About Space

Syndicate content About.com
Get the latest headlines from the About.com Space / Astronomy GuideSite.
Updated: 2 hours 40 min ago

Want to Find Life? Study a Sunset!

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 08:44

Titan's Smoggy Sunsets Help Scientists Devise Tools to Find Evidence of Life Elsewhere

Cassini at Titan!

Using data collected by Cassini's Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer, or VIMS, while observing Titan's sunsets, researchers created simulated spectra of Titan as if it were a planet transiting across the face of a distant star. The research helps scientists to better understand observations of exoplanets with hazy atmospheres. Courtesy NASA/Cassini Mission

...

Read Full Post

Sun-Like Stars May Munch on Earth-like Planets

Sat, 05/24/2014 - 04:00

Our Sun Just LOOKS Friendly

spectra!

What if we could determine if a given star is likely to host a planetary system like our own by breaking down its light into a single high-resolution spectrum and analyzing it? A spectrum taken of the Sun is shown above. The dark bands result from specific chemical elements in the star's outer layer, like hydrogen or iron, absorbing specific frequencies of light. By carefully measuring the width of each dark band, astronomers can determine just how much hydrogen, iron, calcium and other elements are present in a distant star. The new model suggests that a G-class star with levels of refractory elements like aluminum, silicon and iron significantly higher than those in the Sun may not have any Earth-like planets because it has swallowed them. (N.A.Sharp, NOAO/NSO/Kitt Peak FTS/AURA/NSF)

...

Read Full Post

The Next Mars Lander

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 13:45

Digging Deep to Learn More about Mars

Mars InSight!

NASA/JPL announced this week that it is starting the build the next generation of Mars lander, nicknamed InSight. It will head to the Red Planet on 2016, and spend its time using seismic sensors and other instruments to give planetary scientists a good idea of the interior of Mars. Let's take a look at just how the InSight mission will do its job.

...

Read Full Post

When Galaxies Collide!

Sun, 05/18/2014 - 04:30

Behemoth Collisions Spur Starbirth

Galaxy collision simulation

A frame from the simulation of the two colliding 'Antennae' galaxies. Here the galaxies are re-shaped after their first encounter. High resolution allows the astrophysicists to explore the smallest details. Stars are formed in the densest regions (yellow and red) under the effect of compressive turbulence. Star formation is more efficient here than in normal galaxies like our Milky Way. Credit: F. Renaud / CEA-Sap

...

Read Full Post

Discovering and Imaging Alien Worlds

Sat, 05/17/2014 - 21:02

Seeing a Distant World from Earth

Beta Pictoris b

Beta Pictoris b (the small white dot to the lower right of its star (Beta Pictoris) is a giant planet - several times larger than Jupiter, and is approximately ten million years old. These near-infrared images (1.5-1.8 microns) show the planet glowing in infrared light from the heat released in its formation. The bright star Beta Pictoris is hidden behind a mask in the center of the image.

...

Read Full Post

What's Happening to Jupiter?

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 14:31

Its Great Red Spot is Getting Smaller!

Jupiter and Great Red Spot

The planet Jupiter is a world of superlatives. It is the largest gas giant in the solar system, it is the most massive planet in our neighborhood, it probably has the most moons, its largest moons exhibit ice and rock volcanism, it has a thin ring of dust around it, it may have a rocky core about the size of Earth, its atmosphere is incredibly huge and thick, and it has one of the largest storms of any planet: the Great Red Spot.

...

Read Full Post

Getting Started in Astronomy

Thu, 05/08/2014 - 08:29

Look Up!  See Stars and More!

Astronomy is one of the easiest sciences to learn about. People have been "doing" astronomy since the first stargazers stepped out under a starry sky and looked up. The astronomer Carl Sagan used to say that we are the descendants of stargazers. If our ancestors hadn't looked up and learned to use the sky, the survival of early people and societies would have been much  more difficult. It's good for us that the first stargazers learned to use the sky to learn the seasons, and use that knowledge to determine hunting seasons and planting times. Because of their knowledge of the stars, they ate better and birthed more stargazers.

...

Read Full Post

Alien Contact: Are Humans Ready?

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 12:17

Researchers Look at Humanity's Readiness for First Contact

Aliens!  Humans have been searching for some evidence of life outside Earth for many years. The serious scientific approach has been the business of a group called SETI: the Search for Extra-terrestrial Intelligence. These scientists include astrobiology researchers, astronomers, planetary scientists, and even a large group of public supporters who help them sift through radio astronomy data to look for signals from "out there".

...

