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NASA's Fermi finds record-breaking binary in galaxy next door
on Thu, 29 Sep 2016 22:01:32 EDT:
Scientists have found the first gamma-ray binary in another galaxy and the most luminous one ever seen. The dual-star system, dubbed LMC P3, contains a massive star and a crushed stellar core that interact to produce a cyclic flood of gamma rays, the highest-energy form of light.
Rosetta instrument provided first-ever ultraviolet observations of a comet
on Thu, 29 Sep 2016 15:58:57 EDT:
After a two-year orbital tour around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, ESA's Rosetta spacecraft -- carrying the Alice ultraviolet spectrograph -- will end its mission on Sept. 30. Rosetta is the first spacecraft to orbit and escort a comet, and Alice, developed and operated for NASA, is the first instrument to obtain far-ultraviolet observations at a comet.
Spiral arms in protoplanetary disk: They're not just for galaxies any more
on Thu, 29 Sep 2016 14:53:29 EDT:
Astronomers have found distinct spiral arms in the disk of gas and dust surrounding the young star Elias 2-27. While similar features have been observed on the surfaces of such disks before, this is the first time they have been identified within the disk, where planet formation takes place. Structures such as these could either indicate the presence of a newly formed planet, or else create the necessary conditions for a planet to form. As such, the results are a crucial step towards a better understanding how planetary systems like our Solar system came into being.
Curiosity finds evidence of Mars crust contributing to atmosphere
on Thu, 29 Sep 2016 14:34:38 EDT:
NASA's Curiosity rover has found evidence that chemistry in the surface material on Mars contributed dynamically to the makeup of its atmosphere over time. It's another clue that the history of the Red Planet's atmosphere is more complex and interesting than a simple legacy of loss.
ALMA catches stellar cocoon with curious chemistry: First of its kind to be found outside the Milky Way
on Thu, 29 Sep 2016 08:20:19 EDT:
A hot and dense mass of complex molecules, cocooning a newborn star, has been discovered astronomers using ALMA. This unique hot molecular core is the first of its kind to have been detected outside the Milky Way galaxy. It has a very different molecular composition from similar objects in our own galaxy -- a tantalizing hint that the chemistry taking place across the Universe could be much more diverse than expected.
Rosetta may be crashing, but its legacy lives on here on Earth
on Wed, 28 Sep 2016 09:19:54 EDT:
ESA's Rosetta spacecraft arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on 6 August 2014, following a ten-year journey through the Solar System after its launch on 2 March 2004. The Philae lander was sent down to the surface of the comet on 12 November 2014. Confirmation of the end of mission is expected from ESA's main control room at 11:20 GMT or 13:20 CEST +/- 20 minutes on 30 September, with the spacecraft set on a collision course with the comet the evening before.
A perfect sun-storm
on Wed, 28 Sep 2016 08:29:57 EDT:
A geomagnetic storm on January 17, 2013, provided unique observations that finally resolved a long-standing scientific problem. For decades, scientists had asked how particles hitting Earth's magnetosphere were lost. A likely mechanism involved certain electromagnetic waves scattering particles into the Earth's atmosphere. More recently, another mechanism was proposed that caused particles to be lost in interplanetary space. Scientists recently found that both mechanisms play a role affecting particles at different speeds.
Cosmic dust demystified
on Tue, 27 Sep 2016 11:16:55 EDT:
Besides providing substantive information about the atmospheres of other planets, cosmic dust particles can impact radio communications, climate and even serve as fertilizer for phytoplankton in the oceans. A team of researchers has developed a new experimental Meteoric Ablation Simulator (MASI) that can help answer questions about cosmic dust and how it impacts Earth and everything on it.
Solving a heavy-duty mystery
on Mon, 26 Sep 2016 22:36:06 EDT:
To determine how the universe's heavy elements -- gold, silver and many others -- came about, a team of international researchers is studying both the largest and smallest things known to us -- stars and atoms. The team is providing critical data to computer models of what are known as stellar events -- supernovas and neutron stars mergers, to be exact.
Hubble spots possible water plumes erupting on Jupiter's moon Europa
on Mon, 26 Sep 2016 14:29:19 EDT:
Astronomers have imaged what may be water vapor plumes erupting off the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. This finding bolsters other Hubble observations suggesting the icy moon erupts with high altitude water vapor plumes.
Scientists' finding supports moon creation hypothesis
on Mon, 26 Sep 2016 11:53:39 EDT:
A layer of iron and other elements deep underground is the evidence scientists have long been seeking to support the hypothesis that the moon was formed by a planetary object hitting the infant Earth some 4.5 billion years ago, a new study argues.
