A team of researchers that has spent years searching for the earliest objects in the universe now reports the detection of what may be the most distant galaxy ever found. Adi Zitrin, a NASA Hubble Postdoctoral Scholar in Astronomy, and Richard Ellis, a professor of astrophysics at University College, London, have described evidence for a galaxy called EGS8p7 that is more than 13.2 billion years old. 

The universe itself is about 13.8 billion years old.

This is just for fun. At first sight this seems impossible - the smallest stars are heavier than the heaviest planets, and how can something heavier orbit something that is lighter? But what if you have a very dense star and very large very low density planet? And if you interpret "orbiting it" as "having barycenter (the "center of mass of the system") within the planet"?

Also, could a star sometimes be lighter than a planet, is that possible at all? I'll also describe a way that a heavier object can, in a way, "orbit" a lighter one - a way to get a heavier star move in such a way that the barycenter of the system lies within a large low density planet - can you figure out how, before I get to it?

New research predicts that Earth has more than 1,500 undiscovered minerals and that the exact mineral diversity of our planet is unique and could not be duplicated anywhere in the cosmos. Minerals form from novel combinations of elements. These combinations can be facilitated by both geological activity, including volcanoes, plate tectonics, and water-rock interactions, and biological activity, such as chemical reactions with oxygen and organic material.

Perhaps you saw the news recently about astronauts in the International Space Station eating their first home grown lettuce? It's just a beginning, but in the future, could they grow all their own food and get all their oxygen from plants?

One day, it might be possible to detect the spread of life among the stars through panspermia--a hypothetical process of life distributed throughout the Milky Way by asteroids, comets, and even spacecraft. Henry Lin and Abraham Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics propose, “If future surveys detect biosignatures in the atmospheres of exoplanets,” it ought to be possible to detect the spread of life between stars even without knowing how life spread from host star to host star. That is, we probably wouldn’t be able to detect the mechanisms of panspermia such as asteroid, spacecraft, or what have you.
Science fiction movies about aliens threatening the Earth routinely ascribe them the motive of coming here to steal our resources, most often our water.

This is ill thought-out, as water is actually extremely common. Any civilization coming to our solar system in need of water (either to drink or to make rocket fuel) would be foolish to plunge all the way inwards to the Earth, from where they’d have to haul their booty back against the pull of the sun’s gravity.

Is the ISS the most expensive single human artefact ever, after adjusting for inflation? Well, to start with, it's a whole lot more expensive than a medieval cathedral anyway. First we need an estimate of the cost of the ISS, and this article in the Space Review estimates the total cost up to 2015 as $150 billion (in 2010 dollars). That's the total cost including all the international partners. So, how much did it cost to build a medieval cathedral?

A team of researchers has discovered a Jupiter-like planet within a young system that could provide a new understanding of how planets formed around our sun.

The new planet, called 51 Eridani b, is the first exoplanet discovered by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), a new instrument operated by an international collaboration headed by Bruce Macintosh, a professor of physics in the Kavli Institute at Stanford University. It is a million times fainter than its star and shows the strongest methane signature ever detected on an alien planet, which should yield additional clues as to how the planet formed.

This is just a fun question someone asked on Quora. It leads into a few interesting topics. First the ISS just isn't heavy enough for a satellite to enter into a true gravitational orbit around it. But, in theory at least, you can put a satellite into a temporary  orbit that looks from the point of view of the ISS as if it is in orbit around it. 

For a while. It's not kept in place by any gravitational attraction to the ISS, so it is sort of an illusory orbit you could say in a way - but perhaps it is interesting.


We know that our universe has already lived through great number of exciting phases.

But new research released overnight shows the universe has long passed its peak and is slowly but surely dying.

The research was presented at the year’s largest gathering of astronomers at the International Astronomical Union’s General Assembly in Hawaii.

Before we start writing any obituaries, let’s have a quick recap of the good times.