astronomy

April 10, 2019

We have peered into the abyss for the very first time. The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), which uses a network of telescopes around the globe to turn all of Earth into an enormous radio telescope, has taken the first direct image of a black hole.

April 02, 2019

Need a kick-start? You would be hard-pressed to find one more powerful than a supernova – a sudden explosion in which a dying star ejects most of its mass. That is what happened to the pulsar pictured here, sending it racing away from its home with a tail of particles and magnetic energy stretching behind it for 13 light years.

March 28, 2019

The $8.9 billion James Webb Space Telescope may be the last big-budget observatory that NASA launches for a while. The White House’s proposed 2020 budget cancels the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), a $3.2 billion space mission viewed as a linchpin of astrophysics research through the 2020s and beyond.

March 26, 2019

If someone asks you what planet is closest to Earth, you’ll probably blurt out Venus. That’s a perfectly normal thing to say, but it’s also wrong. Numerous websites and even NASA itself say Venus is our closest planetary neighbor. A new article in Physics Today lays out a more accurate way to determine which planets are closest together. It turns out the averages are highly counterintuitive. Mercury is the closest planet to Earth -- in fact, it’s the closest planet to every other planet.

March 07, 2019

Two new academic papers, one published in The Astronomical Journal and the other in Physics Reports, present new evidence that a large, as yet undiscovered planet is lurking in the outer solar system. Both papers coincide with the three-year anniversary of an announcement by astronomers Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin, both of Caltech, of their theory that a large, distant planet is responsible for the unique clustering of several Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) far beyond Neptune and Pluto. Specifically, these KBOs are in orbits perpendicular to the plane of the solar system.

January 24, 2019

Our image of the outer solar system in decades past was much simpler than it is today. Pluto was the ninth planet, and that was the end of it except for some scattered asteroids and comets. Now, science doesn’t consider Pluto a planet, but some believe there’s a still-undiscovered ninth planet out there tweaking the orbit of small planetoids.

January 17, 2019

Despite recent issues with one of its instruments, the Hubble Space Telescope is expected to last at least another five years. A new report suggests that the iconic spacecraft has a strong chance of enduring through the mid-2020s."Right now, all of the subsystems and the instruments have a reliability exceeding 80 percent through 2025...

January 09, 2019

What is the "dark side" of the moon? The short answer? It's a misnomer. A cool-sounding misnomer! But a misnomer. Assuming they aren't talking about the Pink Floyd album or the French mockumentary, people who say "the dark side of the moon" are almost always referring to the moon's far side--which, despite pointing permanently away from those of us planetside, actually sees as much sunlight as the side facing Earth.

December 20, 2018

Our simplistic nine-planet view of the solar system was shattered years ago when scientists learned Pluto was not unique in the outer solar system. We have since discovered more “dwarf planets,” and an international team of astronomers has just spotted the most distant such planetoid yet. The object known as “Farout” is 120 times farther from the sun than Earth, putting it far beyond the orbit of Pluto.

December 13, 2018

NASA's Parker Solar Probe has made the closest-ever approach to a star (the sun) and shared an image of the sun's atmosphere on Twitter on Wednesday. NASA's image, captured Nov. 8, shows the corona, which is the sun's outer atmosphere, when the spacecraft was just 16.9 million miles from the star.

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