News, Observations, Space

Pluto – now in color, courtesy of New Horizon

Pluto and Charon. Image: NASA

These two dim dots are none other than Pluto, the dwarf plant, and Charon, its largest moon. Though it might not look like much, this is the first ever colored photograph of the two cosmic bodies ever taken. We have NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft to thank for this, which used its Ralph color imager to make the shot from 71 million miles away.

News, Observations, Physics, Space

First dark matter map spots the invisible substance that might help form galaxies

The map traces the distribution of dark matter across a portion of the sky. The color scale represents projected mass density: red and yellow represent regions with more dense matter.

This is the first map in a series of maps that will be stitched together to form a grand picture of how dark matter is distributed across the Universe. Dark matter is basically invisible, which is why it’s called dark in the first place, so scientists rely on indirect observations like the gravitational effects it poses to locate and map it. What we’re seeing now is only 3% of the area of sky that the Dark Energy Survey (DES) will document over its slated five-year-long mission.

News, Observations, Space

The sun goes through quasi-seasonal changes, a find that could help protect power grids back on Earth

Solar flare

Just like our own planet, the sun goes through seasonal changes in its activity, waxing and waning over the course of nearly two years driven by changes in newly discovered bands of strong magnetic fields. This variability helps shape the sun’s long-term 11 year cycle, yet again part of a longer cycle that lasts 22 days. Largely unpredictable, the sun constantly spews highly charged particles known as coronal mass ejections which can severely affect power grids, satellites and even airplane passengers. During its seasonal peaks, however, the sun is much more prone to solar storms, so understanding how this cyclic variability happens is key to averting a potential disaster.

News, Observations, Space

Telescopes capture spectacular Einstein’s ring

SDP81_ALMA3bands

According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, if one galaxy is located directly behind another, then the front one would bend the light of the more distant one, in such a way that you’d only see the behind one as a ring. Less than 100 years ago, many researchers thought we’d never see one, but astronomers have managed to take several pictures that confirm it – as is the example you see below.

News, Observations, Space

Exploding supernova ejects enough material to seed 7,000 Earths

15-044b

Everything is made of stardust – but some things are made of more stardust than others. A new study has found that a single supernova is capable of producing large enough quantities of dust to create thousands of planets like Earth.

Astrophysics, News, Observations

Minuscule Centaur planet in our Solar System might have rings like Saturn

chiron minor planet

They’re considered a hybrid between asteroids and comets, but still, they’re called minor planets; they also bear the name of the fabled man-horse creatures in Greek mythology – centaurs. Now, scientists have found that a Centaur in our solar system, Chiron, might have rings just like those of Saturn.

News, Observations, Science, Space

Here’s how Venus would look like without its thick clouds

Credits: B. Campbell, Smithsonian, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, Arecibo.

Using high sensitivity radar telescopes, astronomers have managed to take a glimpse at the surface of Venus, piercing through its thick clouds.

Astrophysics, News, Observations, Space

Astronomers confirm the existence of potentially habitable super-Earth

Artist’s Impression Of Gliese 581 Planetary System. Image via NSF.

Exoplanet GJ581d is the first potentially habitable world astronomers have discovered, but some astronomers believed that the planet wasn’t actually there – it was all an observational flaw mixed with some noise in the signal. However, British researchers recently released a study which confirms that the planet does exist and further underline the matter of habitability. This is one of the planets outside our solar system most likely to harbor life.

News, Observations, Space

Mars may have had a huge ocean

This artist’s impression shows how Mars may have looked about four billion years ago. The young planet Mars would have had enough water to cover its entire surface in a liquid layer about 140 meters deep, but it is more likely that the liquid would have pooled to form an ocean occupying almost half of Mars’s northern hemisphere.

Scientists have found tantalizing evidence regarding Mars’ wet past – according to new research, the Red Planet may have once had a huge ocean, containing 5 million cubic miles of water with a depth of over a mile.

Astronomy, News, Observations

Planet discovered in four-star solar system

This artist's conception shows the 30 Ari system, which includes four stars and a planet.
Image Credit: Karen Teramura, UH IfA

For the second time, astronomers have discovered a planet in a solar system with four stars! While most solar systems only have one star, two stars are pretty rare, three are very rare, and four stars… that almost never happens – or at least this is what we thought. The planet wasn’t newly discovered, but previously, astronomers thought it resides