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Astronomy Club News Archive
This archive contains news articles that have been aggregated by the Astronomy Club but are no longer displayed on the home page.

April 26, 2013: Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity Proved Right Once Again

Albert Einstein's theory of relativity has stood the test of time and a recent study by an international team of astronomers and 7,000 light years of space have once again proved he's been right all along. Scientists measured bursts of energy from a super-dense neutron star to put the General Theory of Relativity, which was first published in 1915, through its toughest test yet. According to the study, which was published in the April 26 issue of Science, the experiment showed gravity crumpled spacetime in just the way Albert Einstein predicted in his theory.

Full Article at natureworldnews.com

April 24, 2013: “Standard candle” supernova extraordinarily magnified by gravitational lensing

A team of researchers at the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU) led by Robert Quimby has identified what may prove to be the first ever type Ia supernova (SNIa) magnified by a strong gravitational lens. In this work, the “standard candle” property of type Ia supernovae is used to directly measure the magnification due to gravitational lensing. This provides the first glimpse of the science that will soon come out of dark matter and dark energy studies derived from deep, wide-field imaging surveys.

Full Article at astronomy.com

April 24, 2013: "Two Water Worlds Unlike Anything in Our Solar System" --Found Orbiting a Kepler-Mission Star

Astronomers have a "Water World" planetary system orbiting the star Kepler-62. This five-planet system has two worlds in the habitable zone — the distance from their star at which they receive enough light and warmth that liquid water could theoretically exist on their surfaces. Modeling by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) suggests that both planets are water worlds, their surfaces completely covered by a global ocean with no land in sight.

Full Article at dailygalaxy.com

April 17, 2013: Dark Matter Signals Recorded in Minnesota Mine

More hints of dark matter have emerged from the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS), which hunts for the theorized particles from the depths of a mine in Minnesota. Eight silicon detectors recorded three events that may represent collisions from weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs. Physicists have found hints of the existence of WIMPs before, but they remain elusive. Two other possible detections from the CDMS search, reported in 2010, turned out to be indistinguishable from background collisions from other, non-WIMP, sources. The same may yet hold true for the latest findings.

Full Article at scientificamerican.com

April 10, 2013: NASA-backed fusion engine could cut Mars trip down to 30 days

NASA, and plenty of private individuals, want to put mankind on Mars. Now a team at the University of Washington, funded by the space agency, is about to start building a fusion engine that could get humans there in just 30 days and make other forms of space travel obsolete.

Full Article at theregister.co.uk

April 5, 2013: Shining light on elusive dark matter

AMS-02, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, consists of seven instruments that monitor cosmic rays from space. Unprotected by Earth's atmosphere the instruments receive a constant barrage of high-energy particles. As these particles pass through AMS-02, the instruments record their speed, energy and direction. The project is one of the largest scientific collaborations of all time involving 56 institutes from 16 countries. The instrument was tested at ESA's technical facility ESTEC in the Netherlands before being shipped to the US for launch on Space Shuttle Endeavour. As part of his DAMA mission, ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori controlled the Shuttle's robotic arm that transferred the 6918 kg instrument to the International Space Station in 2011.

Full Article at phys.org

April 5, 2013: Hubble telescope breaks record for furthest supernova

"This new distance record holder opens a window into the early Universe, offering important new insights into how these supernovae form," said astronomer David O. Jones of The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md., lead author on the science paper detailing the discovery. "At that epoch, we can test theories about how reliable these detonations are for understanding the evolution of the Universe and its expansion." One of the debates surrounding Type Ia supernovae is the nature of the fuse that ignites them. This latest discovery adds credence to one of two competing theories of how they explode. Although preliminary, the evidence favours the explosive merger of two burned out stars—small, dim, and dense stars known as white dwarfs, the final state for stars like our Sun.

Full Article at phys.org

April 5, 2013: ALMA detects signs of star formation surprisingly close to galaxy's supermassive black hole

The center of our galaxy, 27,000 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius, is home to a monstrous black hole with a mass of four million suns. Extending outward from this gravitational behemoth for many light-years is a turbulent region of space that is thought to be wracked by such extreme tidal forces that any star-forming clouds of dust and gas would be stretched thin and shredded long before infant stars could emerge. Yet against these extreme odds, ALMA spotted telltale jets of material bursting out of what appear to be dense cocoons of gas and dust. These jets, if they were observed in more placid surroundings, would indicate the formation of a young star. The results were accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Full Article at phys.org

April 4, 2013: Gravity-bending find leads to Kepler meeting Einstein

The dead star, called a white dwarf, is the burnt-out core of what used to be a star like our sun. It is locked in an orbiting dance with its partner, a small "red dwarf" star. While the tiny white dwarf is physically smaller than the red dwarf, it is more massive. "This white dwarf is about the size of Earth but has the mass of the sun," said Phil Muirhead of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, lead author of the findings to be published April 20 in the Astrophysical Journal. "It's so hefty that the red dwarf, though larger in physical size, is circling around the white dwarf."

Full Article at phys.org

April 3, 2013: Black hole wakes up and has a light snack

Astronomers have watched as a black hole woke up from a decades-long slumber to feed on a low-mass object — either a brown dwarf or a giant planet — that strayed too close. A similar feeding event, albeit on a gas cloud, will soon happen at the black hole at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy.

Full Article at astronomy.com

Aprril 3, 2013: New insights on how spiral galaxies get their arms

Spiral galaxies are some of the most beautiful and photogenic residents of the universe. Our Milky Way is a spiral. Our solar system and Earth reside somewhere near one of its filamentous arms. And nearly 70 percent of the galaxies closest to the Milky Way are spirals.

Full Article at astronomy.com

March 29, 2013: Astronomers discover a new kind of supernova

Until now, supernovae came in two main “flavors.” A core-collapse supernova is the explosion of a star about 10–100 times as massive as our Sun while a type Ia supernova is the complete disruption of a tiny white dwarf. Today, astronomers are reporting their discovery of a new kind of supernova called type Iax. This new class is fainter and less energetic than type Ia. Although both varieties come from exploding white dwarfs, type Iax supernovae may not completely destroy the white dwarf.

Full Article at astronomy.com

March 29, 2013: Hunting high-mass stars with Herschel

In this new view of a vast star-forming cloud called W3, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Herschel space observatory tells the story of how massive stars are born. W3 is a giant molecular cloud containing an enormous stellar nursery, some 6,200 light-years away in the Perseus Arm, one of our Milky Way Galaxy’s main spiral arms.

Full Article at astronomy.com

March 29, 2013: Dragon spacecraft returns critical science to Earth

The Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft successfully completed the company's second cargo flight to the International Space Station on March 26, with a 12:36 p.m. EDT splashdown in the Pacific Ocean a few hundred miles west of Baja California, Mexico.