Read Full Post

Ganymede is Different Under Its Icy Skin

Thu, 05/01/2014 - 17:21

Jupiter's Moon May have Layers

 

Ganymede

This artist's concept of Jupiter's moon Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system, illustrates the "club sandwich" model of its interior oceans. Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

There's something different about Ganymede, the icy moon orbiting the planet Jupiter (which actually has four large moons visible to us through binoculars or a telescope). It's not just that it has an icy crust overlaying an ocean of salty water. Or that its surface seems to be mottled, cracked, and cratered, indicating interesting events happening both above and below its crust.

...

Read Full Post

What Lies Between Galaxies?

Tue, 04/29/2014 - 14:13

Exploring the Intergalactic Medium

A Cosmic Web Imager view of a distant quasar. The blue denotes hydrogen gas surrounding and flowing into the quasar in the early universe.

It may seem like an easy question to answer: what is there out between the galaxies? The answer is NOT "an empty vacuum", thanks to a series of images taken with a specialized instrument called the Cosmic Web Imager built by the California Institute of Technology (CalTech). It is being used at Palomar Observatory on the 200-inch Hale telescope to look between galaxies and measure the thin mix of gases that astronomers now know exists there. They call it "dim matter" because it isn't bright like stars or nebulae, but it's not so dark it can't be detected. The Cosmic Web Imager looks for this matter in the intergalactic medium (IGM) and finds it. How does it do this?

...

Read Full Post

A Toast to Jan Hendrik Oort

Sun, 04/27/2014 - 19:25

Today, April 28th is the birthday of astronomer Jan Hendrik Oort, the man whose ideas about what exists in the outer solar system led astronomers to name the cloud of icy bodies that forms a widely dispersed shell around our solar system after him. Today, we know that region of space as the Oort Cloud.

...

Read Full Post

Hubble Measures Distances in the Cosmos

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 02:00
How Far Away is that Star... or Galaxy... or Cluster of Galaxies?

One of Hubble Space Telescope's most fascinating discoveries isn't necessarily a pretty picture. It's something quite profound: refining distance measurements of the universe. Yes, it sounds rather boring, but knowing the dimensions of the universe is an important part of understanding the universe itself.

...

Read Full Post

Look Deep Into the Universe

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 13:29
See Galaxies!

What do you see if you look out at the universe? From Earth's surface, you see stars, planets, and galaxies. Of all these objects, galaxies are the most fascinating and evocative, but also tougher to spot in the sky than the others. Yes, there are a few naked-eye galaxies: the Andromeda Galaxy, and the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. If you want to be complete, of course the Milky Way Galaxy is extremely easy to spot, but only because we're IN it. Most other galaxies are outside ours and they require magnification (binoculars and telescopes) if you want to see more than fuzzy blob of light. Astronomers have always seen many more galaxies with their larger research observatories, but nowadays, with the advent of advanced telescopes, such as Hubble Space Telescope, they're seeing a LOT more galaxies than they used to!

...

Read Full Post

Cosmos for the Next Generation

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 23:37

Are you watching Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey?  In the U.S., it airs on Sundays on Fox TV and on Mondays on National Geographic Channel. You can also see episodes online at CosmosOnTV.com. For space enthusiasts, astronomers, and others simply interested in learning more about our universe, this program is the one to see. It's the next generation of a series begun by Dr. Carl Sagan in 1980, a series that set a whole generation of astronomers and science writers on their career paths.

...

Read Full Post

Saturn May Have a New Moon

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 02:00

Cassini Spots a New Object in Saturn's Rings

If you're out stargazing over the next few months, at some point, you will notice the planet Saturn. On these April nights, it's rising late in the evening (right now around 10 p.m. or thereabouts), so you have to stay up to find it. But, it's well worth the look. The rings alone give this planet an otherworldly and fascinating appearance.

...

Read Full Post

Watch the Moon Turn Red

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 07:18

simulated view of lunar eclipse

How the April 14-15, 2014 lunar eclipse could look during totality. The Moon will be near the bright star Spica. Created by Carolyn Collins Petersen using Stellarium open source software. Click image for a larger version.)

...

Read Full Post

A Black Hole Cannibal at the Milky Way’s Heart

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 12:04
How Black Holes Grow

Gas cloud headed toward the black hole in Milky Way Galaxy's heart.

For the past few years, astronomers have been watching with great interest as a cloud of gas called G2 gets ever closer to the black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. The cloud (shown in the image at left) is headed directly into Sagittarius A* (Sgr A* for short) and will get caught up in the accretion disk of material surrounding and feeding into our black hole. The collision is already starting to occur, although the largest mass of the cloud has not yet arrived at the disk. But, the outer edges are starting to feel the pull of the black hole and that is providing a unique opportunity for astronomers to watch as a black hole swallows up material.

...

Read Full Post