From the outside, galaxies appear as a mass of stars orbiting a dense center. But inside, they are more complex, with some groups of stars moving at different speeds or directions, in part because they originated from separate galaxies that collided billions of years ago. To untangle these disparate components of the Milky Way, the European Space Agency plans to launch Gaia in October.
Water, oxygen and now sugar molecules have been found floating around in space, in the right place and at the right moment to wind up on newly forming planets. Astronomers have found sugar molecules around a star for the first time, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.
Astronomers have glimpsed the first evidence of a dying star devouring one of its planets, a fate that may await the inner planets -- including Earth -- in our own solar system. The star in the new study swallowed its planet as it mushroomed into a red giant.
After 50 years of research, we've discovered a strange, beautiful fact about our Sun: it's more perfectly round than anything else in the natural world. It's not the roundest in a certain category; it's just the roundest sphere there is. If it were a beach ball, The Guardian writes, it would be a hair's width away from complete perfection.
Stars are responsible for forging every heavy element in the universe when they fuse hydrogen and when they explode at the ends of their lives. But they also create a strange third type of chemical bond between atoms, caused by their incredible magnetic fields. This previously unknown type of bond could lead to new research in quantum science, perhaps even quantum computing.
First, the bad news: In four billion years it's going to get a lot more crowded around here. The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are on a collision course. The good news is that a new video from NASA shows how it'll go down.
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.