The people of Aroostook County, Maine, win my award for most awesome community today. When you construct what is billed as the largest complete three-dimensional scale model of the solar system in the world, the choice is a no-brainer.
Doug Bachler, the coolest guy I know (after Hank, of course), sent me this link about the model solar system today. (Doug enables my geekiness, so he deserves special mention by name.) Click on the map on the site to see the solar stretch of stunning science.
Found in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud, 30 Doradus is one of the largest massive star forming regions close to the Milky Way. Enormous stars in 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, are producing intense radiation and searing winds of multimillion-degree gas that carve out gigantic bubbles in the surrounding cooler gas and dust. Other massive stars have raced through their evolution and exploded catastrophically as supernovae, expanding these bubbles into X-ray-brightened superbubbles. They leave behind pulsars as beacons of their former lives and expanding supernova remnants that trigger the collapse of giant clouds of dust and gas to form new generations of stars.
Moons outside our Solar System with the potential to support life have just become much easier to detect, thanks to research by an astronomer at University College London (UCL).
David Kipping has found that such moons can be revealed by looking at wobbles in the velocity of the planets they orbit. His calculations, which appear in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society today, not only allow us to confirm if a planet has a satellite but to calculate its mass and distance from its host planet factors that determine the likely habitabiliity of a moon.
I'm no astronomy expert. I'm probably even lousy at showing a casual interest. But, gamma ray bursts
are just cool. They are essentially the most energetic events in the universe, since the Big Bang. My general understanding is they occur when a giant star collapses into a black hole. Looks like folks at GORT just imaged a brand new gamma ray burst. Check out the pictures at Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog
. It may not look like much, but remember one of these things could deep fry the Earth from over 500 light years away. Don't know about you, but gamma ray burst is how I want to go extinct.
By watching the motions of 28 stars orbiting the Milky Way's most central region with admirable patience and amazing precision, astronomers have been able to study the supermassive black hole lurking there. It is known as Sagittarius A*
(pronounced "Sagittarius A star"). The new research marks the first time that the orbits of so many of these central stars have been calculated precisely and reveals information about the enigmatic formation of these stars — and about the black hole to which they are bound.
In 2006, astronomer Alice Quillen of the University of Rochester predicted that a planet of a particular size and orbit must lie within the dust of a nearby star. That planet has now been photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope, making it only the second planet ever imaged after an accurate prediction. The only other planet seen after an accurate prediction was Neptune, discovered more than 160 years ago.
"It's remarkable," says Eugene Chiang, associate professor of astronomy at the University of California at Berkeley, and part of the team that imaged the new planet. "Alice saw the way the inner edge of the dust ring cut off sharply and recognized that a planet likely orbited just inside. The orbit we found was amazingly close to Alice's prediction."
New images taken by instruments on board ESA's Venus Express provide a unique insight into the windy atmosphere of our neighbouring planet and reveal that global patterns at the Venus cloud tops are the result of variable temperatures and cloud heights.
Using the spacecraft's ultraviolet and infrared cameras, the Venus Express team, including UK scientists, have been able to compare what the planet looks like at different wavelengths, allowing them to study the physical conditions and dynamics of the planet's atmosphere. These results appear today (4th December) in the journal Nature.
Astronomers have uncovered strong evidence that brown dwarfs form like stars. Using the Smithsonian's Submillimeter Array (SMA), they detected molecules of carbon monoxide shooting outward from the object known as ISO-Oph 102. Such molecular outflows typically are seen coming from young stars or
protostars. However, this object has an estimated mass of 60 Jupiters, too small to be a star. Astronomers have classified it as a brown dwarf.
Scientists have detected an organic sugar molecule that is directly linked to the origin of life, in a region of our galaxy where habitable planets could exist. The international team of researchers, including a researcher at University College London (UCL), used the IRAM radio telescope in France to detect the molecule in a massive star forming region of space, some 26000 light years from Earth.
Two of our galaxy's most massive stars, until recently shrouded in mystery, have been viewed by the Hubble Space Telescope, unveiling greater detail than ever before.
The image shows a pair of colossal stars, WR 25 and Tr16-244, located within the open cluster Trumpler 16. This cluster is embedded within the Carina Nebula, an immense cauldron of gas and dust that lies approximately 7500 light-years from Earth. The Carina Nebula
contains several ultra-hot stars, including these two star systems and the famous blue star Eta Carinae
, which has the highest luminosity yet confirmed.