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Astronomy

Zoomed-in image of barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365, around 60 million light years from Earth...

The Dark Energy Camera (DEC) has captured an initial batch of images as part of an ongoing quest to afford scientists with a better understanding of dark energy. The images were taken by the 570-megapixel behemoth from its location within the Chilean Andes on September 12 while undergoing a series of tests. Scientists hope it may soon help answer one of the biggest mysteries in physics: why the expansion of the universe is speeding up.  Read More

View of a cluster of galaxies spread along a dark matter filament (Photo: SDSS-III)

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) is little known to the public, but represents one of the most-challenging efforts in observational cosmology ever attempted. The most recent phase, SDSS-III, began in 2008 and includes the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), a part of SDSS-III aimed at mapping the cosmos. Its goal is to map the physical locations of all major galaxies back to seven billion years ago, and bright quasars back to 12 billion years ago – two billion years after the Big Bang. This is being done so we can gain a better understanding of dark matter and energy, and hopefully encounter a few surprises.  Read More

Scientists destroy simulated Earths to better understand exoplanets, such as Earth-like pl...

Unlike in old B movies, real scientists don’t scream “Fools! I’ll destroy them all!” before throwing the switch on their doomsday device. At least, most of the them don’t. However, the August 10 issue of the Astrophysical Journal reports that a team of scientists are working on destroying the world - not once, but repeatedly. Fortunately, the world they’re destroying exists only in a computer simulation and its destruction is in the service of learning more about planets revolving around other stars.  Read More

Located in the Elqui Valley in Chile, Elqui Domos is one of the few astronomical hotels in...

Located in the Elqui Valley in Chile’s Norte Chico region, Elqui Domos is one of the few astronomical hotels in the world. The area is renowned for its sparkling clear skies and Elqui Domos takes advantage of this by offering lodgings in a series of geodesic domes with elevated loft beds and open rooftops as well as recently added wooden cabins designed with star-gazing in mind.  Read More

3.75 billion years from now - the nighttime sky showing the Andromeda galaxy (M31) early i...

When Galaxies Collide! It sounds like an early science fiction novel. However, analysis of Hubble measurements shows that our own Milky Way galaxy is moving toward a head-on collision with our nearest neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy (also known as M31). The collision will start in about four billion years, and over the following three billion years the two spiral galaxies will coalesce into a large elliptical galaxy. Based on this data, NASA has produced a video of the upcoming collision.  Read More

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) will be shared between Australia and South Africa (Image:...

After a tense few months that has had many in Australia and South Africa anxiously awaiting word on whether their particular site will be chosen to host the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope, the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Organisation has finally made its decision. And it’s good news for both bids – or bad news, if you’re the glass half empty sort - with the organization opting for a dual-site solution that will see the SKA telescope shared between Australia and South Africa.  Read More

The departing Space Shuttle Atlantis captured this image of the Hubble Space Telescope dur...

From Earth's perspective, on June 5 and 6, Venus will pass across the face of the Sun. By observing the tiny fraction of sunlight that passes through Venus's atmosphere using the Hubble Space Telescope, it is hoped that the planet's atmospheric makeup can be determined. Though we already know the nature of Venus's atmosphere, it is hoped the event will help astronomers hone techniques, already in use, that may one day help to identify Earth-like planets in far-away solar systems. The catch? Hubble cannot observe the Sun directly. Instead it will look at the Moon to observe reflected light.  Read More

A cut-away view of the LSST camera, with a person for scale

Although the pixel count for consumer cameras continues to rise, they will all pale in comparison to the 3,200-megapixel Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) camera. Although the enormous astronomical camera has yet to be built, last week the U.S. Department of Energy gave its approval for the project to proceed to the next phase of development. This means that a detailed engineering design can begin, along with a production schedule and budget. If everything goes according to plan, construction on what will be the world’s largest digital camera should begin in 2014.  Read More

Astrobotic Technology has received a NASA contract to determine if its Polaris rover robot...

While the Moon may or may not contain life forms, precious metals or even green cheese, recent satellite missions have indicated that it does nonetheless contain something that could prove quite valuable – water ice. NASA has estimated that at least 650 million tons (600 million tonnes) of the stuff could be deposited in craters near the Moon’s north pole alone. If mined, it could conceivably serve as a source of life support for future lunar bases, or it could be used to produce fuel for spacecraft stopping at a “lunar gas station.” Before any mining can happen, however, we need to learn more about the ice. That’s why NASA has contracted Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology to determine if its Polaris rover robot could be used for ice prospecting.  Read More

The Remote Mars Yard project would allow internet users to control a physical Mars rover r...

It’s fairly safe to say that almost no one reading this article has ever or will ever operate a Mars rover. If a project being spearheaded by two Polish space enthusiasts gets the funding it needs, however, a lot of people may get to do the next-best thing ... they could remotely operate an actual physical replica rover – via the internet – located in a large room that’s been made up to look like the surface of Mars. That’s the idea behind the Remote Mars Yard project, or ReMY.  Read More

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