To get an idea of how the early solar system may have formed, scientists often look to asteroids. These relics of rock and dust represent what today’s planets may have been before they differentiated into bodies of core, mantle and crust. In the 1980s, scientists’ view of the solar system’s asteroids was essentially static. But in the last decade, astronomers have detected asteroids with compositions unexpected for their locations in space.
Using the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), astronomer D.J. Pisano from West Virginia Univ. has discovered what could be a never-before-seen river of hydrogen flowing through space. This very faint, very tenuous filament of gas is streaming into the nearby galaxy NGC 6946 and may help explain how certain spiral galaxies keep up their steady pace of star formation.
China says its first lunar rover is experiencing mechanical problems, a rare setback for its burgeoning space program. The six-wheeled Yutu vehicle began operating last month after making the first soft landing on the moon by a space probe in 37 years. The mechanical problems appeared to be related to the solar-powered probe's process for shutting down for the lunar night, which lasts more than two weeks.
An unmanned rocket blasted into a chilly, clear sky Thursday night carrying the latest, third-generation Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). The TDRS system, used on several satellites to support the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope, is so vital it's considered a national asset. Together they supply real-time global coverage at all times.
A decade after landing on Mars, the rover Opportunity is still chugging along. Sure, it has some wear and tear. One of its six wheels and two instruments stopped working long ago. It has an arthritic joint. Its flash memory occasionally suffers a senior moment. But these problems are considered minor for a journey that was supposed to be just a three-month adventure.
Space weathering, which works similar to geological erosion on the Earth, produces water in the rims of tiny particles of interplanetary dust. The discovery may have implications on the origins of life and sources of water throughout the galaxy. As a byproduct of star formation, water ice is the most abundant solid material in the universe. But this new source was a surprise.
For decades, astrophysicists have encountered a puzzling contradiction: although many galactic-wind models—simulations of how matter is distributed in our universe—predict that the majority of the "normal" matter exists in stars at the center of galaxies, in actuality these stars account for less than 10% of the matter in the universe. A new set of simulations offer insight into this mismatch between the models and reality.
The largest object in the asteroid belt just got more attractive: Scientists have confirmed signs of water on the dwarf planet Ceres, one of the few bodies in the solar system to hold that distinction. The observations, published in Thursday's issue of Nature, come as NASA's Dawn spacecraft is set to arrive at the Texas-sized dwarf planet next year.
Several hundred ants have boldly gone where no ants have gone before: the International Space Station (ISS), high above Earth. An unmanned supply rocket delivered 600 small black common pavement ants to the ISS. Their arrival marked the beginning of an experiment designed by a team at Stanford Univ. to determine how the ants, in these exotic surroundings, adapt the innate algorithms that modulate their group behavior.
Astronomers have discovered a distant quasar illuminating a vast nebula of diffuse gas, revealing, for the first time, part of the network of filaments thought to connect galaxies in a cosmic web. Using the 10-m Keck I Telescope at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, the researchers detected a very large, luminous nebula of gas extending about 2 million light-years across intergalactic space.
After a 10-year journey and a long, deep sleep the Rosetta space probe will be awoken on Jan. 20, 2014. The vehicle then starts the last leg of its journey which will lead it to the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet. Then, mission leaders will attempt a space exploration first: setting the Philae lander down on the comet’s surface in November.
Christmas has finally arrived for the six space station astronauts. A privately launched supply ship arrived at the International Space Station on Sunday morning, three days after blasting off from Virginia. The space station crew used a hefty robot arm to capture the Cygnus capsule as the two craft zoomed side by side at 17,500 mph.
A new study of light from quasars has provided astronomers with illuminating insights into the swirling clouds of gas that form stars and galaxies, proving that the clouds can shift and change much more quickly than previously thought. The team used data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, a major eight-year cooperative project to image and map galaxies and quasars.
Blame the sun. Orbital Sciences Corp. is delaying its space station delivery mission again, this time because of a strong solar storm. The company's unmanned rocket, the Antares, was supposed to blast off Thursday from Wallops Island, Va., with a capsule full of supplies and science experiments for the International Space Station.
Dwarf galaxies may be small, but astronomers now know that they can hold massive black holes. Yale Univ. astronomer Marla Geha and collaborators have identified more than 100 dwarf galaxies that show signs of hosting massive black holes, a discovery that challenges the idea that they exist only in much bigger galaxies.
Images released by NASA on Tuesday show galaxies that are 20 times fainter than those pictured before. They are from a new campaign to have the 23-year-old Hubble Space Telescope gaze much earlier and farther away than it was designed to see. The spacecraft is now looking within 500 million years after the Big Bang.
After nearly a decade of development and testing, an advanced instrument for directly imaging and analyzing planets orbiting around other stars is pointing skyward and collecting light from distant worlds. For the past decade, a multi-institutional team has designed, engineered, built and optimized the instrument, called the Gemini Planet Imager, which will be used for high-contrast imaging to study faint planets next to bright stars.
An international team of astronomers, using NASA's Fermi observatory, has made the first-ever gamma ray measurements of a gravitational lens, a kind of natural telescope formed when a rare cosmic alignment allows the gravity of a massive object to bend and amplify light from a more distant source. This accomplishment opens new avenues for research, including a novel way to probe emission regions near supermassive black holes.
Supernovas are thought to be a primary source of a galaxy’s dust. Direct evidence of a supernova’s dust-making capabilities, however, has been slim and cannot account for the volume of dust detected in young, distant galaxies. Striking new observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope capture, for the first time, the remains of a recent supernova brimming with freshly formed dust.
Weather forecasters on exoplanet GJ 1214b would have an easy job. Today’s forecast: cloudy. Tomorrow: overcast. Extended outlook: more clouds.The scrutinized planet, which is known as GJ 1214b, is classified as a super-Earth type planet because its mass is intermediate between those of Earth and Neptune.
Astronomers are still largely working with a “flat” map of the galaxy, and the European Space Agency hopes to change that with Gaia, its star-surveying satellite which launched into space Thursday. The spacecraft will produce the most accurate 3-D map of the Milky Way yet. Gaia is now heading for a stable orbit on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun, and will always keep its back to the sun.
Astronomers affiliated with the Supernova Legacy Survey (SNLS) have discovered two of the brightest and most distant supernovae ever recorded, 10 billion light-years away and a hundred times more luminous than a normal supernova. These newly discovered supernovae are especially puzzling because the mechanism that powers most of them cannot explain their extreme luminosity.
NASA has ordered up a series of urgent spacewalks to fix a broken cooling line at the International Space Station, a massive repair job that could stretch to Christmas Day. Station managers decided Tuesday to send two American astronauts out as soon as possible to replace a pump with a bad valve. The task will require two and possibly three spacewalks on Saturday, Monday and next Wednesday.
Noble gas molecules have been detected in space for the first time in the Crab Nebula, a supernova remnant, by astronomers at Univ. College London. Led by Prof. Mike Barlow, the team used ESA's Herschel Space Observatory to observe the Crab Nebula in far infrared light. Their measurements of regions of cold gas and dust led them to the serendipitous discovery of the chemical fingerprint of argon hydride ions.
The astronauts aboard the International Space Station dimmed the lights, turned off unnecessary equipment and put off science work Thursday as NASA scrambled to figure out what's wrong with a key cooling unit. One of two identical cooling loops shut down Wednesday when the line got too cold because of a faulty valve. The system uses ammonia to dissipate heat from onboard equipment.