2014 Paris Motor Show highlights

Telescope

The Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) (Image: Courtesy TMT Observatory Corporation)

The world’s largest optical telescope got the go ahead last Friday when the Hawaiian Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) granted a building and operating permit for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) to be sited on a plateau of Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii. The next-generation telescope, which uses a 30-meter (98 ft) segmented mirror promises to capture images from the near-ultraviolet to the mid-infrared wavelengths with unprecedented clarity.  Read More

Project 1640 image of the four exoplanets orbiting HR 8977. The image has been enhanced fo...

While the number of exoplanets so far identified is steadily marching towards the 1000 mark, fewer than twenty have been discovered in the course of direct observation by astronomical telescopes. Four of them (HR 8977 b,c,d,and e) circle an unprepossessing A5 star called HR 8977, which lies about 130 light-years distant from Earth. Thanks to the little-known astrophysics research arm of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), we now have the ability to examine the makeup of their atmospheres by taking simultaneous spectrographs of all four planets.  Read More

The ESA's Planck space telescope has revealed a detailed image showing the 'afterglow' of ...

A new image acquired by the European Space Agency's (ESA) Planck space telescope provides an unprecedented view of the oldest light in the Universe. The image represents the most detailed mapping of cosmic microwave background (CMB) ever created and both solidifies and questions our current understanding of the Universe.  Read More

Astronomers have used the Herschel space observatory to detect a group of fledgling stars ...

Observations made by the Herschel space observatory have revealed 15 protostars in the constellation Orion, the biggest star formation area near our own solar system. The observatory was the first telescope to reveal the grouping, with previous studies of the area missing the stars which are thought to be some of the youngest and coldest in the constellation. The discovery is a significant step in furthering our understanding of how stars form.  Read More

An aerial view of the Chajnantor Plateau, home to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimet...

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

A look at some of the ESO's best images of 2013

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

Comet West (C/1975 V1) as seen on March 9, 1976 (Photo: NASA)

The first comet discovered this year, Comet C/2013 A1, is currently projected to pass within about 23,000 miles (37,000 km) of the surface of Mars late in 2014. While this event in itself promises spectacular views for astronomers, the uncertainty of the comet's orbit includes a significant chance of an impact on Mars. If this happens, the impact would be hundreds of times more powerful than the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs on Earth.  Read More

An artist's impression of the gas giant planet thought to be forming in the orbit of young...

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

Chris Lewicki and the Arkyd-100 prototype

Last year, we took an in-depth look at Planetary Resources’ asteroid mining plans. Now the Bellevue, Washington-based company has revealed a full-scale prototype of its Arkyd-100 Low Earth Orbit spacecraft that will search for promising mining candidates. In a video update, Planetary Resources President and “Chief Asteroid Miner,” Chris Lewicki gave a tour of the 11 kilogram (24.2 lb) spacecraft’s features and outlined the company’s immediate goals.  Read More

An asteroid passing close to Earth next month will provide stargazers with a rare viewing ...

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

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