Full Article at astronomy.com

March 21, 2013: Planck Mission Brings Universe Into Sharp Focus

The Planck space mission has released the most accurate and detailed map ever made of the oldest light in the universe, revealing new information about its age, contents and origins. Planck is a European Space Agency mission. NASA contributed mission-enabling technology for both of Planck's science instruments, and U.S., European and Canadian scientists work together to analyze the Planck data. The map results suggest the universe is expanding more slowly than scientists thought, and is 13.8 billion years old, 100 million years older than previous estimates. The data also show there is less dark energy and more matter, both normal and dark matter, in the universe than previously known. Dark matter is an invisible substance that can only be seen through the effects of its gravity, while dark energy is pushing our universe apart. The nature of both remains mysterious.

Full Article at jpl.nasa.gov

March 21, 2013: Why Voyager 1's Solar System Exit Is So Hard to Predict

NASA's Voyager 1 probe is tantalizingly close to the edge of the solar system, but predicting when it will finally pop free into interstellar space is a challenging proposition, mission team members say. Voyager 1 is plying new and exotic terrain at the limits of the sun's sphere of influence, and scientists simply don't know what to expect from these unexplored regions.

Full Article at space.com

March 21, 2013: Astronomers find water vapour in atmosphere of distant planet

Astronomers have detected water vapour and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere of a planet 130 light years away from Earth. However, the planet, known only as HR8799c, is devoid of methane, a gas that can indicate life, the researchers said. Their analysis was performed using the most precise atmospheric measurements ever made of a planet outside our solar system. The levels of gases shed light on how the planet formed, from a cluster of ice crystals tens of millions of years ago.

Full Article at guardian.co.uk

March 12, 2013: NASA Rover Finds Conditions Once Suited for Ancient Life on Mars

An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA's Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon -- some of the key chemical ingredients for life -- in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month. "A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."

Full Article at jpl.nasa.gov

March 12, 2013: Astronomers conduct first remote reconnaissance of another solar system

Researchers have conducted a remote reconnaissance of a distant solar system with a new telescope imaging system that sifts through the blinding light of stars. Using a suite of high-tech instrumentation and software called Project 1640, the scientists collected the first chemical fingerprints, or spectra, of this system's four red exoplanets, which orbit a star 128 light years away from Earth. A detailed description of the planets—showing how drastically different they are from the known worlds in the universe—was accepted Friday for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

Full Article at phys.org

March 9, 2013: Where Can I See Comet Pan-STARRS?

The first of this year’s cometary double features, Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4), is coming to a sky near you! Observers in the northern hemisphere should get their first glimpse of the comet tonight, visible with the naked eye. The comet will glow relatively brightly in the west over the next few days, then dim slowly in the weeks to come as it leaves the Sun farther behind.

Full Article at discoverymagazine.com

March 9, 2013: New Comet's Potential Mars Collision in 2014 Explained

A newfound comet is apparently on course to have an exceedingly close call with the planet Mars in October 2014, and there is a chance — albeit small — that the comet may even collide with the Red Planet.

Full Article at space.com

February 26, 2013: Future Evidence for Extraterrestrial Life Might Come from Dying Stars

Even dying stars could host planets with life -- and if such life exists, we might be able to detect it within the next decade. This encouraging result comes from a new theoretical study of Earth-like planets orbiting white dwarf stars. Researchers found that we could detect oxygen in the atmosphere of a white dwarf's planet much more easily than for an Earth-like planet orbiting a Sun-like star.

Full Article at sciencedaily.com

February 26, 2013: Black hole simulations on XSEDE supercomputers present new view of jets and accretion disks

"Over its lifetime, a black hole can release more energy than all the stars in a galaxy combined," said Roger Blandford, director of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Science. "Black holes have a major impact on the formation of galaxies and the environmental growth and evolution of those galaxies."

Full Article at phys.org

February 20, 2013: Tiny exoplanet is smaller than Mercury (and probably hotter, too)

What's the smallest exoplanet we can detect from Earth? Smaller bodies are inherently harder to observe than larger ones, but the orbiting Kepler telescope has enabled astronomers to identify a number of small planet candidates, including a few smaller than Earth, by measuring the fluctuations in the host star's light as the planets pass in front of it.

Full Article at arstechnica.com

February 20, 2013: 'Vulcan' Warps Into Lead in Pluto Moon Name Contest

For William Shatner, the actor who portrayed "Star Trek" captain James T. Kirk, naming one of Pluto's moons "Vulcan" is the only logical choice, and more than 100,000 apparent Trek fans agree.

Full Article at space.com

February 20, 2013: Cosmos may be 'inherently unstable'

Scientists say they may be able to determine the eventual fate of the cosmos as they probe the properties of the Higgs boson. A concept known as vacuum instability could result, billions of years from now, in a new universe opening up in the present one and replacing it. It all depends on some precise numbers related to the Higgs that researchers are currently trying to pin down.

Full Article at bbc.co.uk

February 20, 2013: Traces of life on Mars may have been bleached away

A Martian meteorite that has been frozen in Antarctic ice hints that the surface of the Red Planet is riddled with chemicals related to those used in household bleach. That increases the likelihood that carbon-bearing compounds – strong indicators of life – may have been broken down by chemical reactions, suggesting that we need to dig deeper into Mars to search for traces of any past inhabitants.

Full Article at newscientist.com

February 18, 2013: Scientists sense breakthroughs in dark-matter mystery

Today, though, scientists believe that with the help of multi-billion-dollar tools, they are closer than ever to piercing the mystery—and the first clues may be unveiled just weeks from now. "We are so excited because we believe we are on the threshold of a major discovery," said Michael Turner, director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, at an annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Full Article at phys.org

February 18, 2013: "Guardian Jupiter" --Is the Gas Giant Earth's Protector?

On 1994 July 16-22, over twenty fragments of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with the planet Jupiter. The comet, discovered the previous year by astronomers Carolyn and Eugene Shoemaker and David Levy, was observed by astronomers at hundreds of observatories around the world as it crashed into Jupiter's southern hemisphere. During July, 2010 a comet or asteroid ripped another Pacific-Ocean sized hole in Jupiter (image below). Is Jupiter a giant protective magnet for Earth, or are these events wake-up calls similar to Friday's meteor explosion over Russia's Ural Mountains?

Full Article at dailygalaxy.com

January 28, 2013: NASA joins ESA’s "dark universe" mission

NASA has joined the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Euclid mission — a space telescope designed to investigate the cosmological mysteries of dark matter and dark energy. Euclid will launch in 2020 and spend six years mapping the locations and measuring the shapes of as many as 2 billion galaxies spread over more than one-third of the sky. It will study the evolution of our universe and the dark matter and dark energy that influence its evolution in ways that still are poorly understood.

