It's not easy to make big balls of hot gas. For starters, you need energy, and a lot of it. The kind of energy that can spread hot gas to a distance of over 25,000 light-years doesn't come easily to a typical galaxy. However, the peculiar orientation of the Fermi Bubbles -- extending evenly above and below our galactic center -- is a strong clue that they might be tied our central supermassive black hole, known as Sagittarius A*.
NASA and the European Space Agency unveiled the new Saturn portrait today (Sept. 12). The image was taken on June 20 by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 as Saturn was about 845 million miles (1.36 billion kilometers) away. It's the second in a series of annual photos for the Outer Planets Legacy project by scientists studying the gas giant planets of our solar system.
At first, it was just another bright, fuzzy speck in the sky. But it may turn out to be something much more exciting: the second known object to hurtle through our solar system after leaving another system. Astronomers will need a lot more observations before they can be confident giving the comet that title, but early data about the object seems promising.
About 110 light years away is a planet twice Earth’s size with water vapour in its atmosphere, and it may be the best place to look for alien life that we have yet seen. The detection of water there marks the first time astronomers have characterised the atmosphere of a planet of this size.
After 12 years of delays and cost overruns, the $9.7 billion successor to the Hubble Space Telescope -- the James Webb Space Telescope -- has finally been fully assembled. The two halves that make up the next-generation space telescope have been brought together by NASA engineers for the very first time, something which took many years and countless hours of planning to achieve.
Thirty years ago, NASA's Voyager 2 mission flew by Neptune, capturing the first close-up images of the blue gas giant. Before this, the eighth planet in our solar system was only known as a fuzzy dot in the distance. And the end of Voyager 2's planetary tour on August 25, 1989, concluded with a dazzling display of Neptune and it's moon, Triton. The images and scientific data returned by Voyager 2 would change our understanding of the solar system.
The Milky Way galaxy is enormous, and we’ve scanned only the tiniest fraction of it in search of planets. We’ve spotted a few thousand of them orbiting distant stars, and now a team of researchers from Penn State University has used that data to estimate the number of Earth-like exoplanets in the entire galaxy -- they peg that number between 5 and 10 billion. That’s a lot of places to look for alien life.
The conventional wisdom is that if you want to look at more distant objects in the universe, you need a bigger telescope. What if you didn’t have to build one, though? A new analysis claims it may be possible to use the Earth’s atmosphere as a giant lens to observe far-away stars and galaxies on the cheap. The process may even work in reverse to send signals to distant locales.
The Hubble Space Telescope has been silently hovering above Earth for over 25 years, but it’s still returning spectacular images of the cosmos. That’s an amazing technological achievement. But it wasn’t always a smooth ride.
The GMT is taking shape on a mountaintop in the Chilean Andes. The telescope will feature seven primary mirrors, which together will create a light-collecting surface 80 feet (24.5 m) wide. The powerful scope will allow astronomers to investigate some of the cosmos' deepest mysteries -- the nature of dark matter and dark energy, for example, and whether Earth life is alone in the universe.