Astronomers have long known that when binary star systems wander too close to a supermassive black hole under the right conditions, they can be torn apart in such a way that one star is pulled into orbit around the black hole and the other is violently ejected outward, sending it speeding out of the galaxy and into interstellar space. Now it turns out individual planets can suffer a similar fate--and when they do, they can do so at up to 30 million miles per hour, making them some of the fastest-moving objects in our galaxy.
NASA's Messenger spacecraft entered orbit around Mercury one year ago this week, and the spacecraft has been hard at work. It has captured nearly 100,000 images, mapped Mercury's gravity field, and taken sensitive altimetry measurements that are shedding light on the planet's surface features like never before.
The Near Space Corporation, which has won contracts from NASA in the past, announced this week that it'll be building a commercial high-altitude (still suborbital) balloon flight facility, the first of its kind in this country.
Over at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), which is associated with Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, a new study indicates that not only are there many so-called "nomad planets" in our galaxy, but that there may be tens of thousands of them, drifting through the Milky Way unattached to a star or your buttoned-up corporate way of life.
Space researchers uses deserts, valleys, and freezing lakes to test equipment and simulate procedures on space missions. Here's where they put future exploration to the test - without leaving our planet
By Katharine GammonPosted 02.24.2012 at 12:40 pm 5 Comments
To get into space, we have to practice at home. That's the idea behind NASA's Earth Analogs program, which tests people, ideas and technology at a variety of inhospitable places around the world. Finding places on Earth with physical similarities to space sites isn't easy - but the space agency has located desert, volcanic, arctic, lake and ocean locations for testing all manner of things.
The hits just keep on coming out of Austin this week as the 219th meeting of the American Astronomical Society rolls on. Researchers there have announced the discovery of the first Saturn-like ringed object outside our solar system, documented when researchers were trying to diagnose the cause of a strange eclipsing effect emanating from a nearby star.
Two more little Earth-sized planets have been discovered orbiting a distant star, astronomers said Wednesday, and their bizarre baked death may foreshadow the destiny of our own solar system. The publication comes a day after the announcement of the first Earth-sized planets ever confirmed outside our solar system. Already firmly in the exoplanet age, we're apparently entering an era of exo-Earths, full of small worlds with a past and a future very much like our own.
Nestled in the Goldilocks zone of a small, sun-like star is a room-temperature world a little more than twice the size of Earth. Scientists do not yet know if it is rocky or gaseous and whether it has water or clouds, but they do know that it's the right size, and in the right place, for liquid water to exist. If it does exist, it may be one of the best places to look for life outside of our solar system.
The new planet, Kepler-22, is about 600 light-years away and the smallest planet confirmed to exist smack in the middle of the habitable zone of a sun-like star. It's one of the most stunning announcements from the Kepler Space Telescope, which stares at a field of stars in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra and looks for blips in brightness to find other planets. While Kepler has (as of today) found more than 2,000 possible planets, finding an Earth-like world in a sun-like environment has proved elusive — until now.
Pluto may not be a fully fledged planet, but at least it’s not the dwarfiest of dwarf planets. Its sibling, Eris, is not as large as astronomers thought, according to a new study. A rare stellar blockage event last year helped astronomers obtain some new measurements of the distant icy world, and they say it is quite dense and it may develop a feeble atmosphere as it moves closer to the sun.
Astronomers have captured the first direct image of a newly forming planet orbiting around its star, using mirrors to blot out the star's blinding light. The LkCa 15 system contains a hot, coalescing world sitting in a gap between the star and an outer disk of dust, exactly in accord with most theories of how planets are born.