Full Article at astronomy.com

January 28, 2013: Baffling pulsar leaves astronomers in the dark

New observations of a highly variable pulsar using the European Space Agency’s (ESA) XMM-Newton are perplexing astronomers. Monitoring this pulsar simultaneously in X-rays and radio waves, astronomers have revealed that this source, whose radio emission is known to switch on and off periodically, exhibits the same behavior, but in reverse, when observed at X-ray wavelengths. It is the first time that a switching X-ray emission has been detected from a pulsar, and the properties of this emission are unexpectedly puzzling. As no current model is able to explain this switching behavior, which occurs within only a few seconds, these observations have reopened the debate about the physical mechanisms powering the emission from pulsars.

Full Article at astronomy.com

January 28, 2013: Betelgeuse braces for a collision

Multiple arcs are revealed around Betelgeuse, the nearest red supergiant star to Earth, in this new image from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Herschel Space Observatory. The star and its arc-shaped shields could collide with an intriguing dusty “wall” in 5,000 years.

Full Article at astronomy.com

January 28, 2013: Telescope takes temperature of universe

Astronomers using a Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s (CSIRO) radio telescope have taken the universe’s temperature and have found that it has cooled down just the way the Big Bang theory predicts.

Full Article at astronomy.com

January 13, 2013: Astronomers discover the largest structure in the universe

An international team of astronomers, led by academics from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), has found the largest known structure in the universe. The large quasar group (LQG) is so large that it would take a vehicle travelling at the speed of light some 4 billion years to cross it. The team publish their results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Full Article at phys.org

January 13, 2013: Behold: The Largest Known Spiral Galaxy

Astronomers have long known that a spectacular barred spiral galaxy named NGC 6872 is a behemoth, but by compiling data from several space- and ground-based observatories and running a few computer simulations, they have now determined this is the largest spiral galaxy we know of. Measuring tip-to-tip across its two outsized spiral arms, NGC 6872 spans more than 522,000 light-years, making it more than five times the size of our Milky Way galaxy.

Full Article at universetoday.com

January 13, 2013: Supernova 'Mingus' could shed light on dark energy

Nicknamed "Mingus", it was described at the 221st American Astronomical Society meeting in the US. These lightshows of dying stars have been seen since ancient times, but modern astronomers use details of their light to probe the Universe's secrets. Ten billion light-years distant, Mingus will help shed light on so-called dark energy, the force that appears to be speeding up cosmic expansion.

Full Article at bbc.co.uk

January 13, 2013: NASA, ESA Telescopes Find Evidence for Asteroid Belt Around Vega

Astronomers have discovered what appears to be a large asteroid belt around the star Vega, the second brightest star in northern night skies. The scientists used data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory, in which NASA plays an important role.

Full Article at jpl.nasa.gov

January 7, 2013: Surprise pancake structure in Andromeda Galaxy upends galactic understanding

Astronomers using the Canada-France-Hawaii and W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, have been amazed to find a group of dwarf galaxies moving in unison in the vicinity of the Andromeda Galaxy. The structure of these small galaxies lies in a plane, analogous to the planets of the solar system. Unexpectedly, they orbit the much larger Andromeda Galaxy en masse, presenting a serious challenge to our ideas for the formation and evolution of all galaxies.

Full Article at astronomy.com

January 7, 2013: Astronomers estimate that at least 100 billion planets populate the galaxy

Look up at the night sky, and you’ll see stars. But you’re also seeing planets — billions and billions of them. That’s the conclusion of a new study by astronomers at the California Institute of Technology that provides yet more evidence that planetary systems are the cosmic norm. The team made its estimate while analyzing planets orbiting a star called Kepler-32 — planets that are representative, they say, of the vast majority in the galaxy and thus serve as a perfect case study for understanding how most planets form.

Full Article at astronomy.com

January 7, 2013: Thorium could help alien life emerge

Rocky exoplanets orbiting some Sun-like stars in the Milky Way galaxy could be hotter and more geologically active than Earth and its solar-system companions, according to researchers in the US. The team looked at the abundance of radioactive elements such as thorium, which heat the interior of planets as they decay and thereby play an important role in how planets evolve. The team concluded that planets that are richer in thorium than Earth could be good candidates for the development of life – making them targets for study by astrobiologists and exoplanet hunters.

Full Article at physicsworld.com

December 30, 2012: WMAP releases final results on the infant universe

Since its launch in 2001, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) space mission has revolutionized our view of the universe, establishing a cosmological model that explains a widely diverse collection of astronomical observations. Led by Johns Hopkins astrophysicist Charles L. Bennett, the WMAP science team has determined, to a high degree of accuracy and precision, not only the age of the universe, but also the density of atoms, the density of all other non-atomic matter, the epoch when the first stars started to shine, the “lumpiness” of the universe, and how that “lumpiness” depends on scale size.

Full Article at astronomy.com

December 30, 2012: Hubble Sees Superthin Galaxy IC 2233

Typical spiral galaxies are usually made up of three principal visible components: the disk where the spiral arms and most of the gas and dust is concentrated; the halo, a rough and sparse sphere around the disk that contains little gas, dust or star formation; and the central bulge at the heart of the disk, which is formed by a large concentration of ancient stars surrounding the Galactic Center. The galaxy, labeled IC 2233, is far from being typical. IC 2233, located in the constellation of Lynx some 40 million light-years away, is a prime example of a superthin galaxy. Its diameter is at least ten times larger than the thickness.

Full Article at sci-news.com

December 13, 2012: New Chemical Reaction Could Explain How Stars Form, Evolve, and Eventually Die

Hoffmann, a computational chemist, and his colleagues Tryve Helgaker, a well-known Norwegian scientist, and co-authors E.I. Tellgren and K. Lange, also working in Norway, have discovered a molecular-level interaction that science had puzzled over for decades but had never seen. That discovery, it turns out, may redefine how science views chemical compound formation. It also answers questions about what goes on in places like white dwarfs, the super dense cores of stars nearing the end of their life cycles.

Full Article at sciencedaily.com

December 13, 2012: Space-time waves may be hiding in dead star pulses

TAKE the pulse of the universe, and its invisible wrinkles become visible. The first direct evidence of Einstein's gravitational waves, may already exist in records of light pulses from rapidly spinning dead stars.

Full Article at newscientist.com

December 13, 2012: A 2020 Rover Return to Mars?

The formal announcement, made at the American Geophysical Union's annual fall meeting, represents a triumph for the NASA Mars program, which had fallen on hard times due to steep budget cuts. But NASA associate administrator for science John Grunsfeld said that the agency has the funds to build and operate a second Curiosity-style rover, largely because it has a lot of spare parts and an engineering and science team that knows how to develop a follow-on expedition.

Full Article at NationalGeographic.com

December 4, 2012: Mars rover fully analyzes first soil samples

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has used its full array of instruments to analyze martian soil for the first time and found a complex chemistry within the soil. Water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances, among other ingredients, showed up in samples Curiosity’s arm delivered to an analytical laboratory inside the rover.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

November 20, 2012: Scientists claim to have discovered something “earthshaking” on Mars

The Mars Science Laboratory team has hinted that they might have some big news to share soon. But like good scientists, they are waiting until they verify their results before saying anything definitive. In an interview on NPR today, MSL Principal Investigator John Grotzinger said a recent soil sample test in the SAM instrument (Sample Analysis at Mars) shows something "earthshaking."

