Radio Telescope

Radio Waves from Outer Space Continue to Baffle Astronomers

Something in outer space is shouting at us, but astronomers are still trying to figure out the source of this cosmic “noise.” A telescope in Australia recently detected a flood of radio waves, akin to the waves that allow you to listen to the radio in your car, coming from an otherwise unremarkable area of the sky. These millisecond-long pulses of electromagnetic radiation are called fast radio bursts … Continue reading Radio Waves from Outer Space Continue to Baffle Astronomers

TRAPPIST-1 comparison

TRAPPIST-1 and Earth’s distant cousins

The recent discovery of Earth-like planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system has been a major headline for the past few weeks. A team led by Michael Gillon found three planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system in 2016, and recently reported at least 4 more which may contain the appropriate elements for life. One of the strongest indicators that a planet could harbor life is if a planet’s … Continue reading TRAPPIST-1 and Earth’s distant cousins

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Don’t worry, the expansion of the universe is still accelerating

In the early 1900s, Edwin Hubble observed that distant galaxies are moving away from us. This surprising observation led Hubble to hypothesize that the universe is expanding; more recently, scientists have observed that not only is the universe expanding, but that the expansion is accelerating! The evidence for acceleration emerged from observations of a particular kind of supernovae (Type Ia supernovae) that have a uniform … Continue reading Don’t worry, the expansion of the universe is still accelerating

For almost a century, galactic rotation curves have served as robust evidence for the existence of dark matter. A rotation curve is simply the radial velocity of the stars, dust, and gas that make up a galaxy plotted as a function of their distance from the galaxy’s center. Based on the gravitational pull of matter, one would expect that stars closest to the center of the galaxy would move faster than the stars near the galaxies outer edge. However, in most galaxies, inner and outer stars move at roughly the same velocity. There is some additional gravitational pull on the outer stars that isn’t fully described by the amount of visible matter in a galaxy. For ages, most scientists have interpreted this result to mean that galaxies are surrounded by a halo of invisible dark matter. However, this new finding points to several other possibilities. (Image obtained under Creative Commons License. Credit: Gemini Observatory)

Galactic Rotation Curves Revisited: A Surprise For Dark Matter

Historically, galactic rotation curves have suggested that galaxies are surrounded by a vast amount of invisible matter, otherwise known as a dark matter halo. A few weeks ago, a team of astrophysicists published a result that completely contradicts these halo models and could even change the popular understanding of dark matter. The team found that galactic rotation curves can be calculated explicitly from a simple … Continue reading Galactic Rotation Curves Revisited: A Surprise For Dark Matter

Potentially Habitable Planet

Potentially Habitable Planet Discovered Around Nearest Star

A new planet with the potential of sustaining life was discovered by astronomers at Queen Mary University Of London orbiting Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun – 4.2 light years away. Using small wobbles in the trajectory of Proxima Centauri caused by the orbit of this planet, dubbed ‘Proxima b,’ the astronomers calculated that the planet is one third more massive than earth, … Continue reading Potentially Habitable Planet Discovered Around Nearest Star

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Our Newest Planet: Is it real, and what can it tell us about our solar system?

by Chamith Fonseka figures by Anna Maurer The solar system may soon go back to having nine planets, but don’t rejoice yet, Pluto fans. Ten years ago, Pluto was downgraded to the status of a dwarf planet after a team of astronomers led by Michael Brown of Caltech, Chad Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory, and David Rabinowitz of Yale discovered Eris, an object that was … Continue reading Our Newest Planet: Is it real, and what can it tell us about our solar system?

LIGO has discovered ripples in spacetime, generated by the inspiral and merger of two massive black holes - Credit Caltech

LIGO and Gravitational Waves: Discovery of the Century

The Twitter rumors are true! In what some scientists are calling the discovery of the century, LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) finally announced the first direct observation of gravitational waves.   Until a few days ago, gravitational waves were the only untested prediction of General Relativity. In General Relativity, space and time are not fixed. Spacetime curves around the matter and energy in the universe, … Continue reading LIGO and Gravitational Waves: Discovery of the Century