astronomy

Hubble Captures the Brilliant Heart of a Massive Galaxy

Hubble Captures the Brilliant Heart of a Massive Galaxy

This fuzzy orb of light is a giant elliptical galaxy filled with an incredible 200 billion stars. Unlike spiral galaxies, which have a well-defined structure and boast picturesque spiral arms, elliptical galaxies appear fairly smooth and featureless. This is likely why this galaxy, named Messier 49 (M49), was discovered by French astronomer Charles Messier in 1771. At a distance of 56 million light-years and measuring 157,000 light-years across, M49 was the first member of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies to be discovered, and it is more luminous than any other galaxy at its distance or nearer.

Which Habitable Zones are the Best to Actually Search for Life?

Which Habitable Zones are the Best to Actually Search for Life?

Looking to the future, NASA and other space agencies have high hopes for the field of extra-solar planet research. In the past decade, the number of known exoplanets has reached just shy of 4000, and many more are expected to be found once next-generations telescopes are put into service. And with so many exoplanets to study, research goals have slowly shifted away from the process of discovery and towards characterization.

Cooking up Alien Atmospheres on Earth

Cooking up Alien Atmospheres on Earth

Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are cooking up an alien atmosphere right here on Earth. In a new study, JPL scientists used a high-temperature "oven" to heat a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,100 Celsius), about the temperature of molten lava. The aim was to simulate conditions that might be found in the atmospheres of a special class of exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) called "hot Jupiters."

A Cosmic Bat in Flight - ESO’s Cosmic Gems Programme captures the Cosmic Bat’s dusty clouds

A Cosmic Bat in Flight - ESO’s Cosmic Gems Programme captures the Cosmic Bat’s dusty clouds

Hidden in one of the darkest corners of the Orion constellation, this Cosmic Bat is spreading its hazy wings through interstellar space two thousand light-years away. It is illuminated by the young stars nestled in its core — despite being shrouded by opaque clouds of dust, their bright rays still illuminate the nebula. Too dim to be discerned by the naked eye, NGC 1788 reveals its soft colours to ESO's Very Large Telescope in this image — the most detailed to date.

What Scientists Found After Sifting Through Dust in the Solar System

What Scientists Found After Sifting Through Dust in the Solar System

Just as dust gathers in corners and along bookshelves in our homes, dust piles up in space too. But when the dust settles in the solar system, it’s often in rings. Several dust rings circle the Sun. The rings trace the orbits of planets, whose gravity tugs dust into place around the Sun, as it drifts by on its way to the center of the solar system.

There are missing objects at the fringe of the solar system – new study puzzles astronomers

There are missing objects at the fringe of the solar system – new study puzzles astronomers

In the dimly lit spaces of our solar system beyond Neptune’s orbit lies the Kuiper Belt. This a region between about 35 and 50 times further from the sun than the Earth, populated by icy bodies so sparsely distributed that they never had the chance to collide and merge into planet sized objects.

Neutrinos observed in the clustering of galaxies

Neutrinos observed in the clustering of galaxies

Shortly after the big bang, the universe was an energetic mixture of particles with strong mutual interaction. The first particles that managed to free themselves from this dense primordial soup were the neutrinos, the lightest and weakest interacting particles from the standard model of elementary particles. These neutrinos are still all around us today, but are very difficult to observe immediately because their interaction is so weak. An international team of cosmologists, including Daniel Baumann and Benjamin Wallisch from the University of Amsterdam, has now succeeded in measuring the influence that this 'cosmic neutrino background' has had on the way galaxy clusters formed during the evolution of the universe. The research was published in Nature Physics.

What’s the weather like on Uranus and Neptune? New images give important clues

What’s the weather like on Uranus and Neptune? New images give important clues

The outer region of the solar system may be the least explored, but scientists have managed to unravel several of its mysteries in recent weeks. On New Year’s Day, the NASA spacecraft New Horizons encountered the icy object Ultima Thule for the first time, shedding light on how it formed. Astronomers have also just discovered a previously unknown moon orbiting Neptune, which has been dubbed “Hippocamp”.

Meet WFIRST, The Space Telescope with the Power of 100 Hubbles

Meet WFIRST, The Space Telescope with the Power of 100 Hubbles

WFIRST ain’t your grandma’s space telescope. Despite having the same size mirror as the surprisingly reliable Hubble Space Telescope, clocking in at 2.4 meters across, this puppy will pack a punch with a gigantic 300 megapixel camera, enabling it to snap a single image with an area a hundred times greater than the Hubble.

Say Hello to Hippocamp! The New Moon Discovered at Neptune, Which Could Have Broken off from the Larger Moon Proteus

Say Hello to Hippocamp! The New Moon Discovered at Neptune, Which Could Have Broken off from the Larger Moon Proteus

Moons have the coolest names, don’t they? Proteus, Titan, and Callisto. Phobos, Deimos, and Encephalitis. But not Io. That’s a stupid name for a moon. There’s only two ways to pronounce it and we still get it wrong. Anyway, now we have another cool one: Hippocamp!

SOFIA Uncovers Clues to the Evolution of Universe and Search for Life

SOFIA Uncovers Clues to the Evolution of Universe and Search for Life

A compilation of scientific results from The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, reveal new clues to how stars form and galaxies evolve, and closer to understanding the environment of Europa and its subsurface ocean. The airborne observatory carries a suite of instruments, each sensitive to different properties of infrared light, that gives astronomers insights into the flow of matter in galaxies.

Citizen Scientist Finds Ancient White Dwarf Star Encircled by Puzzling Rings

Citizen Scientist Finds Ancient White Dwarf Star Encircled by Puzzling Rings

A volunteer working with the NASA-led Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project has found the oldest and coldest known white dwarf — an Earth-sized remnant of a Sun-like star that has died — ringed by dust and debris. Astronomers suspect this could be the first known white dwarf with multiple dust rings.

Hubble Captures Smoking Gun of a Newborn Star

Hubble Captures Smoking Gun of a Newborn Star

In this image, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the smoking gun of a newborn star, the Herbig–Haro objects numbered 7 to 11 (HH 7–11). These five objects, visible in blue in the top center of the image, lie within NGC 1333, a reflection nebula full of gas and dust found about a thousand light-years away from Earth.

A Star’s Outburst is Releasing Organic Molecules Trapped in the ice Around it

A Star’s Outburst is Releasing Organic Molecules Trapped in the ice Around it

According to widely-accepted theories, the Solar System formed roughly 4.6 billion years ago from a massive cloud of dust and gas (aka. Nebular Theory). This process began when the nebula experienced a gravitational collapse in the center that became our Sun. The remaining dust and gas formed a protoplanetary disk that (over time) accreted to form the planets.

ESA is Planning a Mission to the Smallest Spacerock Ever Visited: the Moon of an Asteroid

ESA is Planning a Mission to the Smallest Spacerock Ever Visited: the Moon of an Asteroid

For some small minority of humans, Death By Asteroid is a desirable fate. The idea probably satisfies their wonky Doomsday thinking. But for the rest of us, going out the same way the dinosaurs did would just be embarrassing. Thankfully, the ESA’s Hera mission will visit the smallest spacerock ever, and will help us avoid going the way of the dinosaurs.

Kepler’s Final Image Shows A Galaxy Full Of Possibilities

Kepler’s Final Image Shows A Galaxy Full Of Possibilities

NASA’s Kepler space telescope may be retired, but the discoveries continue to rack up for this historic planet-hunting mission. Kepler rang in the new year with several new planet discoveries, including a previously overlooked planet of an unusual size, as well as a super Earth and a Saturn-sized world orbiting a Sun-like star.