How big is the universe anyhow? We know the universe is roughly 4 billion years old and we know how far light travels in a year, so ostensibly it would seem the visible universe is contained to a radius of 14 billion light years. But we know that photons in the cosmic microwave background have traveled some 45 billion light years to reach earth (because the universe is also expanding the most distant visible objects are actually further than 14 billion light years), giving the universe an apparent diameter of at least 90 billion light years.
So how big is it really? A new mathematical analysis says its at least 250 times larger than the visible universe. Which is really, really big.
Before you can peer back in time 13.2 billion years, your telescope needs to be calibrated correctly, so you can be sure objects in your mirror are really as bright (and therefore as distant) as they appear. Astronomers have a few tricks to help them do this, including using light bulbs and distant stars. Now one astronomer has a simple calibration solution: put a light bulb in space.
While the astronomical community anxiously awaits the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the Hubble Space Telescope keeps reminding us just how remarkable of an instrument it really is. Astronomers studying ultra-deep imagery from Hubble have located what could be the most distant galaxy ever glimpsed some 13.2 billion light years away—so far away that the galaxy appears as it did when the universe was just 480 million years old.
Few things have inspired as much mythology and mystique as the moon. We've credited it with triggering madness, housing deities and rousing werewolves. Even after the age of Enlightenment, astronomers hyped up the moon so much, that the more we found out about it, the more unglamorous it became. By the time Popular Science came around, most astronomers were fairly certain that the moon was dead. In fact, by 1887, we declared the moon a "frozen and dried-up globe, a mere planetary skeleton, that could no more support life than the Humboldt glacier could grow roses."
A universal heavyweight champion was crowned this morning at the 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle: A giant black hole weighing a staggering 6.6 billion suns accepted the title of the most massive black hole for which a precise mass has been determined.
After more than a decade of scanning the skies with a 138-megapixel camera mounted on an 8-foot telescope, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) has delivered the largest and most detailed image of the sky ever – an image so detailed and large that it would take half a million high-definition televisions to take it all in at full resolution. And that's just one-third of the sky.
A tiny world of molten rock, orbiting scorchingly close to its host star, is the smallest planet ever discovered outside our solar system, NASA announced today. And it's likely only the first in a parade of planet discoveries to be announced this spring by the Kepler Space Telescope team.
Here’s a good argument for letting your kids stay up late: A 10-year-old Canadian girl discovered a supernova over the weekend, the youngest person ever to do so.
Kathryn Aurora Gray of Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick, made the discovery under the supervision of two other amateur astronomers, according to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.