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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
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
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
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
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
Data from NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) aboard the Indian Chandrayaan-1 probe has shown that there is water locked in mineral grains on the surface on our satellite's surface. Scientists had previously thought that small amounts of moisture were being generated by solar wind and other factors, but the latest findings are strong evidence that the Moon contains large quantities of its own "magmatic water" from deep within its core. Read More
Astronomers have developed a new visible-light adaptive optics (AO) system for the 6.5 meter diameter Magellan-Clay telescope in Chile's Atacama desert. The new AO system replaces the secondary mirror of the telescope with a thin adaptive mirror that can be deformed by its 585 mechanical actuators at a rate of more than 1000 times a second to correct for the image smearing effects of atmospheric turbulence. The result is the sharpest astronomical images ever produced – more than twice as sharp as can be achieved by the Hubble space telescope viewing objects through the vacuum of space. Read More
Slated for completion by 2020, the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) will combine seven of the largest and most precisely built telescope mirrors, to offer image resolutions 10 times greater than Hubble at around one third of the cost. The telescope will be used to study the early universe and answer open questions on dark matter, supermassive black holes, and the nature of planets beyond our solar system. Read More
NASA announced on Monday that its Juno space probe has reached the halfway mark on its voyage to Jupiter after covering a distance of 879 million miles. This seems odd when you consider that Juno will pass just 347 miles (559 km) from Earth in October. Why both of these facts are true is due to the complex orbit that Juno is following in order to reach its destination. Read More
The Andromeda galaxy is one of the most commonly studied objects in the sky. It's just 2.5 million light years from Earth, is visible to the naked eye on a moonless night and has been imaged countless times. Japan's Subaru Telescope's Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) has provided the latest snap of the popular object, showing our neighboring galaxy in a spectacular new light. Read More