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Astronomy

The Alpha Centauri system and hypothetical planet (Image: European Southern Observatory)

Since Earth is the only known inhabited planet and we happen to live here, it’s only natural to regard it as the ideal place for life to exist, and to assume that another life-bearing planet would be fairly similar. However, that is not the opinion of scientists René Heller and John Armstrong who contend that there might be a planet even more suitable for life than Earth 4.3 light years away orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B.  Read More

The AWB OneSky is aimed at beginners (Photo: Astronomers Without Borders)

Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) is a nonprofit organization aimed at knocking down national and cultural boundaries by encouraging a common interest in astronomy. Along with their message that we all share one sky, AWB is now selling a neat little grab-n-go telescope called OneSky. The scope is perfectly suited for a quick look at the heavens from the backyard, as well as for throwing in the car before heading to darker skies. I'm reviewing this scope, and it is a prize for the price.  Read More

Artist's concept of eLISA passing through gravitational waves (Image: AEI/MM/exozet)

Mark your calendars for 2034, because that is when science is set to get a whole new spectrum to play with when the European Space Agency (ESA) launches its eLISA mission. Consisting of a constellation of three spacecraft flying in precise formation, eLISA will study gravitational waves in a manner that may one day revolutionize our understanding of the Universe.  Read More

The Universe is big, and so is the challenge of understanding its large-scale structure (P...

Our knowledge of the large-scale structure of the Universe is gradually taking shape. However, our improved vision is mostly being statistically squeezed from huge data sets. Working backward from a statistical analysis to a putative fact about the (singular) Universe, to which statistics do not apply on a cosmological scale, is a dicey business. A case in point is a recent look at the biggest known structures in the Universe – large quasar groups.  Read More

P/2013 P5 is an asteroid with six comet-like tails (Image: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt)

In the old days, astronomy was simple – comets had tails and asteroids didn’t. Now, as if to not only disprove such established views, but drive the point home, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope took images in September of an asteroid called P/2013 P5 that has not one, but six comet-like tails.  Read More

Artist's conception of exoplanet PSO J318.5-22, which was discovered floating through inte...

If you think being stuck in a strange town late at night after the last bus has gone is lonely, then give a thought for the exoplanet PSO J318.5-22. Discovered this year by astronomers at the University of Hawaii, this planet was found floating through interstellar space without a parent star and is one of the smallest free-floating objects seen outside of the Solar System.  Read More

Is dark energy needed to accelerate the expansion of the universe? (Image: Shutterstock)

Fans of Doctor Who will be very familiar with the stupefied phrase uttered by all new visitors to his Tardis: "It's...bigger...on the inside." As it turns out, this apparently irrational idea may have something to contribute to our understanding of the universe. A team of cosmologists in Finland and Poland propose that the observed acceleration of the expansion of the universe, usually explained by dark energy or modified laws of gravity, may actually be the result of regions of spacetime that are larger on the inside than they appear from the outside. The researchers have dubbed these "Tardis regions."  Read More

An artist's impression of the Milky Way galaxy showing its x-shaped core (Image: ESO)

Astronomers have used data from European Southern Observatory telescopes to create a three dimensional map of the central bulge of the Milky Way. The gigantic cloud at the center of our galaxy contains a staggering 10,000 million stars (or thereabouts) and resides around 27,000 light-years away. Despite the relative proximity of the area, prior to these new studies little had been confirmed concerning its origin and structure.  Read More

The life cycle of a Sun-like star, detailing the comparative ages of the Sun, HIP 102152 a...

Astronomers have used the ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) to observe the Sun-like star HIP 102152. The object, which resides 250 light-years away, is a solar twin exhibiting very similar attributes to our own Sun. HIP 102152 is nearly four billion years older than the Sun, a characteristic that has provided a valuable insight into the link between the age of a star and the amount of lithium it carries.  Read More

Traveled and projected route of Curiosity to Mount Sharp (Image: NASA)

NASA took the metaphorical training wheels off the Mars rover Curiosity on Tuesday, as the unmanned explorer took its first drive using autonomous navigation. It used its onboard cameras and software to select and drive over an area of ground that mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California couldn't see and vet beforehand. This capability allows the nuclear-powered rover to negotiate the most direct route to Mount Sharp rather than having to detour to find routes that can be seen directly by Curiosity before entering, so they can be analyzed by mission control.  Read More

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