A new study suggests that many of the "super-Earth" planets astronomers have discovered orbiting other stars are probably more like "mini-Neptunes" than like our rocky planet. However, moons orbiting these planets might still hold potential for hosting life.
In 2011 and 2012, NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbited the second-largest asteroid in our solar system, Vesta, providing unprecedented views of its surface. Computer simulations based on Dawn's observations suggest that violent collisions with two other space rocks carved out two giant craters on the asteroid and melted Vesta's crust, making it thicker than expected.
Hubble finds that a planet orbiting the bright star Fomalhaut takes a wild and potentially destructive path through a vast debris field surrounding the star.
For 520 days straight, six volunteers remained confined to a mock spacecraft in Moscow, Russia, in an experiment that simulated a round-trip voyage to Mars. Results of the study show why maintaining a healthy sleep schedule will be vital during the real thing.
By studying archived ultraviolet observations from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) spacecraft, astronomers have determined that galaxy NGC 6872, located 212 million light-years away, is the largest spiral galaxy known.
Taking shape 16,500 feet above sea level in the bone-dry Atacama Desert of Chile is a vast array of 66 radio antennas that will change the way we see our universe. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, or ALMA, will reveal never-before-seen details that could hold clues to galaxy formation and the birth of stars and planets.
What was galaxy formation like in the universe's early days? Astronomers have long wondered, and the Hubble Space Telescope is now helping to answer that question. By examining ever-deeper Hubble exposures, astronomers have identified several galaxies that formed more than 13 billion years ago, when the universe was less than 4 percent of its current age.
Citizen scientists are helping professional astronomers piece together the history of the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy by studying Hubble Space Telescope images of Andromeda and identifying hundreds of thousands of star clusters in the large galaxy.
Some researchers think that Pluto's atmosphere is much more inflated than previously thought -? possibly extending halfway to the large moon Charon. But we'll have to wait to find out how big it really is until NASA's New Horizons spacecraft gets to Pluto in 2015.
There's a mystery at the center of a giant elliptical galaxy. And Hubble finds seven galaxies from the early universe, galaxies that existed just 350-600 million years after the Big Bang started it all.
Our knowledge of exoplanets depends upon our studying the planets we know and then projecting our expectations onto the new worlds as they are discovered. But studies related to super-Earths, planets a few times more massive than Earth, show that these objects’ interiors may be quite dissimilar to that of our own planet. Does this rule out life on these planets? Intriguingly, not necessarily.
The distant dwarf planet Makemake was discovered in 2005 but little is known about it. Makemake seems like a typical dwarf planet -- like Pluto and Eris -- but without accurate measurements for such a distant object it was not known whether it had an atmosphere (like Pluto) or lacks one (like Eris). New observations of Makemake seem to have resolved the question.
The closest star system to our own Sun includes a newly-discovered planet with roughly the mass of Earth. And there may be other worlds there, too.
NASA’s Swift satellite has detected another interesting X-ray burst. This one seems to be in the direction of the center of our galaxy. The burst was followed by dimming in the X-ray wavelength and a brightening in the lower energies. This type of emission is typical of a binary star with a black hole. A disk of material from the star periodically accumulates around the black hole before it plummets into it.
The annual Leonid meteor shower peaks this week – 3 a.m. Nov. 17, 2012. The shower is caused by bits of comet debris plowing through Earth’s atmosphere. Some Leonids have produced truly spectacular displays.
NASA’s Kepler mission is on the hunt for extra-solar planets, and any individual interested in joining the search can look at the Kepler data. Two volunteers recently discovered a planet -- in fact, a very unusual one. This planet actually orbits around binary stars. In addition to that odd circumstance, the system contains two more stars, orbiting very far away.