Venus is hiding something beneath its brilliant shroud of clouds: a first order mystery about the planet that researchers may be a little closer to solving because of a new re-analysis of twenty-year-old spacecraft data. Venus's surface can't be seen from orbit in visible light because of the planet's hot, dense, cloudy atmosphere. Instead, radar has been used by spacecraft to penetrate the clouds and map out the surface – both by reflecting radar off the surface to measure elevation and by looking at the radio emissions of the hot surface.
Continue reading " What is Venus Hiding Beneath Its Brilliant Shroud of Clouds?" »
Researchers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have teased out the faint signal of a new organic molecule lurking in interstellar space. The molecule, known as iso-propyl cyanide (i-C3H7CN), is a variant (isomer) of a molecule already known to be quite prevalent in space. The key difference between the two is that the carbon backbone upon which the molecule is built is "branched" in this newest detection. This distinction is very significant, according to the researchers, because it suggests that branched carbon-chain molecules may be fairly abundant in interstellar space.
Continue reading "New Organic Molecule, the Precursor to Life Detected in Interstellar Space" »
How did life originate? And can scientists create life? These questions not only occupy the minds of scientists interested in the origin of life, but also researchers working with technology of the future. If we can create artificial living systems, we may not only understand the origin of life - we can also revolutionize the future of technology.
Continue reading "Have Scientists Just Replicated the Oldest Ancestor of Life on Earth?" »
Using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope astronomers have made what may be the most reliable distance measurement yet of an object that existed in the Universe’s formative years. The galaxy is one of the faintest, smallest and most distant galaxies ever seen and measuring its distance with this accuracy was possible due only to the incredibly detailed mapping of how giant galaxy clusters warp the space-time around them.
Continue reading "One of Oldest, Most Distant Galaxies Reveals a "Hidden Universe" of Unobserved Objects" »
For years astronomers have searched for the elusive progenitors of hydrogen-deficient stellar explosions without success. However, this changed in June 2013 with the appearance of supernova iPTF13bvn and the subsequent detection of an object at the same location in archival images obtained before the explosion using the HST. The interpretation of the observed object is controversial. The team led by Bersten presented a self-consistent picture using models of supernova brightness and progenitor evolution. In their picture, the more massive star in a binary system explodes after transferring mass to its companion.
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The Milky Way Galaxy is actually the largest member of a compact clutch of galaxies that are bound together by gravity. Swarming around our home Galaxy is a menagerie of smaller dwarf galaxies, the smallest of which are the relatively nearby dwarf spheroidals, which may be the leftover building blocks of galaxy formation. Further out are a number of similarly sized and slightly misshaped dwarf irregular galaxies, which are not gravitationally bound to the Milky Way and may be relative newcomers to our galactic neighborhood.
Continue reading "Milky Way's "Zombie" Zone --"Orbiting Dwarf Galaxies Completely Devoid of Hydrogen Gas"" »
Space scientists at the University of Leicester have detected a curious signal in the X-ray sky – one that provides a tantalising insight into the nature of mysterious Dark Matter. The Leicester team has found what appears to be a signature of 'axions', predicted 'Dark Matter' particle candidates – something that has been a puzzle to science for years.
Continue reading "Curious Cosmic Signal has No Conventional Explanation --"Offers Clues into Nature of Dark Matter"" »
A team led by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy has created the first three-dimensional map of the ‘adolescent’ Universe, just 3 billion years after the Big Bang. This map, built from data collected from the W. M. Keck Observatory, is millions of light-years across and provides a tantalizing glimpse of large structures in the ‘cosmic web’ – the backbone of cosmic structure.
Continue reading ""The Cosmic Web" --Astronomers Create 3-D Map of the Universe as it was 11 Billion Years Ago " »
Our view of other star systems just got a little more familiar, with the discovery of a planet 25,000 light-years away that resembles our own Uranus (Voyager 2 image above). Astronomers have discovered hundreds of planets around the Milky Way, including rocky planets similar to Earth and gas planets similar to Jupiter. But there is a third type of planet in our solar system—part gas, part ice—and this is the first time anyone has spotted a twin for our so-called “ice giant” planets, Uranus and Neptune.
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"We aimed to find the hidden star formation in the Spiderweb cluster (above) — and succeeded — but we unearthed a new mystery in the process; it was not where we expected! The mega city is developing asymmetrically," says Helmut Dannerbauer of the University of Vienna.