New low-mass objects could help refine planetary evolution
on Mon, 26 Sep 2016 11:18:28 EDT:
When a star is young, it is often still surrounded by a primordial rotating disk of gas and dust, from which planets can form. Astronomers like to find such disks because they might be able to catch the star partway through the planet formation process, but it's highly unusual to find such disks around brown dwarfs or stars with very low masses. New work has discovered four new low-mass objects surrounded by disks.
X-rays that don't come from any known source
on Mon, 26 Sep 2016 10:47:00 EDT:
Space is filled with types of light we can't see -- from infrared signals released by hot stars and galaxies, to the cosmic microwave background. Some of this invisible light that fills space takes the form of X-rays, the source of which has been hotly contended over the past few decades. A new study confirms some ideas about where these X-rays come from, shedding light on our solar neighborhood's early history. But it also reveals a new mystery -- an entire group of X-rays that don't come from any known source.
How to merge two black holes in a simple way
on Mon, 26 Sep 2016 09:59:56 EDT:
The merger of two black holes, such as the one that produced the gravitational waves discovered by the LIGO Observatory, is considered an extremely complex process that can only be simulated by the world's most powerful supercomputers. However, two theoretical physicists have demonstrated that what occurs on the space-time boundary of the two merging objects can be explained using simple equations, at least when a giant black hole collides with a tiny black hole.
Australian technology installed on world’s largest single-dish radio telescope
on Mon, 26 Sep 2016 09:58:15 EDT:
The world’s largest filled single-dish radio telescope has launched, and it relies on a piece of West Australian innovation. The telescope -- known as FAST -- uses a data system developed at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy in Perth and the European Southern Observatory to manage the huge amounts of data it generates.
Pluto's 'heart' sheds light on possible buried ocean
on Sat, 24 Sep 2016 22:24:28 EDT:
Ever since NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto last year, evidence has been mounting that the dwarf planet may have a liquid ocean beneath its icy shell. Now, by modeling the impact dynamics that created a massive crater on Pluto's surface, a team of researchers has made a new estimate of how thick that liquid layer might be.
Colorful demise of a sun-like star
on Fri, 23 Sep 2016 15:49:25 EDT:
Our sun will eventually burn out and shroud itself with stellar debris, but not for another 5 billion years.
ALMA Explores the Hubble Ultra Deep Field: Deepest ever millimeter observations of early Universe
on Thu, 22 Sep 2016 14:16:48 EDT:
International teams of astronomers have used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to explore the distant corner of the Universe first revealed in the iconic images of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). These new ALMA observations are significantly deeper and sharper than previous surveys at millimetre wavelengths. They clearly show how the rate of star formation in young galaxies is closely related to their total mass in stars. They also trace the previously unknown abundance of star-forming gas at different points in time, providing new insights into the “Golden Age” of galaxy formation approximately 10 billion years ago.
Hubble finds planet orbiting pair of stars
on Thu, 22 Sep 2016 10:07:08 EDT:
Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, and a trick of nature, have confirmed the existence of a planet orbiting two stars in the system OGLE-2007-BLG-349, located 8,000 light-years away towards the center of our galaxy. The Hubble observations represent the first time such a three-body system has been confirmed using the gravitational microlensing technique.
Cosmology safe as universe has no sense of direction
on Thu, 22 Sep 2016 09:38:23 EDT:
The universe is expanding uniformly. Space isn't stretching in a preferred direction or spinning.
Twin jets pinpoint the heart of an active galaxy
on Wed, 21 Sep 2016 17:01:19 EDT:
Two particle jets shoot out from the heart of active galaxy NGC 1052 at the speed of light, apparently originating in the vicinity of a massive black hole. Researchers have now measured the magnetic fields in this area. They observed the bright, very compact structure of just two light days in size using a global ensemble of millimeter-wavelength telescopes. The magnetic field value recorded at the event horizon of the black hole was between 0.02 and 8.3 tesla. The team concludes that the magnetic fields provide enough magnetic energy to power the twin jets.
The death of a planet nursery?
on Wed, 21 Sep 2016 15:36:24 EDT:
The dusty disk surrounding the star TW Hydrae exhibits circular features that may signal the formation of protoplanets. Astrophysicist argue, however, that the innermost actually points to the impending dispersal of the disk.
