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Astronomy news. New! Earth-like extrasolar planet found; double helix nebula; supermassive black holes, astronomy articles, astronomy pictures. Updated daily.
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Astronomers: 'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 15:37
A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research. In fact, sometimes it may help. That's because such "tilt-a-worlds," as astronomers sometimes call them -- turned from their orbital plane by the influence of companion planets -- are less likely than fixed-spin planets to freeze over, as heat from their host star is more evenly distributed.

NASA Cassini images may reveal birth of a Saturn moon

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 18:03
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon, and may also provide clues to the formation of the planet's known moons.

Cosmic slurp: Supercomputers help astronomers understand and predict how black holes swallow stars

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 15:08
A 'tidal disruption' occurs when a star orbits too close to a black hole and gets usurped. Researchers are using supercomputers to simulate tidal disruptions to better understand the dynamics of the process. Doing so will help astronomers find many more possible candidates of tidal disruptions in sky surveys and reveal details of how stars and black holes interact.

International Space Station to beam video via laser back to Earth

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 10:30
A team of about 20 working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., through the lab's Phaeton early-career-hire program, led the development of the Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) investigation, which is preparing for an April 14 launch to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX-3 mission. The goal? NASA's first optical communication experiment on the orbital laboratory.

Faraway moon or faint star? Possible exomoon found

Sat, 04/12/2014 - 09:41
Titan, Europa, Io and Phobos are just a few members of our solar system's pantheon of moons. Are there are other moons out there, orbiting planets beyond our sun? Researchers have spotted the first signs of an "exomoon," and though they say it's impossible to confirm its presence, the finding is a tantalizing first step toward locating others. The discovery was made by watching a chance encounter of objects in our galaxy, which can be witnessed only once.

NASA's Hubble extends stellar tape measure 10 times farther into space

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 09:19
Astronomers now can precisely measure the distance of stars up to 10,000 light-years away -- 10 times farther than previously possible. Astronomers have developed yet another novel way to use the 24-year-old space telescope by employing a technique called spatial scanning, which dramatically improves Hubble's accuracy for making angular measurements. The technique, when applied to the age-old method for gauging distances called astronomical parallax, extends Hubble's tape measure 10 times farther into space.

Chance meeting creates celestial diamond ring

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 09:42
Astronomers have captured an eye-catching image of planetary nebula PN A66 33 -- usually known as Abell 33. Created when an aging star blew off its outer layers, this beautiful blue bubble is, by chance, aligned with a foreground star, and bears an uncanny resemblance to a diamond engagement ring. This cosmic gem is unusually symmetric, appearing to be almost circular on the sky.

Images from NASA Mars rover include bright spots

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 21:51
Images taken by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on April 2 and April 3 include bright spots, which might be due to the sun glinting off a rock or cosmic rays striking the camera's detector.

North America to experience total lunar eclipse

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 21:36
When people in North America look up at the sky in the early morning hours of April 15, they can expect the moon to look a little different. A total lunar eclipse is expected at this time, a phenomenon that occurs when the Earth, moon and sun are in perfect alignment, blanketing the moon in the Earth's shadow.

Saturn's hexagon: An amazing phenomenon

Tue, 04/08/2014 - 07:48
An unusual structure with a hexagonal shape surrounding Saturn's north pole was spotted on the planet for the first time thirty years ago. Nothing similar with such a regular geometry had ever been seen on any planet in the solar system. Astronomers have now been able to study and measure the phenomenon and, among other achievements, establish its rotation period. What is more, this period could be the same as that of the planet itself. Saturn is the only planet in the solar system whose rotation time remains unknown.

BOSS quasars track the expanding universe: Most precise measurement yet

Mon, 04/07/2014 - 14:37
Scientists have made novel measurements of the structure of the universe when it was only about 3 billion years old, using quasars collected by the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS). Results include the most precise measurement of expansion since galaxies formed. BOSS, the largest component of the third Sloan Digital Sky Survey, pioneered the use of quasars to chart universal expansion and the role of dark energy.

