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Astronomy

Even before the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) was inaugurated this week, it was already rewriting history with its observations showing that a stellar baby boom took place much earlier than previously thought. But the pre-inauguration announcement isn’t a reflection that the ALMA team didn’t get to enjoy the official ceremony – like the first images released in 2011, the observations were taken while ALMA was still under construction. Read More
In a day when we have examined astronomical objects shining forth from a time shortly after the Big Bang, one would think astronomers have a pretty good handle on what is in the immediate vicinity of the Solar System. That's why the recent report of a binary star lying only 6.5 light-years away came as rather a surprise to the astronomical community. The pair, called WISE J1049-5319 A and B, are brown dwarf stars and only two star systems – the triple star Alpha Centauri, and Barnard's Star – lie closer to our Sun. Read More
Despite being only a couple of months into the year, the various telescopes of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have already provided some truly breathtaking sights. From dusty stellar nurseries to giant star clusters, here's a look at the best ESO images of 2013 so far. Read More
The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) has been used to observe what is thought to be the formation of a gas giant similar to Jupiter. The candidate planet resides within a disk of dust and gas surrounding the young star HD 100546, located 335 light-years away. Read More
At the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India this morning (Feb. 25), the smallest astronomical satellite ever built was launched into orbit aboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle C20 rocket. In fact, it wasn’t just one satellite, but two – each of the twin BRIght Target Explorer (BRITE) spacecraft take the form of a cube that measures just 20 cm (7.8 inches) per side, and weighs in at under seven kilograms (15.4 lbs). Read More
The study of data collected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has revealed that cosmic rays, some of the fastest traveling particles in the universe, are produced by supernovae. A separate study by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has made similar findings, largely corroborating the Fermi results. Read More
Owners of small telescopes, rejoice! For that matter, on the night of January 21 everyone else can also enjoy the sight of Jupiter and the Moon at nearly the same position on the celestial sphere. Here's our advice on how best to observe this – the closest approach of the Moon and Jupiter until 2026. Read More
It is dangerous to bet against Einstein. Cosmological research shows that the rate at which the Universe expands is increasing, rather than decreasing as was previously thought. The concept of "dark energy" with a negative pressure was introduced to describe this acceleration. Now measurements of the proton to electron mass ratio (PEMR) over the past seven billion years strongly suggest that the models of dark energy are far more contrived in explaining accelerating expansion than is Einstein's self-proclaimed "biggest blunder" – the cosmological constant. Read More
Asteroid 2012 DA14 is about 40 meters (131 ft) in size, has a mass of 130,000 tons, is traveling relative to the Earth at a speed of some 6.3 km/s (14,100 mph) ... and will miss us by less than 32,000 km (20,000 miles) on February 15. If it did hit the Earth, the result would be a huge explosion yielding about 2.5 megatons, but Asteroid 2012 DA14 will not hit our planet in 2013, and probably never will. Despite the lack of a sensational scenario, this close call still warrants our attention – it will allow astronomers to learn a good deal about asteroids, and represents one of the few chances for ordinary folks to see a asteroid pass really close to Earth. Read More
A new study has led to the classification of NGC 6872 as the largest known spiral galaxy. The galaxy measures some 522,000 light-years across and resides 212 million light-years from earth. The stellar system exists in close proximity to the small disk galaxy IC 4970, which is thought to have recently collided with the larger system. Read More
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