NASA scientists find 'impossible' cloud on Titan -- again
on Wed, 21 Sep 2016 12:38:36 EDT:
The puzzling appearance of an ice cloud seemingly out of thin air has prompted NASA scientists to suggest that a different process than previously thought -- possibly similar to one seen over Earth's poles -- could be forming clouds on Saturn's moon Titan.
In exploring the ‘now,’ new theory links flow of time with Big Bang
on Wed, 21 Sep 2016 12:12:34 EDT:
A simple question from his wife -- Does physics really allow people to travel back in time? -- propelled a physicist on a quest to resolve a fundamental problem that had puzzled him throughout his 45-year career: Why does the arrow of time flow inexorably toward the future, constantly creating new "nows"?
Feeding a Mars mission: The challenges of growing plants in space
on Wed, 21 Sep 2016 10:39:18 EDT:
Plants will play a critical role in the survival of human beings on long-duration space missions, such as a mission to Mars.  However, as a new paper shows, many challenges need to be addressed if astronauts are to successfully grow enough food on board spacecraft and on other planets.
In rotating galaxies, distribution of normal matter precisely determines gravitational acceleration
on Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:50:52 EDT:
Researchers have found a significant new relationship in spiral and irregular galaxies: the acceleration observed in rotation curves tightly correlates with the gravitational acceleration expected from the visible mass only. The discovery may alter the understanding of dark matter and the internal dynamics of galaxies.
Galactic fireworks illuminate monster hydrogen blob in space
on Wed, 21 Sep 2016 08:50:46 EDT:
An international team of researchers using ALMA and other telescopes has discovered the power source illuminating a so-called Lyman-alpha Blob -- a rare, brightly glowing, and enormous concentration of gas in the distant universe.
Earthquakes, ‘Mars-quakes,’ and the possibility of life
on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 10:36:18 EDT:
A new study shows that rocks formed by the grinding together of other rocks during earthquakes are rich in trapped hydrogen -- a finding that suggests similar seismic activity on Mars may produce enough hydrogen to support life.
'False' biosignatures may complicate search for ancient life on Earth, other planets
on Tue, 20 Sep 2016 09:41:16 EDT:
Self-assembling carbon microstructures could provide new clues -- and new cautions -- in efforts to identify microbial life preserved in the fossil record, both on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system, report scientists.
New ways to track stars eaten by black holes
on Mon, 19 Sep 2016 21:49:55 EDT:
Astrophysicists have broken new ground in ways to observe a star swallowed by a black hole, promising to help paint a clearer picture of this cosmic phenomenon.
Unusual short burst of X-rays coming from slowest-spinning neutron star
on Mon, 19 Sep 2016 13:25:18 EDT:
A new record-holder for the slowest spinning neutron star has been found thanks to clues first detected by NASA's Swift space observatory. Spinning neutron stars are the class of stars with the most powerful magnetic fields in the universe. Swift's X-Ray Telescope captured a short burst of unusual X-rays on June 22, 2016 coming from an object roughly 9,000 light-years from Earth.
Pluto's glaciers: Large heart-shaped nitrogen glacier explained
on Mon, 19 Sep 2016 13:07:11 EDT:
What is the origin of the large heart-shaped nitrogen glacier revealed in 2015 on Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft? Astronomers show that Pluto's peculiar insolation and atmosphere favor nitrogen condensation near the equator, in the lower altitude regions, leading to an accumulation of ice at the bottom of Sputnik Planum, a vast topographic basin. Through their simulations, they also explain the surface distribution and atmospheric abundance of other types of volatiles observed on Pluto.
Solar system could have evolved from poorly mixed elemental soup
on Fri, 16 Sep 2016 11:06:36 EDT:
Chondrite meteorites contain a puzzling mismatch in isotopic composition with Earth's crust. The mismatch puzzles scientists because they long believed that Earth formed from planetary objects similar to meteorites. A new paper explains how this mismatch could have come about.
How and why are measurements of ozone taken from space?
on Fri, 16 Sep 2016 09:30:45 EDT:
The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica became an international cause for concern in the latter half of the 20th Century, but researchers point out that the issues relating to ozone levels are complex and wide-reaching.
Origin of minor planets' rings revealed
on Fri, 16 Sep 2016 09:30:30 EDT:
A team of researchers has clarified the origin of the rings recently discovered around two minor planets known as centaurs, and their results suggest the existence of rings around other centaurs.
Cassini begins epic final year at Saturn
on Thu, 15 Sep 2016 17:32:29 EDT:
After more than 12 years studying Saturn, its rings and moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has entered the final year of its epic voyage. The conclusion of the historic scientific odyssey is planned for September 2017, but not before the spacecraft completes a daring two-part endgame.
