Space

Want to see a collision between the cores of two merging galaxies, each powered by a black hole with a  millions of times the mass of the sun?

You're in luck.   NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope recently caught that very thing.   The galactic cores are in a single, tangled galaxy called NGC 6240, located 400-million light years away in the constellation Ophiuchus. Millions of years ago, each core was the dense center of its own galaxy before the two galaxies collided and ripped each other apart. Now, these cores are approaching each other at tremendous speeds and preparing for the final cataclysmic collision. They will crash into each other in a few million years, a relatively short period on a galactic timescale.
Sometimes different is good.  You may not want a strange cup of coffee when you go to Starbucks and you would like for your car to work the way cars should, but in science the peculiar can teach us a lot.
 
This was the idea behind Halton Arp’s catalogue of Peculiar Galaxies that appeared in the 1960s. One of the oddballs listed there is Arp 261, which has now been imaged in more detail than ever before using the FORS2 instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope.
Our website got hacked. Astronomy sites are a popular target. It's safer to hack NASA than, say, the NSA. All the bragging but little of the risks. Hacking NASA to get at 'inside stuff' is generally pointless. The whole purpose of NASA is to publically deliver what we do. All the good data and the best software gets openly released. Trying to hack NASA is like stealing twenty copies of the free local newspaper off the delivery truck. It's not only illegal, it's stupid, doesn't gain you anything, and takes more work then getting it the legit way.
Researchers have found evidence suggesting that stars rich in carbon complex molecules may form at the center of our Milky Way galaxy - and it helps solve a mystery.   Namely, why have telescopes never detected carbon-rich stars at the center of our galaxy even though they have found these stars in other places?

This discovery is also significant because it adds to our knowledge of how stars form heavy elements like oxygen, carbon and iron and and then blow them out across the universe, making it possible for life to develop.
A new map combining nearly three months of data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is giving astronomers an unprecedented look at the high-energy cosmos. To Fermi's "eyes", the universe is ablaze with gamma rays from sources within the solar system to galaxies billions of light-years away.

A paper describing the 205 brightest sources the LAT sees has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Supplement. "This is the mission's first major science product, and it's a big step toward producing our first source catalog later this year," said David Thompson, a Fermi deputy project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
The Wii game 'Super Mario Galaxy' is a triumph of inventive game play and a favorite in our family. But oh, the muddled science message is like a bad version of the old "Who's on First" routine. In the game, you collect star bits and bigger stars to open up planets that are called Galaxies. You can also feed stars, which turn into galaxies when they get fat. Each Galaxy is eminently walkable and about the size of a football field... or smaller. As a game player, it's great fun. As an astronomer, it's painful.
Astronomers have obtained exceptional 3D views of distant galaxies, seen when the Universe was half its current age, by combining the the Hubble Space Telescope’s acute eye and the ESO’s Very Large Telescope to probe the motions of gas in tiny objects. By looking at this unique “history book” of our Universe, at an epoch when the Sun and the Earth did not yet exist, scientists hope to solve the puzzle of how galaxies formed in the remote past.
Is Pluto a planet? On Tuesday I talked about how 'Algol' isn't technically an Algol-type star system. This raised the interesting case of "is Pluto a planet". To a large degree, that's a non-argument. Pluto hasn't changed. Here's an example I often run for students. All you readers out there, if you have dark hair-- black or brown hair-- raise your hands. Don't worry about your officemate starting, just raise those hands. Got them up? Okay, I want everyone who has dark hair-- just black hair-- to raise your hands, but anyone else with their hand up, lower it. Yes, dark hair is now defined as 'black'. Brown hair is no longer what I'm calling dark.
The Martian volcano Olympus Mons is about three times the height of Mount Everest but it's the small details that Rice University professors Patrick McGovern and Julia Morgan are looking at in thinking about whether the Red Planet ever had life.

Using a computer modeling system to figure out how Olympus Mons came to be, McGovern and Morgan reached the surprising conclusion that pockets of ancient water may still be trapped under the mountain.

If there's still ancient water, there may still be ancient life, they say.   Their research is published in Geology
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has found within Saturn's G ring an embedded moonlet that appears as a faint, moving pinprick of light. Scientists now believe it is a main source of the G ring and its single ring arc.