A look back at the 400-year-old art of assisted sky-gazing
Humans have been looking to the heavens for as long as we have had stories to tell about them. But the way we look up has come quite far in the past 400 years, since Galileo Galilei first pointed a spyglass to the sky.
In honor of the 400th anniversary of the telescope, Popular Science looks back on the top 10 observatories on Earth and beyond.
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A robo-telescope, quick-starting laptops, and 3-D glasses everywhere
Two days before the Consumer Electronics Show officially starts, the first products debuted at CES Unveiled on Tuesday evening. Many of the tables at the Venetian conference center in Vegas looked best-suited to an obscure trade fair, with information about USB and HDMI specifications, for example. But a few innovative--or just plain quirky -- products emerged. Click to see the highlights.
(Even if you can't see it)
Also in today's links, using geo-tags to reverse map the world, uncovering a lake hidden under a city and more.
Earth is far from the center of the universe
There is no denying we humans are obsessed with real estate. We always like to think we've landed ourselves a prime piece of land to settle on, and that outlook extends past your home, vacation home, and country and all the way out to the Earth itself.
A newly discovered galaxy turned out 4,000 stars a year, contradicting a long standing theory
Baby Boomer: The Baby Boom galaxy churned out stars at a never-before-seen-rate. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Subaru
Considering the birth rate, astronomers might have named this the Rabbit Galaxy. According to a new paper in today’s issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters
, researchers have discovered a galaxy that birthed stars 400 times faster than our Milky Way, overturning previously held ideas about the formation of giant galaxies
Astronomers solve a mystery surrounding a too-large star
The enormous star WOH G64 just got a serious weight reduction. The star is almost 2,000 times as large as our Sun, and it hangs out in the Large Magellanic Cloud, some 163,000 light years away from us. Until recently, scientists thought the mass of WOH G64 was 40 times that of the Sun. But that figure didn't make sense, since the star seemed to be way too cold for something packing that much matter.
Asteroid 2008HJ is the fastest-rotating natural object in our solar system
Asteroid 2008HJ is not only a "superfast rotator," it's the fastest of the superfast. According to the British amateur astronomer Richard Miles, who clocked the asteroid using the remotely operated Faulkes Telescope South, 2008HJ makes a full rotation every 42.67 seconds—almost twice as fast as the previous record holder.
Scientists find an exotic cosmic object that doesn't fit the standard explanations
Astronomers using the Arecibo telescope have discovered a fast-rotating pulsar that doesn't fit the accepted notions of how those exotic, lighthouse-like stellar objects form. Pulsars get their name from the brief beams of light they shoot our way every few milliseconds or more.
The detection of hydroxyl could help scientists learn more about the planet's strange atmosphere
ESA's Venus Express spacecraft has picked up evidence that the molecule hydroxyl is lurking in the dense atmosphere of the hot planet.
The molecule is considered to be a crucial component of any planetary atmosphere because it is highly reactive - scientists say it combats pollutants in Earth's atmosphere, and may prevent carbon dioxide from transforming into carbon monoxide above Mars.
Microsoft Research develops free, Web-based software for exploring and learning more about the universe
After much anticipation, Microsoft Research today released a new, free online tool designed to open up the world of astronomy to the masses. Microsoft describes the WorldWide Telescope as a "Web 2.0 Visualization Software Environment" - but don't worry, the tool is easier to use than it is to define.
A laser with amazing properties may help astronomers fine-tune planet hunting tools
Scientists have shown off a new laser that boasts an incomparable mix of speed, short pulses and power. That's newsworthy in and of itself, but this laser, developed by researchers at the University of Konstanz in Germany and, here in the U.S., at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, could also lead to a 100-fold increase in the sensitivity of observatories searching for extrasolar planets. The laser itself is the size of a dime, and pops out 10 billion pulses per second with an average power of 650 milliwatts.
A sensitive, space-based X-ray observatory focuses between galaxies at low-density gas
Granted, it might not seem like such a big deal when astronomers find some of the missing mass in the universe, since there's very little that isn't missing. Roughly 95 percent of the cosmos is either dark matter or dark energy. About five percent of the universe is made up of the normal mass we're familiar with—baryonic matter. Yet by adding up the known stars and galaxies and gas, astronomers have only accounted for about half of that five percent.
Did a German teenager find a glitch in NASA's asteroid collision estimates?
A German newspaper reported last week that 13-year-old Nico Marquardt corrected a few glitches in NASA's estimates regarding the chances of a certain asteroid colliding with Earth. NASA concluded that the Apophis space rock has only a 1 in 45,000 chance of knocking into us, but this school-kid announced that the space agency had missed a few zeros, suggesting that the probability is closer to 1 in 450. And while quite a few news reports backed him up, even claiming that NASA agreed Marquardt was correct, the space agency is sticking to its estimates.
Scientists find two gas giants orbiting a star, and with it up the chances of our discovering another Earth
Less than fifteen years ago, the concept of an extrasolar planet orbiting a star much like our own was only a theory. Since that time, we've discovered nearly 300 extrasolar planets in all, but have consistently failed to find systems which orbit around stars resembling the sun. Today, the BBC is reporting on a find by astronomers from St. Andrews University of two gas giants on par with Saturn and Jupiter in orbit around a star half the size of our sun. While the finding is not a direct link to a system similar to ours, it does present an increased likelihood that our system is not unique.
Scientists confirm that the most energetic particles in the universe originate far from our cosmic neighborhood
Ultra-high-energy cosmic rays carry more energy than any known particles in the universe, so we should probably all take it as good news that scientists have confirmed that they don't originate in our cosmic neighborhood. In fact, the majority of these rays—which are mostly hydrogen and helium—lose most of their juice on their way towards Earth because they interact with the cosmic microwave background radiation, the energetic leftover of the Big Bang.