Full Article at io9.com

November 16, 2012: Spinning Black Holes Shaped by Magnetic Fields

The environment around a black hole is, literally, a hot mess. That mess makes a little more sense to scientists now, thanks to a new computer simulation that shows how the spin of a black hole can align with the doughnut of material orbiting it, as well as with the superfast jets that fly out of it.

Full Article at space.com

November 10, 2012: A nearby stellar cradle

The Milky Way and other galaxies in the universe harbor many young star clusters and associations, each containing hundreds to thousands of hot, massive young stars known as O and B stars. The star cluster Cygnus OB2 contains more than 60 O-type stars and about a thousand B-type stars. Astronomers have used deep observations with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to detect the X-ray emission from the hot outer atmospheres, or coronas, of young stars in the cluster and to probe how these fascinating star factories form and evolve. About 1,700 X-ray sources were detected, including about 1,450 thought to be stars in the cluster. In this image, X-rays from Chandra (blue) have been combined with infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (red) and optical data from the Isaac Newton Telescope (orange).

Full Article at astronomy.com

November 10, 2012: New super-Earth in six-planet system may be just right to support life

A new super-Earth planet that may have an Earth-like climate and be just right to support life has been discovered around a nearby star by an international team of astronomers.

Full Article at astronomy.com

November 10, 2012: A happy day on Mercury: Crater that looks like a smiley face spotted by Nasa

It's a happy day on Mercury - a smiley face has been spotted beaming from a crater. Nasa has revealed a new image showing a crater that looks uncannily like the 'smiley face' emoticon.

Full Article at dailymail.co.uk

November 7, 2012: Cassiopeia A: Carbon Atmosphere Discovered On Neutron Star

This Chandra X-ray Observatory image shows the central region of the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A, for short) the remains of a massive star that exploded in our galaxy. Evidence for a thin carbon atmosphere on a neutron star at the center of Cas A has been found. Besides resolving a ten-year-old mystery about the nature of this object, this result provides a vivid demonstration of the extreme nature of neutron stars. An artist's impression of the carbon-cloaked neutron star is also shown.

Full Article at chandra.harvard.edu

November 5, 2012: First stars' light seen through extragalactic fog

Light from the very first stars in the universe has been measured – and there is less of it than previously thought. The discovery should help us better understand how the hot haze of hydrogen that existed shortly after the big bang transformed into the complex web of stars and galaxies we see today.

Full Article at newscientist.com

October 30, 2012: Hyperfast Stars Point to Black Hole Slingshot

The black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy is by far the nearest such supermassive gravitational monster to our sun, yet observing this space-time maelstrom is a challenge because it is 27,000 light-years away and obscured in visible light by intervening star clouds and dust lanes in the galactic plane.

Full Article at news.discovery.com

October 30, 2012: Monster galaxy may have been stirred up by black-hole mischief

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have obtained a remarkable new view of a whopper of an elliptical galaxy, with a core bigger than any seen before. There are two intriguing explanations for the puffed up core, both related to the action of one or more black holes, and the researchers have not yet been able to determine which is correct.

Full Article at spacetelescope.org

October 30, 2012: Revealing a mini-supermassive black hole

One of the lowest-mass supermassive black holes ever observed in the middle of a galaxy has been identified, thanks to NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other observatories. The host galaxy is of a type not expected to harbor supermassive black holes, suggesting that this black hole, while related to its supermassive cousins, may have a different origin.

Full Article at astronomy.com

October 30, 2012: Closest asteroid in recorded history to pass Earth

An asteroid the size of a city block is due to come whizzing past Earth closer than any other of its size in recorded history in February next year, according to astronomers.

Full Article at cosmosmagazine.com

October 30, 2012: Jupiter's Europa --The Deepest Ocean in the Solar System?

The deepest ocean on Earth is the Pacific Ocean's Marianas Trench, which reaches a depth of 6.8 miles awesomely trumped by the depth of the ocean on the Jupiter's moon, Europa, which some measurements put at 62 miles. Although Europa is covered in a thick crust of scarred and cross-hatched ice, measurements made by NASA's Galileo spacecraft and other probes strongly suggest that a liquid ocean lies beneath that surface. The interior is warmed, researchers believe, by the tidal stresses exerted on Europa by Jupiter and several other large moons, as well as by radioactivity.

Full Article at dailygalaxy.com

October 30, 2012: Curiosity may one day return to Earth, says Nasa boss

The director of Nasa's Mars exploration programme has spoken of hopes that one day the rover Curiosity might be brought back to Earth by astronauts. Doug McCuistion said it was his personal hope that humans would visit the Red Planet in the 2030s or 2040s.

Full Article at bbc.co.uk

October 23, 2012: Split-personality elliptical galaxy holds a hidden spiral

Most big galaxies fit into one of two camps: pinwheel-shaped spiral galaxies and blobby elliptical galaxies. Spirals like the Milky Way are hip and happening places with plenty of gas and dust to birth new stars. Ellipticals are like cosmic retirement villages, full of aging residents in the form of red giant stars. Now, astronomers have discovered that one well-known elliptical has a split personality. Centaurus A is hiding a gassy spiral in its center.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

October 23, 2012: 2-Million-Light-Year-Long Galactic Emission Looks Like Jet Afterburner

An extended jet of cosmic material traveling near the speed of light emerges from a distant galaxy, looking quite similar to the afterburner pattern of a jet engine on Earth. This galactic jet flow is more than 2 million light-years long, at least 20 times larger than our Milky Way galaxy.

Full Article at wired.com

October 20, 2012: Radiant point for this weekend’s Orionid meteor shower

The 2012 Orionid meteor shower will peak this weekend! Look for the greatest numbers of meteors to streak the sky in the dark hours before dawn on Saturday, October 20, and Sunday, October 21, with forecasters giving the nod to Sunday. Fortunately, the waxing crescent moon will set way before the prime time hours for watching the Orionids. The chart at the top of this post shows the radiant point for the meteor shower, which is in the constellation Orion the Hunter.

Full Article at EarthSky.org

October 20, 2012: Jupiter: turmoil from below, battering from above

Jupiter, the mythical god of sky and thunder, would certainly be pleased at all the changes afoot at his namesake planet. As the planet gets peppered continually with small space rocks, wide belts of the atmosphere are changing color, hotspots are vanishing and reappearing, and clouds are gathering over one part of Jupiter, while dissipating over another.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

October 20, 2012: What's baking on Titan?

