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|Astronomy News -- ScienceDaily|
Updated : Thu, 06 Mar 2014 20:39:53 EST
Plasma plumes help shield Earth from damaging solar storms
Scientists have identified a plasma plume that naturally protects the Earth against solar storms. Earth's magnetic field, or magnetosphere, stretches from the planet's core out into space, where it meets the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emitted by the sun. For the most part, the magnetosphere acts as a shield to protect Earth from this high-energy solar activity. But when this field comes into contact with the sun's magnetic field -- a process called "magnetic reconnection" -- powerful electrical currents from the sun can stream into Earth's atmosphere, whipping up geomagnetic storms and space weather phenomena that can affect high-altitude aircraft, as well as astronauts on the International Space Station. Now scientists have identified a process in Earth's magnetosphere that reinforces its shielding effect, keeping incoming solar energy at bay.
Publ.Date : Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:27:57 EST
Icy wreckage discovered in nearby planetary system
Astronomers have discovered the splattered remains of comets colliding together around a nearby star. The researchers believe they are witnessing the total destruction of one of these icy bodies once every five minutes.
Publ.Date : Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:25:50 EST
Storing extra rocket fuel in space for future missions?
Future lunar missions may be fueled by gas stations in space, according to engineers: A spacecraft might dock at a propellant depot, somewhere between the Earth and the moon, and pick up extra rocket fuel before making its way to the lunar surface. Orbiting way stations could reduce the fuel a spacecraft needs to carry from Earth -- and with less fuel onboard, a rocket could launch heavier payloads, such as large scientific experiments.
Publ.Date : Thu, 06 Mar 2014 11:23:07 EST
Hubble witnesses an asteroid mysteriously disintegrating
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the never-before-seen break-up of an asteroid, which has fragmented into as many as ten smaller pieces. Although fragile comet nuclei have been seen to fall apart as they approach the Sun, nothing like the breakup of this asteroid, P/2013 R3, has ever been observed before in the asteroid belt.
Publ.Date : Thu, 06 Mar 2014 10:08:28 EST
A small step toward discovering habitable Earths
For the first time, astronomers have used the same imaging technology found in a digital camera to take a picture of a planet far from our solar system with an Earth-based telescope. The accomplishment is a small step toward the technology astronomers will need in order to characterize planets suitable for harboring life.
Publ.Date : Wed, 05 Mar 2014 16:08:01 EST
Chandra and XMM-Newton provide direct measurement of distant black hole's spin
Astronomers have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's (ESA's) XMM-Newton to show a supermassive black hole six billion light years from Earth is spinning extremely rapidly. This first direct measurement of the spin of such a distant black hole is an important advance for understanding how black holes grow over time.
Publ.Date : Wed, 05 Mar 2014 13:54:56 EST
Asteroid will safely pass closer than moon on March 5
As happens about 20 times a year with current detection capabilities, a known asteroid will safely pass Earth on March 5 closer than the distance from Earth to the moon.
Publ.Date : Wed, 05 Mar 2014 13:45:35 EST
First light for MUSE: Powerful 3-D spectrograph successfully installed on Very Large Telescope
A new innovative instrument called MUSE (Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer) has been successfully installed on ESO's Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in northern Chile. MUSE has observed distant galaxies, bright stars and other test targets during the first period of very successful observations.
Publ.Date : Wed, 05 Mar 2014 08:48:44 EST
'Dimer molecules' aid study of exoplanet pressure, hunt for life
Astronomers have developed a new method of gauging the atmospheric pressure of exoplanets, or worlds beyond the solar system, by looking for a certain type of molecule. And if there is life out in space, scientists may one day use this same technique to detect its biosignature -- the telltale chemical signs of its presence -- in the atmosphere of an alien world.
Publ.Date : Tue, 04 Mar 2014 15:45:27 EST
Spiral galaxy spills blood and guts
A new Hubble image shows spiral galaxy ESO 137-001, framed against a bright background as it moves through the heart of galaxy cluster Abell 3627. This cluster is violently ripping the spiral's entrails out into space, leaving bright blue streaks as telltale clues to this cosmic crime.
Publ.Date : Tue, 04 Mar 2014 14:17:32 EST
Standard-candle supernovae are still standard, but why?
