fialed. And without this laser rangefinder, the instrument was blind.

Uncovering the mysteries of cosmic explosions

May 21, 2015 4:06 pm | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

An automated software system developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory played a key role in the discovery of supernova iPTF 14atg and could provide insight, a virtual Rosetta stone, into future supernovae and their underlying physics.

Hubble observes one-of-a-kind star nicknamed “Nasty”

May 21, 2015 3:52 pm | by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered surprising new clues about a hefty, rapidly aging star whose behavior has never been seen before in our Milky Way galaxy. In fact, the star is so weird that astronomers have nicknamed it "Nasty 1," a play on its catalog name of NaSt1. The star may represent a brief transitory stage in the evolution of extremely massive stars.

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Finding the fluffiest galaxies

May 21, 2015 11:34 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

A fluffy galaxy is hard to find, but that didn’t stop a Yale Univ. astronomer and an international research team from identifying the fluffiest galaxies in the universe. These “ultra-diffuse” galaxies are located about 300 million light years from Earth, in the Coma cluster of galaxies. What makes them fluffy? It is this: Although they are as wide as our own Milky Way galaxy, they harbor only 1% as many stars.

Astronomers observe supernova colliding with its companion star

May 21, 2015 7:51 am | by Allie Akmal, Caltech | News | Comments

Type Ia supernovae, one of the most dazzling phenomena in the universe, are produced when small dense stars called white dwarfs explode with ferocious intensity. At their peak, these supernovae can outshine an entire galaxy. Although thousands of supernovae of this kind were found in the last decades, the process by which a white dwarf becomes one has been unclear.

NASA advances CubeSat concept for planetary exploration

May 20, 2015 8:08 am | by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Although scientists are increasingly using pint-size satellites sometimes no larger than a loaf of bread to gather data from low-Earth orbit, they have yet to apply the less-expensive small-satellite technology to observe physical phenomena far from terra firma. Jaime Esper, a technologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., however, is advancing a CubeSat concept that would give scientists that capability.

Researchers join the hunt for “elusive” gravitational waves

May 19, 2015 10:55 am | by Cardiff University | News | Comments

An international project to find the first direct evidence of the existence of gravitational waves, will be officially inaugurated on May 19, 2015. Researchers at Cardiff University will use a powerful supercomputer to comb through data from two gravitational wave detectors now being brought online and will search, with unprecedented accuracy, for the first ever direct evidence of the existence of gravitational waves later this year.

Geologists fine-tune search for life on Mars

May 14, 2015 2:23 pm | by Brendan Lynch, KU News Service | Videos | Comments

For centuries, people have imagined the possibility of life on Mars. But long-held dreams that Martians could be invaders of Earth, or little green men, or civilized superbeings, all have been undercut by missions to our neighboring planet that have, so far, uncovered no life at all.

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Water was plentiful in early universe

May 13, 2015 12:17 pm | by American Friends of Tel Aviv Univ. | News | Comments

Astronomers have held that water was a relative latecomer to the universe. They believed any element heavier than helium had to have been formed in the cores of stars and not by the Big Bang itself. Since the earliest stars would have taken some time to form, mature and die, it was presumed that it took billions of years for oxygen atoms to disperse throughout the universe and attach to hydrogen to produce the first interstellar "water".

Preparing weather forecasts for planets beyond our solar system

May 13, 2015 7:42 am | by Sean Bettam, Univ. of Toronto | News | Comments

"Cloudy for the morning, turning to clear with scorching heat in the afternoon." While this might describe a typical late-summer day in many places on Earth, it may also apply to planets outside our solar system, according to a new study by an international team of astrophysicists.

The dark side of star clusters

May 13, 2015 7:26 am | by ESO | News | Comments

Globular star clusters are huge balls of thousands of stars that orbit most galaxies. They are among the oldest known stellar systems in the universe and have survived through almost the entire span of galaxy growth and evolution.

“Breaking waves” perturb Earth’s magnetic field

May 11, 2015 11:37 am | by David Sims, Univ. of New Hampshire | News | Comments

The underlying physical process that creates striking "breaking wave" cloud patterns in our atmosphere also frequently opens the gates to high-energy solar wind plasma that perturbs Earth's magnetic field, or magnetosphere, which protects us from cosmic radiation. The discovery was made by two Univ. of New Hampshire space physicists.

Lopsided star explosion holds key to supernova mysteries

May 8, 2015 10:34 am | by Ker Than, Caltech | News | Comments

New observations of a recently exploded star are confirming supercomputer model predictions made at Caltech that the deaths of stellar giants are lopsided affairs in which debris and the stars' cores hurtle off in opposite directions. While observing the remnant of supernova (SN) 1987A, NuSTAR recently detected the unique energy signature of titanium-44.

Some see telescope as an opportunity for science education

May 8, 2015 2:09 am | by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Associated Press | News | Comments

Before going up to Mauna Kea's summit on Hawaii's Big Island, Heather Kaluna makes an offering to Poliahu, the snow goddess of the mountain. She holds it sacred, as do other Native Hawaiians. The mountain holds another important place in her life: Poised to be the first Native Hawaiian to get an astronomy doctorate from the Univ. of Hawaii, she uses the mountain to gaze at the stars.

Fresh evidence for how water reached Earth

May 7, 2015 8:11 am | by Univ. or Warwick | News | Comments

Water delivery via asteroids or comets is likely taking place in many other planetary systems, just as it happened on Earth, new research strongly suggests. Led by the Univ. of Warwick, the research finds evidence for numerous planetary bodies, including asteroids and comets, containing large amounts of water.

Astronomers unveil the farthest galaxy

May 6, 2015 9:01 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

An international team of astronomers has pushed back the cosmic frontier of galaxy exploration to a time when the universe was only 5% of its present age. The team discovered an exceptionally luminous galaxy more than 13 billion years in the past and determined its exact distance from Earth using the powerful MOSFIRE instrument on the W.M. Keck Observatory’s 10-m telescope, in Hawaii. It is the most distant galaxy currently measured.

A hot start to the origin of life?

May 6, 2015 8:01 am | by Kate Greene, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

DNA is synonymous with life, but where did it originate? One way to answer this question is to try to recreate the conditions that formed DNA’s molecular precursors. These precursors are carbon ring structures with embedded nitrogen atoms, key components of nucleobases, which themselves are building blocks of the double helix.

First evidence of changing conditions on a super Earth

May 5, 2015 8:36 am | by Sarah Collins, Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

Astronomers have detected wildly changing temperatures on a super Earth, the first time any atmospheric variability has been observed on a rocky planet outside the solar system, and believe it could be due to huge amounts of volcanic activity, further adding to the mystery of what had been nicknamed the “diamond planet”.

Tracking photosynthesis from space

May 5, 2015 7:55 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Watching plants perform photosynthesis from space sounds like a futuristic proposal, but a new application of data from NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 satellite may enable scientists to do just that. The new technique, which allows researchers to analyze plant productivity from far above Earth, will provide a clearer picture of the global carbon cycle.

Pulsar with widest orbit ever detected

May 4, 2015 11:25 am | by National Radio Astronomy Observatory | News | Comments

A team of highly determined high school students discovered a never-before-seen pulsar by painstakingly analyzing data from the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT). Further observations by astronomers using the GBT revealed that this pulsar has the widest orbit of any around a neutron star and is part of only a handful of double neutron star systems.

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