A Watery, Extraterrestrial Ocean Is Submerged Beneath Enceladus’s Blankets of Ice
by Allison Eck
Move over, Mars. In the search for extraterrestrial life, moons are now in the limelight.
Enceladus, one of the Ringed Planet’s icy and austere orbiters has been on astronomers’ shortlist of potential hosts of alien life, especially since they discovered geysers of ice crystals shooting out of its south pole in 2005. They hypothesized that a deep ocean the size of Lake Superior sits underneath its highly tectonic and veiny surface, potentially feeding those gushers.
Normally, liquid water couldn’t exist that far out in the solar system, but the gravitational pull of Enceladus’s neighbor, Dione, bends the icy moon’s outer layer, creating heat through friction. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has repeatedly flown by the surface of Enceladus to better understand the temperature dynamics that create these explosive geysers…
(read more: Nova Next - PBS)

A Watery, Extraterrestrial Ocean Is Submerged Beneath Enceladus’s Blankets of Ice

by Allison Eck

Move over, Mars. In the search for extraterrestrial life, moons are now in the limelight.

Enceladus, one of the Ringed Planet’s icy and austere orbiters has been on astronomers’ shortlist of potential hosts of alien life, especially since they discovered geysers of ice crystals shooting out of its south pole in 2005. They hypothesized that a deep ocean the size of Lake Superior sits underneath its highly tectonic and veiny surface, potentially feeding those gushers.

Normally, liquid water couldn’t exist that far out in the solar system, but the gravitational pull of Enceladus’s neighbor, Dione, bends the icy moon’s outer layer, creating heat through friction. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has repeatedly flown by the surface of Enceladus to better understand the temperature dynamics that create these explosive geysers…

(read more: Nova Next - PBS)

Stalking the Shadow Universe
by Dennis Overbye
For centuries people have found meaning — or thought they did — in what they could see in the sky, the shapes of the constellations echoing old myths, the sudden feathery intrusion of comets, the regular dances of the planets, the chains of galaxies, spanning unfathomable distances of time and space.
Since the 1980s, however, astronomers have been forced to confront the possibility that most of the universe is invisible, and that all the glittering chains of galaxies are no more substantial, no more reliable guides to physical reality, than greasepaint on the face of a clown.
The brute mathematical truth is that atoms, the stuff of stars, you and me, make up only 5 percent of the universe by weight. A quarter of it is made of mysterious particles known as dark matter, and the remaining 70 percent a mysterious form of energy called dark energy. Physicists theorize that dark matter could be exotic particles left over from the Big Bang. They don’t know what it is, but they can deduce that dark matter is there by its gravitational effect on the things they can see. If Newton’s laws of gravity held over cosmic distances, huge amounts of more matter than we can see were needed to provide the gravitational glue to keep clusters of galaxies from flying apart, and to keep the stars swirling around in galaxies at high speed…
(read more: NY Times)

Stalking the Shadow Universe

by Dennis Overbye

For centuries people have found meaning — or thought they did — in what they could see in the sky, the shapes of the constellations echoing old myths, the sudden feathery intrusion of comets, the regular dances of the planets, the chains of galaxies, spanning unfathomable distances of time and space.

Since the 1980s, however, astronomers have been forced to confront the possibility that most of the universe is invisible, and that all the glittering chains of galaxies are no more substantial, no more reliable guides to physical reality, than greasepaint on the face of a clown.

The brute mathematical truth is that atoms, the stuff of stars, you and me, make up only 5 percent of the universe by weight. A quarter of it is made of mysterious particles known as dark matter, and the remaining 70 percent a mysterious form of energy called dark energy. Physicists theorize that dark matter could be exotic particles left over from the Big Bang. They don’t know what it is, but they can deduce that dark matter is there by its gravitational effect on the things they can see. If Newton’s laws of gravity held over cosmic distances, huge amounts of more matter than we can see were needed to provide the gravitational glue to keep clusters of galaxies from flying apart, and to keep the stars swirling around in galaxies at high speed…

(read more: NY Times)

