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Astronomy news. New! Earth-like extrasolar planet found; double helix nebula; supermassive black holes, astronomy articles, astronomy pictures. Updated daily.
Updated: 16 hours 45 min ago

Hubble confirms new dark spot on Neptune

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 3:08pm
New images confirm the presence of a dark vortex on Neptune. Though similar features were seen during the Voyager 2 flyby of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 1989 and by Hubble in 1994, this vortex is the first one observed on Neptune in the 21st century.

Probing giant planets' dark hydrogen

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 12:30pm
Hydrogen is the most-abundant element in the universe, but there is still so much we have to learn about it. One of the biggest unknowns is its transformation under the extreme pressures and temperatures found in the interiors of giant planets, where it is squeezed until it becomes liquid metal, capable of conducting electricity. New work measures the conditions under which hydrogen undergoes this transition in the lab and finds an intermediate 'dark hydrogen' state.

Successful first observations of galactic center with GRAVITY

Thu, 06/23/2016 - 6:50am
A European team of astronomers have used the new GRAVITY instrument at ESO's Very Large Telescope to obtain exciting observations of the center of the Milky Way by combining light from all four of the 8.2-meter Unit Telescopes for the first time. These results provide a taste of the groundbreaking science that GRAVITY will produce as it probes the extremely strong gravitational fields close to the central supermassive black hole and tests Einstein's general relativity.

NASA scientists discover unexpected mineral on Mars

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 5:04pm
Scientists have discovered an unexpected mineral in a rock sample at Gale Crater on Mars, a finding that may alter our understanding of how the planet evolved.

The universe: Learning about the future from the distant past

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 2:54pm
Our universe came to life nearly 14 billion years ago in the Big Bang -- a tremendously energetic fireball from which the cosmos has been expanding ever since. Today, space is filled with hundreds of billions of galaxies, including our solar system's own galactic home, the Milky Way. But how exactly did the infant universe develop into its current state, and what does it tell us about our future?

X-ray echoes of a shredded star provide close-up of 'killer' black hole

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 2:50pm
Billions of years ago in the heart of a distant galaxy, a monster black hole shredded a passing star and emitted X-rays. Now astronomers are using X-ray echoes to study a newly awakened black hole for the first time.

The universe is crowded with black holes, astronomers predict

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 2:49pm
Astronomers have presented one of the most complete models of matter in the universe and predict hundreds of massive black hole mergers each year observable with the second generation of gravitational wave detectors.

Astrophysicist probes theory of black-hole accretion

Wed, 06/22/2016 - 10:21am
Utilizing the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, one of the most powerful telescopes in the world, researchers have peered into the feeding habits of a supermassive black hole.

Astronomers find the first 'wind nebula' around a magnetar

Tue, 06/21/2016 - 3:49pm
Astronomers have discovered a vast cloud of high-energy particles called a wind nebula around a rare ultra-magnetic neutron star, or magnetar, for the first time. The find offers a unique window into the properties, environment and outburst history of magnetars, which are the strongest magnets in the universe.

An ocean lies a few kilometers beneath Saturn's moon Enceladus's icy surface

Tue, 06/21/2016 - 11:57am
With eruptions of ice and water vapor, and an ocean covered by an ice shell, Saturn's moon Enceladus is one of the most fascinating in the Solar System, especially as interpretations of data provided by the Cassini spacecraft have been contradictory until now. Astronomers recently proposed a new model that reconciles different data sets and shows that the ice shell at Enceladus's south pole may be only a few kilometers thick. This suggests that there is a strong heat source in the interior of Enceladus, an additional factor supporting the possible emergence of life in its ocean.

'Space tsunami' causes the third Van Allen Belt

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 12:03pm
Earth's magnetosphere, the region of space dominated by Earth's magnetic field, protects our planet from the harsh battering of the solar wind. Like a protective shield, the magnetosphere absorbs and deflects plasma from the solar wind which originates from the Sun. Extreme space weather storms can create intense radiation in the Van Allen belts and drive electrical currents which can damage terrestrial electrical power grids. Earth could then be at risk for up to trillions of dollars of damage.

Newborn giant planet grazes its star

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 11:25am
For the past 20 years, exoplanets known as 'hot Jupiters' have puzzled astronomers. These giant planets orbit 100 times closer to their host stars than Jupiter does to the Sun, which increases their surface temperatures. But how and when in their history did they migrate so close to their star? Now, an international team of astronomers has announced the discovery of a very young hot Jupiter orbiting in the immediate vicinity of a star that is barely two million years old -- the stellar equivalent of a week-old infant. This first-ever evidence that hot Jupiters can appear at such an early stage represents a major step forward in our understanding of how planetary systems form and evolve.

NASA's K2 finds newborn exoplanet around young star

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 11:13am
Astronomers have discovered the youngest fully formed exoplanet ever detected. The newfound planet, K2-33b, is a bit larger than Neptune and whips tightly around its star every five days. It is only 5 to 10 million years old, making it one of a very few newborn planets found to date.

Strong 'electric wind' strips planets of oceans and atmospheres

Mon, 06/20/2016 - 10:02am
Venus has an 'electric wind' strong enough to remove the components of water from its upper atmosphere, which may have played a significant role in stripping the planet of its oceans.

Astrophysicists release new study of one of the first stars

Fri, 06/17/2016 - 12:04pm
A research team has used the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph on the Hubble Space Telescope to study key regions of the ultraviolet spectrum of a star thought to have been enriched by elements from one of the first generation of stars.

NASA's Juno spacecraft to risk Jupiter's fireworks for science

Fri, 06/17/2016 - 10:53am
On July 4, NASA will fly a solar-powered spacecraft the size of a basketball court within 2,900 miles (4,667 kilometers) of the cloud tops of our solar system's largest planet. During the flybys, Juno will probe beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and study its auroras to learn more about the planet's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

Small asteroid is Earth's constant companion

Fri, 06/17/2016 - 10:47am
A small asteroid has been discovered in an orbit around the sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth, and it will remain so for centuries to come.

How black hole jets break out of their galaxies

Fri, 06/17/2016 - 8:39am
A simulation of the powerful jets generated by supermassive black holes at the centres of the largest galaxies explains why some burst forth as bright beacons visible across the universe, while others fall apart and never pierce the halo of the galaxy. About 10 per cent of all galaxies with active nuclei – all presumed to have supermassive black holes within the central bulge – are observed to have jets of gas spurting in opposite directions from the core. The hot ionized gas is propelled by the twisting magnetic fields of the rotating black hole, which can be as large as several billion suns.

Unexpected Excess of Giant Planets in Star Cluster Messier 67

Fri, 06/17/2016 - 8:25am
Astronomers have found that there are far more planets of the hot Jupiter type than expected in a cluster of stars called Messier 67. This surprising result was obtained using a number of telescopes and instruments. The denser environment in a cluster will cause more frequent interactions between planets and nearby stars, which may explain the excess of hot Jupiters.

Most distant oxygen ever observed

Thu, 06/16/2016 - 3:13pm
A team of astronomers has used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to detect glowing oxygen in a distant galaxy seen just 700 million years after the Big Bang. This is the most distant galaxy in which oxygen has ever been unambiguously detected, and it is most likely being ionized by powerful radiation from young giant stars. This galaxy could be an example of one type of source responsible for cosmic reionization in the early history of the Universe.