New evidence indicates that Mars was once a watery world. Now new analysis of Mars' dry valleys and river deltas suggests an ancient Martian ocean may have covered large portions of the planet long in its past -? around three and half billion years ago.
Researchers are keen to understand the distribution of matter in the universe, and understanding our own galaxy is a key to this puzzle. By observing the motions of stars in our own galaxy, the distribution of material can be determined. In such studies, a few very fast "hypervelocity" stars have been found. A new Hubble Space Telescope observation indicates that one of these stars has been ejected from the center of the Milky Way in a bizarre scenario. The object was originally part of a multiple-star system, and one component was trapped in the galaxy's core, while the other two were ejected and eventually merged into the object we see today.
The annual Perseid Meteor Shower lit the sky in August, for those lucky enough to have a clear sky and energetic enough to stay up past midnight. The meteors that skim across the sky every year are tiny bits of dust burning up in the Earth?s atmosphere. The Perseid debris was left behind by the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.
An object that slammed into Jupiter in July 2009, causing Hubble to interrupt its post-servicing mission calibration to snap some pictures, was almost certainly an asteroid rather than comet. Astronomers suggest that such impacts might happen as often as every 10 to 15 years.
Hubble identifies the culprits who targeted Jupiter. A black hole is on the loose, roaming its galaxy. And a planet losing its atmosphere may look like a giant comet.
Buckminsterfullerine or "Buckyballs" are carbon structures first discovered in a lab in 1985. Astronomers have long wondered if these molecules, comprised of hexagonal and pentagonal sections similar to a soccer ball, exist in space as well. Researchers using the Spitzer Space Telescope recently found the large molecules in the gas clouds of a planetary nebula. Their presence likely plays a role in many cosmic processes.
Solar eclipses come in several varieties and provide spectacular views for observers on the Earth. As the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun, the Moon's shadow is cast into space. Sometimes this shadow intersects the Earth. Eclipses can be total, when the Moon completely obscures the Sun; grazing, when the Moon only covers part of the Sun; and annular, when the Moon and Sun are aligned, but the Moon does not cover the Sun completely. Eclipse shadows are visible to satellites that observe the Earth. In some cases, the images are quite spectacular, and show the path of the eclipse across the planet.
Nicolaus Copernicus' findings were condemned by the Roman Catholic Church as heretical, but he was reburied as a hero back in May 2010, nearly 500 years after he was laid to rest in unmarked grave. His revolutionary theory that Earth revolved around the Sun helped usher in the modern scientific age.
Venus is a planet veiled in mystery, largely due to its thick atmosphere and hostile conditions for spacecraft. The Japanese space agency, JAXA, has recently launched two probes to Venus. One, Akatsuki, is designed to learn about the Venusian atmosphere and surface. The second probe, Ikaros, is an experimental solar sail. Results will be forthcoming over the next few months.
The SOFIA Airborne Observatory project, initiated in 1966, has captured its first images. The unusual observatory is a Boeing 747 aircraft with a 2.5 meter telescope. A hole, cut in the side of the fuselage, allows astronomers to point the telescope and view the universe in wavelengths that are blocked from the ground by the Earth's atmosphere.
One of the cloud belts that ring the giant planet Jupiter has recently disappeared. The missing stripe is big enough to swallow 20 Earths, and its disappearance has transformed the appearance of the solar system's largest planet.
Planets orbiting a star at odd angles to one other challenge astronomers' notions of how planets should behave. Hubble tracks down a star running away from home and catches another star feeding on its own planet.
Astronauts take lots of items into space with them. Some are personal items, others are patches and similar memorabilia likely to be presented to museums and dignitaries. Quite a few famous objects go into space -? examples include a Star Wars light saber and a piece of Isaac Newton's legendary apple tree.
The 30 Doradus complex in a small nearby galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, is home to a giant, massive star cluster rapidly forming hundreds of stars. It is probably the most massive star cluster in the local part of the universe. This region has been studied extensively, and data from Australia, Chile and the Hubble have been combined to analyze it. The scientists have found it contains at least one massive, runaway star, somehow kicked out of the rest of the cluster. How this occurs and whether there are more runaways are questions to be answered in the future.
The European Space Agency's Herschel Observatory has been observing the infrared universe for more than a year now, studying monster stars and probing dark dust clouds that now reveal regions of intense star formation.
NASA's new Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has taken some astonishing movies of the Sun. One shows one of the biggest eruptions of the Sun in recent years, with billions of tons of solar material blasting into space. The images have helped solve a solar mystery.
Thousands of small objects drift through the solar system. Many are in the Asteroid Belt, but many more reside beyond the orbit of Neptune. Some of these small objects collect together into binaries or clusters and orbit the Sun together. Scientists have found that an asteroid originally thought to be single may actually have two companions.
The conventional concept of extrasolar planet formation is that the objects form out of the dusty material circling the parent star. As a cloud of gas and dust collapses and rotates, the star forms at the center, leaving behind a remnant of cloud that forms a disk as it continues to rotate. As the dusty disk churns along, planets form in orbit around the star. In our solar system, the planets orbit in the same direction as the Sun rotates. The dynamics of planet formation suggest that this is the usual situation, but new observations have found Jupiter-sized planets orbiting in a backwards or skewed fashion. It's a puzzle to understand how these systems form.
Hubble celebrates its 20th anniversary with a new image and a way for people to make their love for the telescope known. An X-shaped debris trail marks the path of a mysterious object, and an object circling a brown dwarf looks like a planet -? but is it?