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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: 5 hours 34 min ago

Two families of comets found around nearby star: Biggest census ever of exocomets around beta pictoris

9 hours 10 min ago
The HARPS instrument at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile has been used to make the most complete census of comets around another star ever created. Astronomers have studied nearly 500 individual comets orbiting the star Beta Pictoris and has discovered that they belong to two distinct families of exocomets: old exocomets that have made multiple passages near the star, and younger exocomets that probably came from the recent breakup of one or more larger objects.

New window on the early Universe

13 hours 32 min ago
Scientists see good times approaching for astrophysicists after hatching a new observational strategy to distill detailed information from  galaxies at the edge of the Universe. Using two world-class supercomputers, the researchers were able to demonstrate the effectiveness of their approach by simulating the formation of a massive galaxy at the dawn of cosmic time. The ALMA radio telescope – which stands at an elevation of 5,000 meters in the Atacama Desert of Chile, one of the driest places on earth – was then used to forge observations of the galaxy, showing how their method improves upon previous efforts.

NASA Webb's heart survives deep freeze test

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 21:07
After 116 days of being subjected to extremely frigid temperatures like that in space, the heart of the James Webb Space Telescope, the Integrated Science Instrument Module and its sensitive instruments, emerged unscathed from the thermal vacuum chamber at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Cosmic rays threaten future deep-space astronaut missions

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 13:50
Crewed missions to Mars remain an essential goal for NASA, but scientists are only now beginning to understand and characterize the radiation hazards that could make such ventures risky, concludes a new article.

Big black holes can block new stars

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 11:07
Massive black holes spewing out radio-frequency-emitting particles at near-light speed can block formation of new stars in aging galaxies, a study has found.

POLARBEAR detects B-modes in the cosmic microwave background: Mapping cosmic structure, finding neutrino masses

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 10:11
The POLARBEAR experiment has made the most sensitive and precise measurements yet of the polarization of the cosmic microwave background and found telling twists called B-modes in the patterns, signs that this cosmic backlight has been warped by intervening structures in the universe.

NASA Rover Opportunity views comet near Mars

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 00:35
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity captured images of a comet passing much closer to Mars than any previous known comet flyby of Earth or Mars. The images of comet Siding Spring were taken against a backdrop of the pre-dawn Martian sky on Sunday (Oct. 19).

Mars Orbiter image shows comet nucleus is small

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 00:33
The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured views of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring while that visitor sped past Mars on Sunday (Oct. 19), yielding information about its nucleus.

Heavy metal frost? A new look at a Venusian mystery

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 13:39
Venus is hiding something beneath its brilliant shroud of clouds: a first order mystery about the planet that researchers may be a little closer to solving because of a new re-analysis of twenty-year-old spacecraft data. Venus's surface can't be seen from orbit in visible light because of the planet's hot, dense, cloudy atmosphere. Instead, radar has been used by spacecraft to penetrate the clouds and map out the surface – both by reflecting radar off the surface to measure elevation and by looking at the radio emissions of the hot surface. The last spacecraft to map Venus in this way was Magellan, two decades ago.

NASA's Mars Odyssey Orbiter watches comet fly near

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 09:28
The longest-lived robot ever sent to Mars came through its latest challenge in good health, reporting home on schedule after sheltering behind Mars from possible comet dust.

NASA's MAVEN studies passing comet and its effects

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 09:26
NASA's newest orbiter at Mars, MAVEN, took precautions to avoid harm from a dust-spewing comet that flew near Mars Oct. 19 and is studying the flyby's effects on the Red Planet's atmosphere.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter studies comet flyby

Mon, 10/20/2014 - 09:21
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has sent home more data about Mars than all other missions combined, is also now providing data about a comet that buzzed The Red Planet Oct. 19.

Explosion first evidence of a hydrogen-deficient supernova progenitor

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 19:28
A new model is the first characterization of the progenitor for a hydrogen-deficient supernova. The model predicts that a bright hot star, which is the binary companion to an exploding object, remains after the explosion.Their findings have important implications for the evolution of massive stars.

NASA spacecraft provides new information about sun's atmosphere

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 18:54
NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) has provided scientists with five new findings into how the sun's atmosphere, or corona, is heated far hotter than its surface, what causes the sun's constant outflow of particles called the solar wind, and what mechanisms accelerate particles that power solar flares.

Tiny 'nanoflares' might heat the Sun's corona

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 17:06
Why is the Sun's million-degree corona, or outermost atmosphere, so much hotter than the Sun's surface? This question has baffled astronomers for decades. Today, a team led by Paola Testa is presenting new clues to the mystery of coronal heating. The team finds that miniature solar flares called 'nanoflares' -- and the speedy electrons they produce -- might partly be the source of that heat, at least in some of the hottest parts of the Sun's corona.

Wobbling of a Saturn moon hints at what lies beneath

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 14:36
Using instruments aboard the Cassini spacecraft to measure the wobbles of Mimas, the closest of Saturn's regular moons, an astronomer has inferred that this small moon's icy surface cloaks either a rugby ball-shaped rocky core or a sloshing sub-surface ocean.

Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy through cosmic magnifying glass

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 14:08
Using the Hubble Space Telescope and the lensing power of giant galaxy cluster Abell 2744, astronomers may have made the most reliable distance measurement yet of an object that existed in the very early universe. The galaxy, estimated to be over 13 billion light-years away, is one of the farthest, faintest, and smallest galaxies ever seen.

Inexplicable signal from unseen universe provides tantalizing clue about one of astronomy's greatest secrets -- dark matter

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 08:54
The first potential indication of direct detection of dark matter -- something that has been a mystery in physics for over 30 years -- has been attained. Astronomers found what appears to be a signature of 'axions', predicted 'dark matter' particle candidates.

Making measurements when a comet passes close to Mars

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 08:54
On Sunday 19 October at 20:29 CET, a comet will pass close to the planet Mars. At the same time the Swedish instrument ASPERA-3 is on board the European satellite Mars Express orbiting Mars and ready to make measurements.

Getting to know super-Earths: Using Hubble to study mysterious exoplanet

Wed, 10/15/2014 - 15:25
Results from NASA's Kepler mission have indicated that the most common planets in the galaxy are super-Earths -- those that are bigger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. We have no examples of these planets in our own solar system, so astronomers are using space telescopes to try to find out more about these worlds. Most recently they used Hubble to study the planet HD 97658b, in the constellation Leo.