Radar images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reveal some new curiosities on the surface of Saturn’s mysterious moon Titan, including a nearly circular feature that resembles a giant hot cross bun and shorelines of ancient seas.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

October 20, 2012: X-raying stellar winds in a high-speed collision

Two massive stars racing in orbit around each other have had their colliding stellar winds X-rayed for the first time, thanks to the combined efforts of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) XMM-Newton and NASA’s Swift space telescopes.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

October 20, 2012: New model reconciles the Moon's Earth-like composition with the giant impact theory of formation

The giant impact believed to have formed the Earth-Moon system has long been accepted as canon. However, a major challenge to the theory has been that Earth and the Moon have identical oxygen isotope compositions, even though earlier impact models indicated they should differ substantially. A new model by the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas, motivated by accompanying work by others on the early dynamical history of the Moon, accounts for this similarity in composition while also yielding an appropriate mass for Earth and the Moon.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

October 18, 2012: Planet Found in Nearest Star System to Earth

Alpha Centauri is one of the brightest stars in the southern skies and is the nearest stellar system to our Solar System — only 4.3 light-years away. It is actually a triple star — a system consisting of two stars similar to the Sun orbiting close to each other, designated Alpha Centauri A and B, and a more distant and faint red component known as Proxima Centauri [1]. Since the nineteenth century astronomers have speculated about planets orbiting these bodies, the closest possible abodes for life beyond the Solar System, but searches of increasing precision had revealed nothing. Until now.

Full Article at eso.org

October 18, 2012: New Horizons May Need to ‘Bail Out’ to Dodge Debris, Rings and Moons in the Pluto System

Since the New Horizons spacecraft left Earth back in 2006, there are a few things we know about the Pluto system now that we didn’t know then. For instance, it was discovered Pluto has two additional small moons – P4 and P5 — and Alan Stern, New Horizons Principal Investigator, said Pluto may have a large system of moons to be discovered as the spacecraft gets get closer. There are also comets, possibly more dwarf planets and other objects out in the Kuiper Belt region where Pluto orbits.

Full Article at universetoday.com

October 18, 2012: Hubble Studies Dark Matter Filament in 3-D

Earlier this year, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope were able to identify a slim filament of dark matter that appeared to be binding a pair of distant galaxies together. Now, another filament has been found, and scientists a have been able to produce a 3-D view of the filament, the first time ever that the difficult-to-detect dark matter has been able to be measured in such detail. Their results suggest the filament has a high mass and, the researchers say, that if these measurements are representative of the rest of the Universe, then these structures may contain more than half of all the mass in the Universe.

Full Article at universetoday.com

October 15, 2012: Planet with four suns discovered

The distant world orbits one pair of stars and has a second stellar pair revolving around it. The discovery was made by volunteers using the Planethunters.org website along with a team from UK and US institutes; follow-up observations were made with the Keck Observatory. A scientific paper has been posted on the Arxiv pre-print server.

Full Article at bbc.co.uk

October 14, 2012: Mars Rock Touched by NASA Curiosity Has Surprises

The first Martian rock NASA's Curiosity rover has reached out to touch presents a more varied composition than expected from previous missions. The rock also resembles some unusual rocks from Earth's interior.

Full Article at sciencedaily.com

October 14, 2012: Mars meteorite may contain bubbles of 700,000-year-old Martian air

A lump of space rock that shattered the predawn calm of the Moroccan desert with a fireball and double sonic boom last year was knocked off Mars in a cosmic collision roughly 700,000 years ago. The date of the Martian impact means the rock was flung into space and began its journey to Earth when the shared ancestor of modern humans and Neanderthals was still alive and well in Africa.

Full Article at guardian.co.uk

October 14, 2012: Secret spy telescopes' new role: helping Nasa hunt for life beyond solar system

Officials at Nasa have been given an unexpected gift by American spy chiefs: a pair of space telescopes, each as large as the Hubble observatory. The huge instruments were designed by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), a secretive intelligence agency, to peer down on sites in the Middle East and former Soviet Union. However, the project was cancelled and now Nasa has been presented with the leftover instruments. One group of astronomers has already begun work on plans to use a telescope to help in the hunt for life on other worlds.

Full Article at guardian.co.uk

October 11, 2012: Yale finds second diamond planet

Astronomy has turned up a second diamond planet, and it’s a relative neighbor to the solar system – a mere 40 light-years distant, circling 55 Cancri. Unlike the diamond planet discovered by Australian astronomers last year, this one didn’t even need a pulsar’s gravity to give it the squeeze. It inherited its mostly-carbon composition from its host star.

Full Article at theregister.co.uk

October 10, 2012: The Hidden Universe: "There are Billions of Undetected Galaxies"

Earlier this year, the European Space Agency’s Herschel space telescope discovered that previously unseen distant galaxies are responsible for a cosmic fog of infrared radiation. The galaxies are some of the faintest and furthest objects seen by Herschel, and opened a new window on the birth of stars in the early Universe. Astronomers estimate that their are billions and billions of galaxies in the observable universe (as well as some seven trillion dwarf galaxies).

Full Article at DailyGalaxy.com

October 7, 2012: Surprising black-hole discovery changes picture of globular star clusters

An unexpected discovery by astronomers using the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) is forcing scientists to rethink their understanding of the environment in globular star clusters, tight-knit collections containing hundreds of thousands of stars.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

October 7, 2012: Quasar gas clouds gone with the wind

A worldwide team of astronomers has solved the case of the missing quasar gas clouds, and the answer is blowin’ in the wind. Astronomers Nurten Filiz Ak and Niel Brandt from Pennsylvania State University, who led the team, announced their results in a recent paper. The paper describes 19 distant quasars in which giant clouds of gas seemed to disappear in just a few years.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

October 7, 2012: Comet crystals found in a nearby planetary system

Pristine material that matches comets in our solar system have been found in a dust belt around the young star Beta Pictoris by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Herschel Space Observatory. Twelve-million-year-old Beta Pictoris resides just 63 light-years from Earth and hosts a gas giant planet along with a dusty debris disk that could, in time, evolve into a torus of icy bodies much like the Kuiper Belt found outside the orbit of Neptune in our solar system. Thanks to the unique observing capabilities of Herschel, the composition of the dust in the cold outskirts of the Beta Pictoris system has been determined for the first time.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

October 4, 2012: UCLA astronomers discover star racing around black hole at center of our galaxy

UCLA astronomers report the discovery of a remarkable star that orbits the enormous black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy in a blistering 11-and-a-half years — the shortest known orbit of any star near this black hole. The star, known as S0-102, may help astronomers discover whether Albert Einstein was right in his fundamental prediction of how black holes warp space and time, said research co-author Andrea Ghez, leader of the discovery team and a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy who holds the Lauren B. Leichtman and Arthur E. Levine Chair in Astrophysics.

