The cosmos is littered with clouds of star-forming gas, but few are as well studied as the Smith Cloud, set to crash into our galaxy in 30 million years. God-fearing humans might ask: Where did this unholy dust ball come from, and why is it heading straight for us? Now, science has the answer.
This morning, the Internet erupted with rumors that physicists have finally observed gravitational waves; ripples in the fabric of spacetime predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago. While it isn’t the first time we’ve heard excited whispers about the elusive phenomena, the gossip feels more promising in light of…
In the starless void of intergalactic space, there are clouds of cosmic gas as old as the Milky Way. They produce no visible light, and they barely radiate heat. Now, for the first time, astronomers have determined their size. These shadowy structures are as big as galaxies.
With Pluto millions of miles behind us and construction of the James Webb Space Telescope moving swiftly along, astronomers are already thinking about the Next Big Mission. At the top of their wish list? A forty foot-wide orbital telescope that’ll search for proof of life beyond Earth.
Astronomers are comparing it to Jupiter’s red spot: a forever storm large enough to swallow three Earths. Except this monster tempest appears to be raging on a star.
A remarkable scientific experiment is about to leave Earth on a six week journey that’ll end a million miles away. The LISA Pathfinder marks the beginning of humanity’s outer space hunt for the elusive gravitational waves first predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago.
One of two things happens when neutron stars collide: they merge together to form a new, larger neutron star, or they collapse into a black hole. But which happens when? That leads to another, trickier question: How big can a neutron star get?
You’ve heard it before: In space, no one can hear you scream. That’s because sound doesn’t move through a vacuum, and everyone knows that space is a vacuum. The thing is, that’s not completely true.
When a star wanders too close to a black hole, immense gravitational forces begin to rip it apart in an epic cosmic slaying called a “tidal disruption event.” Some of the star’s mass is flung outward into space, while the rest is drawn in, triggering a powerful flare that showers the sky with x-rays.
Astrophysicists at Caltech say they’ve detected the oldest, most distant galaxy known so far. It’s 13.2 billion years old — just over half a billion years younger than the universe itself — and the discovery may change what astrophysicists know about the early history of the universe.
In the distant reaches of the Universe, exploding stars and supermassive black holes are bending the very fabric of spacetime. It’s hard to wrap our brains around such tremendous forces, but we may be able to quantify them, in the form of gravitational waves. A new European Space Agency mission marks humanity’s first…
Six hundred million light years away, a pair of black holes spiral furiously about one another at the brilliant core of a starburst galaxy.
We all know that major storms can wreak havoc, flooding cities and decimating infrastructure. But there’s an even bigger worry than wind and rain: space weather. If a massive solar storm hit us, our technology would be wiped out. The entire planet could go dark.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which will be “in many ways a hundred times” more capable than Hubble, isn’t launching until 2018, but already astrophysicists are thinking about its successor. They’re calling it the High Definition Space Telescope (HDST). That’s it on the far right, towering over both its…
Brace yourselves: winter is coming. And by winter I mean the slow heat-death of the Universe, and by brace yourselves I mean don’t get terribly concerned because the process will take a very, very, very long time. (But still, it’s coming.)
Hidden inside meteorites, scientists have found the fossils of isotopes that once proliferated around the solar system, but have since sunk into nothingness. Here’s how we study the “bones” of extinct radioactive elements.
Pluto and Charon have captured our hearts and imaginations. But how did these adorably strange worlds form, and what consequences could that have on what we see now? Researcher Amy Barr Mlinar chatted with us about catastrophic collisions, subsurface oceans, and Pluto’s lack of craters.
Five billion years ago, a blazar abruptly flared, triggered an intense rain of gamma rays. Racing across the universe for millennia, they finally slammed into NASA’s Fermi satellite over several days this June, setting a new record for the most luminous high-energy object we’ve ever seen.
Between rainbows, rings, and sharp, hard lines, it’s difficult to not clap my hands in glee while unpacking the levels of awesome crammed in this X-ray image of Circinus X-1. The beautiful bullseye light echoes hint this neutron star is farther, brighter, and more like a black hole than we thought.