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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: 17 hours 43 min ago

Unique fragment from Earth's formation returns after billions of years in cold storage

Fri, 04/29/2016 - 7:28pm
Astronomers have found a unique object that appears to be made of inner solar system material from the time of Earth's formation, billions of years ago. Observations show that C/2014 S3 (PANSTARRS) is the first object to be discovered on a long-period cometary orbit that has the characteristics of a pristine inner solar system asteroid. It may help understanding how the solar system formed.

Winds a quarter the speed of light spotted leaving mysterious binary systems

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 10:28am
Astronomers have observed two black holes in nearby galaxies devouring their companion stars at an extremely high rate, and spitting out matter at a quarter the speed of light.

Are we alone? Setting some limits to our planet's uniqueness

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 9:53am
Are humans unique and alone in the vast universe? This question -- summed up in the famous Drake equation -- has for a half-century been one of the most intractable and uncertain in science. But a new article shows that the recent discoveries of exoplanets combined with a broader approach to the question makes it possible to assign a new empirically valid probability to whether any other advanced technological civilizations have ever existed.

Possible extragalactic source of high-energy neutrinos

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 9:49am
Nearly 10 billion years ago in a galaxy known as PKS B1424-418, a dramatic explosion occurred. Light from this blast began arriving at Earth in 2012. Now, an international team of astronomers have shown that a record-breaking neutrino seen around the same time likely was born in the same event.

Rare transit of Mercury to take place on 9 May

Wed, 04/27/2016 - 3:12pm
On 9 May there will be a rare transit of Mercury, when the smallest planet in our Solar System will pass directly between the Earth and the Sun. The last time this happened was in 2006, and the next two occasions will be in 2019 and 2032. During the transit, which takes place in the afternoon and early evening in the UK, Mercury will appear as a dark silhouetted disk against the bright surface of the Sun.

Hubble discovers moon orbiting the dwarf planet Makemake

Tue, 04/26/2016 - 2:49pm
Peering to the outskirts of our solar system, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a small, dark moon orbiting Makemake, the second brightest icy dwarf planet -- after Pluto -- in the Kuiper Belt.

Nearby massive star explosion 30 million years ago equaled detonation of 100 million suns

Tue, 04/26/2016 - 2:49pm
A giant star that exploded 30 million years ago in a galaxy near Earth had a radius prior to going supernova that was 200 times larger than our sun, say astrophysicists. The massive explosion, Supernova 2013ej, was one of the closest to Earth in recent years. Comprehensive analysis of the exploding star's light curve and color spectrum found its sudden blast hurled material outward at 10,000 kilometers a second.

Cassini explores a methane sea on Titan

Tue, 04/26/2016 - 1:46pm
A new study finds that a large sea on Saturn's moon Titan is composed mostly of pure liquid methane, independently confirming an earlier result. The seabed may be covered in a sludge of carbon- and nitrogen-rich material, and its shores may be surrounded by wetlands.

Light echoes give clues to planet nursery around star

Tue, 04/26/2016 - 1:01pm
For the first time, astronomers used echoes of light to determine the distance from a star to the inner wall of its surrounding planet-forming disk of dust and gas. Being able to exactly pinpoint the inner edge of such disks is a big step forward in understanding the evolution of planetary systems.

Mars' surface revealed in unprecedented detail

Tue, 04/26/2016 - 10:13am
The surface of Mars -- including the location of Beagle-2 -- has been shown in unprecedented detail by scientists using a revolutionary image stacking and matching technique. Exciting pictures of the Beagle-2 lander, the ancient lakebeds discovered by NASA's Curiosity rover, NASA's MER-A rover tracks and Home Plate's rocks have been released by the researchers who stacked and matched images taken from orbit, to reveal objects at a resolution up to five times greater than previously achieved.

Dark matter does not contain certain axion-like particles

Fri, 04/22/2016 - 11:53am
Researchers are getting closer to corner light dark-matter particle models. Observations can rule out some axion-like particles in the quest for the content of dark matter.

Cosmic beacons reveal the Milky Way's ancient core

Fri, 04/22/2016 - 7:54am
Astronomers have discovered that the central 2000 light years within the Milky Way Galaxy hosts an ancient population of stars. These stars are more than 10 billion years old and their orbits in space preserve the early history of the formation of the Milky Way. For the first time the team kinematically disentangled this ancient component from the stellar population that currently dominates the mass of the central Galaxy.

Microscopic 'clocks' time distance to source of galactic cosmic rays

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 2:57pm
Most of the galactic cosmic rays reaching Earth come from nearby clusters of massive stars, according to new observations from NASA's ACE spacecraft. The distance between the cosmic rays' point of origin and Earth is limited by the survival of a radioactive isotope of iron, Fe-60, which has a half life of 2.6 million years. These tiny clocks indicate there was a source within spitting distance of Earth within the past few million years.

Bubble Nebula looks like a gigantic cosmic soap bubble

Thu, 04/21/2016 - 11:28am
A new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image captures in stunning clarity what looks like a gigantic cosmic soap bubble. The object, known as the Bubble Nebula, is in fact a cloud of gas and dust illuminated by the brilliant star within it. The vivid new portrait of this dramatic scene wins the Bubble Nebula a place in the exclusive Hubble hall of fame.

Mice flown in space show nascent liver damage, research shows

Wed, 04/20/2016 - 3:14pm
In a discovery with implications for long-term spaceflight and future missions to Mars, researchers have found that mice flown aboard the space shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth with early signs of liver disease.

Merging black holes, gravitational waves provide new insight into how the universe works

Tue, 04/19/2016 - 6:27pm
On Sept. 14, waves of energy traveling for more than a billion years gently rattled space-time in the vicinity of Earth. The disturbance, produced by a pair of merging black holes, was captured by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana. This event marked the first-ever detection of gravitational waves and opens a new scientific window on how the universe works.

Seeing double: NASA missions measure solar flare from 2 spots in space

Tue, 04/19/2016 - 2:54pm
Solar flares are intense bursts of light from the sun. They are created when complicated magnetic fields suddenly and explosively rearrange themselves, converting magnetic energy into light through a process called magnetic reconnection -- at least, that's the theory, because the signatures of this process are hard to detect. But during a December 2013 solar flare, three solar observatories captured the most comprehensive observations of an electromagnetic phenomenon called a current sheet, strengthening the evidence that this understanding of solar flares is correct.

From bright flare ribbons to coronal rain

Tue, 04/19/2016 - 1:01pm
Scientists at NJIT's Big Bear Solar Observatory have captured unprecedented images of a recent solar flare, including bright flare ribbons seen crossing a sunspot followed by 'coronal rain,' plasma that condenses in the cooling phase shortly after the flare, showering the visible surface of the sun where it lands in brilliant explosions.

HAWC Gamma-ray Observatory reveals new look at the very-high-energy sky

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 12:07pm
Today, scientists operating the High Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) Gamma-ray Observatory released a new survey of the sky made from the highest energy gamma rays ever observed. The new sky map, which uses data collected since the observatory began running at full capacity last March, offers a deeper understanding of high-energy processes taking place in our galaxy and beyond.

A space 'spider' watches over young stars

Mon, 04/18/2016 - 12:05pm
A nebula known as "the Spider" glows fluorescent green in an infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS). The Spider, officially named IC 417, lies near a much smaller object called NGC 1931, not pictured in the image. Together, the two are called "The Spider and the Fly" nebulae. Nebulae are clouds of interstellar gas and dust where stars can form.

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