Echoes of black holes eating stars discovered
on Thu, 15 Sep 2016 14:26:09 EDT:
A black hole destroying a star, an event astronomers call 'stellar tidal disruption,' releases an enormous amount of energy, brightening the surroundings in an event called a flare. Two new studies characterize tidal disruption flares by studying how surrounding dust absorbs and re-emits their light, like echoes. This approach allowed scientists to measure the energy of flares from stellar tidal disruption events more precisely than ever before.
Some ancient Mars lakes formed long after others
on Thu, 15 Sep 2016 14:20:43 EDT:
Lakes and snowmelt-fed streams on Mars formed much later than previously thought possible, according to new findings. The recently discovered lakes and streams appeared roughly a billion years after an earlier era of wet conditions on ancient Mars. These results suggest the surface conditions at this later time may also have been suitable for microbial life on the Red Planet.
Gaia’s billion star maps hints at treasures to come
on Thu, 15 Sep 2016 14:19:50 EDT:
The first catalog of more than a billion stars from ESA's Gaia satellite was just published -- the largest all-sky survey of celestial objects to date.
Astronomers capture best view ever of disintegrating comet
on Thu, 15 Sep 2016 13:24:42 EDT:
Astronomers have captured the sharpest, most detailed observations of a comet breaking apart 67 million miles from Earth, using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The images suggest that the roughly 4.5-billion-year-old comet, named 332P/Ikeya-Murakami, or comet 332P, may be spinning so fast that material is ejected from its surface. The resulting debris is now scattered along a 3,000-mile-long trail, larger than the width of the continental United States.
Exploration team shoots for the moon with water-propelled satellite
on Thu, 15 Sep 2016 12:05:22 EDT:
Cislunar Explorers, a team of Cornell University students guided by Mason Peck, a former senior official at NASA and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is attempting to boldly go where no CubeSat team has gone before: around the moon. Not only is Peck's group attempting to make a first-ever moon orbit with a satellite no bigger than a cereal box, made entirely with off-the-shelf materials, it's doing so with propellant that you can obtain simply by turning on a faucet.
Black hole hidden within its own exhaust
on Thu, 15 Sep 2016 12:05:20 EDT:
New data from ALMA reveal that the black hole at the center of a galaxy named NGC 1068 is actually the source of its own dusty torus of dust and gas, forged from material flung out of the black hole's accretion disk.
Starving black hole returns brilliant galaxy to the shadows
on Thu, 15 Sep 2016 12:03:47 EDT:
Many galaxies are found to have an extremely bright core powered by a supermassive black hole. These cores make "active galaxies" some of the brightest objects in the Universe. They are thought to shine so brightly because hot material is glowing fiercely as it falls into the black hole, a process known as accretion. This brilliant light can vary hugely between different active galaxies, so astronomers classify them into several types based on the properties of the light they emit.
Fighting cancer with space research
on Thu, 15 Sep 2016 09:36:31 EDT:
For the past 15 years, the big data techniques pioneered by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have been revolutionizing biomedical research. On Sept. 6, 2016, JPL and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, renewed a research partnership through 2021, extending the development of data science that originated in space exploration and is now supporting new cancer discoveries.
X-ray detection sheds new light on Pluto
on Wed, 14 Sep 2016 15:05:15 EDT:
Scientists using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have made the first detections of X-rays from Pluto. These observations offer new insight into the space environment surrounding the largest and best-known object in the solar system's outermost regions.
Pluto 'paints' its largest moon red
on Wed, 14 Sep 2016 14:58:49 EDT:
In June 2015, when the cameras on NASA's approaching New Horizons spacecraft first spotted the large reddish polar region on Pluto's largest moon, Charon, mission scientists knew two things: they'd never seen anything like it elsewhere in our solar system, and they couldn't wait to get the story behind it. Over the past year, the scientists think they've solved the mystery.
Icy giant planet growing around a nearby star
on Wed, 14 Sep 2016 09:04:56 EDT:
Astronomers found signs of a growing planet around TW Hydra, a nearby young star, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). Based on the distance from the central star and the distribution of tiny dust grains, the baby planet is thought to be an icy giant, similar to Uranus and Neptune in our Solar System. This result is another step towards understanding the origins of various types of planets.
