Giant elliptical galaxies are the most puzzling type of galaxy in the Universe. Since they mysteriously shut down their star-forming activity and remain home only to the longest-lived of their stars – which are low-mass ones and appear red – astronomers often call these galaxies 'red and dead'. The Herschel Space Telescope has discovered massive elliptical galaxies in the nearby Universe containing plenty of cold gas, even though the galaxies fail to produce new stars. Comparison with other data suggests that, while hot gas cools down in these galaxies, stars do not form because jets from the central supermassive black hole heat or stir up the gas and prevent it from turning into stars.
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Intelligent life may be in it's "very young" stage in the observable Universe. Its 200 billion galaxies show a clear potential to continue on as we see them today for hundreds of billions of years, if not much longer. Because planets and life are so young in our Universe, says Harvard's Dimitar Sasselov, perhaps "the human species are not late comers to the party. We may be among the early ones."
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Water has been detected in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system with a new technique that could help researchers to learn how many planets with water, like Earth, exist throughout the universe. The team of scientists that made the discovery includes astronomers at Penn State University and other institutions. The astronomers detected the water in the atmosphere of a planet as massive as Jupiter that is orbiting the nearby star tau Boötis. The discovery is described in a scientific paper published in the 24 February 2014 online version of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
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Andromeda, the massive sister spiral galaxy to the Milky Way, is orbited by a swarm of small galaxies – astronomers so far have counted more than 20. They have names like Andromeda I, II, III, IV...etc. Researchers from the Dark Cosmology Centre at the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, have analysed measurements of the stars in the dwarf galaxy Andromeda II and made a surprising discovery.
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For years, scientists have been studying a mysterious infrared glow from the Milky Way and other galaxies, radiating from dusty regions in deep space. By duplicating the harsh conditions of space in their laboratories and computers, scientists have identified the mystifying infrared emiters as PAHs produced by carbon-rich, giant stars. PAHs are flat, chicken-wire shaped, nano-sized molecules that are very common on Earth.
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Top quarks are the heaviest and among the most puzzling elementary particles. They weigh even more than the Higgs boson – as much as an atom of gold – and only two machines have ever produced them: Fermilab’s Tevatron and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. There are several ways to produce them, as predicted by the theoretical framework known as the Standard Model, and the most common one was the first one discovered: a collision in which the strong nuclear force creates a pair consisting of a top quark and its antimatter cousin, the anti-top quark.
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How did life on Earth begin? An giant step toward solving this puzzle was taken in the 1980's with the Nobel Prize–winning discovery by Tom Cech and Sidney Altman that RNA, the sister molecule of DNA, can catalyze certain chemical reactions inside cells, a job previously thought to be the exclusive domain of proteins. Until their discovery, RNA was thought to have just one function: storing the genetic information cells need to build proteins.
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“The way we study planets out of the solar system has to be radically different because we can’t ‘go’ to those planets with satellites or probes,” says Adam Burrows, a Princeton University professor of astrophysical sciences. “It’s much more an observational science. We have to be detectives. We’re trying to find clues and the best clues since the mid-19th century have been in spectra. It’s the only means of understanding the atmosphere of these planets.”
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On Jan. 28, 2014, NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, witnessed its strongest solar flare since it launched in the summer of 2013. Solar flares are bursts of x-rays and light that stream out into space, but scientists don't yet know the fine details of what sets them off.
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MIT researchers propose an experiment using distant quasars that may close the last major loophole of Bell's inequality — a 50-year-old theorem that, if violated by experiments, would mean that our universe is based not on the textbook laws of classical physics, but on the less-tangible probabilities of quantum mechanics.
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