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…

Alien life, Biology, News, Observations, Space

Vitamin B may have come from space – what does this mean for origin of life?

Residue from a laboratory experiment simulating the conditions of interstellar space. The residue contained vitamin B3 (and related compounds) and may help explain meteorite chemistry. Image Credit: Karen Smith

After analyzing samples from eight different carbon-rich meteorites, researchers at Pennsylvania State Universities found these contained niacin, also known as vitamin B3 and the more pristine the meteorite, the higher the concentration. What this means is that the ancient Earth had a steady supply of vitamin B3 during its early years when it was frequently bombarded by cosmic objects, possibly…

Astrophysics, News, Observations, Space

First possible evidence of an exomoon

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Until just a few decades ago, there wasn’t any proof that there were any planets beyond those in our solar system, although of course everybody expected them to exist somewhere. After the Kepler Space Telescope was deployed, astronomers found not one, but a couple hundred exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars). In fact, our galaxy is supposed to harbor some 50…

Alien life, News, Observations, Space

Curiosity spots what looks like a Martian camp fire, alas it’s nothing of the sorts

curiosity rover imaging camera

The photo right above was captured by the Curiosity Rover’s right-hand navigation camera , currently deployed on Mars and on route to Mount Sharp, which shows a striking flare of light seemingly torching near the horizon. Taken on April 4th, the photo somehow made its way to the general public (bad idea NASA) and stirred international turmoil back on Earth, where…

Astrophysics, Observations

Astronomers discover the oldest known star

The spectrum of SMSS J031300.36-670839.3 hardly contains any absorption lines in its spectrum: the strong lines are from hydrogen, and carbon – at 4300A, and from the Earth atmosphere – at 5800 and 6300A; not from the star itself. Image credit: Anna Frebel.

A team led by astronomers at The Australian National University has discovered what they believe to be the oldest star in the known Universe – forming shortly after the Big Bang, some 13.7 billion years ago. This is the first time astrophysicists get the chance to study the chemistry of the oldest stars, giving scientists a clearer idea of what…