A Look Back at Cassini’s Incredible Mission to Saturn before Final Plunge into the Planet

An illustration of Cassini diving between Saturn and the planet’s innermost ring. NASA/JPL-Caltech By Dr. Tanya Hill / 09.04.2017 Honorary Fellow, University of Melbourne Senior Curator, Astronomy Museums Victoria The Cassini space probe mission came to an end this month when the probe made its final destructive plunge in to Saturn. It spent the past thirteen years studying the planet,[…]

Dwarf Planetary Systems Will Transform the Hunt for Extraterrestrial Life

Detail from an impressionistic poster of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. / Amanda Smith, IoA    By Dr. Amaury Triaud and Dr. Michaël Gillon / 05.02.2017 Triaud: Kavli Institute Fellow in Exoplanets, University of Cambridge Gillon: FNRS Researcher, University of Liège Written speculation about life beyond the confines of Earth dates back thousands of years, to the time of the Greek philosophers[…]

Mars Rover Opportunity on Walkabout Near Rim

The Pancam on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity took the component images of this enhanced-color scene during the mission’s “walkabout” survey of an area just above the top of “Perseverance Valley,” in preparation for driving down the valley. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ. 06.23.2017 NASA’s senior Mars rover, Opportunity, is examining rocks at the edge of Endeavour Crater[…]

Astronomers Find Planet Hotter Than Most Stars

This artist’s concept shows planet KELT-9b orbiting its host star, KELT-9. It is the hottest gas giant planet discovered so far. / NASA, JPL-Caltech A newly discovered Jupiter-like world is so hot, it’s being vaporized by its own star. With a dayside temperature of more than 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit (4,600 Kelvin), KELT-9b is a planet[…]

LIGO Detects More Gravitational Waves, from Even More Ancient and Distant Black Hole Collisions

Artist’s conception of two merging black holes, spinning in a nonaligned fashion. LIGO/Caltech/MIT/Sonoma State (Aurore Simonnet) By Dr. Sean McWilliams / 06.01.2017 Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy West Virginia State University For the third time in a year and a half, the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory has detected gravitational waves. Hypothesized by[…]

Cassini Finds Saturn Moon May Have Tipped Over

Working with image data from NASA’s Cassini mission, researchers have found evidence that Saturn’s moon Enceladus may have tipped over, reorienting itself so that terrain closer to its original equator was relocated to the poles. This phenomenon is known as true polar wander. / NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/Cornell University 05.30.2017 Saturn’s icy, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus may have[…]

Hubble Catches Black Hole Born from Collapsing Star

A team of astronomers at The Ohio State University watched a star disappear and possibly become a black hole. Instead of becoming a black hole through the expected process of a supernova, the black hole candidate formed through a “failed supernova.” / Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Katrina Jackson “Massive fails” like this one in a[…]

Measuring Ripples in the Cosmic Web

Astronomers have made the first measurements of small-scale fluctuations in the cosmic web 2 billion years after the Big Bang. These measurements were conducted using a novel technique which relies on the light of quasars crossing the cosmic web along adjacent lines of sight. 04.29.2017 The most barren regions of the Universe are the far-flung[…]

Hellenistic Astronomy

  Aristarchus’s 3rd-century BCE calculations on the relative sizes of (from left) the Sun, Earth and Moon, from a 10th-century CE Greek copy / Library of Congress Vatican Exhibit By Dr. Alan C. Bowen Historian Institute for Advanced Study Introduction In the interval from Aratus and Aristarchus of Samos (third century BCE) to Claudius Ptolemy[…]

New Powerful Telescopes Allow Direct Imaging of Nascent Galaxies 12 Billion Light Years Away

Artist’s impression of a quasar shining through a galaxy’s ‘super halo’ of hydrogen gas. A. Angelich (NRAO/AUI/NSF) By Dr. Jason Xavier Prochaska / 03.23.2017 Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics University of California, Santa Cruz How does a galaxy like our own Milky Way form? Until now there’s been a lot of inferring involved in answering[…]

Life on Earth is Used to Gravity – So What Happens to Our Cells and Tissues in Space?

