Signals bounced off reflectors on the lunar surface return surprisingly faint echoes on full moon nights. Scientists think it's the result of uneven heating of the reflective lenses, which would alter their refractive index, dispersing the return beam, and they found compelling evidence for this explanation during an eclipse as Earth's shadow passed over each reflector in turn.
Scientists have solved a major problem with the current standard model of cosmology identified by combining results from the Planck spacecraft and measurements of gravitational lensing in order to deduce the mass of ghostly sub-atomic particles called neutrinos.
Scientists who study Earth, the sun and stars have long used high-altitude scientific balloons to carry their telescopes far into the stratosphere for a better view of their targets. Not so much for planetary scientists. That's because they needed a highly stable, off-the-shelf-type system that could accurately point their instruments and then track planetary targets as they moved in the solar system. That device now exists.
A peculiar example of a celestial body, known as a brown dwarf, with unusually red skies has been discovered by a team of astronomers from the University of Hertfordshire's Centre for Astrophysics Research.
Using the Stampede, Lonestar and Ranger supercomputers, University of Texas researchers simulated the formation of the Universe from the Big Bang through the first few hundred million years of its existence. The researchers found that more realistic models of supernova blasts help explain the range of metalicity found in different galaxies. The results of the simulations will assist in guiding the James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch in 2018.
A new study reveals that black holes, formed from the first stars in our universe, heated the gas throughout space later than previously thought. They also imprinted a clear signature in radio waves which astronomers can now search for. The study is a major new finding about the origins of the universe.
Some 30 years ago, astronomers found that regions of ionized gas around young high mass stars remain small (under a third of a light-year) for ten times longer than they should if they were to expand as expected in simple models. Recent supercomputer simulations predicted that these regions actually flicker in brightness over this period rather than grow continuously.
ESO's New Technology Telescope has been used to find the first evidence that asteroids can have a highly varied internal structure. By making measurements astronomers have found that different parts of the asteroid Itokawa have different densities. As well as revealing secrets about the asteroid's formation, finding out what lies below the surface may also shed light on what happens when bodies collide in the Solar System, and provide clues about how planets form.
Imagine living on a planet with seasons so erratic you would hardly know whether to wear Bermuda shorts or a heavy overcoat. That is the situation on a weird, wobbly world found by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope.
While the origin of life remains mysterious, scientists are finding more and more evidence that material created in space and delivered to Earth by comet and meteor impacts could have given a boost to the start of life. Some meteorites supply molecules that can be used as building blocks to make certain kinds of larger molecules that are critical for life.
The gossamer deorbiting system is designed to automatically orient the sail in the direction where maximum drag can be achieved, ensuring quicker deorbiting. Furthermore, the sail is made reflective, which allows it to make use of the solar radiation pressure to manoeuvre; solar sailing, so to speak.
Luke Skywalker's home planet Tatooine would have formed far from its current location in the Star Wars universe, a new University of Bristol study into its real world counterparts, observed by the Kepler space telescope, suggests.