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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
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
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
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
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
As the US prepares for 4th of July fireworks here on Earth, a nearby spiral galaxy similar to our Milky Way is putting on a pyrotechnics display of its own. The galaxy, NGC 4258 (also known as Messier 106 or M 106), is ejecting gas and high-energy particles in a spectacular display of power that is rippling across the face of the galaxy with shock waves of stellar energy. Read More
In preparation for the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope project set to start construction in 2018, the CSIRO’s recently unveiled Australia SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope array has been used to demonstrate and prove the technology involved. With the images it has captured so far, it has also shown its ability to operate as a fully-fledged radio telescope in its own right. Read More
Magnetars are extremely dense and highly magnetic neutron stars that can form when a star goes supernova. They are extremely rare, and until now, it has been difficult to determine how and why they form. However, thanks to new data collected by the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile, astronomers believe they have finally solved the great mystery. Read More
Carl Sagan once said, “We are made of starstuff.” Unfortunately, he was a bit vague about what this starstuff actually is. To help answer that question, scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California have developed a way of recreating the dust and gas found around dying red giant stars that eventually become planet-forming interstellar dust. Read More
As you might expect, the scale and complexities of the underlying physics means creating a realistic virtual universe would require some hefty computing power. A team of astronomers is claiming to have achieved this impressive feat using a computer simulation called "Illustris," which took five years to program and, for the first time, can recreate the evolution of the Universe in high fidelity. Read More