A wealth of moons exist in our own solar system that could host life. Icy Europa, which is circling Jupiter, was recently discovered to have plumes of water erupting from its surface. Titan, in orbit around Saturn, is the only known moon with an atmosphere, and could have the precursor elements to life in its hydrocarbon seas that are warmed by Saturn’s heat. Other candidates for extraterrestrial hosts include Jupiter’s moons Callisto and Ganymede, as well as Saturn’s satellite Enceladus.
Continue reading "Searching Kepler Mission's 4,000 Planets for Hints of Habitable Moons" »
An international team of physicists has measured a subtle characteristic in the polarization of the cosmic microwave background radiation that will allow them to map the large-scale structure of the universe, determine the masses of neutrinos and perhaps uncover some of the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy. The POLARBEAR team is measuring the polarization of light that dates from an era 380,000 years after the Big Bang, when the early universe was a high-energy laboratory, a lot hotter and denser than now, with an energy density a trillion times higher than what they are producing at the CERN collider.
Continue reading "Astrophysicists Using Big Bang's Primordial Light to Probe Largest Structures in the Universe" »
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.
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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 " »