Look ma, no gravity! / NASA By Andy Tay / 03.09.2017 PhD Candidate in Bioengineering University of California, Los Angeles There’s one force whose effects are so deeply entrenched in our everyday lives that we probably don’t think much about it at all: gravity. Gravity is the force that causes attraction between masses. It’s why[…]

The Accelerating Universe

Lecture by Dr. Joseph Silk at the Museum of London / 03.01.2017 Homewood Professor of Physics and Astronomy Gresham College It has been called the biggest problem in physics. The universe is accelerating thanks to an infinitesimal amount of negative energy. That sounds weird, but the key revelation of Einstein is that energy has mass.[…]

Solar System with Seven Planets, Three Earth-Like: Here’s What They Could be Like

Artist’s impression of what the view might be like from the surface of the exoplanet TRAPPIST-1f. NASA/JPL-Caltech By Dr. David Rothery / 02.22.2017 Professor of Planetary Geosciences The Open University There have been many discoveries of potentially habitable planets orbiting stars other than our own over the last few years. Now things are getting even[…]

Mapping the Family Tree of Stars

Astronomers are borrowing principles applied in biology and archaeology to build a family tree of the stars in the galaxy. By studying chemical signatures found in the stars, they are piecing together these evolutionary trees looking at how the stars formed and how they are connected to each other. The signatures act as a proxy[…]

A ‘Bridge’ of Stars Connects Two Dwarf Galaxies

The Magellanic Clouds, the two largest satellite galaxies of the Milky Way, appear to be connected by a bridge stretching across 43,000 light years, according to an international team of astronomers led by researchers from the University of Cambridge. The discovery is reported in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS) and[…]

Shakespeare’s Astronomy

Portrait of William Shakespeare 1564-1616. Chromolithography after Hombres y Mujeres celebres 1877 / Barcelona Museum Lecture by Dr. Michael Rowan-Robinson, Museum of London / 11.30.2016 Emeritus Professor of Astronomy Gresham College ‘Shakespeare’s allusions to the planets are very often made astrologically.  In but few instances are they made from a purely astronomical point of view’[…]

NASA Turns Eyes to Stellar and Supermassive Black Holes, Neutrons Stars, and Pulsars

01.03.2017 NASA has selected a science mission that will allow astronomers to explore, for the first time, the hidden details of some of the most extreme and exotic astronomical objects, such as stellar and supermassive black holes, neutron stars and pulsars. Objects such as black holes can heat surrounding gases to more than a million[…]

It’s Been a Turbulent Start, but Juno is Now Delivering Spectacular Insights into Jupiter

Jupiter’s South Pole, as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft on August 27 2016. Credit: NASA/SwRI/MSSS, processed by R. Tkachenko By Dr. Leigh Fletcher / 12.05.2016 Royal Society Research Fellow University of Leicester There was much excitement when the Juno spacecraft successfully arrived at Jupiter in July, after a five-year journey through the solar system. A[…]

Revolutions in Understanding the Ionosphere, Earth’s Interface to Space

Earth’s limb at night, seen from the International Space Station, with air glow visual composited into the image. / NASA By Sarah Frazier / 12.14.2016 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientists from NASA and three universities have presented new discoveries about the way heat and energy move and manifest in the ionosphere, a region of[…]

Science from the Sky: NASA Renews Search for Antarctic Meteorites

Members of the Antarctic Search for Meteorites (ANSMET) program collect a carbonaceous chondrite meteorite from a glacial moraine at the base of Mt. Ward, Antarctica. / Christine Press Three federal entities, including NASA, are reaffirming their commitment to search for Antarctic meteorites, to help learn more about the primitive building blocks of the solar system[…]