"We don't really know what they are," said Björn Benneke, a graduate student in astronomy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology referring to intriguing exoplanets found that are bigger than our rocky, oceanic Earth but smaller than cold, gas-shrouded Uranus and Neptune. "They can be a scaled-down version of the giant planets in our solar system, a scaled-up version of terrestrial planets like Earth, or something completely different."
Continue reading "Mystery Alien Planets Confound Astronomers" »
A black hole. A simple and clear concept, at least according to the hypothesis by Roy Kerr, who in 1963 proposed a "clean" black hole model, which is the current theoretical paradigm. From theory to reality things may be quite different. According to a new research carried out by a group of scientists that includes Thomas Sotiriou, a physicist of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) of Trieste, black holes may be more complex than Kerr believed.
Continue reading ""Black Holes Develop a 'Charge' that Anchors Them to the Universe" --New Theory" »
"Most of the properties of light we know about originate from the fact that photons are massless, and that they do not interact with each other," said Harvard Professor of Physics Mikhail Lukin. "What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they begin to act as though they have mass, and they bind together to form molecules. This type of photonic bound state has been discussed theoretically for quite a while, but until now it hadn't been observed.
Continue reading ""Star Wars Redux" --Harvard and MIT Scientists Create New State of Matter" »
Now approaching its 10th anniversary, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has evolved into a premier observatory for an endeavor not envisioned in its original design: the study of worlds around other stars, called exoplanets. While the engineers and scientists who built Spitzer did not have this goal in mind, their work made this unexpected capability possible. Thanks to the extraordinary stability of its design and a series of subsequent engineering reworks, the space telescope now has observational powers far beyond its original limits and expectations.
Continue reading ""Alien Planet Spy" --Spitzer Infrared Space Observatory Re-Engineered for New Mission" »
In February of 2012, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope discovered a cluster of young, blue stars in the spectacular edge-on galaxy (ESO 243-49 above), encircling the first intermediate-mass black hole ever found. The presence of the star cluster suggests that the black hole was once at the core of a now-disintegrated dwarf galaxy. The discovery of the black hole and the star cluster has important implications for understanding the evolution of supermassive black holes and galaxies.
Continue reading "Destroyed Dwarf Galaxy --"A Clue to Evolution of Supermassive Black Holes and Galaxies"" »
Once an object fall through the event horizon of a black hole, they’re lost forever. “It’s an exit door from our universe," said Shep Doeleman, assistant director at the MIT Haystack Observatory and research associate at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. "You walk through that door, you’re not coming back.” Supermassive black holes are the most extreme objects predicted by Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity — where, according to Doeleman, “gravity completely goes haywire and crushes an enormous mass into an incredibly close space.”
Continue reading "Supermassive Black Holes at Galaxy Centers--"Exit Doors from Our Universe" (Weekend Feature)" »
The densest galaxy in the nearby Universe may have been found. Packed with an extraordinary number of stars, M60-UCD1 is an "ultra-compact dwarf galaxy". Remarkably, about half of this mass is found within a radius of only about 80 light years. This would make the density of stars about 15,000 times greater than found in Earth's neighborhood in the Milky Way, meaning that the stars are about 25 times closer. It was discovered with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and follow-up observations were done with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ground-based optical telescopes.The galaxy, known as M60-UCD1, is located near a massive elliptical galaxy NGC 4649, also called M60, about 54 million light years from Earth.
Continue reading "Discovered! A Galaxy with Density of Stars 15,000 Times Greater than Milky Way" »
The first scoop of soil analyzed by the analytical suite in the belly of NASA's Curiosity rover reveals that fine materials on the surface of the planet contain several percent water by weight. The sample also released significant carbon dioxide, oxygen and sulfur compounds when heated.
Continue reading "Mars' Gale-Crater Science Instrument Finds High % of Water" »
The first rock that scientists analyzed on Mars with a pair of chemical instruments aboard the Curiosity rover turned out to be amazing – a pyramid-shaped volcanic rock called a "mugearite" that is unlike any other Martian igneous rock ever found. Dubbed "Jake_M" – after Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Jake Matijevic – the rock is similar to mugearites found on Earth, typically on ocean islands and in continental rifts. The process through which these rocks form often suggests the presence of water deep below the surface, according to Martin Fisk, an Oregon State University marine geologist and member of the Mars Science Laboratory team.
Continue reading "NASA's First Mars' Rock Similar to Those on Earth's Ocean Islands" »
For astrophysicists, the interplay of hydrogen — the most common molecule in the universe — and the vast clouds of dust that fill the voids of interstellar space has been an intractable puzzle of stellar evolution. The dust, astronomers believe, is a key phase in the life cycle of stars, which are formed in dusty nurseries throughout the cosmos. But how the dust interacts with hydrogen and is oriented by the magnetic fields in deep space has proved a six-decade-long theoretical challenge.
Continue reading "Puzzle of Stellar Evolution --"The Interaction of Comsic Clouds of Dust & Hydrogen"" »