Astronomy & Space

Image by Haven Giguere

Nearby super-Earth likely a diamond planet

New research led by Yale University scientists suggests that a rocky planet twice Earth's size orbiting a nearby star is a diamond planet.

Rocket powered by nuclear fusion could send humans to Mars

Human travel to Mars has long been the unachievable dangling carrot for space programs. Now, astronauts could be a step closer to our nearest planetary neighbor through a unique manipulation of nuclear fusion, the same energy that powers the sun and stars. Read >>

Earth-like Planets Are Right Next Door

Using publicly available data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) have found that six percent of red dwarf stars have habitable, Earth-sized planets. Since red dwarfs are the most common stars in our galaxy, the closest Earth-like planet could be just 13 light-years away. Read >>

Strange new bursts of gamma-rays point to a new way to destroy a star

A team led by the University of Warwick has pinpointed a new type of exceptionally powerful and long-lived cosmic explosion, prompting a theory that they arise in the violent death throes of a supergiant star. Read >>

Notre Dame astrophysicist discovers planets similar to Earth

Researchers for the first time have identified Earth-sized planets within the habitable zone of a Sun-like star. Images of the star taken by University of Notre Dame astrophysicist Justin Crepp rule out alternative explanations of the data, confirming that five planets orbit Kepler-62, with two located in the habitable zone. Read >>

Did UA Mars Camera Find Lost Spacecraft?

Hardware from a Soviet spacecraft that went silent only seconds after making the first successful soft landing on Mars in 1971 might appear in images taken by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Read >>

Blame it on the Rain (from Saturn's Rings)

A study led by the University of Leicester finds that charged-water "rain" from Saturn's rings falls across large swaths of the planet Read >>

Kepler's supernova came from young, metal-rich star, UT Arlington researcher finds

The supernova observed by Johannes Kepler in 1604, known as “Kepler’s supernova,” came from a relatively young star that was rich in metals, according to research published by The Astrophysical Journal Letters and co-authored by a UT Arlington assistant professor. Read >>

Leicester scientists organise groundbreaking Saturn observational campaign

Hubble Space Telescope, Cassini, Keck Observatory, VLT and IRTF to be used in month-long observation of Saturn’s auroras - coordinated by University of Leicester Read >>

Exploding star missing from formation of solar system

A new study published by University of Chicago researchers challenges the notion that the force of an exploding star prompted the formation of the solar system. Read >>

Princeton astrophysicists helped Planck mission bring universe into sharp focus

Princeton University researchers contributed extensively to the Planck space mission that on March 21 released the most accurate and detailed map ever made of the oldest light in the universe, revealing new information about its age, contents and origins. The new results suggest that the universe is expanding more slowly than scientists thought, and is 13.8 billion years old, about 100 million years older than previous estimates. Read >>

Astronomers Discover a New Kind of Supernova

Until now, supernovas came in two main "flavors." A core-collapse supernova is the explosion of a star about 10 to 100 times as massive as our sun, while a Type Ia supernova is the complete disruption of a tiny white dwarf. Today, astronomers are reporting their discovery of a new kind of supernova called Type Iax. Read >>

Pan-STARRS Finds a "Lost" Supernova

Supernova explosions of massive stars are common in spiral galaxies like the Milky Way, where new stars are forming all the time. They are almost never seen in elliptical galaxies where star formation has nearly ceased. As a result, astronomers were surprised to find a young-looking supernova in an old galaxy. Supernova PS1-12sk, discovered with the Pan-STARRS telescope on Haleakala, is rare in more ways than one. Read >>

Astronomers report dark matter 'halos' may contain stars, disprove other theories

Could it be that dark matter "halos" — the huge, invisible cocoons of mass that envelop entire galaxies and account for most of the matter in the universe — aren't completely dark after all but contain a small number of stars? Astronomers from UCLA, UC Irvine and elsewhere make a case for that in the Oct. 25 issue of the journal Nature. Read >>

Stanford scientist closes in on a mystery that impedes space exploration

The large meteoroid that struck Russia last week is just one of the factors in space that cause satellites to fail. Sigrid Close, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, is proving that the effects of "space dust" are a more likely cause. Read >>

Bursts of Star Formation in the Early Universe

Galaxies have been experiencing vigorous bursts of star formation from much earlier in cosmic history than previously thought, according to new observations by a Caltech-led team. Read >>

Cosmic rays come from exploding stars, say Stanford astrophysicists

Researchers use data from an orbiting gamma-ray telescope to settle the issue: Cosmic rays do indeed have their origin in exploding supernovas. Read >>

Astronomers find smallest known planet — smaller than Mercury

In research published online Feb. 20 in the journal Nature, 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 Read >>

ALMA Exposes Hidden Star Factories in the Early Universe

Using entire galaxies as gigantic gravitational lenses, UA astronomers have obtained new measurements of some of the oldest galaxies in the universe. Their observations revealed that some of the most vigorous bursts of star birth in the cosmos took place much earlier than previously thought. Read >>

Breakthrough study models dying stars in a lab

A team of scientists has successfully reproduced conditions in one of the most hostile environments in the galaxy, enabling them to find out more about how atoms behave in these extreme settings. Read >>

