Even without a telescope, it’s possible to look off the summit of Mauna Kea and see, 14,000 feet below and dozens of miles in the distance, wide swaths of rain forest touching the whitecapped Pacific. Down there, people are doing what people come to Hawaii to do: hiking to waterfalls, lying in the sand, exposing their skin to tropical solar radiation. Up here, there is no vegetation, no warmth and very little atmosphere. And as the sun sets over the parabolic aluminum dishes of the Submillimeter Array observatory, it’s time to work.
Each star in the Milky Way shines its light upon at least one companion planet, according to a new analysis that suddenly renders exoplanets commonplace, the rule rather than the exception. This means there are billions of worlds just in our corner of the cosmos. This is a major shift from just a few years ago, when many scientists thought planets were tricky to make, and therefore special things. Now we know they’re more common than stars themselves.
“Planets are like bunnies; you don’t just get one, you get a bunch,” said Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI Institute who was not involved in this research.
Today in pretty space pics: the Milky Way, viewed from the Cook Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean on a clear summer night. Snapped by skywatcher Tunc Tezel on the second largest Cook Island of Mangaia, the image was chosen as a winner of the National Maritime Museum’s Astrophotographer of the Year 2011 contest.
The center of the Milky Way is hard to see in visible light, because interstellar dust blocks our view. But the Spitzer Space Telescope’s infrared vision can penetrate the dust and see through to our galaxy’s jam-packed core.
This is a newly updated version of the plane of the Milky Way captured by the Spitzer telescope. NASA says the area shown here is immense: Horizontally, it spans 2,400 light years, or 5.3 degrees of the sky, and vertically it covers 1,360 light years, or 3 degrees.
Dust may help astronomers understand the formation of stars and planets
By Katie Peek
Posted 10.11.2010 at 10:11 am 1 Comment
Riding in a car through space, if you were to hang your white-gloved hand out the window, it would come back dirty. The space between the Milky Way’s stars is filled with gas and dust—lots of dust.
This summer, the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite produced a high-resolution dust map. The ultimate goal of the project is to map the cosmic microwave background, the electromagnetic leftovers of the universe’s violent beginning.
The more we learn, the more we realize we don't know. Radio astronomers at the University of Manchester in the UK have discovered a baffling new object in a nearby galaxy that's unlike anything we've ever seen in the Milky Way. It could be the first-ever detection of a micro-quasar, or a young supernova, or even an offshoot of the massive black hole that is believed to anchor M82. But the nature of the object has rendered each of those theories somewhat unlikely, leaving researchers casting about for answers.
NASA today released a new, panoramic mosaic of the Milky Way, and frankly, it rivals anything snapped during the Hubble's early days. Taken by the Chandra X-ray space telescope, the picture shows the massive energy released by neutron stars and black holes more vividly than any previous picture.
Japanese scientists propose that the giant black hole at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy may be in a rest period
By Gregory Mone
Posted 04.16.2008 at 8:11 am 6 Comments
It packs 4 million times more material than our sun, but relative to the black holes sitting at the center of some neighboring galaxies, it actually doesn't do all that much. The fact that this black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, kicks out billions of times less energy than others of its kind has made it something of a mystery. But now a team of scientists at Kyoto University suggests that Sagittarius A* may be resting after a far more active period a few centuries ago.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.