The late Carl Sagan said it best on his TV show Cosmos: “We’re made of star-stuff.” He meant that atoms which make up our bodies—and everything around us—formed when giant stars blew up billions of years ago. That material shot across space, clumped into the solar system, and led to life on Earth. Read more
An ancient astronomical alignment in southern Peru has been discovered by researchers between a pyramid, two stone lines and the setting sun during the winter solstice. During the solstice, hundreds of years ago, the three would have lined up to frame the pyramid in light. Read more
Scientists searching for signs of life beyond our solar system should keep an open mind, for planets very different than Earth may well be habitable, a prominent researcher says.
While it may seem natural to zero in on “alien Earths,” such a narrow focus would exclude many potentially life-supporting exoplanets, whose diversity continues to astound astronomers, says Sara Seager of MIT. Read more
In the midst of chaos here on Earth, scientists are finding hope for life on other planets. Scientists announced Thursday the discovery of three planets that are some of the best candidates so far for habitable worlds outside our own solar system — and they’re very far away. NASA’s Kepler satellite, which is keeping an eye on more than 150,000 stars in hopes of identifying Earth-like planets, found the trio. Read More
NASA’s twin Van Allen space probes, which are studying the Earth’s radiation belts, made the cosmic find. The surprising discovery — a new, albeit temporary, radiation belt around Earth — reveals how much remains unknown about outer space, even those regions closest to the planet, researchers added. Read more
An oblong crystal found in the wreck of a 16th-century English warship is a sunstone, a near-mythical navigational aid said to have been used by Viking mariners, researchers said on Wednesday.
The stone is made of Iceland spar, a transparent, naturally-occurring calcite crystal that polarises light and can get a bearing on the Sun, they said. Read more
A huge meteorite flared through the skies over Russia’s Chelyabinsk region early Friday, triggering a powerful shock wave that injured hundreds of people, blew out windows and reportedly caused the roof of a factory to collapse.
Multiple amateur videos posted online showed the meteor’s flaring arc across the western Siberia sky. Others from the scene included the sound of a loud boom, followed by a cacophony of car alarms. One video showed the hurried evacuation of an office building in Chelyabinsk. Read more
Astronomers have discovered the largest known structure in the universe, a clump of active galactic cores that stretches 4 billion light-years from end to end.
The structure is a large quasar group (LQG), a collection of extremely luminous galactic nuclei powered by supermassive central black holes. This particular group is so large that it challenges modern cosmological theory, researchers said.
“While it is difficult to fathom the scale of this LQG, we can say quite definitely it is the largest structure ever seen in the entire universe,” lead author Roger Clowes, of the University of Central Lancashire in England, said in a statement. “This is hugely exciting, not least because it runs counter to our current understanding of the scale of the universe.” Read more
Which is our universe’s oldest star? Astronomers now say the honor may go to HD 140283, a gassy giant that’s celebrated an estimated 13.2 billion birthdays, give or take a couple hundred million, according to the January 2013 issue of Nature.
“We believe this star is the oldest known in the Universe with a well determined age,” Howard Bond, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University, told Nature. The finding was announced January 10, at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif.
HD 140283 is fairly close to Earth, located at the (astronomical) spitting distance of just under 190 light years from our solar system. Read more.
The 3-minute timelapse condenses every 50 minutes into every 5 seconds of video. It captures a pretty stunning view of the rotation of the night sky, absent the usual pest of light pollution. And then, amid the meteors, a zig-zagging Unidentified Flying Object. Read more