For all our talk on "the future now," there is one future we'd prefer to delay for the next five billion years, and that's the inevitability of our planet's destruction. Mankind's speculated on the end of the world for thousands of years, but it wasn't until recent centuries that people began attaching scientific possibilities to doomsday scenarios, instead of blaming the gods for our demise.
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 2-million-mile-per-hour collision in a galaxy cluster 54 million light years away has left us with this amazing image captured by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) observatory. But aside from being cosmically stunning, the collision and ongoing observations of the star-spangled tail it produced should give astronomers a better grasp of the mechanisms behind star formation.
ESA's Herschel space observatory is about to celebrate its first anniversary in space, and in anticipation the European Space Agency has given all of us a little gift. This colorful image of a giant bubble of gas and dust named RCW 120 was spotted by Herschel's infrared sensors, but it's not just the aesthetic aspect that's exciting. The small white bright spot at the bottom fringe of the cloud is a young massive star still in formation, and it could provide us with unique insights into exactly how massive stars come to be. The image was presented this week at the Herschel First Results Symposium in the Netherlands.
Results from the largest and most ambitious survey of the cosmos ever undertaken by the Hubble Space Telescope are in, and the findings are commensurately big, suggesting dark energy is indeed real, and the general theory of relativity holds up even under larger intergalactic scrutiny.
Using a little astrophysical magic and the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment Telescope in northern Chile, astronomers at Durham University in England captured the best view yet of individual star nurseries in a galaxy a full 10 billion light-years from Earth. And all they had to do was bend a little light.
If there's one thing that's true about all science – and especially science of the cosmos – it's that the body of knowledge we consider to be fact is extremely fluid. A prescient reminder of this came late last week via a paper published in the journal Nature, which found that contrary to popular theory, there is indeed more than one way for a white dwarf to die.
The standard explanation for the formation of our moon holds that during the formation of our solar system, a giant object smashed into the infant Earth, knocking loose a huge chunk of our planet that became our orbiting satellite. But the problem with easy explanations is that the science doesn't always reconcile with the theory.