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Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Jan 14, 2020. 5 comments

Has Hubble Detected Rogue Clumps of Dark Matter?

Has Hubble Detected Rogue Clumps of Dark Matter?

Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered evidence of small clumps of dark matter warping the light from distant quasars.

Regular matter seems to form only a small part of the universe—much more of the matter seems to be “dark” stuff that influences regular matter via gravity but can’t be detected directly. The most widely accepted theory to explain dark matter suggests that...

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Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Jan 09, 2020. 13 comments

If You Make It to 2083, You Could Witness Two Stars Collide

If You Make It to 2083, You Could Witness Two Stars Collide

Scientists have predicted that a pair of stars in our galaxy will collide, producing an explosion that will temporarily become one of the brightest objects in the night sky. They don’t know exactly when it will happen, but they estimate it will be later this century.

V Sagittae is an unassuming and faint pair of stars 7,800 light-years away in the constellation Sagitta. The system has...

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Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Jan 08, 2020. 3 comments

Nearby Gas Clouds Actually Form Behemoth Structure That Might Be the Milky Way's Arm, Study Finds

Nearby Gas Clouds Actually Form Behemoth Structure That Might Be the Milky Way's Arm, Study Finds

Astronomers have discovered that many of the star-forming regions we see in the sky actually seem to form an undulating, 8,800-light-year-long wave containing 3 million solar masses’ worth of gas that could make up our local arm of the Milky Way galaxy.

Astronomers have long thought that a large, expanding ring of young stars, gas, and dust surrounded our solar system, forming a region called...

3 Comments

George Dvorsky George Dvorsky Jan 07, 2020. 11 comments

Jupiter Is Flinging Comets Toward Earth

Jupiter Is Flinging Comets Toward Earth

Some astronomers believe that Jupiter, instead of protecting Earth from dangerous comets and asteroids, is actively flinging objects into the inner solar system. New research now demonstrates this complex process in action.

A popular theory suggests Jupiter, with its tremendous mass, acts like a gigantic shield in space, sucking in or deflecting dangerous debris left over from the formation...

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George Dvorsky George Dvorsky Dec 18, 2019. 17 comments

Weird ‘Vanishing Stars’ Could Potentially Be Aliens, Study Claims

Weird ‘Vanishing Stars’ Could Potentially Be Aliens, Study Claims

A comparative analysis of historical and contemporary astronomical data has resulted in the discovery of approximately 100 star-like objects that unexpectedly vanished. These strange occurrences are likely natural, but scientists say alien technology is a remote possibility.

They start off as dim red dots in the night sky. But then they start to get brighter—anywhere from several to thousands...

17 Comments

Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Dec 05, 2019. 3 comments

Major Quantum Achievement Lets Physicists 'See' Gravitational Waves From Deeper in the Universe

Major Quantum Achievement Lets Physicists 'See' Gravitational Waves From Deeper in the Universe

Physicists are reporting the results of a test to squeeze the vacuum of spacetime itself in order to better detect gravitational waves from colliding black holes.

Extreme extraterrestrial events, like two black holes colliding or supernovae , may produce ripples in spacetime called gravitational waves. Here on Earth, a suite of observatories attempts to measure these ripples using lasers—but...

3 Comments

Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Dec 05, 2019. 17 comments

You Cannot Conceive of the Hugeness of This Black Hole

You Cannot Conceive of the Hugeness of This Black Hole

Oh my, this recently discovered black hole... well, it’s big.

How big? Among black holes whose masses scientists can directly infer based on the motion of their host galaxies’ stars, it’s the biggest. It’s 40 billion times the mass of the Sun big—that’s around 2.5 percent the mass of the entire Milky Way galaxy.

It’s 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 paperclips, if...

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Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Dec 05, 2019. 3 comments

Parker Solar Probe Scientists Reveal Jaw-Dropping First Results From the Sun

Parker Solar Probe Scientists Reveal Jaw-Dropping First Results From the Sun

Today, scientists are releasing the surprising initial results from the Parker Solar Probe’s first two close encounters with the Sun.

From 36 solar radii away, it’s already clear that our Sun is a chaotic beast full of surprises, with solar winds circling it faster than expected, rapidly reversing magnetic fields, and blobs of plasma spewing from its corona. These first four papers have...

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Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Dec 05, 2019. 2 comments

This Exoplanet-Shredding White Dwarf May Foretell the End of Our Solar System

This Exoplanet-Shredding White Dwarf May Foretell the End of Our Solar System

Scientists have discovered evidence of a star system that might foreshadow the fate of our own.

When stars that aren’t massive enough to end their lifespan in a supernova grow old, they turn into red giants that eventually expel their outer layer of matter. This leaves behind a hot stellar corpse called a white dwarf, which weighs a little less than the Sun but with only a small fraction of...

2 Comments

Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Nov 29, 2019. 1 comments

New Findings Show a Surprising Way Black Holes Could Affect Star Formation

New Findings Show a Surprising Way Black Holes Could Affect Star Formation

Somewhere in the distant universe nearly 10 billion light years from Earth, an enormous black hole is spewing a powerful jet of energy that might be turbocharging star formation in galaxies a million light years from the source.

Though black holes have earned a reputation as cosmic vacuum cleaners, they also serve as the center of galaxies, spew jets of particles and radiation, and could have...

