Astronomy, News, Observations, Space

Nova seen Expanding right from the Beginning for the First Time

Artist impression of a dwarf star 'feeding' on donor star. Credit: David A. Hardy / astroart.org

Here’s something you don’t see everyday – for the first time, astronomers witnessed how a nova is formed right from the onset, capturing and detailing its expansion. The white dwarf turned nova is located some 14,800 light-years away and its study is set to reveal many things about how novas form. The star is dead, long live the nova! Stars shine…

News, Observations, Space

Neptune-sized alien planet found to harbor water vapor in its atmosphere

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Astronomers have discovered water vapor in the atmosphere of a new exoplanet – a planet from outside our solar system – roughly the size of Neptune, orbiting a star 124 light-years away. This is the first time water vapor has been found on an alien planet smaller than Jupiter. The discovery is set to improve scientists’ understanding of how planet forms and which planets may be best suited to support alien life….

News, Observations, Space

India’s probe nears Mars orbit – will it make history?

Artist conception of the Mars Orbiter Mission in orbit around Mars. Image: Wikipedia Commons

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission or MOM, for short, is gearing up to enter Mars’ orbit this Wednesday, after the dormant main engine on the spacecraft was test-fired flawlessly on Monday. If the maneuver proves successful, then India will join an exclusive list of countries who have deployed Mars explorers, like the US, Russia, Japan and Europe. …

News, Observations, Space, Videos

How the Milky Way will be gobbled up by the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy

galaxy cannibals

Ever in expansion, the universe is always acting on matter in an endless tug of transformations. Colliding matter is a natural part of the universe, but when our own Milky Way is at stake, things get personal. Scientists have known for a long time that our very own galaxy, the Milky Way, is destined to collide with the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy….

Astronomy, News, Observations, Space

Astronomers map the Supercluster the Milky Way belongs to

The Laniakea Supercluster shown its equatorial plane. Image: CEA/Saclay, France

Our sun is but a tiny speck of light among billions, part of the spiral galaxy we familiarly call the Milky Way. That in itself makes us puny humans feel extremely humble, but things get really out of proportion when you zoom out. Galaxies on their own turn congregate in the hundreds or even thousands, bound together by gravity to…

News, Observations, Space

The most detailed topography of a comet

The topography of comet 67P. Photo: ESA

Ten years ago, the European Space Agency launched the Rosetta probe tasked to orbit a comet for the very first time and study it up close with unprecedented detail. Six billion miles later, the probe reached its target, the four-kilometer wide 67P comet, and has beamed back some of the most breathtaking images of a comet science has witnessed. The…

News, Observations, Space

Supernova study might change how speed of light in vacuum is measured

SN 1987A

Einstein’s theories suggest that light can not travel faster than c, a constant equal to the speed of light in a vacuum, which is 299,792,458 metres per second (by definition) or about 186,282.4 miles per second. All of our standing physical models are based on this assumption, and so far this idea has yet to be proven wrong, despite the…

Astrophysics, Observations

Light from huge explosion 12 billion years ago reaches Earth

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Intense light from a huge explosion (a gamma ray burst) that took place shortly after the birth of the Universe (12 billion years ago) has reached Earth, and was observed by researchers. Gamma Ray bursts are the strongest explosions since the Big Bang – in just 10 seconds, they release more energy than our sun in its entire life time; read…

News, Observations, Space

Astronomers find the sun’s first sibling: a star made of the same stuff

A star like our Sun is shown with an orbiting planet in the foreground in this artist's impression. Image credit: Illustration by Gabriel Perez Diaz, Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (MultiMedia Service)

In what’s considered the first find out of a slew to follow, a team of astronomers have identified a star that originated out of the same matter as our own sun. In lack of a better analogy, the two are siblings and probably share many more sisters. Apart from telling us where in the galaxy our solar system first formed…

Observations, Science

Dusty rovers and weather on Mars

Nine images from the Mars rover Opportunity’s Navcam show the types of clouds seen over the first 9 years of the mission. The cirrus clouds are seen against a moderately dusty background sky. Most or all of the clouds are water ice, with images showing clouds occurring only during the “aphelion cloud belt season” when water ice clouds are expected. The top row shows images from inside Endurance crater. All images were taken during the Martian winter. (Photos: NASA / JPL /Texas A&M) )

Mark Lemmon is an associate professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University and a camera operator for numerous Mars missions, especially those involving the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. These two rovers are considered nothing short of heroes by the men and women at mission control who were part of the projects. Spirit, for instance, was launched 2004 and was…