Voyager set to enter interstellar space

More than 30 years after they left Earth, NASA's twin Voyager probes are now at the edge of the solar system.

Not only that, they're still working. And with each passing day they are beaming back a message that, to scientists, is both unsettling and thrilling.

Swift and Hubble probe asteroid collision debris

Late last year, astronomers noticed an asteroid named Scheila had unexpectedly brightened, and it was sporting short-lived plumes.

Data from Swift and Hubble Space Telescope showed these changes likely occurred after Scheila was struck by a much smaller asteroid.

NanoSail-D continues to slowly de-orbit Earth's upper atmosphere

NASA's nanosatellite NanoSail-D is slowly descending after successfully orbiting the Earth's upper atmosphere for 95 days since deploying its 100-square-foot sail on Jan. 20.

The small satellite demonstration experiment continues its descent towards Earth, lending key sail data to the design of de-orbit mechanisms for future satellites.

Chandra finds new evidence on origin of supernovas

Astronomers may now know the cause of an historic supernova explosion that is an important type of object for investigating dark energy in the universe. The discovery, made using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, also provides strong evidence that a star can survive the explosive impact generated when a companion star goes supernova.

The new study examined the remnant of a supernova observed by the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe in 1572. The object, dubbed Tycho for short, was formed by a Type Ia supernova, a category of stellar explosion useful in measuring astronomical distances because of their reliable brightness. Type Ia supernovas have been used to determine that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, an effect attributed to the prevalence of an invisible, repulsive force throughout space called dark energy.

WISE: The 'van Gogh' of the infrared sky

WISE is a little like the Vincent van Gogh of the infrared sky. Just like the famous Impressionist painter created beautiful images of nature through use of color and light, WISE has provided the world with picturesque images of the cosmos by representing infrared light through color.

This image of the nebula NGC 2174, on the border of the Gemini and Orion constellations, is a perfect example.

Hubble: Small irregular dwarf galaxy

Galaxies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, with most being classed as either elliptical or spiral.

However, some fall into the miscellaneous category known as irregulars, such as UGC 9128 shown here in this Hubble image.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveals big changes in Mars' atmosphere

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has discovered the total amount of atmosphere on Mars changes dramatically as the tilt of the planet's axis varies. This process can affect the stability of liquid water, if it exists on the Martian surface, and increase the frequency and severity of Martian dust storms.

Researchers using the orbiter's ground-penetrating radar identified a large, buried deposit of frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice, at the Red Planet's south pole. The scientists suspect that much of this carbon dioxide enters the planet's atmosphere and swells the atmosphere's mass when Mars' tilt increases. The findings are published in this week's issue of the journal Science.

Ultraviolet spotlight on plump stars in tiny galaxies

Astronomers using NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer may be closer to knowing why some of the most massive stellar explosions ever observed occur in the tiniest of galaxies.

"It's like finding a sumo wrestler in a little 'Smart Car,'" said Don Neill, a member of NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer team at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and lead author of a new study published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Pluto has carbon monoxide in its atmosphere

A British-based team of astronomers has discovered carbon monoxide gas in the atmosphere of Pluto, after a worldwide search lasting for nearly two decades.

Team leader Dr Jane Greaves of the University of St Andrews presented the new discovery in her talk on Wednesday 20 April at the National Astronomy Meeting in Venue Cymru, Llandudno, Wales.

New tools to tackle a solar data storm

So great is the wealth of data about the Sun now being sent back by space missions such as SOHO, STEREO and the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) that scientists back on Earth can struggle to keep pace.

To combat this data overload, scientists from the Visual Computer Centre at Bradford University are developing advanced imaging tools to help scientists visualise what's happening at the Sun, make sense of the data and predict the extreme solar activities that could affect our life here on Earth. Dr Rami Qahwaji presented the tools at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting at Llandudno.

Scientists see solar outburst in exquisite detail

The largest disturbances to the Earth's geomagnetic environment occur when it is buffeted by solar material hurled in our direction by explosive changes in the Sun's atmosphere.

These Coronal Mass Ejections or CMEs contain approximately a billion tonnes of ionized gas or plasma and can have a dramatic and damaging impact on everything from satellites to power grids.

STEREO turns its steady gaze on variable stars

Researchers have discovered 122 new eclipsing binary stars and observed hundreds more variable stars in an innovative survey using NASA's two STEREO solar satellites.

The survey has been carried out by team from the Open University, University of Central Lancashire and the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. Dr Danielle Bewsher presented the highlights at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales.

The shocking environment of hot Jupiters

Jupiter-like worlds around other stars push shock waves ahead of them, according to a team of UK astronomers.

Just as the Earth's magnetic "bow-shock" protects us from the high-energy solar wind, these planetary shocks protect their atmospheres from their star's damaging emissions. Team member Dr Aline Vidotto of the University of St Andrews presented a new model based on observations made with the SuperWASP (Wide Angle Search for Planets) project at the National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno, Wales.

Watching the birth of a sunspot

Researchers at the University of Central Lancashire have monitored the birth of a sunspot over a period of eight hours using observations from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Dr Stephane Regnier presented the results at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno.

The emerging sunspot was first detectable at 17:00 UTC on 30th May 2010 in SDO magnetograms, which map the magnetic intensity of the solar disc. The first signs were small patches of strong positive and negative magnetic field, separated by around 7 000 km.

Large galaxies stopped growing 7 billion years ago

Galaxies are thought to develop by the gravitational attraction between and merger of smaller 'sub-galaxies', a process that standard cosmological ideas suggest should be ongoing.

But new data from a team of scientists from Liverpool John Moores University directly challenges this idea, suggesting that the growth of some of the most massive objects stopped 7 billion years ago when the Universe was half its present age. Team member Claire Burke presented their work at the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2011) in Llandudno, Wales.


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