After another near miss, Stanford professor wants to find asteroids that threaten Earth

On Saturday, an asteroid the size of one and a half football fields flew within 240,000 miles of Earth. If the space rock had hit land, it would have leveled an area the size of San Francisco Bay. If it had hit the Pacific Ocean, the impact would have sent a tsunami to every facing shore. Read >>

California Scientists Propose System to Vaporize Asteroids That Threaten Earth

An asteroid roughly half as large as a football field –– and with energy equal to a large hydrogen bomb –– recently buzzed by Earth at close range. Someday, a threat of that size could be eliminated within an hour under a proposed system just unveiled by two California scientists. Read >>

Observed: The Outburst before the Blast

Researchers discover a star’s “mini-explosion” taking place just a month before an all-out supernova explosion. The findings, which appeared today in Nature, help to clarify the series of events leading up to the supernova, as well as providing insight into the processes taking place in the cores of such massive stars as they progress toward the final stage of their lives. Read >>

Unmasking galaxies’ hidden black holes

Most galaxies have a massive black hole at their center, astronomers suspect, but only a few dozen examples are known out of billions of galaxies in the cosmos. Now astronomers have developed a quick technique that could potentially uncover and weigh 10 times more massive black holes. Read >>

Space Instrument Adds Big Piece to the Solar Corona Puzzle

The Sun's visible surface, or photosphere, is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As you move outward from it, you pass through a tenuous layer of hot, ionized gas or plasma called the corona. Read >>

Planets Abound

Caltech-led astronomers estimate that at least 100 billion planets populate the galaxy Read >>

A Cloudy Mystery

It's the mystery of the curiously dense cloud. And astronomers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) are on the case. Read >>

Herschel Space Observatory study reveals galaxy-packed filament

Finding provides unique opportunity to explore how galaxies and cosmic structure evolve Read >>

Scientists Peer Into a Brown Dwarf, Find Stormy Atmosphere

A University of Arizona-led team of astronomers for the first time has used NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes simultaneously to peer into the stormy atmosphere of a brown dwarf, creating the most detailed “weather map” yet for this class of strange, not-quite-star-and-not-quite-planet objects. The forecast shows wind-driven, planet-sized clouds enshrouding these strange worlds. Read >>

First "Bone" of the Milky Way Identified

Our Milky Way is a spiral galaxy - a pinwheel-shaped collection of stars, gas and dust. It has a central bar and two major spiral arms that wrap around its disk. Since we view the Milky Way from the inside, its exact structure is difficult to determine. Astronomers have identified a new structure in the Milky Way: a long tendril of dust and gas that they are calling a "bone." Read >>

Super-TIGER stalks cosmic rays in Antarctica

WUSTL scientists explain quest to solve cosmic ray mystery Read >>

Asteroid Belt Found Around Vega

A UA-led team of astronomers has discovered inner asteroid belts and outer comet-filled belts similar to the arrangement found in our solar system around nearby stars Vega and Fomalhaut. A wide gap between the inner and outer belts strongly hints at the existence of yet undiscovered planets circling the bright stars. Read >>

At Least One in Six Stars Has an Earth-sized Planet

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. Read >>

Dark Energy Alternatives to Einstein Are Running Out of Room

Research by University of Arizona astronomy professor Rodger Thompson finds that a popular alternative to Albert Einstein’s theory for the acceleration of the expansion of the universe does not fit newly obtained data on a fundamental constant, the proton to electron mass ratio. Read >>

Stanford researchers develop acrobatic space rovers to explore moons and asteroids

Stanford researchers, in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have designed a robotic platform that could take space exploration to new heights. Read >>

Exocomets may be as common as exoplanets

Comets trailing wispy tails across the night sky are a beautiful byproduct of our solar system’s formation, icy leftovers from 4.6 billion years ago when the planets coalesced from rocky rubble. The discovery by astronomers at the Read >>

Astronomers Pin Down Origins of “Mile Markers” for Expansion of Universe

A study using a unique new instrument on the world’s largest optical telescope has revealed the likely origins of especially bright supernovae that astronomers use as easy-to-spot “mile markers” to measure the expansion and acceleration of the universe. Read >>

Astronomers discover “missing link” of black holes

The discovery of a bingeing black hole that is expelling powerful beams of material has shed new light on some of the brightest X-ray sources seen in other galaxies, according to new research led by Durham University. Read >>

New tool is probing the structure of the Milky Way's heart

The discovery that hundreds of stars are rapidly moving together in long, looping orbits around the center of our galaxy has been announced by a team of scientists including a Penn State University astronomer and others collaborating in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III Read >>

X-ray laser takes aim at cosmic mystery

An international collaboration including researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has refined a key process in understanding extreme plasmas such as those found in the sun, stars, at the rims of black holes and galaxy clusters. Read >>

Sussex space scientists help to reveal brilliant world of starburst galaxies

University of Sussex astronomers and space scientists in Hawaii have helped to reveal hundreds of previously unseen starburst galaxies – the birthplace of the stars that populate our Universe. Read >>

How Stars Look Young When They're Not: The Secret of Aging Well

The aging of star clusters is linked more with their lifestyle than with how old they actually are, according to a new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope study coauthored by Steinn Sigurdsson, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State. Read >>

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