NGC 2467 is a star-forming region with a visual appearance often likened to a skull or a mandrill. Located in the southern constellation of Puppis, it contains the open clusters Haffner 18 (centre) and Haffner 19 (middle right: located inside the smaller pink “eye”), as well as vast areas of ionised gas. The bright star at the centre of the largest pink region is HD 64315, a massive young star that is helping to shape the whole nebular region’s structure.
 Photograph: European Southern Observatory
(via: Wikipedia)

NGC 2467 is a star-forming region with a visual appearance often likened to a skull or a mandrill. Located in the southern constellation of Puppis, it contains the open clusters Haffner 18 (centre) and Haffner 19 (middle right: located inside the smaller pink “eye”), as well as vast areas of ionised gas. The bright star at the centre of the largest pink region is HD 64315, a massive young star that is helping to shape the whole nebular region’s structure.

Photograph: European Southern Observatory

(via: Wikipedia)

Artist’s Concept: A close-up of Super Nova 2006gy  This artist’s illustration shows what the brightest supernova ever recorded, known as SN 2006gy, may have looked like. The fireworks-like material (white) shows the explosive death of an extremely massive star. Before it exploded, the star expelled the lobes of cool gas (red). As the material from the explosion crashes into the lobes, it heats the gas in a shock front (green, blue and yellow) and pushes it backward.Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss (via: Chandra X-Ray Observatory)

Artist’s Concept: A close-up of Super Nova 2006gy

This artist’s illustration shows what the brightest supernova ever recorded, known as SN 2006gy, may have looked like. The fireworks-like material (white) shows the explosive death of an extremely massive star. Before it exploded, the star expelled the lobes of cool gas (red). As the material from the explosion crashes into the lobes, it heats the gas in a shock front (green, blue and yellow) and pushes it backward.

Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

(via: Chandra X-Ray Observatory)

Comet Pan-STARRS Makes Stunning ‘Galactic Flyby’
by Megan Gannon, SPACE.com News Editor
A NASA probe recently spotted the dazzling Pan-STARRS comet as it hurtled through space against the backdrop of a distant galaxy.

Pan-STARRS is a fresh visitor from the outer solar system that lit up night skies last spring as it made one of its first approaches toward the sun. Officially christened comet C/2012 K1, it was discovered a few years ago by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, or Pan-STARRS, in Hawaii.

NASA released a stunning new series of images of Comet Pan-STARRS captured by the NEOWISE mission on May 20, 2014, when Pan-STARRS was 143 million miles (230 million kilometers) away from Earth…
(read more: Discovery News)

Comet Pan-STARRS Makes Stunning ‘Galactic Flyby’

by Megan Gannon, SPACE.com News Editor

A NASA probe recently spotted the dazzling Pan-STARRS comet as it hurtled through space against the backdrop of a distant galaxy.

Pan-STARRS is a fresh visitor from the outer solar system that lit up night skies last spring as it made one of its first approaches toward the sun. Officially christened comet C/2012 K1, it was discovered a few years ago by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System, or Pan-STARRS, in Hawaii.

NASA released a stunning new series of images of Comet Pan-STARRS captured by the NEOWISE mission on May 20, 2014, when Pan-STARRS was 143 million miles (230 million kilometers) away from Earth…

(read more: Discovery News)

A Look at Today’s Sun (July 10, 2014) 
This is a composite image and is one of my favorite views of our Sun!  This image combines three images with different, but very similar, temperatures. The colors are assigned differently than in the single images. Here AIA 211 is red, AIA 193 is green, and AIA 171 is blue. Each highlights a different part of the corona. 211 highlights the active region of the outer atmosphere of the Sun - the corona. Active regions, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections will appear bright here. The dark areas - called coronal holes - are places where very little radiation is emitted, yet are the main source of solar wind particles. The temperatures are about 3.6 million F…
(read more: NASA - Solar Dynamics Observatory)

A Look at Today’s Sun (July 10, 2014)

This is a composite image and is one of my favorite views of our Sun!

This image combines three images with different, but very similar, temperatures. The colors are assigned differently than in the single images. Here AIA 211 is red, AIA 193 is green, and AIA 171 is blue. Each highlights a different part of the corona.

