This Week in Space Special Update: Van Gogh's Starry Night, a collage of Hubble deep space photos

This is just awesome! Had to share it.



It is one of the most famous paintings in the history of art - and here it is with our most famous photographs of space.

Alex Parker, a PHD astronomy student took Van Gogh's 1889 painting, and built it back up from arguably humanity's other most famous space portraits - those taken by the Hubble telescope over the last 20 years.

Read more HERE


This week in space: special post

Distant 'water-world' confirmed

This is just cool, so many exciting things about this.

Astronomers have claimed the existence of a new class of planet: a "water-world" with a thick, steamy atmosphere.

Read more HERE

"GJ 1214b is like no planet we know of," Berta said. "A huge fraction of its mass is made up of water."

The ground-based MEarth Project, led by CfA's David Charbonneau, discovered GJ 1214b in 2009. This super-Earth is about 2.7 times Earth's diameter and weighs almost seven times as much. It orbits a red-dwarf star every 38 hours at a distance of 2 million kilometres, giving it an estimated temperature of 230 degrees Celsius.

In 2010, CfA scientist Jacob Bean and colleagues reported that they had measured the atmosphere of GJ 1214b, finding it likely that it was composed mainly of water. However, their observations could also be explained by the presence of a planet-enshrouding haze in GJ 1214b's atmosphere.

Also, read more HERE



This week in space

New map of the universe reveals its history for the past six-billion years


Just thought this was a neat bit of information.

The scientists of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), including astronomers at Penn State, have produced a new map of the universe that is in full color, covers more than one quarter of the entire sky, and is full of so much detail that you would need five-hundred-thousand high-definition TVs to view it all. The map consists of more than one-trillion pixels measured by meticulously scanning the sky with a special-purpose telescope located in New Mexico. This week, at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas, the SDSS scientists announced results of four separate studies of this new map that, taken together, provide a history of the universe over the last six-billion years.

Read more HERE


Earthly machine recreates star's sizzling-hot surface

That's just incredible.

Since we can't go to the stars yet, let's bring the stars to us. In a giant X-ray-producing facility, astronomers and plasma physicists have heated a cigar-sized sample of gas to over 17,000 degrees Fahrenheit in order to replicate the surface of stars called white dwarfs.

Read more HERE


Loss of planetary tilt could doom alien life

That earthquake a few Decembers back actually changed the tilt of Earth. Big earthquakes often do, so not only is this a threat to life on other planets, but on our own.

Although winter now grips much of the Northern Hemisphere, those who dislike the cold weather can rest assured that warmer months shall return. This familiar pattern of spring, summer, fall and winter does more than merely provide variety, however. The fact that life can exist at all on Earth is closely tied to seasonality, which is a sign of global temperature moderation.

Read more HERE


The Milky Way contains at least 100 billion planets according to survey

Oh wait, what was it they said just a few decades ago... oh right, that only our system had planets. Idiots.

Our Milky Way galaxy contains a minimum of 100 billion planets according to a detailed statistical study based on the detection of three extrasolar planets by an observational technique called microlensing.

Read more HERE


New class of planetary systems: Astronomers find two new planets orbiting double suns

Star Wars. *snicker*

Kepler-35 planet system, in which a Saturn-size planet orbits a pair of stars. The larger star is similar to the size of the Sun, while the smaller star is 79 percent of the Sun's radius. The stars orbit and eclipse each other every 21 days, but the eclipses do not occur exactly periodically. This variation in the times of the eclipses motivated the search for the planet, which was discovered to transit the stars as it orbits the pair every 131 days. Analogous events led to the discovery of the planet Kepler-34. The discovery of these two new systems establishes a new class of 'circumbinary' planets, and suggests there are many millions of such giant planets in our Galaxy. Using data from NASA’s Kepler Mission, astronomers announced the discovery of two new transiting “circumbinary” planet systems -- planets that orbit two stars. This work establishes that such “two sun” planets are not rare exceptions, but are in fact common with many millions existing in our Galaxy. The work is published today in the journal Nature and presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin, TX.

Read more HERE


Spacecraft completes biggest maneuver

As I've said before I can't wait for this mission to arrive at Mars!

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft successfully refined its flight path Wednesday with the biggest maneuver planned for the mission's journey between Earth and Mars.

Read more HERE


China, India to jump forward with Hawaii telescope

It'll be awesome to have a 30 meter optical telescope!!!

China and India are catapulting to the forefront of astronomy research with their decision to join as partners in a Hawaii telescope that will be the world's largest when it's built later this decade.

Read more HERE


Hubble zooms in on double nucleus in Andromeda galaxy

Here is the pretty picture of the week.

A new Hubble Space Telescope image centers on the 100-million-solar-mass black hole at the hub of the neighboring spiral galaxy M31, or the Andromeda galaxy, the only galaxy outside the Milky Way visible to the naked eye and the only other giant galaxy in the local group.

Read more HERE


Scientists gear up to take a picture of a black hole

Awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome!!!

