It almost sounds too good to be true. Twin Hubble-quality space telescopes currently collecting dust in upstate New York are getting a second chance at flight, and they could be the best thing to happen to NASA since the real Hubble’s mirrors were fixed. The unused scopes are even the same size as the beloved space telescope, and nary a civilian knew they existed until yesterday.
The European Space Agency announced its next two space science missions yesterday, and given recent events they may not come as a huge surprise. The first will orbit the sun, coming closer to the solar surface than any previous science spacecraft to measure the solar wind and its influence on the planets to an unprecedented degree.
For today's Nobel Laureates in Physics, it was pretty much a matter of when, not if. When the three winners and their teams announced back in 1998 that the universe was not only expanding, but accelerating, they shook cosmology to its core: Their findings said the universe would end not with a bang, but a whimper.
And the question of why — the mysterious force of dark energy, which accounts for about three-fourths of the mass-energy of the entire universe — is one of the greatest questions in modern science.
After a five-year study of 200,000 galaxies, scientists are more certain than ever that dark energy acts as a repulsive force, tearing the universe apart at an accelerating rate. The research confirms the idea that dark energy dominates gravity throughout the cosmos. But no one has any idea what dark energy actually is or how it works.
Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have made one of the most detailed dark matter maps ever, taking advantage of the dark matter’s own gravitational effects to bring it into the light.
The map suggests massive galaxy clusters may have formed earlier than expected, before dark energy stunted their growth, according to the Space Telescope Science Institute.
Now that scientists are done making a map of the cosmic microwave background, they can use that detailed map to find hidden treasures from the ancient universe.
Using the South Pole Telescope, they've just found a mother lode: the biggest galaxy cluster ever seen, harboring about 800 trillion suns inside hundreds of galaxies.