Articles about astrophysics

Hubble spies unlikely planet being born in hostile neighborhood

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has spotted what appears to be a baby planet sweeping up matter from a protoplanetary disk orbiting a red dwarf star some 176 light-years away from Earth. If, indeed, this planetary formation activity is what the Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) has observed, …
Rik Myslewski, 14 Jun 2013
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Kiwi boffins bid up Earth-like planet prediction

We'll see your lousy 17 billion Earth-like planets, Smithsonian, and raise you 83 billion: that's the message coming out of a New Zealand group that's proposing a new detection technique in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The Japan-New Zealand collaboration proposes using gravitational micro-lensing in …
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Why does our galaxy spiral?

Video A group of astrophysicists from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the University of Wisconsin-Madison say they've resolved a long-standing question: how long do spiral arms in galaxies like our own last? The boffins aren't just thinking about our very own Milky Way: the paper, published in The Astrophysical …
The Lovell Telescope, credit Mike Peel; Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester

Reg man goes time travelling at iconic observatory

Geek's Guide to Britain There are two ways to approach Jodrell Bank. From the north you fly through the WAGish end of Cheshire, with towns like Wilmslow and Alderley Edge housing Manchester and Liverpool’s finest and their harems. I prefer coming from the south, under the Twemlow Viaduct, a 105ft high, 500 yard long symphony of red brick, completed in …
Joe Fay, 25 Mar 2013
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Boffins take the temperature of the cosmos

The universe is cold and getting colder, according to work by an international team of scientists working with CSIRO’s Australia Telescope Compact Array near the NSW town of Narrabri. The group has pinned the average temperature of the universe at 2.73 Kelvin – not far above absolute zero – but more impressively, it’s also …
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Andromeda home to micro-quasar

The National Science Foundation’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory has spotted an X-ray source in Andromeda, 2.5 million light-years distant, that it’s tagged as a “micro-quasar” and says is the first discovered beyond the Milky Way. The object, XMMU J004243.6+412519 (love the naming convention), is a black hole with an …
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New research cuts Kepler's exoplanet count by one third

A new study has shown that the number of exoplanets – planets outside of our solar system – discovered by NASA's Kepler may be inflated by over a third. The Kepler team's "Table of confirmed planets" (their emphasis) in that spacecraft's slice of the sky now stands at 105. According to the criteria used by NASA's Exoplanet …
Rik Myslewski, 7 Dec 2012
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Paintballs proposed as defense against ASTEROID ATTACK

An MIT graduate student has devised a plan to save the world from destruction by an inbound asteroid using a novel weapon: interplanetary paintballs. Sung Wook Paek of the Cambridge, Massachsetts, brainiac academy's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics – affectionately known as AeroAstro – entered his asteroid-deflecting …
Rik Myslewski, 26 Oct 2012
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Astroboffins out FREAK 'BI' GALAXY

A team of astrophysicists have discovered the first celestial agglomeration that qualifies as both an old, settled-down ellipical galaxy and a young, vigorous spiral galaxy. Centarus A, more prosaically known as NGC 5128 and discovered in 1826, has long been recognized as an elliptical galaxy, but a paper in The Astrophysical …
Rik Myslewski, 22 Oct 2012
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WISE-watchers munch on hot DOGs

The latest data release from the Wide-Field Infrared Explorer has NASA almost as excited as a Mars landing, with the space agency trumpeting “millions” of new black holes, among other discoveries. Comparing the infrared received by hot dust-obscured galaxies – “hot DOGs” – to normal galaxies, the authors of this paper at Arxiv …
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Jackpot: astronomers tag Goldilocks planet

While the Kepler mission turns up its ever-growing crop of exoplanets, a group of astronomers has announced an exciting find closer to home: looking towards Scorpius, there’s a super-Earth-sized planet just 22 light-years distant, with a habitable-zone orbit. Planets with the right orbit offer the best chance of harbouring …
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NASA detects 'heartbeat' of pint-sized star-sucker

In what is turning out to be one of the best months ever for black-hole fanbois, a team of Dutch, Italian, and US space boffins has detected the "heartbeat" of what appears to be teensiest, weensiest black hole ever discovered. "Just as the heart rate of a mouse is faster than an elephant's, the heartbeat signals from these …
Rik Myslewski, 16 Dec 2011
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‘We know where dark matter is hiding’ claim boffins

Physicists from Brown University are claiming to have set a lower limit for the mass of dark matter. Their analysis of data from the NASA Fermi Gamma-ray space telescope, to be published in Physical Review Letters on December 1 (pre-press copy here), suggests a lower mass limit of 40 GeV (giga-electron volts) for dark matter …
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Pumped-up radio telescope seeks new moniker

The prosaically named Very Large Array radio-telescope installation is getting a substantial upgrade – and the boffins who tend it have decided that it needs a new name to go with its formidable facelift. The Very Large Array – or VLA, for short – is a group of 27 radio antennas located in the desert about 50 miles west of …
Rik Myslewski, 17 Oct 2011
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Billion dollar telescope snaps galactic head-on

The first images are in from the immense ALMA radio-telescope array, under construction at 16,500 feet in the Chilean desert, and they reveal a galactic collision of near-unimaginable violence and equally mind-boggling beauty. The images show the collision of paired galaxies, NGC 4038/4039, which combine in what's become known …
Rik Myslewski, 11 Oct 2011
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The plane story of galactic clusters

Why are galaxies where they are? Astronomers have turned up a hint at the way dark matter affects the large-scale structure of the universe, with observations discovering that the Milky Way and nearby galactic clusters are arranged along a plane. The researchers, from the Australian National University, believe the arrangement …
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Stars say relativity still works

The Special Theory of Relativity may be under re-evaluation following CERN’s astonishing neutrino observations, but over in the world of astronomy, general relativity has had another reconfirmation from the Neils Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen. Radek Wojtak, Steen Hansen and Jens Hjorth have published in Nature …
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Chandra tags ancient black holes

Black holes may have been all over the early universe, according to new findings announced by NASA. A starfield gathered by its Chandra X-ray observatory, known as Chandra Deep Field South (CDFS), and analyzed in conjunction with the Hubble Space Telescope, has turned up a mass of previously-undiscovered black holes from when …

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