On Wednesday, Jan. 18, astronomers, physicists and scientists from related fields will convene in Tucson, Ariz. from across the world to discuss an endeavor that only a few years ago would have been regarded as nothing less than outrageous. The conference is organized by Dimitrios Psaltis, an associate professor of astrophysics at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory, and Daniel Marrone, an assistant professor of astronomy at Steward Observatory.

Read more HERE



This week in space

Aliens hanging out in the Kuiper Belt? We could see the light from their cities

Well, we can see out to the Kuiper belt, so now we need to see out a few lightyears!

When it comes to searching for ET, current efforts have been almost exclusively placed in picking up a radio signal – just a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Consider for a moment just how much lighting we here on Earth produce and how our “night side” might appear as viewed from a telescope on another planet. If we can assume that alternate civilizations would evolve enjoying their natural lighting, wouldn’t it be plausible to also assume they might develop artificial lighting sources as well?

Read more HERE


ASU cosmologist suggests studying moon for alien artifacts

We've already discovered plenty of alien artifacts on the moon, they just don't tell us about them.

If you were part of a team sent to explore an unknown planet; and that planet had a natural orbiting moon, wouldn’t it make sense to use that moon as a base camp or remote observation post? Especially if you didn’t want those being observed to know you were there? Professor Paul Davis and research technician Robert Wagner think so, and that’s why they’ve published a paper in Acta Astronautica that suggests we humans begin taking a little closer look at our own moon to see if any alien life forms might have left behind some evidence of their visit.

Read more HERE


What if the earth had two moons?

I don't have much to say about this one, just read it. It's interesting.

The idea of an Earth with two moons has been a science fiction staple for decades. More recently, real possibilities of an Earth with two moon have popped up. The properties of the Moon’s far side has many scientists thinking that another moon used to orbit the Earth before smashing in to the Moon and becoming part of its mass. Since 2006, astronomers have been tracking smaller secondary moons that our own Earth-Moon system captures; these metre-wide moons stay for a few months then leave.

Read more HERE


Can Earth-sized planets survive their star's expansion?

See we really don't know what we are talking about when we throw how ideas on how things work in space. We've got a lot to learn, I wish a much older race would stop by and give us all their space science... no other tech, just their knowledge of space.

Two Earth-sized planets have been discovered circling a dying star that has passed the red giant stage. Because of their close orbits, the planets must have been engulfed by their star while it swelled up to many times its original size.

Read more HERE


WISE presents a cosmic wreath

This is just a beautiful one (I actually have two this week) for you to enjoy.

Just in time for the holidays, astronomers have come across a new image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, that some say resembles a wreath. You might even think of the red dust cloud as a cheery red bow, and the bluish-white stars as silver bells.

Read more HERE


A 'Rose' made of galaxies

Here is the second beautiful one for you, enjoy!

In celebration of the twenty-first anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope's deployment in April 2011, astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute pointed Hubble's eye to an especially photogenic group of interacting galaxies called Arp 273.

Read more HERE


Decades later, a Cold War secret is revealed

One of these days we will find out about alien contact this way. "Oh well, we formed an alliance xx decades ago and we've been keeping their secret as per their request until a certain time" or something like that...

For more than a decade they toiled in the strange, boxy-looking building on the hill above the municipal airport, the building with no windows (except in the cafeteria), the building filled with secrets.

Read more HERE


This week in space

Daring Russian sample return mission to Martian moon Phobos aims for November liftoff

This will be an awesome mission if it is succesful. Returning samples from another moon in our solar system will give us something new to study so that we might unerstand more about our neighborhood. Although, Phobos might not be a moon and in fact a space station or craft ( )

In just over three weeks’ time, Russia plans to launch a bold mission to Mars whose objective, if successful , is to land on the Martian Moon Phobos and return a cargo of precious soil samples back to Earth about three years later.

Read more HERE


Hubble survey carries out a dark matter census

This might be an idirect method for detecting dark matter, then again it might be detecting something else entirely.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has been used to make an image of galaxy cluster MACS J1206.2-0847. The apparently distorted shapes of distant galaxies in the background is caused by an invisible substance called dark matter, whose gravity bends and distorts their light rays. MACS 1206 has been observed as part of a new survey of galaxy clusters using Hubble.

Read more HERE


G299.2-2.9, a middle-aged supernova remnant

I just thought this was beautiful and thought I'd share it.

G299.2-2.9 is an intriguing supernova remnant found about 16,000 light years away in the Milky Way galaxy. Evidence points to G299.2-2.9 being the remains of a Type Ia supernova, where a white dwarf has grown sufficiently massive to cause a thermonuclear explosion

Read more HERE


Clearing the cosmic fog of the early universe: Massive stars may be responsible

While an interesting theory with some evidence, I don't much care... again I just thought this was beautiful.

The space between the galaxies wasn't always transparent. In the earliest times, it was an opaque, dense fog. How it cleared is an important question in astronomy. New observational evidence from the University of Michigan shows how high energy light from massive stars could have been responsible.

