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Astronomy

The discovery of a complex organic molecule in space suggests the origins of life can be f...

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) group of radio telescopes have discovered a carbon-based molecule with a branched structure – a common feature in molecules that are required for life to form. Contained within a giant gas cloud in the star-forming region of Sagittarius B2, the molecule of isopropyl cyanide is the first hint that other complex molecules may form in space before finding their way to the surface of planets.  Read More

Artists impression of M60-UCD1 – a dwarf galaxy with a supermassive black hole at its cent...

Astronomers from the University of Utah, using the Gemini North telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea and images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, have discovered a dwarf galaxy that is the smallest ever recorded with a supermassive black hole at its center. The galaxy, M60-UCD1, has been found to contain a black hole with a mass equivalent to 21 million times that of our own sun and whose presence may suggest that such enormous black holes could be more common than previously thought.  Read More

A star accompanying a supernova in close orbit has been discovered using NASA's Hubble Spa...

A star accompanying a rare type of supernova in close orbit has been discovered by astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Confirming a long-held theory that the explosion originated in a binary star arrangement, observations verify that the companion star precipitated the destruction of the aging primary star by drawing off mass until its core collapsed and triggered a supernova event.  Read More

The Laniakea Supercluster, to which our Milky Way belongs, shown in the supergalactic equa...

A new study has revealed that our Milky Way is a member of a group of local galaxies interconnected within a larger supercluster made up of a myriad of other galaxies, all interlinked within a tenuous web of filaments many millions of light years long. Dubbed "Laniakea" (Hawaiian for "immense sky") by astronomers working at the National Science Foundation’s (NSF's) Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and others around the world, this research defines hitherto unknown boundaries and connections in our corner of the universe.  Read More

Jupiter and her volcanic moon, Io (Image: NASA/JHU/APL)

A series of three massive volcanic eruptions detected on the surface of Jupiter's moon Io in August last year, has the potential to yield insights into the formation process of the surface of Earth-like planets. By any standards, these eruptions were enormous, characterized as titanic curtains of lava issuing forth from fissures several miles in length, that spewed massive amounts of material high above the moon's surface.  Read More

Scientists suggest looking for industrial pollution as a new way of searching for extrater...

According to researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), we might soon be able to detect hints of technologically advanced alien civilizations by measuring high levels of polluting gases in the atmospheres of distant exoplanets. The approach should become viable soon after the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is launched in late 2018.  Read More

Four new images have been released to mark the 15th anniversary of the launch of the Chand...

Today is the 15th anniversary of the launch of the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Chandra is one of NASA's "Great Observatories," along with the Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope. Since its launch, its x-ray vision and high sensitivity have helped us to better understand the universe.  Read More

The 3D model shows the Homunculus Nebula surrounding Eta Carinae (Image: NASA Goddard (ins...

Using a 3D printer to make key fobs and automatic pistols is old hat. The latest thing is a 3D-printed model stellar nebulae. Using new telescopic observations, NASA has created a 3D model of the Homunculus Nebula that isn't just a string of mathematical equations, but a printable plan for a physical representation of an exploding star system. It’s intended to give astronomers a better understanding of the nature of the stars, but can also be downloaded and printed out by the public using a 3D printer.  Read More

Artist's impression of stardust forming around a supernova (Image: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

Using an instrument mounted on the European Southern Observatory's (ESO's) Very Large Telescope (VLT), scientists have been able to shed light on some of the mysteries surrounding stardust by observing the event and aftermath of a supernova. The observation was undertaken in an attempt to answer a number of questions regarding stardust, chief of which being where and how the grains are formed and grow. Another oddity that the team hoped to resolve was just how these tiny, fragile particles manage to survive the inhospitable environment that prevails following a supernova.  Read More

Researchers used sound wave readings of NGC 2264 to determine the age of stars (Photo: SIR...

One of the long-standing difficulties in astrophysics has been a way to accurately determine the age of a star. Brand new stars are obvious from their location in or near "star nurseries" of interstellar gas and dust, and "adult" stars can be roughly characterized through various methods, including a calculation based on their mass and luminosity. Unfortunately, these methods are approximations at best. Researchers at KU Leuven's Institute for Astronomy have now discovered a way to distinguish young stars from older ones by measuring the acoustic waves that they emit using ultrasound technology.  Read More

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