Scientists believed that Type Ia supernovae, the best cosmological standard candles, are similar in brightness because they suffer thermonuclear explosions when the white dwarf stars that are their progenitors reach 1.4 solar masses, the Chandrasekhar mass. Now astronomers have shown that white dwarfs exploding as Type Ia supernovae have a range of masses. Their light-curve widths are directly proportional to the mass involved in the explosion.
Publ.Date : Tue, 04 Mar 2014 09:48:41 EST
Virtually all red dwarf stars have at least one planet in orbit around them
Three new planets classified as habitable-zone super-Earths are amongst eight new planets discovered orbiting nearby red dwarf stars. A new study identifies that virtually all red dwarfs, which make up at least three quarters of the stars in the Universe, have planets orbiting them. The research also suggests that habitable-zone super-Earth planets (where liquid water could exist and making them possible candidates to support life) orbit around at least a quarter of the red dwarfs in the Sun's own neighbourhood.
Publ.Date : Tue, 04 Mar 2014 07:14:37 EST
The space double-whammy: Less gravity, more radiation
Astronauts floating weightlessly in the International Space Station may appear carefree, but years of research have shown that microgravity causes changes to the human body. Spaceflight also means exposure to more radiation. Together, microgravity and radiation exposure add up to pose serious health risks. But research is not only making space safer for astronauts, it's helping to improve health care for the Earth-bound as well.
Publ.Date : Fri, 28 Feb 2014 10:49:33 EST
New fast and furious black hole found
Astronomers have been studying nearby galaxy M83 and have found a new superpowered small black hole, named MQ1, the first object of its kind to be studied in this much detail. Astronomers have found a few compact objects that are as powerful as MQ1, but have not been able to work out the size of the black hole contained within them until now.
Publ.Date : Fri, 28 Feb 2014 08:06:35 EST
Closest, brightest supernova in decades is also a little weird
The closest and brightest supernova in decades, SN 2014J, brightens faster than expected for Type Ia supernovae, the exploding stars used to measure cosmic distances, according to astronomers. Another recent supernova also brightened faster than expected, suggesting that there is unsuspected new physics going on inside these exploding stars. The finding may also help physicists improve their use of these supernovae to measure cosmic distance.
Publ.Date : Thu, 27 Feb 2014 09:24:48 EST
NASA's Kepler mission announces a planet bonanza, 715 new worlds
NASA's Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system. Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.
Publ.Date : Wed, 26 Feb 2014 15:33:55 EST
How small cosmic seeds grow into big stars
New images provide the most detailed view yet of stellar nurseries within the Snake nebula. These images offer new insights into how cosmic seeds can grow into massive stars. Stretching across almost 100 light-years of space, the Snake nebula is located about 11,700 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus.
Publ.Date : Wed, 26 Feb 2014 07:49:35 EST
'Super-Earths' may be dead worlds: Being in habitable zone is not enough
In the last 20 years the search for Earth-like planets around other stars has accelerated, with the launch of missions like the Kepler space telescope. Using these and observatories on the ground, astronomers have found numerous worlds that at first sight have similarities with the Earth. A few of these are even in the ‘habitable zone’ where the temperature is just right for water to be in liquid form and so are prime targets in the search for life elsewhere in the universe. New results suggest that for some of the recently discovered super-Earths, such as Kepler-62e and -62f, being in the habitable zone is not enough to make them habitats.
Publ.Date : Wed, 26 Feb 2014 07:49:25 EST
Glimmer of light in the search for dark matter
Astrophysicists may have identified a trace of dark matter that could signify a new particle: the sterile neutrino. Another research group reported a very similar signal just a few days before.
Publ.Date : Wed, 26 Feb 2014 07:48:29 EST
Bullying black holes force galaxies to stay red and dead
Astronomers have discovered massive elliptical galaxies in the nearby Universe containing plenty of cold gas, even though the galaxies fail to produce new stars. Comparison with other data suggests that, while hot gas cools down in these galaxies, stars do not form because jets from the central supermassive black hole heat or stir up the gas and prevent it from turning into stars. Giant elliptical galaxies are the most puzzling type of galaxy in the Universe.
Publ.Date : Tue, 25 Feb 2014 13:43:44 EST