Watching for a black hole to gobble up a gas cloud: Gas cloud's fate illuminates growth of supermassive black holes

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 08:58
G2, a doomed gas cloud, is edging closer to Sgr A*, the hungry supermassive black hole at the Milky Way's center. The closest approach between the two is predicted to occur any day now. Astrophysicists have been watching closely, and the data do not show enhanced emission in the X-rays.

Gravity measurements confirm subsurface ocean on Saturn's moon Enceladus

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 14:20
In 2005, NASA's Cassini spacecraft sent pictures back to Earth depicting an icy Saturnian moon spewing water vapor and ice from fractures, known as "tiger stripes," in its frozen surface. It was big news that tiny Enceladus -- a mere 500 kilometers in diameter -- was such an active place. Since then, scientists have hypothesized that a large reservoir of water lies beneath that icy surface, possibly fueling the plumes. Now, using gravity measurements collected by Cassini, scientists have confirmed that Enceladus does in fact harbor a large subsurface ocean near its south pole, beneath those tiger stripes.

Monster 'El Gordo' galaxy cluster is bigger than thought

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 14:18
Astronomers have weighed the largest known galaxy cluster in the distant universe and found that it definitely lives up to its nickname: El Gordo (Spanish for "the fat one"). By precisely measuring how much the gravity from the cluster's mass warps images of far-more-distant background galaxies, a team of astronomers has calculated the cluster's mass to be as much as 3 million billion times the mass of our Sun. The Hubble data show that the cluster is roughly 43 percent more massive than earlier estimates based on X-ray and dynamical studies of the unusual cluster.

Fermi data tantalize with new clues to dark matter: Gamma rays from center of Milky Way galaxy

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 12:36
A new study of gamma-ray light from the center of our galaxy makes the strongest case to date that some of this emission may arise from dark matter, an unknown substance making up most of the material universe. Using publicly available data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, independent scientists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Chicago have developed new maps showing that the galactic center produces more high-energy gamma rays than can be explained by known sources and that this excess emission is consistent with some forms of dark matter.

To boldly go? Experts issue ethics guidelines for health standards on NASA's next generation of risky missions

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 14:42
Scientists have issued a report with ethics principles and guidelines to aid NASA in decision-making for longer, higher risk human spaceflights. Such missions, including extended stays on the International Space Station and flights to Mars, have higher risks and are unlikely to meet the space agency's current health standards.

'Geologic clock' helps determine moon's age

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 13:39
Planetary scientists have determined that the moon formed nearly 100 million years after the start of the solar system, according to a new article. This conclusion is based on measurements from the interior of the Earth combined with computer simulations of the protoplanetary disk from which the Earth and other terrestrial planets formed.

Galactic serial killer: Galaxy engulfed several other galaxies in its violent history

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 09:58
A new image shows two contrasting galaxies: NGC 1316, and its smaller neighbor NGC 1317. These two are quite close to each other in space, but they have very different histories. The small spiral NGC 1317 has led an uneventful life, but NGC 1316 has engulfed several other galaxies in its violent history and shows the battle scars.

'Cosmic barometer' could reveal violent events in universe's past

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 08:37
Scientists have developed a way of reading the universe’s ‘cosmic barometer’ to learn more about ancient violent events in space. Exploding stars, random impacts involving comets and meteorites, and even near misses between two bodies can create regions of great heat and high pressure. Researchers have now developed a method for analysing the pressure experienced by tiny samples of organic material that may have been ejected from dying stars before making a long journey through the cosmos.

Astronauts' hearts become more spherical in space

Sat, 03/29/2014 - 17:51
New findings from a study of 12 astronauts show the heart becomes more spherical when exposed to long periods of microgravity in space, a change that could lead to cardiac problems, according to research. With implications for an eventual manned mission to Mars, the findings represent an important step toward understanding how a spaceflight of 18 months or more could affect astronauts' heart health.

New S*T*A*R Officers

These are the new Club Officers, voted in at the June 2013 Business Meeting.