Space

A new study of gamma-ray light may lead to evidence of dark matter, a hypothetical blanket term for whatever must make up most of the material universe.

Using publicly available data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, scholars at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Chicago have created new maps and they believe their maps show that the galactic center produces more high-energy gamma rays than can be explained by known sources.

They believe this excess emission is consistent with some forms of dark matter.


Right now a doomed gas cloud is edging ever closer to the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. These black holes feed on gas and dust all the time, but astronomers rarely get to see mealtime in action.

Northwestern University's Daryl Haggard has been closely watching the little cloud, called G2, and the black hole, called Sgr A*, as part of a study that should eventually help solve one of the outstanding questions surrounding black holes: How exactly do they achieve such supermassive proportions?


In 2005, NASA's Cassini spacecraft sent pictures back to Earth depicting an icy Saturnian moon spewing water vapor and ice from fractures, known as "tiger stripes," in its frozen surface. It was big news that tiny Enceladus—a mere 500 kilometers in diameter—was such an active place. Since then, scientists have hypothesized that a large reservoir of water lies beneath that icy surface, possibly fueling the plumes. Now, using gravity measurements collected by Cassini, scientists have confirmed that Enceladus does in fact harbor a large subsurface ocean near its south pole, beneath those tiger stripes.


The centimeter-sized fragments and smaller particles that make up the regolith — the layer of loose, unconsolidated rock and dust — of small asteroids is formed by temperature cycling that breaks down rock in a process called thermal fatigue, according to a paper in Nature.


The amount of water present in the moon may have been overestimated by scientists studying the mineral apatite, according to a new computer model created to accurately predict how apatite would have crystallized from cooling bodies of lunar magma early in the moon's history. Their simulations revealed that the unusually hydrogen-rich apatite crystals observed in many lunar rock samples may not have formed within a water-rich environment, as was originally expected.  

Writing in Science, the authors say this discovery has overturned the long-held assumption that the hydrogen in apatite is a good indicator of overall lunar water content.  


Exploding stars, random impacts involving comets and meteorites, and even near misses between two bodies can create regions of great heat and high pressure and researchers have developed a method for analyzing the pressure experienced by tiny samples of organic material that may have been ejected from dying stars before making a long journey through the cosmos.

They investigated a type of aromatic hydrocarbon called dimethylnaphthalene, which should enable them to identify violent events in the history of the universe. 


The heart becomes more spherical when exposed to long periods of microgravity in space, according to a study of 12 astronauts. The research has implications if any progress toward a trip to Mars ever gets made. NASA already has a zero-risk culture and cute robots don't have heart attacks whereas a spaceflight of 18 months or more that could affect astronauts' heart strength may be a concern.

In space, no one can hear your heartbeats - as easily. The heart works a lot less and that leads to less muscle mass, even over a relatively short duration.


We know the Voyager spacecraft has left the solar system. What no one can really say is when. Boundaries in space are entirely human vanities, there is no 'Now leaving the Local System' sign after Pluto.

Well, it's all so unsettled that two percent of astronomers even decided Pluto wasn't even a planet. 

But no matter how we define a planet, the solar system has a new most-distant member, according to new work from Carnegie's Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory. In Nature, they report the discovery of the distant dwarf planet 2012 VP113 beyond the known 'edge' of the Solar System.


Astronomers have announced the surprise discovery that the asteroid Chariklo is surrounded by two dense and narrow rings, by far the smallest object to have rings. 

The rings of Saturn are, of course, one of the most spectacular sights in the sky. Despite many careful searches, no rings had been found around smaller objects orbiting the Sun in the Solar System. Now observations of the distant minor planet (10199) Chariklo as it passed in front of a star have shown that it is surrounded by two fine rings. Minor planet? Yes, the IAU which demoted Pluto has generally made a mess of things and so asteroid and minor planet are interchangeable in common parlance.

A decades old space mystery has been solved by an international team of astronomers who investigated hot, young, white dwarfs — the super-dense remains of Sun-like stars that ran out of fuel and collapsed to about the size of the Earth. 

It has been known that many hot white dwarfs atmospheres, essentially of pure hydrogen or pure helium, are contaminated by other elements – like carbon, silicon and iron. What was not known, however, was the origins of these elements, known in astronomical terms as metals.