All stars begin their lives in groups. Most stars are born in small groups that quickly fall apart. Others form in huge, dense swarms, where stars jostle with thousands of neighbors while strong radiation and harsh stellar winds scour interstellar space, stripping planet-forming materials from nearby stars. It would thus seem an unlikely place to find alien worlds. Yet 3,000 light-years from Earth, in the star cluster NGC 6811, astronomers have found two planets smaller than Neptune orbiting sun-like stars.
A team of astronomers has combined new observations of Gliese 667C with existing data from HARPS at ESO's 3.6-meter telescope in Chile, to reveal a system with at least six planets. A record-breaking three of these planets are super-Earths lying in the zone around the star where liquid water could exist, making them possible candidates for the presence of life. This is the first system found with a fully packed habitable zone.
We now understand the nature of the giant storms on Saturn. Through the analysis of images sent from the Cassini space probe belonging to the North American and European space agencies (NASA and ESA respectively), as well as the computer models of the storms and the examination of the clouds therein, the Planetary Sciences Group of the University of the Basque Country has managed to explain the behaviour of these storms for the very first time.
A CSIRO radio telescope has detected the raw material for making the first stars in galaxies that formed when the Universe was just three billion years old - less than a quarter of its current age. This opens the way to studying how these early galaxies make their first stars.
On June 7, 2011, our sun erupted, blasting tons of hot plasma into space. Some of that plasma splashed back down onto the sun's surface, sparking bright flashes of ultraviolet light. This dramatic event may provide new insights into how young stars grow by sucking up nearby gas.
New observations of a nearby active galaxy called NGC 3783, harnessing the power of the Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile, have given a team of astronomers a surprise. Although the hot dust - at some 700 to 1000 degrees Celsius - is indeed in a torus as expected, they found huge amounts of cooler dust above and below this main torus.
Using data gathered by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, scientists believe they have solved a mystery from one of the solar system's coldest regions - a permanently shadowed crater on the moon.
Supernova 2011fe was discovered just hours after it exploded in the Big Dipper. Studies by the Nearby Supernova Factory of its spectrum as it evolved over time have produced a benchmark atlas of data by which to measure all future Type Ia's.
The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) spacecraft is on track for a launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on June 26. IRIS will fill a crucial gap in the ability of scientists to advance Sun-Earth connection studies by tracing the flow of energy and plasma through a dynamic interface region - the chromosphere and transition region - between the solar surface and the solar corona.
Astrophysicists from the Complutense University of Madrid have confirmed that Crantor, a large asteroid with a diameter of 70 km has an orbit similar to that of Uranus and takes the same amount of time to orbit the Sun. Researchers have demonstrated for the first time that this and a further two objects of the group of the Centaurs are co-orbital with Uranus.
The keen vision of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has detected a mysterious gap in a vast protoplanetary disk of gas and dust swirling around the nearby star TW Hydrae, located 176 light-years away in the constellation Hydra. The gap's presence is best explained as due to the effects of a growing, unseen planet that is gravitationally sweeping up material and carving out a lane in the disk, like a snow plow.
Researchers from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) have proven a new technique that will provide a clearer picture of the Universe's history and be used with the next generation of radio telescopes such as the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).