News




SpaceX releases 60 more Starlink satellites to orbit

Wednesday, November 13th 2019 01:35 PM

  On November 11, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying another 60 Starlink satellites, which will eventually provide internet service worldwide. The launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station made history by reusing a record number of rocket parts. But even with that feat in aerospace design, the launch wasn’t celebrated by everyone. According to SpaceX’s plans, Starlink will be a constellation totaling about 12,000 satellites orbiting Earth. The goal is to provide internet to the United States and Canada after just six Starlink launches. After 24 launches, the internet coverage will spread across the globe. But with so many satellites orbiting Earth, astronomers and dark sky observers are nervous about how these satellites will affect their observations.      Obstructing a View When the first 60 satellites launched in May, many people noticed the satellites were so bright that they could be observed with the naked eye. And fo...

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  A powerful new astronomical instrument got its first view of the sky from an Arizona mountaintop two weeks ago. Once the device officially gets to work in early 2020, it will capture the light from thousands of galaxies each night — up to 5,000 galaxies every 20 minutes, in ideal conditions. With this instrument, researchers will make a deep-space map of where galaxies lie to study dark energy throughout the history of the universe. Scientists installed the device, called the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), on a telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory over a period of 18 months. And on October 22, DESI turned its gaze to the night sky to make its first test observations. Over the next few months, the DESI team will finish testing and begin its survey in earnest.       How to map the universe In just five years, the instrument is expected to gather light from 35 million galaxies and 2.4 million quasars, or galaxi...

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Hubble reveals a galaxy in a cosmic city

Tuesday, November 5th 2019 02:48 PM

The universe is vast, with galaxies containing gas, dust, stars, and planets sprinkled throughout. But this sprinkling isn’t random; although some galaxies are indeed truly alone, most are not, but instead are congregating through gravity. NGC 1706, captured in this stunning Hubble Space Telescope image, is one of about 50 galaxies bound together in a group that lies in the direction of the southern constellation Dorado the Swordfish. The brilliant face-on spiral and its neighbors sit about 230 million light-years away.       The universe itself is expanding, but galaxies can still exert gravity on each other. If you were to take a step back and view the universe from outside, you’d see that galaxies form clumps and strings, while leaving voids of vast nothingness in between. About half of all galaxies can be found in some sort of grouping — in fact, galaxies and galaxy groups are the visible signposts marking what astronomers call the c...

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These colliding galaxies paint a ghostly picture

Thursday, October 31st 2019 04:19 PM

  Galaxies in our universe grow and evolve through collisions. When they smash together, galaxies distort and change as gravitational effects spark new star formation and feed supermassive black holes. The entire process can even bind the parties involved into a new, bigger galaxy that may bear no resemblance to the pieces that built it.      Most collisions aren’t head on — but Arp–Madore 2026–424 didn’t get the memo. In June, the Hubble Space Telescope captured a visible-light snapshot of this cosmic smash-up in progress, which has twisted a pair of galaxies into what almost resembles a ghostly face. The central regions, or bulges, of the galaxies involved glow brightly like a pair of supernatural eyes. They appear evenly matched, a sign that the two galaxies are roughly the same size. Gas, dust, and stars that have been yanked the galaxies by the merger now form a huge, bluish ring structure that serves as the head and no...

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These colliding galaxies paint a ghostly picture

Wednesday, October 30th 2019 04:01 PM

Galaxies in our universe grow and evolve through collisions. When they smash together, galaxies distort and change as gravitational effects spark new star formation and feed supermassive black holes. The entire process can even bind the parties involved into a new, bigger galaxy that may bear no resemblance to the pieces that built it.       Most collisions aren’t head on — but Arp–Madore 2026–424 didn’t get the memo. In June, the Hubble Space Telescope captured a visible-light snapshot of this cosmic smash-up in progress, which has twisted a pair of galaxies into what almost resembles a ghostly face. The central regions, or bulges, of the galaxies involved glow brightly like a pair of supernatural eyes. They appear evenly matched, a sign that the two galaxies are roughly the same size. Gas, dust, and stars that have been yanked the galaxies by the merger now form a huge, bluish ring structure that serves as the head and nose...

