Space

New computer visualization technology developed by the Harvard Initiative in Innovative Computing has helped astrophysicists understand that gravity plays a larger role than previously thought in deep space's vast, star-forming molecular clouds.

The insight is being illustrated in Nature's online version through new three-dimensional Portable Document Format (PDF) technology that will allow readers to view the article's key graphics using free PDF software already commonly found on computers.
Image Fortress today announced that it has launched the International Space Archives, an online digital library, organizing the vast collections of still and video imagery produced by the manned and unmanned space programs of the world.

Over the past fifty years, the space programs in the United States and other countries have amassed extensive volumes of still and motion picture photography that has been largely inaccessible to the public. The International Space Archives has been designed to make this incredible collection of imagery available to a worldwide audience.
According to the Bible, when Jesus was born three Magi saw a star in the East that 'signaled the birth of a new king'. But just what was it, from an astronomical point of view, that the Magi could actually have seen?

Fred Grosse, a professor of physics and astronomy at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa., says there are several popular theories that may answer this question.

“Astronomical objects or events which would be of interest to serious stargazers of the time include comets and meteors, nova or supernova, and auroras,” Grosse says. But the favorite candidate hypothesis for the star of Bethlehem, he explains, is a planetary conjunction.


The CoRoT satellite, a space mission led by the French Space Agency CNES with the participation of Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Spain and the European Space Agency, ESA (RSSD and Science programme, that includes an Italian contribution), has recently observed a star analogous to the young Sun at an age of approximately 500 million years, named CoRoTExo-2a.
The festive season has arrived for astronomers at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in the form of this dramatic new image. It shows the swirling gas around the region known as NGC 2264 — an area of sky that includes the sparkling blue baubles of the Christmas Tree star cluster.

NGC 2264 lies about 2600 light-years from Earth in the obscure constellation of Monoceros, the Unicorn, not far from the more familiar figure of Orion, the Hunter. The image shows a region of space about 30 light-years across. 
The astronomy/physics sector of the internets is all abuzz about Dark Energy.

It was originally thought that gravity would slow the expansion of the universe as huge astronomical bodies become attracted to each other and pull together like Sumo wrestlers trying to share a waterbed.  That has not happened.  Instead, the universe is expanding, and doing so at an increasing rate.  Dark Energy is the general repulsive force that is kicking gravity's butt and driving the expansion of the universe.
Black holes?  Maybe we should think of them as donut holes. The shape of material around black holes has been seen for the first time: an analysis of over 200 active galactic nuclei—cores of galaxies powered by disks of hot material feeding a super-massive black hole—shows that all have a consistent, ordered physical structure that seems to be independent of the black hole's size.
Earth's magnetic field, which shields our planet from particles streaming outward from the Sun, often develops two holes that allow the largest leaks, according to researchers sponsored by NASA and the National Science Foundation. 

"The discovery overturns a long-standing belief about how and when most of the solar particles penetrate Earth's magnetic field, and could be used to predict when solar storms will be severe. Based on these results, we expect more severe storms during the upcoming solar cycle," said Vassilis Angelopoulos of the University of California, Los Angeles, Principal Investigator for NASA's THEMIS mission (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms). THEMIS was used to discover the size of the leak. 
Astronomy&Astrophysics is publishing spectroscopic observations with NASA's space-based Far-Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) of the white dwarf KPD 0005+5106. The team of German and American astronomers who present these observations show that this white dwarf is among the hottest stars known so far, with a temperature of 200,000 K at its surface. It is so hot that its photosphere exhibits emission lines in the ultraviolet spectrum, a phenomenon that has never been seen before. These emission features stem from extremely ionized calcium (nine-fold ionized, i.e., CaX), which is the highest ionization stage of a chemical element ever discovered in a photospheric stellar spectrum.
A new paper in The Astrophysical Journal suggests that turbulence plays a critical role in creating ripe conditions for the birth of planets, a challenge to the prevailing theory of planet formation, gravitational instability. 

Using three-dimensional simulations of the dust and gas that orbits young stars, the study claims that turbulence is a significant obstacle to gravitational instability, which scientists have used since the 1970s to explain the early stage of planet formation.