Full Article at Newsroom.ucla.edu

October 4, 2012: NASA's infrared observatory measures expansion of universe

Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have announced the most precise measurement yet of the Hubble constant, or the rate at which our universe is stretching apart. The Hubble constant is named after astronomer Edwin P. Hubble, who astonished the world in the 1920s by confirming our universe has been expanding since it exploded into being 13.7 billion years ago. In the late 1990s, astronomers discovered the expansion is accelerating, or speeding up over time. Determining the expansion rate is critical for understanding the age and size of the universe.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

October 1, 2012: The first evidence that a yellow supergiant became a supernova

A group of researchers led by Melina Bersten from the Kavli Institute in Kashiwa, Japan, has presented evidence that the yellow supergiant (YSG) star found at the location of Supernova 2011dh in the famous nearby galaxy M51 was indeed the supernova progenitor. The team also produced a self-consistent model to explain how a star of such characteristics exploded. In the model, the exploding YSG star was a member of a close binary system. The scientists further predict the detection of the companion star as a definitive test of their hypothesis.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

October 1, 2012: Sharpest-ever ground-based images of Pluto and Charon

Despite being infamously demoted from its status as a major planet, Pluto (and its largest companion, Charon) recently posed as a surrogate extrasolar planetary system to help astronomers produce exceptionally high-resolution images with the 8-meter Gemini North Telescope. Using a method called reconstructive speckle imaging, the researchers took the sharpest ground-based snapshots ever obtained of Pluto and Charon in visible light, which hint at the exoplanet verification power of a large state-of-the-art telescope when combined with speckle imaging techniques. The data also verified and refined previous orbital characteristics for Pluto and Charon while revealing the pair’s precise diameters.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

September 29, 2012: Bringing pieces of Mars to Earth: How NASA will do it

Over the next few months, NASA will map out a strategy for returning bits of Martian rock and soil to Earth, so scientists can study them for signs of past Red Planet life. That ambitious goal should drive the space agency's next steps at Mars, according to a report released Tuesday by the Mars Program Planning Group. The report also lays out several ways Mars sample-return can be accomplished over the next decade or two, and NASA is reviewing those options now.

Full Article at msnbc.com

September 29, 2012: Do Einstein's Theories Breakdown at the Event Horizon of a Black Hole? --"The Exit Door from Our Universe"

An international team, led by researchers at MIT’s Haystack Observatory, has for the first time measured the radius of a black hole at the center of a distant galaxy — the closest distance at which matter can approach before being irretrievably pulled into a black hole, which can be billions of times more massive than our sun may reside at the heart of most galaxies. Such supermassive black holes are so powerful that activity at their boundaries can ripple throughout their host galaxies.

Full Article at dailygalaxy.com

September 27, 2012: Remnants of Ancient Streambed Discovered on Mars

NASA's Curiosity rover mission has found evidence a stream once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. There is earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but this evidence - images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels - is the first of its kind. Scientists are studying the images of stones cemented into a layer of conglomerate rock. The sizes and shapes of stones offer clues to the speed and distance of a long-ago stream's flow.

Full Article at spaceref.com

September 27, 2012: First images of particle jets at edge of a supermassive black hole

Supermassive black holes appear to occupy the center of almost all galaxies. When they are actively swallowing matter, these black holes can power energetic jets that shine brighter than the entire rest of the galaxy, and can shoot matter free of it. Despite the mass and energy involved, however, the origin of these jets has been extremely hard to image, both because they're relatively compact, and because they're situated in the crowded centers of distant galaxies.

Full Article at arstechnica.com

September 27, 2012: Brightest Star Explosion in History Reveals Lonely Supernova

The brightest exploding star ever seen with the naked eye in recorded history apparently experienced a quick and lonely death, a new study reveals. The discovery, which centered on a star explosion witnessed in the year 1006, suggests that many similar outbursts leave no companion star to accompany their demise.

Full Article at space.com

September 27, 2012: New comet might blaze brighter than the full Moon

A new comet has been discovered that is predicted to blaze incredibly brilliantly in the skies during late 2013. With a perihelion passage of less than two million kilometres from the Sun on 28 November 2013, current predictions are of an object that will dazzle the eye at up to magnitude —16. That's far brighter than the full Moon. If predictions hold true then C/2012 S1 will certainly be one of the greatest comets in human history, far outshining the memorable Comet Hale-Bopp of 1997 and very likely to outdo the long-awaited Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) which is set to stun in March 2013.

Full Article at AstronomyNow.com

September 24, 2012: Milky Way is Surrounded by Hot Gas, Says NASA

Astronomers at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have found evidence that the Milky Way galaxy is surrounded by a halo of hot gas. Extending for hundreds of thousands of light years, the mass of the gas cloud is estimated to be comparable to the mass of all the stars in the galaxy.

Full Article at webpronews.com

September 24, 2012: Voyager 1 Spacecraft Farther From Solar System's Edge Than Thought

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft, which launched 35 years ago today (Sept. 5), surprisingly may have far more to travel before it leaves the solar system, researchers say. How much more is up for debate. The scientists say their new finding suggests much about the outer reaches of the solar system remains unknown.

Full Article at space.com

September 23, 2012: Telescopes spy ultra-distant galaxy amidst cosmic "Dark Ages"

With the combined power of NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes, as well as a cosmic magnification effect, astronomers have spotted what could be the most distant galaxy ever seen. Light from the young galaxy captured by the orbiting observatories first shone when our 13.7-billion-year-old universe was just 500 million years old.

Full Article at astronomy.com

September 23, 2012: Mars rover targets unusual rock en route to first destination

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has driven up to a football-sized rock that will be the first for the rover’s arm to examine. Curiosity is about 8 feet (2.5 meters) from the rock. It lies about halfway from the rover’s landing site, Bradbury Landing, to a location called Glenelg. In coming days, the team plans to touch the rock with a spectrometer to determine its elemental composition and use an arm-mounted camera to take close-up photographs.

Full Article at astronomy.com

September 21, 2012: White dwarfs' tidal effects may create novae, study says

At the heart of the theory is a pair of old, dense stars called white dwarfs, orbiting each other so closely that their gravitational forces create violent tidal waves of plasma that break near the surfaces of the stars. The phenomenon is what the researchers have dubbed a tidally induced nova.

Full Article at phys.org

September 20, 2012: Far-Off Galaxy Opens Window on Dawn of the of Universe

Astronomers have spotted what could be the most distant galaxy ever seen. Light from the young galaxy captured by the orbiting Spitzer and Hubbleobservatories first shone when our 13.7-billion-year-old universe was just 500 million years old.

Full Article at dailygalaxy.com

September 18, 2012: World's most powerful digital camera records first images in hunt for dark energy

Eight billion years ago, rays of light from distant galaxies began their long journey to Earth. That ancient starlight has now found its way to a mountaintop in Chile, where the newly constructed Dark Energy Camera, the most powerful sky-mapping machine ever created, has captured and recorded it for the first time.

Full Article at astronomy.com

September 18, 2012: Hubble sees NGC 7090 — an active star-forming galaxy

This image portrays a beautiful view of galaxy NGC 7090, as seen by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy is viewed edge-on from Earth, meaning we cannot easily see the spiral arms, which are full of hot young stars.