211 highlights the active region of the outer atmosphere of the Sun - the corona. Active regions, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections will appear bright here. The dark areas - called coronal holes - are places where very little radiation is emitted, yet are the main source of solar wind particles. The temperatures are about 3.6 million F…

(read more: NASA - Solar Dynamics Observatory)

We talk to the man who explained how the big bang banged.

In March, Guth sat in the auditorium of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, a storied center of astronomy on the other side of Cambridge, Massachusetts, from MIT.

He waited in the audience, along with Stanford’s Andrei Linde, 66, another inflation theorist, to hear from the BICEP2 astrophysics team that had spent three years looking with an unblinking telescope at one small patch of sky above the frozen waste of Antarctica.

They had looked inside that patch at the most distant thing observable in the cosmos, the so-called cosmic microwave background, or CMB. The CMB emanates from every corner of the sky—leftover heat from the first 380,000 years of the universe’s history after the big bang…

Biggest void in universe may explain cosmic cold spot
by Maggie McKee
It has been called a bruise on the sky – a curious cold spot in the afterglow of the big bang that has sparked wild cosmic theories attributing it to a run-in with another universe or a wrinkle in space-time.
Now it seems the answer may be a little more mundane: the biggest known hole in the universe.
The cold spot appears in maps of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the earliest light emitted in the universe. Temperature variations in the light show up as a mottled pattern in the maps, which can be explained if quantum fluctuations at the universe’s birth were stretched out by a brief but spectacular cosmic growth spurt known as inflation.
But some features in the maps don’t fit into the leading models of inflation. For example, the relatively even pattern of the CMB is marred by an unusually large cold region. Scientists have struggled to explain it, suggesting a number of ideas that require exotic physics or even evidence for a multiverse…
(read more: New Scientist)
image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Biggest void in universe may explain cosmic cold spot

by Maggie McKee

It has been called a bruise on the sky – a curious cold spot in the afterglow of the big bang that has sparked wild cosmic theories attributing it to a run-in with another universe or a wrinkle in space-time.

Now it seems the answer may be a little more mundane: the biggest known hole in the universe.

The cold spot appears in maps of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the earliest light emitted in the universe. Temperature variations in the light show up as a mottled pattern in the maps, which can be explained if quantum fluctuations at the universe’s birth were stretched out by a brief but spectacular cosmic growth spurt known as inflation.

But some features in the maps don’t fit into the leading models of inflation. For example, the relatively even pattern of the CMB is marred by an unusually large cold region. Scientists have struggled to explain it, suggesting a number of ideas that require exotic physics or even evidence for a multiverse…

(read more: New Scientist)

image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Happy 10th Anniversary, Cassini!

It’s been 10 years since Cassini reached Saturn’s orbit. Popular Science celebrates with some of our favorite Cassini images.

by Francie Diep

Today is the 10th anniversary of the spacecraft Cassini’s arrival in Saturn’s system of rings and moons. But to make that 2.2-billion-mile journey from Earth, Cassini had to launch on October 15, 1997. So really it’s been 17 great years. The International Space Station and the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity all launched after Cassini did. Yet Cassini is still in working order, and still sends data and—our favorite—images back to Earth…

(read and see more: Popular Science)

images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

NGC 3132: The Southern Ring Nebula
It’s the dim star, not the bright one, near the center of NGC 3132 that created this odd but beautiful planetary nebula. Nicknamed the Eight-Burst Nebula and the Southern Ring Nebula, the glowing gas originated in the outer layers of a star like our Sun.
In this reprocessed color picture, the hot purplish pool of light seen surrounding this binary system is energized by the hot surface of the faint star. Although photographed to explore unusual symmetries, it’s the asymmetries that help make this planetary nebula so intriguing. Neither the unusual shape of the surrounding cooler shell nor the structure and placements of the cool filamentary dust lanes running across NGC 3132 are well understood.
(via: NASA Astronomy Photo of the Day)
Image : Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA; Processing - Donald Waid

NGC 3132: The Southern Ring Nebula

It’s the dim star, not the bright one, near the center of NGC 3132 that created this odd but beautiful planetary nebula. Nicknamed the Eight-Burst Nebula and the Southern Ring Nebula, the glowing gas originated in the outer layers of a star like our Sun.