Continue reading "Secrets of a Galactic Metropolis Revealed --"The Largest Structures in the Universe"" »
NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft has provided scientists their first look at a storm of energetic solar particles at Mars and produced unprecedented ultraviolet images of the tenuous oxygen, hydrogen and carbon coronas surrounding the Red Planet, said University of Colorado Boulder Professor Bruce Jakosky, the mission’s principal investigator. The hydrogen and oxygen coronas of Mars are the tenuous outer fringe of the planet’s upper atmosphere, where the edge of the atmosphere meets space. In this region, atoms that were once a part of carbon dioxide or water molecules near the surface can escape to space, according to MAVEN scientists.
Continue reading "NASA's 1st MAVEN Findings Solve Mystery of Mars' Lost Atmosphere --"Only Tenuously Bound by the Planet’s Weak Gravity"" »
Based on projections of Kepler Mission exo-planet data, thousands of Earth-like, habitable planets should exist in other solar systems. With our ability to detect far-away planets getting better by the year, we’re on the verge of being able to tell which of these “exoplanets” harbor liquid water – a necessity for life as we know it, and one of the main features that astronomers look for when hunting Earth-like planets.
Continue reading ""Hunt for Earth-Like Alien Planets Heats Up" --Join a Live Google Webcast Today" »
Is matter falling into the massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way or being ejected from it? No one knows for sure, but a UC Santa Barbara astrophysicist is searching for an answer. Carl Gwinn, a professor in UCSB’s Department of Physics, and colleagues have analyzed images collected by the Russian spacecraft RadioAstron that was launched into orbit from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, in July 2011 with several missions, one of which was to investigate the scattering of pulsars — the cores of dead stars — by interstellar gas. What the team found led them to examine additional observations of Sagittarius A-Star (A*), the source that marks the Milky Way’s central black hole. Sagittarius A* is visible at radio, infrared and X-ray wavelengths.
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NASA Shares What MAVEN Spacecraft Has Seen in its First Few Weeks at Mars at a news teleconference at today 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 14, to announce early science results from its Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission mspacecraft that entered orbit around Mars on Sept. 21 completing an interplanetary journey of 10 months and 442 million miles (711 million kilometers). MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere to help scientists understand climate change over the Red Planet's history.
Continue reading "LISTEN LIVE TODAY --NASA Briefing on 1st Results from MAVEN Spacecraft Search for Clues to Mars Dramatic Climate Change" »
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has provided researchers strong evidence the moon’s volcanic activity slowed gradually instead of stopping abruptly a billion years ago. Scores of distinctive rock deposits observed by LRO are estimated to be less than 100 million years old, scattered across the moon’s dark volcanic plains and are characterized by a mixture of smooth, rounded, shallow mounds next to patches of rough, blocky terrain. This time period corresponds to Earth’s Cretaceous period, the heyday of dinosaurs. Some areas may be less than 50 million years old.
Continue reading "NASA: "Moon's Volcanoes Were Active During Earth's Cretaceous Period --The Age of Dinosaurs"" »
What is Pluto’s atmosphere like? We’ve known so little for so long about Pluto’s atmosphere – other than it’s low-pressure, made mostly of molecular nitrogen (with a little methane and carbon monoxide mixed in) and may be quite extended – it’s nice to realize that we’ll know a whole lot more after New Horizons visits in summer 2015.
Continue reading "New Horizons En Route to Decipher Pluto's Mystery Atmosphere" »
Scientists examining volcanic deposits on the surface of the planet using NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft found evidence of explosive activity as recently as a billion years ago. Previous studies of the cratering of other lava flows placed most volcanic activity at more than 3.5 billion years in the past.
Continue reading "Recent Violent Volcanic Eruptions Found on Mercury --Clues to Geology of Exoplanets?" »
In 2010, scientists discovered that simple peptides can organize into bi-layer membranes. The finding suggests a “missing link” between the pre-biotic Earth’s chemical inventory and the organizational scaffolding essential to life. Many groups studying the origins of life have focused on RNA, which is believed to have pre-dated living cells. But RNA is a much more complicated molecule than a peptide. The 2010 studies showed that, if you just add water, simple peptides access both the physical properties and the long-range molecular order that is critical to the origins of chemical evolution.
Continue reading "The "Missing Link" Between Prebiotic and Organic Life --Has It Been Found? (Weekend Feature)" »
NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this dramatic image of Saturn's geometric jet stream in July 2013 from about 605,000 miles (973,000 kilometers) away from the planet. The image — which NASA released this week provides a close up look at a vast storm system within the hexagonal weather pattern at the north pole of Saturn.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: New Cassini View of Saturn's Massive Hexagon Vortex" »
NASA hosted a briefing yesterday, Oct. 9, to outline the space and Earth-based assets that will have extraordinary opportunities to image and study Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring will miss Mars by only about 88,000 miles (139,500 kilometers). That is less than half the distance between Earth and its moon and less than one-tenth the distance of any known comet flyby of Earth. The comet's nucleus will come closest to Mars at about 11:27 a.m. PDT (2:27 p.m. EDT) on Sunday, Oct. 19, hurtling at about 126,000 mph (56 kilometers per second), relative to Mars.
