Despite the many advancements made in the field of astronomy, astronomers still struggle to get an accurate assessment of the Milky Way Galaxy. Because we are embedded in its disk, it is much more difficult to assess its size, structure, and extent – unlike galaxies located millions (or billions) of light-years away. Luckily, thanks to improved instruments and tireless efforts, progress is being made all the time.
For instance, a team of astronomers recently combined the latest data obtained by the ESA’s Gaia observatory with the infrared and optical observations of other telescopes to start mapping the bar-shaped collection of stars at the center of our Milky Way. This constitutes the first time in history that astronomers have been able to make direct measurements of this barred structure.
Continue reading “Gaia Mission is Mapping Out the Bar at the Center of the Milky Way”
During the 1930s, venerable theoretical physicist Albert Einstein returned to the field of quantum mechanics, which his theories of relativity helped to create. Hoping to develop a more complete theory of how particles behave, Einstein was instead horrified by the prospect of quantum entanglement – something he described as “spooky action at a distance”.
Despite Einstein’s misgivings, quantum entanglement has gone on to become an accepted part of quantum mechanics. And now, for the first time ever, a team of physicists from the University of Glasgow took an image of a form of quantum entanglement (aka. Bell entanglement) at work. In so doing, they managed to capture the first piece of visual evidence of a phenomenon that baffled even Einstein himself.
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Happen to be in Europe, Africa, Asia or Australia on Tuesday night, July 16th with clear skies? If the July weather cooperates, you’ll have a good view of a fine partial lunar eclipse, the final lunar eclipse for 2019.
Continue reading “Our Guide to Tuesday Night’s Partial Lunar Eclipse”
Welcome back to Messier Monday! Today, we continue in our tribute to our dear friend, Tammy Plotner, by looking at the spiral galaxy known as Messier 89!
During the 18th century, famed French astronomer Charles Messier noticed the presence of several “nebulous objects” while surveying the night sky. Originally mistaking these objects for comets, he began to catalog them so that others would not make the same mistake. Today, the resulting list (known as the Messier Catalog) includes over 100 objects and is one of the most influential catalogs of Deep Space Objects.
One of these objects is the elliptical galaxy known as Messier 89, which is located about 50 million light years from Earth in the constellation Virgo. This makes it part of the Virgo Cluster, a collection of 2,000 galaxies that lie in the direction of the Virgo and Coma Berenices constellations. This galaxy is not as bright as some other members, which makes it somewhat difficult to spot in small telescopes.
Continue reading “Messier 89 – the NGC 4552 Spiral Galaxy”
Astronomers have discovered, for the first time, moons forming in the disk of debris around a large exoplanet. Astronomers have suspected for a long time that this is how larger planets—like Jupiter in our own Solar System—get their moons. It’s all happening around a very young star named PDS 70, about 370 light years away in the constellation Centaurus.
Continue reading “Here’s a First. Astronomers See a Moon Forming Around a Baby Exoplanet”
The Hubble Space Telescope is like an old dog that is constantly teaching the astronomical community new tricks. In the course of its almost thirty years in operation, it has revealed vital data about the expansion of the Universe, its age, the Milky Way, supermassive black holes (SMBHs), other star systems and exoplanets, and the planets of the Solar System.
Most recently, an international team of researchers using Hubble made a discovery that was not only fascinating but entirely unexpected. In the heart of the spiral galaxy NGC 3147, they spotted a swirling thin disk of gas that was precariously close to a back hole that is about 250 million Solar masses. The find was a complete surprise since the black hole was considered too small to have such a structure around it.
Continue reading “Hubble Spots “Impossible” Debris Disk Around a Black Hole”
Saturn opposition season never disappoints. Slowly, one by one, the planets are returning to the dusk sky. In June, we had Jupiter reach opposition on June 10th. Now, although Mercury and Mars are fleeing the evening scene low to the west at dusk and Venus lingers low in the dawn, magnificent Saturn reaches opposition tonight on July 9th, rising to the east as the Sun sets to the west.
Continue reading “Our Guide to Saturn Opposition Season 2019”
Titan is a distant, exotic, and dangerous world. It’s frigid temperatures and hydrocarbon chemistry is like nothing else in the Solar System. Now that NASA is heading there, some researchers are getting a jump on the mission by recreating Titan’s chemistry in jars.
Continue reading “A Jarful of Titan Could Teach Us A Lot About Life There, and Here On Earth”
Thanks in large part to the Kepler Space Telescope, the number of confirmed extrasolar planets has grown exponentially in the last decade. And with next-generation missions like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) already in orbit, more candidates and confirmed planets are being discovered all the time – many of them new and exciting ones too!
In fact, one of TESS’ most recent discoveries includes a three-planet system that orbits a star (L 98-59) located roughly 35 light-years from Earth. One of the planets, known as L 98-59b, is between the sizes of Earth and Mars – effectively making it the smallest exoplanet discovered by TESS to date. The discovery also highlights the sophistication of TESS and doubles the number of small exoplanets that are considered worthy of follow-up studies.
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Out there in space is an unusual exoplanet name Gliese 3470 b (GJ 3470 b.) It’s a strange world, kind of like a hybrid between Earth and Neptune. It has a rocky core like Earth, but is surrounded by an atmosphere made of hydrogen and helium. That combination is unlike anything in our own Solar System.
Continue reading “NASA Telescopes Reveal the Atmosphere of A Strange Hybrid Exoplanet”