In this reprocessed color picture, the hot purplish pool of light seen surrounding this binary system is energized by the hot surface of the faint star. Although photographed to explore unusual symmetries, it’s the asymmetries that help make this planetary nebula so intriguing. Neither the unusual shape of the surrounding cooler shell nor the structure and placements of the cool filamentary dust lanes running across NGC 3132 are well understood.

(via: NASA Astronomy Photo of the Day)

Image : Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA; Processing - Donald Waid


Nearby Exoplanet Is Best Candidate For Supporting Life
by Lisa Winter
Finding new exoplanets is always awesome, but discovering exoplanets within the star’s habitable zone are exponentially more exciting.
A team led by Robert Wittenmyer of the University of New South Wales has announced the discovery of the Super-Earth Gliese 832 c, which could very well turn out to be the best candidate for extraterrestrial life discovered to date. It’s also fairly close, cosmologically speaking, which adds to the intrigue. The team’s paper has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal, but has been made available online in an open access format on arXiv.org.
Gliese 832 is a red dwarf star that is located 16.1 light-years away in the constellation Grus. Astronomers discovered a Jupiter analog orbiting the star back in 2009, but its orbit takes nine years to complete; far beyond the star’s habitable zone. Gliese 832 c looks much more promising. Though only two planets in the system are known, it appears to be organized quite similarly to our own solar system…
(read more: I Fucking Love Science)
illustration by PHL @ UPR Arecibo, NASA Hubble, Stellarium

Nearby Exoplanet Is Best Candidate For Supporting Life

by Lisa Winter

Finding new exoplanets is always awesome, but discovering exoplanets within the star’s habitable zone are exponentially more exciting.

A team led by Robert Wittenmyer of the University of New South Wales has announced the discovery of the Super-Earth Gliese 832 c, which could very well turn out to be the best candidate for extraterrestrial life discovered to date. It’s also fairly close, cosmologically speaking, which adds to the intrigue. The team’s paper has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal, but has been made available online in an open access format on arXiv.org.

Gliese 832 is a red dwarf star that is located 16.1 light-years away in the constellation Grus. Astronomers discovered a Jupiter analog orbiting the star back in 2009, but its orbit takes nine years to complete; far beyond the star’s habitable zone. Gliese 832 c looks much more promising. Though only two planets in the system are known, it appears to be organized quite similarly to our own solar system…

(read more: I Fucking Love Science)

illustration by PHL @ UPR Arecibo, NASA Hubble, Stellarium

Triple Monster Black Hole Discovered
Sometimes big, bad things comes in threes, including jumbo black holes.
by Michael Lemonick
The discovery of a trio of jumbo black holes circling the center of a distant galaxy, reported by astronomers on Wednesday, suggests that pairs or triplets of such monsters may be surprisingly common.
Astronomers have learned over the past decade or two that virtually every full-size galaxy such as our own Milky Way has a giant black hole lurking in its core. These monsters weigh in with a mass equal to millions or even billions of stars. 
The new observations, however, described in the journal Nature, suggest that many galaxies have not one, but two or more giant black holes in their centers, orbiting each other in a tight gravitational dance that will ultimately lead the objects to merge together into something even more gigantic…
(read more: National Geographic)
image: NASA/CXC/UCLA/Z.Li AND NRAO/VLA

Triple Monster Black Hole Discovered

Sometimes big, bad things comes in threes, including jumbo black holes.

by Michael Lemonick

The discovery of a trio of jumbo black holes circling the center of a distant galaxy, reported by astronomers on Wednesday, suggests that pairs or triplets of such monsters may be surprisingly common.

Astronomers have learned over the past decade or two that virtually every full-size galaxy such as our own Milky Way has a giant black hole lurking in its core. These monsters weigh in with a mass equal to millions or even billions of stars.

The new observations, however, described in the journal Nature, suggest that many galaxies have not one, but two or more giant black holes in their centers, orbiting each other in a tight gravitational dance that will ultimately lead the objects to merge together into something even more gigantic…

(read more: National Geographic)

image: NASA/CXC/UCLA/Z.Li AND NRAO/VLA