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Consisting of thick, dense cold gas, a cover stretches across a galaxy like a blanket. While an effective tool for helping make stars, this cover presents a challenge for astrophysicists hoping to learn how the radiation that stars produce could be used in the ionization process. Scientists have been on a quest for decades to find just the right galaxy with this character trait.
Continue reading "Scientists Explore How Radiation Escapes from Dense Gas Cover that Blankets Galaxies" »
A team of scientists using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have made the most detailed map ever of the temperature of an exoplanet’s atmosphere, and traced the amount of water it contains. The planet targeted for both of the investigations was the hot-Jupiter exoplanet WASP-43b, a planet the size of Jupiter but with double the mass and an orbit much closer to its parent star than any planet in the Solar System. It has one of the shortest years ever measured for an exoplanet of its size — lasting just 19 hours.
Continue reading "Hubble Reveals an Alien Planet's Secrets of Air Temperatures & Water Vapor --"A First!"" »
A new measurement of dark matter in the Milky Way has revealed there is half as much of the mysterious substance as previously thought. Australian astronomers probed the edge of the Milky Way, looking closely, for the first time, at the fringes of the galaxy about 5 million billion kilometres from Earth using a method developed almost 100 years ago. They discovered that the weight of dark matter in our own galaxy is 800 000 000 000 (or 8 x 1011) times the mass of the Sun.
Continue reading "New Dark Matter Theory Solves Milky Way's "Missing Satellite-Galaxies" Puzzle" »
"We've never seen a pulsar even close to being this bright," says Dom Walton, a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech. "Honestly, we don't know how this happens, and theorists will be chewing on it for a long time." Besides being weird, the finding will help scientists better understand a class of very bright X-ray sources, called ultraluminous X-ray sources (ULXs).
Continue reading "First Ultraluminous Pulsar Ever Detected --"Extreme X Ray Source in Cigar Galaxy was Thought to be a Black Hole"" »
Led by scientists from the University of Warwick, the discovery of the new particle will help provide greater understanding of the strong interaction, the fundamental force of nature found within the protons of an atom's nucleus. Poetically named Ds3*(2860)ˉ, the particle, a new type of meson, was discovered by analysing data collected with the LHCb detector at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
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August 15, 1977: the night before Elvis Presley died, at 11:16 p.m. an Ohio radio telescope -a rectangular structure, larger than three football feilds- called the Big Ear recorded a single pulse of radiation that seemed to come from somewhere in the constellation of Sagittarius at the 1420 MHz hydrogen line, the vibration frequency of hydrogen, the most common molecule in the universe -exactly the signal ET-hunters had been instructed to look out for. The signal was so strong that it pushed the Big Ear's recording device off the chart.
Continue reading "“6EQUJ5" --The Cosmic Signal That Might Have Changed Human Civilization" »
In a discovery decades in the making, scientists have detected the first of a “theoretical” class of stars first proposed in 1975 by physicist Kip Thorne and astronomer Anna Żytkow. Thorne-Żytkow objects (TŻOs) are hybrids of red supergiant and neutron stars that superficially resemble normal red supergiants, such as Betelgeuse in the constellation Orion. They differ, however, in their distinct chemical signatures that result from unique activity in their stellar interiors.
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It’s clear that our view of the cosmos is highly constrained. 1n 1999, Astronomers focusing on a star at the center of the Milky Way, measured precisely how long it takes the sun to complete one orbit (a galactic year) of our home galaxy: 226 million years. The last time the sun was at that exact spot of its galactic orbit, dinosaurs ruled the world. The Solar System is thought to have completed about 20–25 orbits during its lifetime or 0.0008 orbit since the origin of humans. When the last red embers of our Sun die out billions of years from now, we will have completed approximately 60 orbits of our home galaxy.
Continue reading "Earth's Orbit Through the Milky Way --"A Perilous 3-Dimensional Journey" (Today's Most Popular)" »
The universe is considered to be filled with dark matter, which cannot be observed by ordinary light. Although much evidence supports the existence of dark matter, it has yet to be directly detected and its nature is not understood.
Continue reading ""True Nature of Dark Matter at Galactic Scales Detected"" »