Articles about astronomy

Gravitation Lensing (pic: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild and F. Summers (STScI))

James Webb Space Telescope + luck = long distance astrofun

Researchers hope that NASA's budgetary-challenged James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) may score some good fortune with a boost from galactic alignment. While European Space Agency (ESA) scientists are breathless with excitement at the volume of star survey data received from the Gaia satellite, NASA researchers are comforting …
Richard Speed, 26 Apr 2018
hale_telescope

Hello DARKNESS, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again... about a 10,000-pixel alien-hunting camera

Astronomers are building the world’s largest and most advanced superconducting camera – with the goal of snapping clearer shots of exoplanets for scientists hunting alien life. Thousands of exoplanets have been detected by telescopes in space. Instruments on probes look for the characteristic dip in light emitted from stars …
Katyanna Quach, 18 Apr 2018
TRAPPIST-1

Oh bucket! Unpack the suitcases. TRAPPIST-1 planets too wet to support life

New research published in Nature Astronomy has poured, er, cold water on hopes that it may be possible to detect life on Earth-sized planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. The planets might be just too wet. There was considerable excitement a year ago, when NASA's veteran Spitzer Space Telescope spotted seven Earth-sized planets …
Richard Speed, 21 Mar 2018
Green space alien with sombrero and drink on a sun lounger

Fermi famously asked: 'Where is everybody?' Probably dead, says renewed Drake equation

If we ever detect signals from extraterrestrial civilisations, they are likely already dead, a somewhat downbeat update to the venerable Drake equation suggests. The original equation was devised in 1961 by astrophysicist Dr Frank Drake ahead of a meeting at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia …
Richard Speed, 15 Mar 2018
Space debris field

For all we know, aliens could be as careless with space junk as us

A physicist at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias in the Canary Islands has proposed a way by which planet hunters might detect advanced alien technology. Simply look for their junk in orbit. Thousands of exoplanets have been discovered in recent years, and huge observatories such as NASA's James Webb Space Telescope ( …
Richard Speed, 8 Mar 2018
The EDGES instrument at Murchison

Deep in remote Oz, an antenna has 'heard' the oldest stars

A group of US researchers working at a remote site in north-west Australia have identified signals from the oldest stars ever observed, born roughly 180 million years after the Big Bang. The observation has also set astronomers a brand-new puzzle: the signal's too strong, and that might indicate an interaction between baryons …
Moon

Scientists change their minds, think water may be all over the Moon

Boffins at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center have announced that water on the Moon may be actually be more widespread over the surface than first thought, and less prone to moving about. The process for actually extracting this water remains unclear and will need to be resolved before thirsty astronauts are to be refreshed …
Richard Speed, 28 Feb 2018

Mass limit proposed so boffins can tell when they've fingered a brown dwarf or a fat planet

The official definition of a planet should be updated to include an upper mass limit, so scientists can agree on whether a large newly found celestial body is either a huge planet – or a tiny failed star. That's according to Kevin Schlaufman, an assistant professor of astrophysics at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, US. …
Katyanna Quach, 24 Jan 2018
Mars and the solar winds

Which distant Mars-alikes could we live on? Ask these Red Planet data-sifters

Scientists are applying knowledge gained from studying Mars to calculate how the atmospheres of theoretical exoplanets would behave. David Brain, professor at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder and co-investigator for NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) …
Richard Priday, 14 Dec 2017

How is 55 Cancri e like a Sisters of Mercy gig? Astroboffins: It has atmosphere

A new physical model has added more support to the theory that the large exoplanet 55 Cancri e has an Earthlike atmosphere. A study describing the work by researchers Isabel Angelo, of the University of California, Berkeley, and Renyu Hu, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was published Thursday in The Astronomical Journal …
Andrew Silver, 20 Nov 2017
Arecibo observatory

Arecibo spared the axe: Iconic observatory vital to science lives on

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has approved a plan to keep the famous Arecibo Observatory running after it was severely damaged by Hurricane Maria. The NSF this week signed off [PDF] on a proposal to continue funding work at the Puerto Rican radio observatory, and seek out a partner to help cover operational costs. …
Shaun Nichols, 18 Nov 2017

Rocky Ross 128 b might harbour aliens – and it's headed right for us

A new study to appear in Astronomy & Astrophysics has detected what could be our closest exoplanet that is not only rocky, but also orbits a star with a low amount of solar activity that could help an atmosphere survive – Ross 128 b. Proxima Centauri b, about 4.25 light years away from our Sun, garnered a lot of media …
Andrew Silver, 15 Nov 2017
Man and a woman share gossip/secret

Boffins: Sun's red dwarf neighbour is looking a little thick around the middle

New research suggests that a dust belt may be circling the closest star to the Sun, a red dwarf named Proxima Centauri. Guillem Anglada at the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalucía in Granada, Spain, led the work (PDF), which was accepted for publication last week in Astrophysical Journal Letters. He told The Register a belt …
Andrew Silver, 6 Nov 2017
2012 TC4 - NASA impression

NASA readies its asteroid warning system for harmless flyby

With asteroid 2012 TC4 about to pass between Earth and the moon, NASA is gearing up for its much-anticipated live test of its warning system. Back in July, the approaching rock caused a brief flurry of speculation that an impact was imminent, before the European Space Agency issued a “calm down” statement. With error bars …
Gemini's composite image of FRB 121102's host galaxy

15 'could it be aliens?' fast radio bursts observed in one night

Fast Radio Burst-hunters have suffered London Bus syndrome again: fifteen have shown up at once. A bout of sky-watching at Green Bank in West Virginia, under the auspices of the Breakthrough Initiative's Listen project, has turned up 15 pulses from repeater source FRB 121102. Boffins already knew FRB 121102 was enticing: back …
Illustration of diamond rain on Neptune

Uh oh, scientists know how those diamonds got in Uranus, and they're telling everyone!

Researchers from Stanford have shown how the frigid, high-pressure atmospheres of the planets Uranus and Neptune can create a "rain" of diamonds. The team from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory says it used an optical laser from the Matter In Extreme Conditions instrument to demonstrate how, deep within the gas giants, …
Shaun Nichols, 21 Aug 2017

NASA delivers CREAM-y load to ISS to improve cosmic ray detection

Hitching a ride on SpaceX's 12th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station is NASA's latest tech for studying the origins of cosmic rays, the high-energy particles that bombard Earth from deep space. Victor Hess, an Austrian physicist, is credited with discovering cosmic rays during a balloon flight in …
Andrew Silver, 15 Aug 2017
Black hole - spaghetti visualisation. Artist's impression.  NASA/JPL-Caltech, CC BY-SA

Melbourne Uni hoping to hoist tiny telescope to look at BIG explosions

A couple of years after it was first conceived, a Melbourne University-led infrared astronomy cubesat proposal called SkyHopper is gathering momentum. Vulture South found itself intrigued by a simple question, which we found time to put to one of the project's founders, astrophysicist Dr Katie Mack: what useful astronomy can …

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