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Our universe’s history began about 13.8 billion years ago with the Big Bang. When astronomers probe deep into space, they see parts of the universe as they were early in this history. That’s because it takes light a long time to travel vast distances. To find out how galaxies formed and evolved over time, astronomers look for the oldest, most distant objects they can see.These observations reveal that massive galaxies appeared in the universe as early as 1 billion or 2 billion years after the Big Bang. But how were there already enough stars to make such large galaxies? The findings imply that early massive galaxies must have formed stars at incredibly high rates.     Now, a team of astronomers has spotted one of these early galaxies in the act of churning out stars. Their observations capture the galaxy, which is about the size of the Milky Way, as it was about 1 billion years after the Big Bang. However, the galaxy is creating roughly 300 Suns&rsq...

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  As serene as it appears in photographs, the gas giant Saturn is not a peaceful place. Its golden gases whiz around the planet at up to a thousand miles per hour. At times, massive storms thousands of miles wide break out in its upper atmosphere.In 2018, astronomers spotted a new kind of storm on Saturn. Four large tempests formed one after another, passing by each other and further disturbing the atmosphere to create a complex storm system that lasted months.       Computer models let the researchers estimate the energy behind the event and compare it to other storms on Saturn. Studying these phenomena in more detail may let astronomers better understand the complex behaviors of the giant planet’s atmosphere. A team of scientists from Spain, Australia, the U.S. and France presented the research Monday in Nature Astronomy. A New Kind of Storm The researchers first noticed the new storms in photographs that amateur astronomers had taken...

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20 new moons discovered orbiting Saturn

Tuesday, October 15th 2019 09:47 AM

  Astronomers have found 20 new moons orbiting Saturn, bumping its total up to 82 moons. That surpasses Jupiter, which was the prior reigning champion with 79 moons.  One of the new moons has the farthest known orbit around Saturn, and all are similar in size, with diameters around three miles (5 kilometers). Two of the moons take about two years to orbit, while the other 18 take more than three years to do so. Seventeen of the new moons orbit Saturn backward — or in retrograde — compared to the planet's other natural satellites. The retrograde moons have orbits resembling some of Saturn's other already-known moons. And by looking at their inclinations, astronomers suspect these moons could have been part of a much larger moon that broke apart long ago.  The moons were discovered by a team led by Scott S. Sheppard at the Carnegie Institution for Science and using the Subaru Telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea.  By studyi...

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Giant volcano on Jupiter's moon Io could erupt any second

Tuesday, September 24th 2019 10:55 AM

  A volcano spread across an area greater than Lake Michigan could erupt any day. Located on Jupiter’s moon Io scientists predict that Loki, named after the Norse trickster god, is due to explode sometime in mid-September. The volcano last erupted in May 2018, an event also predicted by scientists. “Loki volcano is huge — 200 kilometers across. It’s large enough that it would completely take out southern California if it were on Earth,” said Julie Rathbun, a scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. She presented the prediction in a poster at the European Planetary Science Congress-Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Geneva on September 17. “It is also a different kind of volcano.  …The lavas on Io are much thinner and runnier, more like lavas in Hawaii and they don’t build tall mountains.  Instead, you can think of Loki more like a giant hole in the ground filled with molten lava.&rd...

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  Astronomers have finally uncovered water vapor in the atmosphere of a super-Earth exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone of its star. The find means that liquid water could also exist on the rocky world's surface, potentially even forming a global ocean. The discovery, made with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, serves as the first detection of water vapor in the atmosphere of such a planet. And because the planet, dubbed K2-18 b, likely sports a temperature similar to Earth, the newfound water vapor makes the world one of the most promising candidates for follow-up studies with next-generation space telescopes. "This is the only planet right now that we know outside the solar system that has the correct temperature to support water, it has an atmosphere, and it has water in it, making this planet the best candidate for habitability that we know right now," lead author Angelos Tsiaras, an astronomer at University College London, said in a press confer...

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