Of all the ways planets can die--consumed by their host stars, for instance, or obliterated by a collision with another planet or asteroid--evaporation isn’t one that had crossed many astronomer’s minds. But data from the exoplanet-hunting Kepler observatory has revealed a nearby planet--just 1,500 light years from Earth--that appears to be evaporating before our very eyes. Over the next 100 million years, the planet will completely disintegrate.
First, it’s important to know that the big bang wasn’t an explosion of matter into empty space—it was the rapid expansion of space itself. This means that every single point in the universe appears to be at the center. Think of the universe as an empty balloon with dots on it. Those dots represent clusters of galaxies. As the balloon inflates, every dot moves farther away from every other dot.
NASA’s plane-with-a-hole-in-it has been busy making infrared astronomy observations, and just captured a quiet, sad sight — the feeble last pulsations of a dying star. Astronomers say the images paint the most complete picture yet of how stellar material is recycled and reborn.
When light from an exploding star in the Large Magellanic Cloud reached Earth in 1987, it was the closest supernova explosion astronomers had witnessed in centuries. Now Supernova 1987a is making history again, this time as the youngest supernova remnant that can be seen from Earth.
Astronomers just spotted a brand-new supernova mere hours after it exploded, thanks to a robotic telescope and some smart computer algorithms. Now they’re scrambling to use as many telescopes as possible, on Earth and in space, to observe the star’s death throes.
Using NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer telescope, astronomers have finally spotted a collection of ultra-cool brown dwarfs they have been hunting for more than a decade. These tepid almost-star orbs are nearly impossible to see with a normal telescope, but WISE’s infrared vision was able to pick them out.
Before you can peer back in time 13.2 billion years, your telescope needs to be calibrated correctly, so you can be sure objects in your mirror are really as bright (and therefore as distant) as they appear. Astronomers have a few tricks to help them do this, including using light bulbs and distant stars. Now one astronomer has a simple calibration solution: put a light bulb in space.
By Katie Peek
Posted 12.01.2010 at 3:06 pm 8 Comments
In a paper published today in the journal Nature, astronomers from Yale and Harvard universities have found evidence for a bunch of small red dwarf stars in eight nearby galaxies. The result affects astronomers’ pictures of how stars form, how galaxies evolve, and perhaps even how much dark matter is out there.
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.
This spooky image of a tiny nebula known as IRAS 05437+2502 was recently released by the Hubble Space Telescope, but perhaps even more eerie than the wispy, ghost-like appearance of the little-studied star forming region is the boomerang-like light crowning the nebula. Though the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) first discovered the nebula in 1983, astronomers have no clue what is lighting up this glowing object.
By Jason Zigelbaum
Posted 08.11.2010 at 12:45 pm 2 Comments
The ESO’s VISTA telescope has released a magnificent picture of the Tarantula Nebula in our neighboring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud. The image was taken at the start of VISTA’s Magellanic Cloud survey, covering 184 square degrees of sky (about a thousand times the visible surface area of the moon).
The survey will provide a detailed study of star formation and three-dimensional geometry of our nearby galaxies in the Magellanic system.
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.