Although scientists are increasingly using pint-size satellites sometimes no larger than a loaf of bread to gather data from low-Earth orbit, they have yet to apply the less-expensive small-satellite technology to observe physical phenomena far from terra firma.
Type Ia supernovae are the 'standard candles' astrophysicists use to chart distance in the Universe. But are these dazzling exploding stars truly all the same? To answer this, scientists must first understand what causes stars to explode and become supernovae. Recently, a unique collaborative project provided a rare glimpse of the process.
Astronomers have found evidence that enigmatic objects in nearby galaxies - called ultra-luminous X-ray sources (ULXs) - exhibit strong outflows that are created as matter falls onto their black holes at unexpectedly high rates. The strong outflows suggest that the black holes in these ULXs must be much smaller than expected.
A new NASA supercomputer simulation of the planet and debris disk around the nearby star Beta Pictoris reveals that the planet's motion drives spiral waves throughout the disk, a phenomenon that causes collisions among the orbiting debris.
An international team of scientists has discovered an immense cloud of hydrogen escaping from a Neptune-sized exoplanet. Such a phenomena not only helps explain the formation of hot and rocky 'super-earths', but also may potentially act as a signal for detecting extrasolar oceans.
Active galactic nuclei are the brightest objects in the universe. They are not lit up permanently, but rather 'flicker' extremely slowly. This insight helps researchers better understand the influence these nuclei and black holes have on their host galaxy.
In late 2013, when the neutron star at the heart of one of our galaxy's oddest supernovae gave off a massive burst of X-rays, the resulting echoes - created when the X-rays bounced off clouds of dust in interstellar space - yielded a surprising new measuring stick for astronomers.
A group of astronomers has discovered 854 'ultra dark galaxies' in the Coma Cluster by analyzing archival data from the Subaru Telescope. The discovery of 47 such mysterious dark galaxies was a surprising find in 2014, and the new discovery of more than 800 suggests galaxy clusters as the key environment for the evolution of these mysterious dark galaxies.
A new NASA computer simulation shows that dark matter particles colliding in the extreme gravity of a black hole can produce strong, potentially observable gamma-ray light. Detecting this emission would provide astronomers with a new tool for understanding both black holes and the nature of dark matter, an elusive substance accounting for most of the mass of the universe that neither reflects, absorbs nor emits light.
If planets had personalities, Mars would be a rock star according to recent preliminary results from NASA's MAVEN spacecraft. Mars sports a 'Mohawk' of escaping atmospheric particles at its poles, 'wears' a layer of metal particles high in its atmosphere, and lights up with aurora after being smacked by solar storms.
Astronomers have successfully commissioned a new type of optic that can reveal the image of an exoplanet next to its parent star. The 'vector Apodizing Phase Plate' coronagraph was installed at the 6.5-m Magellan Clay telescope in Chile in May 2015, and the first observations demonstrated an unprecedented contrast performance very close to the star, where planets are more likely to reside.
The 'world's largest IT project' - a system with the power of one hundred million home computers - may help to unravel many of the mysteries of our universe: how it began, how it developed and whether humanity is alone in the cosmos.