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Astronomy news. New! Earth-like extrasolar planet found; double helix nebula; supermassive black holes, astronomy articles, astronomy pictures. Updated daily.
Updated: 23 hours 25 min ago

Astronomers find one of the first stars formed in the Milky Way

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 9:56am
Researchers have identified a star which is a key to the formation of the first chemical elements in the Galaxy.

Cosmic dust snakes and starbirth in Lupus 3

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 9:03am
A dark cloud of cosmic dust snakes across this spectacular wide field image, illuminated by the brilliant light of new stars. This dense cloud is a star-forming region called Lupus 3, where dazzlingly hot stars are born from collapsing masses of gas and dust.

Stellar embryos in nearby dwarf galaxy contain surprisingly complex organic molecules

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 3:22pm
The nearby dwarf galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is a chemically primitive place. Unlike the Milky Way, this semi-spiral collection of a few tens-of-billions of stars lacks our galaxy's rich abundance of heavy elements, like carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen. With such a dearth of heavy elements, astronomers predict that the LMC should contain a comparatively paltry amount of complex carbon-based molecules. Previous observations of the LMC seem to support that view. New observations have uncovered the surprisingly clear chemical 'fingerprints' of the complex organic molecules methanol, dimethyl ether, and methyl formate. Though previous observations found hints of methanol in the LMC, the latter two are unprecedented findings and stand as the most complex molecules ever conclusively detected outside of our galaxy.

Stellar magnetism: What's behind the most brilliant lights in the sky?

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 3:22pm
Space physicists have just released unprecedented detail on a bizarre phenomenon that powers the northern lights, solar flares and coronal mass ejections (the biggest explosions in our solar system).

Newborns or survivors? The unexpected matter found in hostile black hole winds

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 12:37pm
The existence of large numbers of molecules in winds powered by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies has puzzled astronomers since they were discovered more than a decade ago. Molecules trace the coldest parts of space, and black holes are the most energetic phenomena in the universe, so finding molecules in black hole winds was like discovering ice in a furnace. A new theory predicts the molecules are born in the winds with unique properties that enable them to adapt to and thrive in the hostile environment.

NASA poised to topple a planet-finding barrier

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 8:58am
Astronomers have shown for the first time that they can dynamically detect subatomic- or picometer-sized distortions -- changes that are far smaller than an atom -- across a five-foot segmented telescope mirror and its support structure.

Chasing dark matter with oldest stars in the Milky Way

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 10:03am
Just how quickly is the dark matter near Earth zipping around? The speed of dark matter has far-reaching consequences for modern astrophysical research, but this fundamental property has eluded researchers for years. Researchers have now provided the first clue: The solution to this mystery, it turns out, lies among some of the oldest stars in the galaxy. 

Astronomers produce first detailed images of surface of giant star

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:20am
An international team of astronomers has produced the first detailed images of the surface of a giant star outside our solar system, revealing a nearly circular, dust-free atmosphere with complex areas of moving material, known as convection cells or granules, according to a recent study.

New limit on the definition of a planet proposed

Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:19am
A planet can be no bigger than about 10 times the size of Jupiter, an astrophysicist has calculated.

First evidence of winds outside black holes throughout their mealtimes

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 3:07pm
New research shows the first evidence of strong winds around black holes throughout bright outburst events when a black hole rapidly consumes mass. The study sheds new light on how mass transfers to black holes and how black holes can affect the environment around them.

A 'hot Jupiter' with unusual winds

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:09am
The hottest point on a gaseous planet near a distant star isn't where astrophysicists expected it to be -- a discovery that challenges scientists' understanding of the many planets of this type found in solar systems outside our own.

New for three types of extreme-energy space particles: Theory shows unified origin

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 11:08am
One of the biggest mysteries in astroparticle physics has been the origins of ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays, very high-energy neutrinos, and high-energy gamma rays. Now, a new theoretical model reveals that they all could be shot out into space after cosmic rays are accelerated by powerful jets from supermassive black holes. The model may set a new milestone on the path toward solving the half-century-old enigma of the origin of the highest-energy particles in the universe.

Challenging existing models of black holes

Fri, 01/19/2018 - 8:59am
A new study expands the scientific community's understanding of black holes in our galaxy and the magnetic fields that surround them.

North, east, south, west: The many faces of Abell 1758

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 2:26pm
Resembling a swarm of flickering fireflies, this beautiful galaxy cluster glows intensely in the dark cosmos, accompanied by the myriad bright lights of foreground stars and swirling spiral galaxies. A1758N is a sub-cluster of Abell 1758, a massive cluster containing hundreds of galaxies. Although it may appear serene in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, the sub-cluster actually comprises two even smaller structures currently in the turbulent process of merging.

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 2:26pm
Dust is everywhere -- not just in your attic or under your bed, but also in outer space. To astronomers, dust can be a tool to study the history of our universe, galaxy, and Solar System. For example, observations indicate that type II supernovae -- explosions of stars more than ten times as massive as the Sun -- produce copious amounts of dust, but how and when they do so is not well understood.

Neutron-star merger yields new puzzle for astrophysicists

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 2:26pm
The afterglow from the distant neutron-star merger detected last August has continued to brighten - much to the surprise of astrophysicists studying the aftermath of the massive collision that took place about 138 million light years away and sent gravitational waves rippling through the universe. New observations indicate that the gamma ray burst unleashed by the collision is more complex than scientists initially imagined.

Viruses are everywhere, maybe even in space

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 2:25pm
Viruses are the most abundant and one of the least understood biological entities on Earth. They might also exist in space, but as of yet scientists have done almost no research into this possibility.

Middle-aged sun observed by tracking motion of Mercury

Thu, 01/18/2018 - 2:18pm
Like the waistband of a couch potato in midlife, the orbits of planets in our solar system are expanding. It happens because the Sun's gravitational grip gradually weakens as our star ages and loses mass. Now, scientists have indirectly measured this mass loss and other solar parameters by looking at changes in Mercury's orbit.

Odd behavior of star reveals lonely black hole hiding in giant star cluster

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 8:56am
Astronomers using ESO's MUSE instrument on the Very Large Telescope in Chile have discovered a star in the cluster NGC 3201 that is behaving very strangely. It appears to be orbiting an invisible black hole with about four times the mass of the sun -- the first such inactive stellar-mass black hole found in a globular cluster and the first found by directly detecting its gravitational pull.

Hubble weighs in on mass of 3 million billion suns

Tue, 01/16/2018 - 2:42pm
In 2014, astronomers found an enormous galaxy cluster contains the mass of a staggering three million billion suns -- so it's little wonder that it has earned the nickname of "El Gordo" ("the Fat One" in Spanish)! Known officially as ACT-CLJ0102-4915, it is the largest, hottest, and brightest X-ray galaxy cluster ever discovered in the distant Universe.