Full Article at astronomy.com

September 17, 2012: Gravitational Waves from Dying Black Holes Reveal the Secret of Their Birth

Black holes are regions of space where gravity is so strong that not even light can escape and so isolated black holes are truly dark objects and don't emit any form of radiation. However, black holes that get deformed, because of other black holes or stars crashing into them, are known to emit a new sort of radiation, called gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime that travel at the speed of light but they are extremely difficult to detect, which Einstein predicted nearly a hundred years ago.

Full Article at dailygalaxy.com

September 16, 2012: The mystery of dark matter may be near to being deciphered

The universe is comprised of a large amount of invisible matter, dark matter. It fills the space between the galaxies and between the stars in the galaxies. Since the prediction of the existence of dark matter more than 70 years ago, all sorts of researchers – astronomers, cosmologists and particle physicists have been looking for answers to what it could be. With the latest observations from the Planck satellite, researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute, among others, may be closer than ever to a solution to the origin of the mysterious dark matter.

Full Article at Neils Bohr Institute

September 15, 2012: Stephen Hawking's back in Waterloo

Toronto may have Hollywood stars in town for its international film festival, but we’ve got Stephen Hawking. The most famous theoretical physicist on the planet is creating a buzz around Waterloo this week, as he enjoys another research visit with colleagues at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

Full Article at therecord.com

September 15, 2012: Mystery Spheres on Mars

NASA's long-lived rover Opportunity has returned an image of the Martian surface that is puzzling researchers. Spherical objects concentrated at an outcrop called Kirkwood on the western rim of Endeavour Crater differ in several ways from iron-rich spherules nicknamed "blueberries" the rover found at its landing site in early 2004.

Full Article at science.nasa.gov

September 13, 2012: Dark energy is real, say astronomers

After a two-year study led by Tommaso Giannantonio and Robert Crittenden, the scientists conclude that the likelihood of its existence stands at 99.996 per cent. Their findings are published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Full Article at Phys.org

September 13, 2012: Planets can form in the galactic center

At first glance, the center of the Milky Way seems like a very inhospitable place to try to form a planet. Stars crowd each other as they whiz through space like cars on a rush-hour freeway. Supernova explosions blast out shock waves and bathe the region in intense radiation. Powerful gravitational forces from a supermassive black hole twist and warp the fabric of space itself.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

September 11, 2012: Search for Jupiter’s latest scars

Well, Jupiter’s done it again. The biggest planet in the solar system was the site of a bright impact early Monday morning, similar to collisions in the summers of 2010 and 2009. Scientists and observers aren’t sure exactly what hit Jupiter — most likely a stray comet or asteroid — but if the impact leaves behind a break in the planet’s cloud tops, it’ll shed some light on what kind of object created it.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

September 10, 2012: Explosion of galaxy formation lit up early universe

New data from the South Pole Telescope indicates that the birth of the first massive galaxies that lit up the early universe was an explosive event, happening faster and ending sooner than suspected.

Full Article at Astronomy.com

August 30, 2012: Supernova explosion sheds light on mysteries of an ancient galaxy

An international research team, led by Edo Berger of Harvard University, made the most of a dying star's fury to probe a distant galaxy some 9.5 billion light-years distant. The dying star, which lit the galactic scene, is the most distant stellar explosion of its kind ever studied. According to Berger, "It's like someone turned on a flashlight in a dark room and suddenly allowed us to see, for a short time, what this far-off galaxy looks like, what it is composed of."

Full Article at The Daily Galaxy

Sep 14, 2011: 36 Light-Years Away, the Most Earthlike World Yet?

From the very start of the modern planet-hunting era a decade and a half ago, the pioneers in this astronomical subspecialty were up front about saying it wasn't about astronomy; it was about biology. Their colleagues might be happy probing to the edge of the cosmos looking for exotic things like black holes and quasars and dark matter. But the planet hunters were ultimately looking for life on distant worlds. Assuming they were talking about earthlike life — which they were, since it's the only kind we understand — the target planets would have to be earthlike too. That meant they'd have to be about the same size as our home world, orbiting their parent star at about the right distance for water to exist in liquid, life-nurturing form. (Image by ESO)

Full Article at TIME

Jul 19, 2011: Asteroid close-up captured by spacecraft

NASA's Dawn spacecraft was captured into orbit around the massive asteroid Vesta after a 2.7 billion kilometre journey and is preparing to begin a study of a surface that may date to the earliest era of the solar system, the space agency said Monday. The entry into orbit occurred while the spacecraft's antenna was pointed away from Earth, so mission controllers had to wait for Dawn to re-establish contact to confirm its success.

Full Article at CBC

May 26, 2011: Cosmic distance record 'broken'

A cataclysmic explosion of a huge star near the edge of the observable Universe may be the most distant single object yet spied by a telescope. Scientists believe the blast, which was detected by Nasa's Swift space observatory, occurred a mere 520 million years after the Big Bang. This means its light has taken a staggering 13.14 billion years to reach Earth.

Full Article at BBC

May 21, 2011: First Habitable Planet Close To Being Confirmed By Scientist

Scientists may be just steps from discovering the first habitable planet beyond our own. Gliese 581d, a planet orbiting the red-dwarf star Gliese, may be the first real candidate for human expansion. That is, if it didn't take 3,000 lifetimes to get there, according to Science Daily. 581d is the third candidate for becoming the first hospitable exoplanet from the Gliese system, but the previous two candidates have both been ruled out. Gliese 581e was ruled too cold, and 581g turned out to be entirely nonexistent.

Full Article at Huffington Post

February 15, 2011: New huge planet may hide in solar system

A new, enormous planet may soon be discovered at the edge of the solar system, say two U.S. astrophysicists searching for proof of the celestial body's existence. John Matese and Daniel Whitmire, researchers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, created a mathematical model that shows a distant gas planet one to four times the mass of Jupiter could explain the patterns of comets in a particular region of the sky.

Full Article at CBC

February 2, 2011: Kepler Planet Hunter Finds 1,200 Possibilities

Astronomers have cracked the Milky Way like a pinata, and planets are now pouring out so fast that they don't know what to do with them all. In a long-awaited announcement, scientists operating NASA's Kepler planet-hunting satellite reported Wednesday that they had identified 1,235 possible planets orbiting other stars, potentially tripling the number of known planets in the universe.

Full Article at The New York Times

November 26, 2010: Saturn's moon has atmosphere with oxygen

Saturn's second-largest moon, Rhea, has a thin atmosphere of oxygen and carbon dioxide, according to a new study. The finding provides new insights into the chemical processes that occurred in the solar system, including the Earth, 3.5 billion years ago. Oxygen has been detected remotely in the atmospheres of moons such as Europa and Ganymede, but this is the first time it has been found "in situ" and near the ringed planet. Earlier this year, the Cassini spacecraft used a spectrometer to "sniff" the atmosphere as it flew within 97 kilometres of the north pole of Rhea.

