Space

A giant elliptical galaxy seen in an image from the Hubble Space Telescope is the closest gravitational lens yet known, according to information released by the Hubble Heritage Project Tuesday (Feb. 6).

John Blakeslee, an assistant professor with the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Washington State University, working with colleagues from the University of Hawaii and the University of Durham in England, targeted the galaxy for a closer look by Hubble.

Elliptical Galaxy ES) 325-G004 in the Abell Cluster S0740. (Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) / Acknowledgment: J. Blakeslee (Washington State University))

A giant cloud half the size of the United States has been imaged on Saturn’s moon Titan by the Cassini spacecraft. The cloud may be responsible for the material that fills the lakes discovered last year by Cassini's radar instrument.

Cloaked by winter's shadow, this cloud has now come into view as winter turns to spring. The cloud extends down to 60 degrees north latitude, is roughly 2400 kilometers in diameter and engulfs almost the entire north pole of Titan.

The new image was acquired on 29 December 2006, by Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS).

Astronomers using the Subaru telescope in Hawaii have looked 60 million years further back in time than any other astronomers, to find the most distant known galaxy in the universe. In doing so, they are upholding Subaru's record for finding the most distant and earliest galaxies known. Their most recent discovery is of a galaxy called I0K-1 that lies so far away that astronomers are seeing it as it appeared 12.88 billion years ago.

A research team at Swarthmore College discovered a previously unknown companion to the bright star, beta Crucis, in the Southern Cross. As a prominent member of the well-known constellation Crux, or the Southern Cross, it appears on five national flags: Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and Samoa.

The European Space Agency's gamma ray observatory Integral has caught the centre of our galaxy in a moment of rare quiet. A handful of the most energetic high-energy sources surrounding the black hole at the centre of the Galaxy had all faded into a temporary silence when Integral looked.

  Integral Galactic Centre

 

This unusual event is allowing astronomers to probe for even fainter objects and may give them a glimpse of matter disappearing into the massive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. The Galactic centre is one of the most dynamic places in our Galaxy.

When kids head back to school this fall, they might have some brand new planets to memorize.  

The International Astronomical Union, currently meeting in Prague, is expected to vote on the definition of a planet. The organization, which has named planets and moons since it was founded in 1919, is debating a plan to establish that our solar system has 12 planets.