1 Comments

Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Nov 19, 2019. 3 comments

Gravitational Waves Could Uncover Missing-Link Black Holes

Gravitational Waves Could Uncover Missing-Link Black Holes

Scientists hope that the future of gravitational wave detection will allow them to directly observe a mysterious kind of black hole.

Gravitational wave detectors have seen direct evidence of black holes with roughly the mass of giant stars, while the Event Horizon Telescope produced an image of a supermassive black hole billions of times the mass of our Sun. But in the middle are...

3 Comments

Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Nov 06, 2019. 20 comments

The Universe May Be Round—and That Would Be Bad News for Physicists

The Universe May Be Round—and That Would Be Bad News for Physicists

Scientists analyzing data from a defunct satellite say we should all consider that our universe might be round, rather than flat. The consequences, they explain in a new paper, could be crisis-inducing.

Current theories of the universe, which describe its age, size, and how it evolves over time, are built around a flat spacetime. A new paper reiterates that data from the final Planck satellite...

20 Comments

Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Oct 05, 2019.

Simulations Show Black Holes Have Surprisingly Intimate Relationship With Host Galaxies

Simulations Show Black Holes Have Surprisingly Intimate Relationship With Host Galaxies

A new study is shedding light on the way galaxies interact with the incredibly massive black holes at their centers.

Astronomers think every galaxy has an incredibly dense region at its center called a supermassive black hole. Many of these black holes, called active galactic nuclei (AGNs) spew jets of radiation. But lots of questions remain about the relationship between AGNs and the galaxies...

Andy Howell Andy Howell Sep 24, 2019. 18 comments

What Ad Astra Gets Wrong About Space Travel, Astronomy, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

What Ad Astra Gets Wrong About Space Travel, Astronomy, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

As an astrophysicist and a film critic, I’ve been waiting my whole life for a big-budget adventure film that spans the whole solar system. There are some stunning sequences in Ad Astra, and many of the details about astronaut life and space travel are spot-on. But some of the themes and ideas that drive the plot are based on astronomical misconceptions.

Ad Astra touts itself as having help from...

18 Comments

Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Sep 13, 2019. 2 comments

A New Way to Measure Cosmic Distance Could Help Solve a Frustrating Inconsistency About the Universe

A New Way to Measure Cosmic Distance Could Help Solve a Frustrating Inconsistency About the Universe

We can add yet another way to measure the universe’s expansion onto the pile of controversy that could perhaps be the most exciting story in cosmology today.

The universe is expanding. Measurements of the most distant detectable electromagnetic radiation predict one value for the rate of expansion, but measurements gleaned from nearer objects reveal different values. If the values really are...

2 Comments

Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Aug 21, 2019. 1 comments

A New Experiment Narrows Potential Properties of Dark Energy Particle

A New Experiment Narrows Potential Properties of Dark Energy Particle

An experiment in the United Kingdom has failed to find evidence of a particle meant to explain most of the universe’s mass. But the search isn’t over.

When cosmologists observe the way the universe expands, they find that present-day theories of matter can’t explain most of the universe’s energy. They call the unknown energy “dark energy,” and theorists have tried to explain it by proposing...

1 Comments

Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Aug 16, 2019. 6 comments

This Enormous Supernova Was Unlike Anything Seen Before

This Enormous Supernova Was Unlike Anything Seen Before

Astronomers have observed a supernova unlike any ever observed before, and it might be strong evidence of an important kind of stellar death that would have shaped early galaxies.

The supernova, called SN2016iet, doesn’t fit into the classification schemes that scientists use for supernovae today. It seems to look like a “pair-instability supernova” that would happen among the heaviest stars....

6 Comments

Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Aug 13, 2019. 12 comments

Astronomers Spot Unprecedented Flashes From Our Galaxy's Black Hole

Astronomers Spot Unprecedented Flashes From Our Galaxy's Black Hole

An attempt to prove Einstein’s hallmark theory of gravity revealed something even freakier: an unprecedented flash from the black hole at the center of our galaxy.

The Milky Way features a black hole that’s 4 million times the mass of the Sun, called Sagittarius A* (pronounced A-star). Teams of scientists have been measuring it for over 20 years, and back in May, one team observed a flash of...

12 Comments

Ryan F. Mandelbaum Ryan F. Mandelbaum Aug 08, 2019. 3 comments

Astronomers Uncover Ancient Treasure Trove of Massive Galaxies

Astronomers Uncover Ancient Treasure Trove of Massive Galaxies

Astronomers have spotted a puzzling population of enormous galaxies in the far distance that will be crucial targets for upcoming telescopes.

Today, astronomers struggle to explain the origin of the largest galaxies in the nearby universe. This new discovery, made using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, offers an explanation—but something’s off. The newfound...

3 Comments

George Dvorsky George Dvorsky Aug 02, 2019. 14 comments

This Football-Shaped Planet Is Leaking Heavy Metal

This Football-Shaped Planet Is Leaking Heavy Metal

This hot Jupiter is so close to its host star that gravitational forces are squeezing it into a football-like shape. Not only that, its temperatures are so extreme that heavy metal gases are escaping into space from the exoplanet’s atmosphere—a phenomenon never seen before until now.

Iron and magnesium gases are escaping the atmosphere of WASP-121b, a hot Jupiter located around 880 light-years...

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