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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: 7 hours 39 min ago

The sleeping giant NGC 4889 harbors a dark secret

Thu, 02/11/2016 - 14:13
The placid appearance of NGC 4889 can fool the unsuspecting observer. But the elliptical galaxy, seen in a new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, harbors a dark secret. At its heart lurks one of the most massive black holes ever discovered.

A star's moment in the spotlight

Wed, 02/10/2016 - 11:06
A newly formed star lights up the surrounding clouds in this new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile. Dust particles in the vast clouds that surround the star HD 97300 diffuse its light, like a car headlight in enveloping fog, and create the reflection nebula IC 2631. Although HD 97300 is in the spotlight for now, the very dust that makes it so hard to miss heralds the birth of additional future stars.

Scientists discover hidden galaxies behind the Milky Way

Tue, 02/09/2016 - 13:20
Hundreds of hidden nearby galaxies have been studied for the first time, shedding light on a mysterious gravitational anomaly dubbed the Great Attractor. Despite being just 250 million light years from Earth, the new galaxies had been hidden from view until now by our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Using CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope equipped with an innovative receiver, an international team of scientists were able to see through the Milky Way, into a previously unexplored region of space.

Artistic space odyssey to broadcast people's messages to the stars

Mon, 02/08/2016 - 11:25
Messages from around the world are to be beamed into space at the speed of light as part of a cultural project to create a celestial time capsule.

'Cannibalism' between stars

Fri, 02/05/2016 - 14:45
Stars do not accumulate their final mass steadily, but in a series of violent events manifesting themselves as sharp stellar brightening. Stellar brightening can be caused by fragmentation due to gravitational instabilities in massive gaseous disks surrounding young stars, followed by migration of dense gaseous clumps onto the star, according to a new theory.

Turbulent times: When stars approach

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 11:20
Astrophysicists are using new methods to simulate the common-envelope phase of binary stars, discovering dynamic irregularities that may help to explain how supernovae evolve.

A violent wind blown from the heart of a galaxy tells the tale of a merger

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 09:49
Astronomers have revealed the detailed structure of a massive ionized gas outflow streaming from the starburst galaxy NGC 6240. The light-collecting power and high spatial resolution of Subaru Telescope made it possible to study, for the first time, the complex structure of one of the largest known superwinds being driven by starbirth -- and star death.

New study challenges Jupiter's role as planetary shield, protecting Earth from comet impacts

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 11:09
Not only is the 'Jupiter as shield' concept, implying that the planet shields Earth from comet impacts, not true, but perhaps Jupiter's most important role in fostering the development of life on Earth was just the opposite -- delivering the volatile materials from the outer Solar System needed for life to form. This new simulation study, and the previously underestimated role that Saturn may have also played in the evolution of life on Earth.

Galactic center's gamma rays unlikely to originate from dark matter, evidence shows

Wed, 02/03/2016 - 11:09
Studies by two independent groups from the US and the Netherlands have found that gamma ray signals from the inner galaxy come from a new source rather than from the collision of dark matter particles. The new source is likely to be rapidly rotating pulsars, rather than the as-yet undetected invisible dark matter particles thought to make up 85 percent of the mass in the Universe.

Bright sparks shed new light on the dark matter riddle

Mon, 02/01/2016 - 10:35
The origin of matter in the universe has puzzled physicists for generations. Today, we know that matter only accounts for 5 percent of our universe; another 25 percent is constituted of dark matter. And the remaining 70 percent is made up of dark energy. Dark matter itself represents an unsolved riddle.

Understanding the magnetic sun

Sat, 01/30/2016 - 18:21
Scientists have turned to a combination of real time observations and computer simulations to best analyze how material courses through the corona.

Novel calibration tool will help astronomers look for habitable exoplanets

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 17:10
Promising new calibration tools, called laser frequency combs, could allow astronomers to take a major step in discovering and characterizing earthlike planets around other stars. These devices generate evenly spaced lines of light, much like the teeth on a comb for styling hair or the tick marks on a ruler--hence their nickname of "optical rulers."

Moon was produced by a head-on collision between Earth and a forming planet

Fri, 01/29/2016 - 09:04
The moon was formed from a violent, head-on collision between the early Earth and a 'planetary embryo' called Theia approximately 100 million years after the Earth formed, almost 4.5 billion years ago.

Monstrous cloud boomerangs back to our galaxy

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 15:57
New Hubble telescope observations suggest that a high-velocity gas cloud was launched from the outer regions of our own galaxy around 70 million years ago. Now, the cloud is on a return collision course and is expected to plow into the Milky Way's disk in about 30 million years. Astronomers believe it will ignite a spectacular burst of star formation then.

Antarctic fungi survive Martian conditions on the International Space Station

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 11:38
Scientists have gathered tiny fungi that take shelter in Antarctic rocks and sent them to the International Space Station. After 18 months on board in conditions similar to those on Mars, more than 60 percent of their cells remained intact, with stable DNA. The results provide new information for the search for life on the red planet. Lichens from the Sierra de Gredos (Spain) and the Alps (Austria) also traveled into space for the same experiment.

NASA Webb Telescope mirrors installed with robotic arm precision

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 07:43
Inside a massive clean room at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland the James Webb Space Telescope team is steadily installing the largest space telescope mirror ever. Unlike other space telescope mirrors, this one must be pieced together from segments using a high-precision robotic arm.

Stellar parenting: Making new stars by 'adopting' stray cosmic gases

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 14:14
Astronomers have for the first time found young populations of stars within globular clusters that have apparently developed courtesy of star-forming gas flowing in from outside of the clusters themselves. This method stands in contrast to the conventional idea of the clusters' initial stars shedding gas as they age in order to spark future rounds of star birth.

The Milky Way's clean and tidy galactic neighbor

Wed, 01/27/2016 - 08:35
Many galaxies are chock-full of dust, while others have occasional dark streaks of opaque cosmic soot swirling in amongst their gas and stars. However, the subject of this new image, snapped with the OmegaCAM camera on ESO's VLT Survey Telescope in Chile, is unusual -- the small galaxy, named IC 1613, is a veritable clean freak! IC 1613 contains very little cosmic dust, allowing astronomers to explore its contents with great clarity.

One trillion kilometers apart: A lonely planet and its distant star

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 09:10
Astronomers have found a planet, until now thought to be a free floating or lonely planet, in a huge orbit around its star. Incredibly the object, designated as 2MASS J2126, is about 1 trillion (1 million million) kilometers from the star, or about 7000 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

How to find and study a black hole

Mon, 01/25/2016 - 11:52
Black holes sound too strange to be real. But they are actually pretty common in space. There are dozens known and probably millions more in the Milky Way and a billion times that lurking outside. The makings and dynamics of these monstrous warpings of spacetime have been confounding scientists for centuries.