Stephen Hawking: A Life of Success against All Odds

By Dr. Martin Rees / 03.14.2018 Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics University of Cambridge Soon after I enrolled as a graduate student at Cambridge University in 1964, I encountered a fellow student, two years ahead of me in his studies, who was unsteady on his feet and spoke with great difficulty. This was Stephen[…]

Why Physics Needs Art to Help Picture the Universe

Fig 1 By Dr. Frank Wilczek / 12.11.2015 Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics Massachusetts Institute of Technology Historians of science usually date the origin of the Scientific Revolution as 1543, when Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus first put the Earth in motion. While that is a convenient and defensible choice, it is not the only good candidate. An earlier[…]

Ancient Greece and the Origins of the Heliocentric Theory

Illuminated illustration of the Ptolemaic geocentric conception of the Universe by Portuguese cosmographer and cartographer Bartolomeu Velho (?-1568) / Wikimedia Commons      By (left-to-right) Dr. Milan S. Dimitrijevic, Dr. Efstratios Theodossiou, Aris Dacanalis, and Petros Z. Mantarakis Dimitrijevic: Research Professor, Astronomical Observatory Belgrade Theodossiou: Associate Professor of History and Philosophy of Astronomy and Physical Sciences, University of[…]

Most Distant and Youngest Supermassive Black Hole Discovered to Date

This artist’s concept shows the most distant supermassive black hole ever discovered. It is part of a quasar from just 690 million years after the Big Bang. / Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science 12.06.2017 Scientists have uncovered a rare relic from the early universe: the farthest known supermassive black hole. This matter-eating beast is 800 million[…]

Black Holes are Simpler than Forests and Science has Its Limits

Complex nature. Photo by Alan L/Flickr By Dr. Martin Rees / 12.01.2017 Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics University of Cambridge Albert Einstein said that the ‘most incomprehensible thing about the Universe is that it is comprehensible’. He was right to be astonished. Human brains evolved to be adaptable, but our underlying neural architecture has barely changed since[…]

Solar System’s First Observed Interstellar Visitor Dazzles Scientists

Artist’s concept of interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua) as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017. The aspect ratio of up to 10:1 is unlike that of any object seen in our own solar system. Credits: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser 11.20.2017 Astronomers recently scrambled to observe an intriguing asteroid that zipped[…]

First Detection of Gravitational Waves and Light Produced by Colliding Neutron Stars

In a galaxy far away, two dead stars begin a final spiral into a massive collision. The resulting explosion unleashes a huge burst of energy, sending ripples across the very fabric of space. In the nuclear cauldron of the collision, atoms are ripped apart to form entirely new elements and scattered outward across the Universe.[…]

Incredible Photos of Jupiter from NASA’s Jupiter Probe

Image from NASA By Azriel ReShel / 11.09.2017 All photos credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran Witness the Beauty of this Great Gas Giant NASA’s Juno probe has sent thrilling images of Jupiter back to Earth, the largest planet in the solar system. The fresh close-up images of Jupiter share unbelievable views of a hidden world. This is[…]

Dark Matter: The Mystery Substance Physics Still Can’t Identify that Makes Up the Majority of Our Universe

Map of all matter – most of which is invisible dark matter – between Earth and the edge of the observable universe. ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech, CC BY By Dr. Dan Hooper / 10.25.2017 Associate Scientist in Theoretical Astrophysics, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Associate Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago The past few decades have ushered in an[…]

Cosmic Alchemy: Colliding Neutron Stars Show Us How the Universe Creates Gold

Illustration of hot, dense, expanding cloud of debris stripped from the neutron stars just before they collided. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab, CC BY    By Dr. Duncan Brown (left) and Dr. Edo Berger (left) / 10.24.2017 Brown: Professor of Physics, Syracuse University Berger: Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University For thousands of years, humans have searched[…]

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[…]