The normally bland face of Uranus has become increasingly stormy, with enormous cloud systems so bright that for the first time ever, amateur astronomers are able to see details in the planet's hazy blue-green atmosphere. "The weather on Uranus is incredibly active," said Imke de Pater, professor and chair of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, and leader of the team that first noticed the activity when observing the planet with adaptive optics on the W. M. Keck II Telescope in Hawaii.
Continue reading "Monster Storms Sighted on Ice Giant Uranus --Hints of a Hidden Vortex" »
The Philae probe has landed on the surface of the ancient comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, fixing itself to the two-mile long, high-speed comet using harpoons and drills, scientists from the European Space Agency (ESA) announced today. Led by ESA with a consortium of partners including NASA, scientists on the Rosetta mission hope to learn more about the composition of comets and how they interact with the solar wind -- high energy particles blasted into space by the Sun. The Philae lander separated from the mother ship Rosetta around 3:30 a.m. ET to begin its 7-hour descent. Philae, which has spent 10 years fixed to the side of Rosetta during the journey across the solar system, could not be steered.
Continue reading "Touchdown! Rosetta Comet Landing --"Could Reveal Origin of Earth's Water & Life"" »
The Milky Way galaxy – our own cosmic neighborhood – forms one star the mass of Earth’s own sun each year. Massive AzTEC-3, the second-most-distant one of its kind known to humanity, produces about five of our suns each Earth day, churning out a total of 1,800 solar masses annually. Such ancient massive star-bursting galaxies can be found by astronomers using modern, mountaintop telescopes like the National Science Foundation-funded Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile. This exceptional galaxy, which at present day is only slightly younger than the 13.8 billion-year-old universe, is named after the AzTEC-millimeter-wave camera on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope – through which it was initially found.
Continue reading "Monster Galaxy Almost as Old as the Universe --Creating Stars 1,000 Times Faster than Milky Way" »
NASA's Cassini mission continues its adventures in extraterrestrial oceanography with new findings about the hydrocarbon seas on Saturn's moon Titan. During a flyby in August, the spacecraft sounded the depths near the mouth of a flooded river valley and observed new, bright features in the seas that might be related to the mysterious feature that researchers dubbed the "magic island."
Continue reading "20,000 Leagues? NASA Probes Depth of Titan's Seas" »
The movie is being called one of the most realistic science fiction films ever, thanks to its visual effects and story line. It came in second at the U.S. box office with $50 million in ticket sales. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson of the Hayden Planetarium in New York and the TV series "Cosmos" dissects the science behind the plot on "CBS This Morning." Find out which SciFi movie Tyson thinks is the best ever.
Continue reading "The Science Behind "Interstellar" -Neil deGrasse Tyson on Wormholes & Black Holes" »
Supernova SN1987A, first seen by observers in the Southern Hemisphere in 1987 when a giant star suddenly exploded at the edge of a nearby dwarf galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud has been probed by an Australian led team of astronomers who used radio telescopes in Australia and Chile to see inside the remains of a supernova. In the two and a half decades since then the remnant of Supernova 1987A has continued to be a focus for researchers the world over, providing a wealth of information about one of the Universe’s most extreme events.
Continue reading "1987 Supernova Relic Reveals a Hidden Object" »
"It is one of the major tasks of modern astronomy to find out how and why galaxies in clusters evolve from blue to red over a very short period of time," says Michele Fumagalli from the Extragalactic Astronomy Group and the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University.
Continue reading ""Death of a Galaxy" --ESO Astronomers Solve a Long-Standing Puzzle" »
It was only in the last few years that we could fully grasp how many other planets there might be beyond our solar system. Some 64 million miles (104 kilometers) from Earth, the Kepler Space Telescope stared at a small window of the sky for four years. As planets passed in front of a star in Kepler's line of view, the spacecraft measured the change in brightness. Kepler was designed to determine the likelihood that other planets orbit stars. Because of the mission, we now know it's possible every star has at least one planet. Solar systems surround us in our galaxy and are strewn throughout the myriad galaxies we see. Though we have not yet found a planet exactly like Earth, the implications of the Kepler findings are staggering—there may very well be many worlds much like our own for future generations to explore.
Continue reading ""Our Interstellar Destiny" --NASA's New Missions Expand Human Presence Deeper Into Solar System & Beyond" »
“They call this comet encounter a once-in-a-lifetime event, but it’s more like once-in-a-million years,” said Nick Schneider, a LASP research associate and lead IUVS scientist for the MAVEN mission. “MAVEN got there just in time, and we were ready. The numbers suggest a Martian would have seen many thousands of shooting stars per hour -- possibly enough to be called a meteor storm -- so it must have been a spectacular event that night on Mars.” The comet Siding Spring traveled from the most distant region of our solar system called the Oort Cloud and made a close approach at 2:27 p.m. EDT within about 87,000 miles (139,500 kilometers) of the Red Planet. That is less than half the distance between Earth and our moon and less than one-tenth the distance of any known comet flyby of Earth.
Continue reading "Mars' Once-in-a-Million-Years Comet Flyby -- "Thousands of Shooting Stars Per Hour"" »
"We have no idea how long a technological civilization like our own can last," says University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank. "Is it 200 years, 500 years or 50,000 years? Answering this question is at the root of all our concerns about the sustainability of human society. Are we the first and only technologically-intensive civilization in the entire history of the universe? If not, shouldn't we stand to learn something from the past successes and failures of other species?"
Continue reading ""Are We the Only Technologically-Intensive Civilization in the Universe?" (Weekend Feature)" »