Popular Science articles about Astronomy & Space

The two images at top reveal debris disks around young stars uncovered in archival images taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The illustration beneath each image depicts the orientation of the debris disks.

'Upside-down planet' reveals new method for studying binary star systems

What looked at first like a sort of upside-down planet has instead revealed a new method for studying binary star systems, discovered by a University of Washington student astronomer.

Vitamin B3 might have been made in space, delivered to Earth by meteorites

Karen Smith crushes meteorites with a mortar and pestle in Goddard's Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory to prepare them for analysis. Vitamin B3 was found in all eight meteorites analyzed in the study.Ancient Earth might have had an extraterrestrial supply of vitamin B3 delivered by carbon-rich meteorites, according to a new analysis by NASA-funded researchers. The result supports a theory that the...

A study in scarlet

This new image from the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen and newborn stars called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars emit energetic radiation that causes the surrounding hydrogen to glow with a characteristic red hue.This area of the southern sky, in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur), is home to many bright nebulae, each associated with hot newborn stars that formed out of the...

Astronomers: 'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life

A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and...

NASA's LRO mission and North America to experience total lunar eclipse

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.

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

By applying a technique called spatial scanning to an age-old method for gauging distances called astronomical parallax, scientists now can use NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to make precision distance measurements 10 times farther into our galaxy than previously possible.Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers now can precisely measure the distance of stars up to 10,000 light-years away -- 10 times farther than previously possible.

BOSS quasars track the expanding universe -- most precise measurement yet

An artist's conception of how BOSS uses quasars to measure the distant universe. Light from distant quasars is partly absorbed by intervening gas, which is imprinted with a subtle ring-like pattern of known physical scale. Astronomers have now measured this scale with an accuracy of two percent, precisely measuring how fast the universe was expanding when it was just 3 billion years old.The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), the largest component of the third Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III), pioneered the use of quasars to map density variations in intergalactic gas at...

Watching for a black hole to gobble up a gas cloud

A simulation of the gas cloud G2's encounter with the supermassive black hole Sgr A*. The blue lines mark the orbits of the so-called "S" stars that are in close orbits around the black hole.Right now a doomed gas cloud is edging ever closer to the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. These black holes feed on gas and...

French, American team finds regolith of small asteroids formed by thermal fatigue

The centimeter-sized fragments and smaller particles that make up the regolith -- the layer of loose, unconsolidated rock and dust -- of small asteroids is formed by temperature cycling that...

Galactic serial killer

This new image from the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile shows a contrasting pair of galaxies: NGC 1316, and its smaller companion NGC 1317 (right). Although NGC 1317 seems to have had a peaceful existence, its larger neighbor bears the scars of earlier mergers with other galaxies.Several clues in the structure of NGC 1316 reveal that its past was turbulent. For instance, it has some unusual dust lanes [1] embedded within a much larger envelope of...

Physicists consider implications of recent revelations about the universe's first light

Last month, scientists announced the first hard evidence for cosmic inflation, the process by which the infant universe swelled from microscopic to cosmic size in an instant. This almost unimaginably fast expansion was first theorized more than three decades ago,...

Mysteries of a nearby planetary system's dynamics now are solved

Mysteries of one of the most fascinating nearby planetary systems have been solved, report authors of a scientific paper to be published by the journal <i>Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society</i> in its early online edition on 22 April 2014. The study presents the first viable model for the planetary system orbiting one the first stars discovered to have planets. This illustration shows the orbital distances and relative sizes of the four innermost planets known to orbit the star 55 Cancri A (bottom) in comparison with planets in own inner Solar System (top).  Both Jupiter and the Jupiter-mass planet 55 Cancri "d" are outside this picture, orbiting their host star with a distance of nearly 5 astronomical units (AU), where one AU is equal to the average distance between the Earth and the Sun.Mysteries of one of the most fascinating nearby planetary systems now have been solved, report authors of a scientific paper to be published by the journal Monthly Notices of the...

Red moon at night; stargazer's delight

This was taken during the lunar eclipse on April 15, 2014.Monday night's lunar eclipse proved just as delightful as expected to those able to view it. On the East Coast, cloudy skies may have gotten in the way, but at...

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Meteorites yield clues to red planet's early atmosphere

A microscope reveals skeletal magnetite  crystals that resemble a mythical griffin in a 1.3 billion year old Martian meteorite, MIL 90032. Researchers studied Mars' past atmosphere by analyzing sulfur isotopic ratios in 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars.Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. Their study, published April...

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Cosmic slurp

Somewhere in the cosmos an ordinary galaxy spins, seemingly at slumber. Then all of a sudden, WHAM! A flash of light explodes from the galaxy's center. A star orbiting too close to the event horizon of the galaxy's central supermassive black hole is torn apart by the force of gravity, heating up its gas and sending out a beacon to the far reaches of the universe.Somewhere in the cosmos an ordinary galaxy spins, seemingly at slumber. Then all of a sudden, WHAM! A flash of light explodes from the galaxy's center. A star orbiting too...

SU plays key role in search for elusive dark matter

This is assistant professor Richard Schnee.Physicist Richard Schnee hopes to find traces of dark matter by studying particles with low masses and interaction rates, some of which have never been probed before.

Appearance of night-shining clouds has increased

NASA's Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, or AIM, mission captured this image of noctilucent clouds over the poles in 2010. By compiling data from several missions at once, researchers have now created a record of the clouds at lower latitudes as well.First spotted in 1885, silvery blue clouds sometimes hover in the night sky near the poles, appearing to give off their own glowing light. Known as noctilucent clouds, this phenomenon...

Fermi data tantalize with new clues to dark matter

At left is a map of gamma rays with energies between 1 and 3.16 GeV detected in the galactic center by Fermi's LAT; red indicates the greatest number. Prominent pulsars are labeled. Removing all known gamma-ray sources (right) reveals excess emission that may arise from dark matter annihilations.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...

Gravity measurements confirm subsurface ocean on Enceladus

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....

New research finds 'geologic clock' that helps determine moon's age

An international team of planetary scientists determined that the Moon formed nearly 100 million years after the start of the solar system, according to a paper to be published April...

Misleading mineral may have resulted in overestimate of water in moon

The amount of water present in the moon may have been overestimated by scientists studying the mineral apatite, says a team of researchers led by Jeremy Boyce of the UCLA...

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