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NASA's Starshade Spacecraft --Future Exoplanet Exploration Enables Pictures of Earth-like Worlds

 

 

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Scientists and engineers are actively working on two technologies to help with this challenge: the starshade, a giant flower-shaped spacecraft; and coronagraphs, single instruments that fit inside telescopes. Both a starshade and a coronagraph block the light of a star, making it easier for telescopes to pick up the dim light that reflects off planets. This would enable astronomers to take pictures of Earth-like worlds -- and then use other instruments called spectrometers to search the planets' atmospheres for chemical clues about whether life might exist there.

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Invisible, Unknown Part of Milky Way Discovered at Galactic Bulge (Weekend Feature)

 

 

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This past fall 2015, astronomers using the VISTA telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory discovered a previously unknown component of the Milky Way. Mapping the Cepheids that they discovered, the team traced an entirely new feature in the Milky Way — a thin disc of young stars across the galactic bulge, a dense ball, roughly spherical, comprised of mostly evolved red stars . There is a bar that is about 5,000 light years wide and 20,000 light years long that connects the bulge to the first spiral of the milky way.  

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Odd Oort Cloud Object --"Reveals Ancient Clues to Origin of Our Solar System"

 

 

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"We've found the first rocky comet, and we are looking for others," said the ESO's Olivier Hainaut. "Depending how many we find, we will know whether the giant planets danced across the Solar System when they were young, or if they grew up quietly without moving much."

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The Supervoid Enigma--"The Largest Structure in the Cosmos?" (Friday's Most Popular)

 

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In the spring of 2015, a team of astronomers led by Dr. István Szapudi of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa may have found an explanation for the existence of the Cold Spot that resides in the constellation Eridanus in the southern galactic hemisphere, which Szapudi says may be “the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity.”

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What Lies Beneath Antarctica --"A 'Great-Lakes-Size' System of Waterways Buried for Thousands of Years"

 

 

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"It is amazing to think that we did not know that this lake even existed until a decade ago," said Helen Amanda Fricker, a WISSARD principal investigator and a professor of geophysics at Scripps, who initially discovered Subglacial Lake Whillans in 2007 from NASA satellite data. "It is exciting to see such a rich dataset from the lake, and these new data are helping us understand how lakes function as part of the ice-sheet system."

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Mystery of the "Big Bird" Neutrino --IceCube Observatory Detects One of the Most Dramatic Explosions in the Universe

 

 

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Nearly 10 billion years ago in a galaxy known as PKS B1424-418, a dramatic explosion occurred. Light from this blast began arriving at Earth in 2012.Recently, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole found first evidence for a flux of extraterrestrial neutrinos, which was named the Physics World breakthrough of the year 2013. To date, the science team of IceCube Neutrino has announced about a hundred very high-energy neutrinos and nicknamed the most extreme events after characters on the children's TV series "Sesame Street."

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Intelligent, Technological Exospecies Likely Evolved Before Us --"And They're Extinct"

 

 

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Are humans unique and alone in the vast universe? This question--summed up in the famous Drake equation--has for a half-century been one of the most intractable and uncertain in science. But new research shows that the recent discoveries of exoplanets combined with a broader approach to the question makes it possible to assign a new empirically valid probability to whether any other advanced technological civilizations have ever existed.

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Beyond Einstein --"The Epic Detection of Gravitational Waves May Reveal a Strange Universe" (Thursday's Most Popular)

 

 

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Cosmologist Latham Boyle with Canada's Perimeter Institute is excited about the unknowns that gravitational waves could now reveal. He explained there was a span of decades between the discovery of radio waves and their use in astronomy.
“For 40 or 50 years, nobody built radio telescopes,” Boyle said. “Finally, when they did, there was a flood of all kinds of crazy discoveries. [There was] the cosmic microwave background radiation, which is kind of a cosmic selfie, then they discovered these things called pulsars, and they discovered quasars. They discovered all this stuff that people would have called you crazy if you’d suggested it before. As soon as you turned it on, it was out there. It’s just a historical fact that often you see wilder stuff.”

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Hubble's Heir: James Webb Space Telescope's Golden Mirror Unveiled --"The Largest Yet Sent into Space"

 

 

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The JWST, the scientific successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, will be the most powerful space telescope ever built.
Scientists from around the world will use this unique observatory to capture images and spectra of not only the first galaxies to appear in the early universe over 13.5 billion years ago, but also the full range of astronomical sources such as star forming nebulae, exoplanets, and even moons and planets within our own Solar System. It’s targeted to launch from French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5 rocket in 2018. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

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"Danger Zone" --Violent Cosmic Winds Observed for 1st Time Gusting from Binary Black Holes

 

 

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Two black holes in nearby galaxies have been observed devouring their companion stars at a rate exceeding classically understood limits, and in the process, kicking out matter into surrounding space at astonishing speeds of around a quarter the speed of light.

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