Read more HERE


Distant galaxies reveal the clearing of the cosmic fog

This is just an interesting look into the early universe, and again a beautiful image.

Scientists have used ESO's Very Large Telescope to probe the early Universe at several different times as it was becoming transparent to ultraviolet light. This brief but dramatic phase in cosmic history occurred around 13 billion years ago. By studying some of the most distant galaxies, the team has been able to establish a timeline for reionisation for the first time. They have also demonstrated that this phase must have happened quicker than previously thought.

Read more HERE


Astronomers find elusive planets in decade-old Hubble data

This is great, we now have a few different ways we are detecing planets... what's great is with this data from 1998 gives us locations of objects then, and if we regularly check those areas of space regularly we will begin to detect more and more planets as we detect ones with longer and longer orbits around their star(s).

In a painstaking re-analysis of Hubble Space Telescope images from 1998, astronomers have found visual evidence for two extrasolar planets that went undetected back then.

Read more HERE


NASA to test new solar sail technology

There are many applications I can think of for this. It would be a great way to deploy communications relays for missions to the outer reaches of your solar system, after deploying such a network you could then send probes all over our solar system and have them be able to radio back reliably via the network. Could use them on satellites for cheap repositioning in orbit. Then of course you could develop very large ones and push them with masers to get a ship up to a significant fraction of the speed of light.

Solar sails, much like anti-matter and ion engines appear at first glance to only exist in science fiction. Many technologies from science fiction however, become science fact.

Read more HERE


The hazy history of Titan's air

Titan is an excellent candidate for life. Microbrial for almost certain, and possibly even larger forms of life.

What rocky moon has a nitrogen-rich atmosphere, Earth-like weather patterns and geology, liquid hydrocarbon seas and a relatively good chance to support life? The answer is Titan, the fascinating moon of Saturn.

Read more HERE


NASA books 1st flight from New Mexico spaceport

This is just great because it gives the fledling private space industry a customer, something very important in getting it going strong.

NASA has booked a charter suborbital flight from Virgin Galactic's spaceport operations in southern New Mexico.

Read more HERE

This week in space

US satellite may crash back to Earth Sept 23: NASA

More space junk, coming home. I've heard your chances of getting hit by a piece of this range from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 10,000 depending on who you listen to.

A 20-year-old satellite that measured the ozone layer is expected to crash back to Earth late next week, but NASA said it still does not know where it will fall.

Read more about it HERE


Rocky planets could have been born as gas giants

So planets can be formed many ways (at least we think so), this means planets could be far more common, and we are already seeing this is true as we are spotting extrasolar planets left and right now.

When NASA announced the discovery of over 1,200 new potential planets spotted by the Kepler Space Telescope, almost a quarter of them were thought to be Super-Earths. Now, new research suggests that these massive rocky planets may be the result of the failed creation of Jupiter-sized gas giants.

Read more about it HERE


Help! My stars are leaking!

All I've got to say is, this makes for some awesome astrophotography.

Star clusters are wonderful test beds for theories of stellar formation and evolution. One of the key roles they play is to help astronomers understand the distribution of stellar masses as stars form (in other words, how many high mass stars versus intermediate and low mass stars), known as the Initial Mass Function (IMF). One of the problems is that this is constantly evolving away from the initial distribution as stars die or are ejected from the cluster. As such, understanding these mechanisms is essential for astronomers looking to backtrack from the current population to the IMF.

Read more about it HERE


Small distant galaxies host supermassive black holes

I'm starting to think black holes are just an important part of things working, in fact I almost wonder if they aren't even necessary for a galaxy to form.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope to probe the distant universe, astronomers have found supermassive black holes growing in surprisingly small galaxies. The findings suggest that central black holes formed at an early stage in galaxy evolution.

Read more about it HERE


Neutron star blows away models for thermonuclear explosions

See, everytime we think we understand something... something out there confuses us.

Amsterdam astronomers have discovered a neutron star that confounds existing models for thermonuclear explosions in such extreme objects. In the case of the accreting pulsar IGR J17480-2446, it seems to be a strong magnetic field that causes some parts of the star to burn more brightly than the rest. The results of the study, by Yuri Cavecchi et al. (2011), are to be published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Read more about it HERE


Dark matter packs a punch: Milky Way's spiral arms formed by intergalactic collision

Thank the gods these things happen on such a long time scale (to us anyway) that we'd never have to worry about this happening again (until a time where we develop immortality... which might not be far off if we can figure out  away to download consciousness and store it electronically).

The signature spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy were likely formed by an epic collision between the Milky Way and the Sagittarius Dwarf galaxy, according to a University of Pittsburgh researcher and his collaborators, published today in the prestigious British journal Nature.

Read more about it HERE


NASA's Dawn collects a bounty of beauty from Vesta

I just love the images we are getting of this thing, almost feels like something out of a video game.

A new video from NASA's Dawn spacecraft takes us on a flyover journey above the surface of the giant asteroid Vesta.

Read more about it HERE