"Our solar system is not as unique as we might have thought," says lead author Courtney Dressing of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). "It looks like rocky exoplanets use the same basic ingredients. To find a truly Earth-like world, we should focus on planets less than 1.6 times the size of Earth, because those are the rocky worlds."
Continue reading ""Our Solar System Not as Unique as We Thought" --Center for Astrophysics" »
Our sun probably formed in a turbulent star-forming region similar to the Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula. There is evidence that the forming solar system was seasoned with radioactive shrapnel from a nearby supernova. That means that our sun was formed as part of a cluster that included stars massive enough to produce powerful ionizing radiation.
Continue reading "New 'Pillars of Creation' Insights --"Solar System was Seasoned with Radioactive Shrapnel from Nearby Supernova"" »
The largest NASA Hubble Space Telescope image ever assembled, this sweeping bird’s-eye view of a portion of the Andromeda galaxy (M31) is the sharpest large composite image ever taken of our galactic next-door neighbor. Though the galaxy is over 2 million light-years away, The Hubble Space Telescope is powerful enough to resolve individual stars in a 61,000-light-year-long stretch of the galaxy’s pancake-shaped disk. It's like photographing a beach and resolving individual grains of sand. And there are lots of stars in this sweeping view -- over 100 million, with some of them in thousands of star clusters seen embedded in the disk.
Continue reading "Andromeda in HD! --Largest NASA/Hubble Image Ever Assembled" »
For life as we know it to develop on other planets, those planets would need liquid water, or oceans. Geologic evidence suggests that Earth's oceans have existed for nearly the entire history of our world. But would that be true of other planets, particularly super-Earths? New research suggests the answer is yes and that oceans on super-Earths, once established, can last for billions of years.
Continue reading ""Search Older Super-Earths for Detectable Life" --Their Oceans Can Last for Billions of Years" »
In 2013, a UCLA team used a unique telescope to discover a previously unknown companion to the nearby galaxy NGC 4449 (image above), which is some 12.5 million light years from Earth. The newly discovered dwarf galaxy had escaped even the illuminating eyes of the Hubble Space Telescope. NGC 4449B is stretched into a gigantic "S" so large that if one end were placed at the center of the Milky Way, the other end would reach all the way to the sun's position. In fact, NGC 4449B is the largest dwarf galaxy known in the "local group" that also includes the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy.
Continue reading ""A Living Fossil from Early Universe" --Gigantic S-Shaped Dwarf Galaxy" »
In the recent Hollywood film "Interstellar," a team of scientists travel through a wormhole in space to access planets with promising conditions to sustain life on Earth. One of the issues the team must grapple with is time dilation: each hour spent collecting data on a given planet is equal to seven years on Earth.
Continue reading ""Was Time Faster in the Past?" --A Provocative New Theory of Dark Energy" »
Two of the European Space Agency's (ESA) orbiting observatories captured spectacular views of the gas pillars in the Eagle Nebula (M16) that were the subject of the iconic 1995 Hubble images dubbed "Pillars of Creation," which became one of the most iconic images of the 20th century. Now, two of ESA's orbiting observatories --Stunning Herschel and XMM-Newton photos-- revealed new insights this enigmatic star-forming region.
Continue reading "Hubble's Iconic 'Pillars of Creation' --Were They Destroyed 6,000 Years Ago by a Supernova? (Holiday Feature)" »
Kepler's ultra-precise, long-duration photometry is ideal for detecting systems with multiple transiting planets. These systems provide important data for understanding the dynamics, formation, and evolution of planetary systems. The fascinating YouTube video below presents a detailed analysis of an extremely compact and old five-planet system around a seismic K dwarf (KOI-3158, HIP 94931).
Continue reading "New Kepler Discovery: Five Alien Planets in Ancient Star System from the Dawn of the Milky Way" »
Astronomers have determined that our own Milky Way galaxy is part of a newly identified ginormous supercluster of galaxies, which they have dubbed "Laniakea," which means "immense heaven" in Hawaiian. This discovery clarifies the boundaries of our galactic neighborhood and establishes previously unrecognized linkages among various galaxy clusters in the local Universe.The Milky Way resides in the outskirts of the supercluster, whose extent has for the first time been carefully mapped using these new techniques. This so-called Laniakea Supercluster is 500 million light-years in diameter and contains the mass of one hundred million billion Suns spread across 100,000 galaxies.
Continue reading "Milky Way Exists on the Outskirts of a Vast Supercluster of 100,000 Galaxies (Best of 2014)" »