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.
NASA has selected a new space mission that will help astronomers understand both how our universe evolved and how common are the ingredients for life in our galaxy’s planetary systems.
Astronomers have made the most precise measurement to date of the rate at which the universe is expanding.But there’s also some unsettling news: The new number remains at odds with independent measurements of the early universe’s expansion, which could mean that there is something unknown about the makeup of the universe.
Since the 18th century, astronomers have been aware that our Solar System is embedded in a vast disk of stars and gas known as the Milky Way Galaxy. Since that time, the greatest scientific minds have been attempting to obtain accurate distance measurements in order to determine just how large the Milky Way is. This has been no easy task, since the fact that we are embedded in our galaxy’s disk means that we cannot view it head-on.
As an astrophysicist, I am always struck by the fact that even the wildest science-fiction stories tend to be distinctly human in character. No matter how exotic the locale or how unusual the scientific concepts, most science fiction ends up being about quintessentially human (or human-like) interactions, problems, foibles and challenges.
In accordance with the Big Bang model of cosmology, shortly after the Universe came into being there was a period known as the “Dark Ages”. This occurred between 380,000 and 150 million years after the Big Bang, where most of the photons in the Universe were interacting with electrons and protons. As a result, the radiation of this period is undetectable by our current instruments – hence the name.
Scientists have long tried to explain the origin of a mysterious, large and anomalously cold region of the sky. In 2015, they came close to figuring it out as a study showed it to be a “supervoid” in which the density of galaxies is much lower than it is in the rest of the universe. However, other studies haven’t managed to replicate the result.
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile has begun observing in a new range of the electromagnetic spectrum. This has been made possible thanks to new receivers installed at the telescope’s antennas, which can detect radio waves with wavelengths from 1.4 to 1.8 millimetres — a range previously untapped by ALMA. This upgrade allows astronomers to detect faint signals of water in the nearby Universe.
A team of researchers has observed the brightest ultra metal-poor star ever discovered. The star is a rare relic from the Milky Way’s formative years. As such, it offers astronomers a precious opportunity to explore the origin of the first stars that sprung to life within our galaxy and the universe.