Full Article at CBC

November 3rd, 2010: Club Meeting

Come and see Dan Falk talk about his atempt to get the 'Ultimate Solar Eclipse Photograh"

October 2, 2010: Canadian Mars rover gadget awaits launch

A Canadian instrument designed to analyze elements on Mars is ready to help scientists figure out whether the red planet was ever able to support life. The APXS (alpha particle X-ray spectrometer) will be carried aboard NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity when it is launched into space aboard the Atlas V 541 rocket in fall 2011. The instrument is one of 10 that will help the rover in its mission to determine the planet's habitability — whether it ever was or still is an environment that could support microbial life such as bacteria. It was designed by University of Guelph physics professor Ralf Gellert and built by Richmond, B.C.-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.

Full Article at CBC

September 29, 2010: 1st habitable distant planet found

Astronomers believe they have found the first Earth-sized planet outside our solar system that is likely to support liquid water and therefore life. Planet "g," which orbits a red dwarf star called Gliese 581, is right in the middle of the star's "habitable zone," reported a team led by Steve Vogt of the University of California Santa Cruz and Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C.

Full Article at CBC


September 27, 2010: Astrophysicist Denies She is UN's New 'Alien Ambassador'

Is the United Nations taking a break from earthly pursuits to appoint an "alien ambassador" who would be charged with greeting any extraterrestrial guests who might make their way to our planet? While that would make for a good Monday morning story, the Malaysian astrophysicist at the center of the story denies that she will be adding alien liaison to her resume.

Full Article at PC Magazine


September 23, 2010: MDA to build Mars rover

The Canadian Space Agency will spend $6 million on a prototype Mars rover to be built by MDA, the Canadian space technology giant behind the Canadarm. That's just the start, says Richmond-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates: Canada's space companies have always specialized in technology that no one else builds, and rovers for Mars and the moon may represent the next big thing after Canadarm.

Full Article at The Vancouver Sun


September 21, 2010: Northern lights: Have you seen them?

Canada's northern lights are coming to the rest of the world, thanks to a new webcam being launched by the Canadian Space Agency. The space agency has teamed up with partners in Yellowknife and Calgary to develop the AuroraMax website for which webcams set up around Yellowknife will capture real-time images of the aurora borealis.

Full Article at CBC


September 20, 2010: China could make moon landing in 2025

China could put an astronaut on the moon in 2025 and launch probes to explore Mars and Venus within five years, according to the boss of a Chinese space programme. Ye Peijian said China could make its first manned moon landing in 15 years, send a probe to Mars by 2013 and to Venus by 2015.

Full Article at The Guardian


September 19, 2010: To go where no man (or woman) has gone before

Nick Balaskas is on a mission. He wants to set a world record for the number of people who have walked on Mars. Although technically he would need only one person to achieve his goal, Balaskas has set his sights on 500 - a round number he developed based on the total number of individuals who have flown in space since the start of manned space flights 50 years ago, plus a few more for good measure.

Full Article at YFile


September 16, 2010: Jupiter opposition closest approach to Earth between 1963 and 2022

Jupiter's opposition on September 21, 2010 will be the closest distance between Earth and Jupiter between 1963 and 2022. Amateur astronomers can get spectacular views of Jupiter through their telescopes that night and throughout September and October.

Full Article at Examiner


September 15, 2010: Habitable planet discovery likely in 2011

An Earth-sized planet that could support liquid water - and therefore life - has more than a 50 per cent chance of being discovered in the first half of 2011, two U.S. researchers predict. Samuel Arbesman, a computational biologist at Harvard Medical School, and Gregory Laughlin, an astronomer who specializes in numerical simulations and modelling, based their predictions on the properties of the exoplanets - planets outside our solar system - discovered so far.

Full Article at CBC


September 14, 2010: Telescope's New Laser Vision Makes the Heavens Less Blurry

Scientists have successfully tested a new type of laser-corrected vision for telescopes that takes the widest starry-sky views ever seen from the ground while eliminating blur caused by the atmosphere. Now astronomers can see entire single star clusters or many distant galaxies within the same field of view. That allows for more efficient use of expensive telescopes and observing time to tackle challenges such as examining thousands of early, distant galaxies.

Full Article at SPACE.com


September 13, 2010: Head of space agency urges look at potential of untapped resources

Space exploration may pay off in the quest for renewable energy supplies for all of the globe's inhabitants, the president of the Canadian Space Agency said yesterday during opening ceremonies at the World Energy Congress in Montreal. "There is a tremendous amount of energy out in the universe," Steve Mac-Lean said during a speech that urged delegates to look beyond the boundaries of Earth. That untapped energy is manifest in such things as black holes, said MacLean who circled our "fragile yet resilient" planet during space missions in 1992 and 2006.

Full Article at Montreal Gazette


September 10, 2010: Violent Tides Destroy Huge, Hot Alien Worlds

Most of the big, super-hot alien planets that astronomers are searching for in old star clusters may have been destroyed long ago, a new study suggests.

Full Article at SPACE.com


September 7, 2010: Astronomers: Alien world volcanoes likely detectable

Visible volcanoes on alien worlds? Astronomers suggest coming space telescopes may allow for detection of eruptions on planets orbiting nearby stars. In an upcoming study in The Astrophysical Journal, a team led by Lisa Kaltenegger of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, look at whether NASA's 2014 James Webb space telescope will be able to eyeball ash cluttering alien atmospheres.

Full Article at USA Today


September 7, 2010: Two asteroids to pass close to Earth on Wednesday

Two small asteroids in unrelated orbits will pass within the moon's distance of the Earth on Wednesday, according to NASA. It's an unusual event that shows the need for closer monitoring of near space for Earth-threatening encounters, a scientist with the program said.

Full article at CNN

September 7, 2010: NASA Announces Plans for First-Ever Trip to Sun

It's a little too hot to send people, but NASA plans to send a spacecraft to the sun by 2018. As part of their Solar Probe Plus mission, the spacecraft will orbit in the sun's outer atmosphere, constantly sampling the environment and testing for radiation.The main goals are to discover why the sun's atmosphere is hotter than its surface, and what causes "solar winds" that affect the rest of the solar system.

Full article at TIME

September 3, 2010: Hadfield named space station commander

Col. Chris Hadfield will become the first Canadian astronaut to command the International Space Station. Hadfield will launch aboard a Soyuz spacecraft late in 2012, Gary Goodyear, minister of state for science and technology, told a news conference Thursday in Longueuil, Que. The exact date of the launch has not been set, but it will likely be in either late November or early December.

Full article at CBC

August 11, 2010: York researchers aid search for signs of life on Mars

Researchers from the Faculty of Science & Engineering will be part of a team of Canadian scientists responsible for a device that will measure and diagnose components of Mars's atmosphere. The instrument, dubbed MATMOS (Mars Atmospheric Trace Molecule Occultation Spectrometer), is a partnership between the California Institute of Technology, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It will ride aboard the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, a joint mission by NASA and the European Space Agency, slated to launch in 2016.

Full article at Alumni News