Every 62 million years or so, a mass extinction occurs on Earth. A new theory about the motion of the solar system around the Milky Way says cosmic rays may be involved. Charged particles caused by the motion could expose the Earth to high-energy radiation, damaging the biosphere and affecting the environment.
A bright new comet flared into naked eye visibility a few weeks back and continues to be bright enough to see, perhaps for another few weeks. Comet Holmes went through a similar outburst that led to its discovery 115 years ago. It's acting strangely, so go outside and check out this celestial wonder.
Astronomers are using Hubble to look at Comet Holmes, a strange comet that brightened this October to nearly a million times in less than 24 hours. Comet Holmes is the only comet ever seen to brighten so strangely and dramatically. The brightening was first witnessed 115 years ago ? astronomers will be able to get a better look now that the comet is performing under Hubble's gaze. An elliptical galaxy with a supermassive black hole in its center looks like it underwent a collision in the distant past. The collision is fueling the black hole, feeding it meals of stars, gas and dust.
Water vapor is raining down on a young star system, pouring from the cloud of gas and dust around the star onto the dusty disk where planets may form. In the system known as NGC 1333-IRAS 4B, the icy material found in the cloud is dropping towards the star and vaporizing as it reaches the disk. The process could show how water first shows up on planets like our own.
The Huygens spacecraft, which landed on Titan in 2005, encountered some unexpected turbulence as it fell through the moon's thick, planet-like atmosphere. Buffeted by winds and possible methane rain, Huygens descent provides scientists with clues about how to plan for future missions to the intriguing world.
Astronomers now know that that the expansion of the universe is speeding up, as though it were being pushed by kind of strange anti-gravity. Ten years after the discovery, scientists are still trying to find out what this mysterious force, called "dark energy," might be. The more scientists study the tiny galaxy I Zwicky 18, the older it looks. The galaxy has an odd combination of young and old stars, leaving astronomers puzzled about its late star formation.
Tiny galaxies, hundreds to thousands of times smaller than many of the galaxies we see today, existed in the early universe, according to data from the Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes. The tiny "building block" galaxies have distorted shapes that could mean they are merging together to form larger galaxies.
News of a meteorite landing in a remote section of Peru included accounts of hundreds of people getting sick from its noxious fumes. A prudent look at the case though suggests something a bit less otherworldly.
A duo of robots recently surveyed a desolate part of Devon Island in northern Canada, in preparation for one day doing similar survey work on the surface of the Moon. This NASA program tested the ability of human and robotic teams working together to get best results when surveying rugged, unforgiving sites.
The nearby Andromeda Galaxy may one day capture our Sun and planets. Now more than two million light years distant, Andromeda and our own Milky Way galaxy are approaching each other. In the far distant future, the two galaxies will collide with drastic results.
When a star explodes, it leaves behind a glowing cloud of heated gas called a supernova remnant. Hubble recently took pictures of one of these remnants -- the Veil Nebula, 1,400 light years away. The nebula's star would have exploded thousands of years ago, leaving behind an expanding bubble of gas. Scientists are fascinated by supernovae because the explosions create and scatter certain vital elements around the universe.
It's a puzzle ? the outer atmosphere of the Sun, called the corona, is actually much hotter than the Sun itself. Now scientists using the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory think they may have found one of the reasons why: waves that run along the Sun's magnetic field and reach far into space. The ripples of plasma may transfer energy to the corona.
As early as 527 A.D, astute observers of the Moon have reported a variety of odd events on the Moon's surface, including bright flashes, localized reddish hues and haze. Are these Transient Lunar Phenomena (TLP) real? And if so what are they? Professor Arlin Crotts of Columbia suggests the changes can be traced to the emission of gas from the Moon's surface.
Tests have begun on one of world's largest optical telescopes, located on a mountaintop on the Canary Islands. Situated 7,900 feet above sea level, the huge Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) consists of a mirror measuring 34 feet across and is made up of 36 separate hexagonal mirror segments. This Spanish-led telescope will be able to spot some of faintest, most distant objects in universe.
Google Earth let users explore the planet through satellite imagery. Now it's letting those users turn their attention to the heavens. Google Earth, working with the Space Telescope Science Institute, now offers a feature that explores the night sky. Users can browse the cosmos and zoom in to get Hubble images, background information and links. And speaking of satellites, 2007 is the 50th anniversary of the International Geophysical Year, declared in 1957. Sixty-seven countries participated in the coordinated attempt to observe the globe and atmosphere. Americans and the Soviet Union successfully launched satellites as part of the program. The National Academy of Sciences is celebrating the anniversary with events around the United States.
Two to four times a year, the Moon passes through a portion of the Earth's shadow, causing an eclipse. On August 28, skywatchers will be treated to a total lunar eclipse starting at 4:30 a.m. EST. All of North America will be able to see some portion of the eclipse. From the eastern USA, the Great Lakes region and Ontario, the Moon will sets while total eclipse. Only observers to the west of the Rockies (including Alaska) will be treated to the entire event.
A strangely shaped cloud of dust around a newborn star has astronomers scratching their heads. The lopsided disk may have been caused by the gravity of planets sweeping up debris in the disk, or by the gravity of a nearby star. And Uranus' rings are about to go missing. Every 42 years, Uranus' orbit brings its thin rings in line with Earth, making them vanish like a sheet of paper held up on its edge at eye level. Astronomers use the opportunity to search for moons that might otherwise be hidden by the rings.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is seeking volunteers for a simulated trip to Mars. Six crew members will spend 17 months in an isolation tank, simulating a round trip to the Red Planet. The crew will live and work in series of interlocked modules at a research institute in Moscow. Once the hatches close, their only contact with outside world will be through a radio link to "Earth."
One of the solar system's strangest looking moons is Hyperion, which orbits the ringed planet Saturn. The Cassini spacecraft, now orbiting Saturn, photographed Hyperion a few years ago and revealed a moon that looks more like a sponge or coral than rock or ice. Now scientists think they know what causes the strange appearance.
When we are planning research to look for biological activity elsewhere, are we -- to borrow a lyric -- "looking for life in all the wrong places?" A recent report from the National Academy of Science (NAS) points out that researchers are concerned that the assumption that life is water-based and uses DNA to encode important life information will limit our ability to recognize life elsewhere. The report advises NASA and other research agencies to expand research beyond conventional views.