Space

Astronomers have taken unprecedented images of the intergalactic medium (IGM) — the diffuse gas that connects galaxies throughout the universe — with the Cosmic Web Imager, which was designed and built at the California Institute of Technology.

Until now, the structure of the IGM has mostly been a matterof speculation, but with observations from the Cosmic Web Imager, deployed on the Hale 200-inch telescope at Palomar Observatory, astronomers are obtaining our first three-dimensional pictures of the IGM.

The Cosmic Web Imager will make possible a new understanding of galactic and intergalactic dynamics, and it has already detected one possible spiral-galaxy-in-the-making that is three times the size of our Milky Way.


A team of researchers led by Robert Quimby at the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU) has announced the discovery of a galaxy that magnified a background, Type Ia supernova thirtyfold through gravitational lensing. This is the first example of strong gravitational lensing of a supernova confirms the team's previous explanation for the unusual properties of this supernova. 


A "brown dwarf" star with the catchy name of  WISE J085510.83-071442.5 appears to be the coldest of its kind.

When people think of stars, they think of hot fusion plasma bubbling and erupting.  WISE J085510.83-071442.5,  7.2 light-years away, making it the fourth closest system to our sun, is instead as frosty as Earth's North Pole.



The locations of the star systems that are closest to the Sun.
The year when each star was discovered to be a neighbor of  the
Sun is indicated. The brown dwarf WISE J085510.83-071442.5
is the fourth nearest system to the Sun. Credit: Janella Williams,


The southern hemisphere of Mars is home to a crater that contains very well-preserved gullies and debris flow deposits and he geomorphological attributes of these landforms provide evidence that they were formed by the action of liquid water in geologically recent time.


A meteor caught on film during its non-luminous free fall at terminal velocity ? Or an elaborate hoax ? Or something else ? I must admit that when I saw the video posted in the internet a few weeks ago I was intrigued, and operated a willful suppression of disbelief. The footage showed a free-falling black stone that really looked like a meteoroid, passing by the owner of the camera hanging on a parachute, on the skies of Norway. I wanted to believe!


Above: sum of frames from the video shot by the parachuters

What looked at first like a sort of upside-down planet in
the binary star system KOI-3278
has instead revealed a new method for studying binary star systems, according to a University of Washington team who writes of the first "self-lensing" binary star system — one in which the mass of the closer star can be measured by how powerfully it magnifies light from its more distant companion star.

Our sun stands alone but about 40 percent of similar stars are in binary (two-star) or multi-star systems, orbiting their companions in a gravitational dance.


A Star that seems Brighter when Eclipsed


This paradoxical phenomenon was brought to my attention by a recent article in Physics World.  Quite an informative article, but like some bard of old, with legendary tales of kings and heroes, I would like to tell it as a story, in three episodes.

    1: Variable Star

Actually physically getting humans and their life support to Mars is likely to be feasible. But there is much more to it than that.
 

LANDING SAFELY

SETI Live's data on Kepler-186's solar system could be revealing evidence of extraterrestrial life. SETI may have seen ET's satellite signals already. Here is the data and my analysis.   From my own expertise and experience in astronomy, specifically classifying signals for SETI Live... I say there is a better than 50/50 chance we have found that we are not alone.

Astronomers using NASA's Kepler Space Telescope report discovery of the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the "habitable zone" -- the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet.

The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars other than our sun. While planets have previously been found in the habitable zone, they are all at least 40 percent larger in size than Earth and understanding their makeup is challenging. Kepler-186f is more reminiscent of Earth.