Analysis of the impact of solar activity on radio signals in the atmosphere boosted by new research
on Wed, 14 Sep 2016 09:03:21 EDT:
The assessment of the impact of solar activity on radio signals in the atmosphere has been boosted by a new measurement method, report scientists.
Astronomers shed light on different galaxy types
on Wed, 14 Sep 2016 08:58:00 EDT:
Scientists have taken a critical step towards understanding why different types of galaxies exist throughout the Universe. The research, made possible by cutting-edge instrumentation, means that astronomers can now classify galaxies according to their physical properties rather than human interpretation of a galaxy's appearance.
Astronomers observe star reborn in a flash
on Tue, 13 Sep 2016 11:56:30 EDT:
Astronomers using Hubble have been able to study stellar evolution in real time. Over a period of 30 years dramatic increases in the temperature of the star SAO 244567 have been observed. Now the star is cooling again, having been reborn into an earlier phase of stellar evolution. This makes it the first reborn star to have been observed during both the heating and cooling stages of rebirth.
Asteroid named after professor
on Tue, 13 Sep 2016 10:06:09 EDT:
A professor has had his name written among the stars, after an asteroid was named after him.
Explaining why the universe can be 'transparent': Universe's reionization is based on a galaxy's dust content
on Mon, 12 Sep 2016 17:38:40 EDT:
Scientists can explain why the universe has enough energy to become transparent. The study marks the first quantitative study of how the gas content within galaxies scales with the amount of interstellar dust.
Mars rover views spectacular layered rock formations
on Mon, 12 Sep 2016 14:51:38 EDT:
The layered geologic past of Mars is revealed in stunning detail in new color images returned by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, which is currently exploring the "Murray Buttes" region of lower Mount Sharp. The new images arguably rival photos taken in U.S. National Parks.
NASA's THEMIS sees Auroras move to the rhythm of Earth's magnetic field
on Mon, 12 Sep 2016 14:19:48 EDT:
For the first time, scientists have directly mapped Earth's fluctuating magnetic field and resulting electrical currents to aurora, thanks to northern lights observations from NASA's THEMIS mission.
New laser provides ultra-precise tool for scientists probing the secrets of the universe
on Mon, 12 Sep 2016 12:26:30 EDT:
A promising tool for the next generation of tests is the new high promising tool for the next generation of tests is the new high-intensity laser. It produces pulses of deep ultraviolet light with energies large enough to bump electrons in some of the simplest atoms and molecules into a higher energy level.
Moon is proto-earth's mantle, relocated, chemistry suggests
on Mon, 12 Sep 2016 11:20:21 EDT:
The leading theory for the moon's formation got in trouble recently when it was revealed that the moon and Earth are isotopic twins. Now highly precise measurements of the isotopes of an element that was still condensed at the "cut off" temperature when material started to fall back to Earth suggest a dramatic solution to the problem.
Discovery nearly doubles known quasars from the ancient universe
on Mon, 12 Sep 2016 08:46:45 EDT:
Quasars are supermassive black holes that sit at the center of enormous galaxies, accreting matter. They shine so brightly that they are often referred to as beacons and are among the most-distant objects we can currently study. A team has discovered 63 new quasars from when the universe was only a billion years old, almost doubling the number of ancient quasars previously known.
Avoiding 'traffic jam' creates impossibly bright 'lighthouse'
on Thu, 08 Sep 2016 08:41:45 EDT:
The central energy source of enigmatic pulsating Ultra Luminous X-ray sources (ULX) could be a neutron star according to numerical simulations. ULXs, which are remarkably bright X-ray sources, were thought to be powered by black holes.
Ripples in fabric of space-time? Hundreds of undiscovered black holes
on Wed, 07 Sep 2016 21:51:55 EDT:
Computer simulations of a spherical collection of stars known as 'NGC 6101' reveal that it contains hundreds of black holes, until now thought impossible. Recent observations already found black hole candidates in similar systems, with this research enabling astrophysicists to map black holes in other clusters. These systems could be the cradle of gravitational wave emission, 'ripples' in the fabric of space-time.
Reconciling dwarf galaxies with dark matter
on Wed, 07 Sep 2016 13:51:50 EDT:
Dwarf galaxies are enigmas wrapped in riddles. Although they are the smallest galaxies, they represent some of the biggest mysteries about our universe. While many dwarf galaxies surround our own Milky Way, there seem to be far too few of them compared with standard cosmological models, which raises a lot of questions about the nature of dark matter and its role in galaxy formation. New theoretical modeling work offers the most accurate predictions to date about the dwarf galaxies in the Milky Way's neighborhood.