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Astronomy

China’s historic moon landing boosts rivalry with U.S.

 

Large Magellanic Cloud on collision course with Milky Way — in 2.5 billion years

The Guardian reports: As if battered post-Christmas finances, a looming disorderly Brexit and the prospect of a fresh nuclear arms race were not enough to dampen spirits, astronomers have declared that a nearby galaxy will slam into the Milky Way and could knock our solar system far into the cosmic void. The unfortunate discovery was made after scientists ran computer simulations on the movement of the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC),

The sugar that makes up DNA could be made in space

Science News reports: Parts of DNA can form in space. For the first time, scientists have made 2-deoxyribose, the sugar that makes up the backbone of DNA, under cosmic conditions in the lab by blasting ice with radiation. The result, reported December 18 in Nature Communications, suggests that there are several ways for prebiotic chemistry to take place in space, and supports the idea that the stuff of life could

After 41 years, Voyager 2 spacecraft enters interstellar space

Science News reports: Voyager 2 has entered interstellar space. The spacecraft slipped out of the huge bubble of particles that encircles the solar system on November 5, becoming the second ever human-made craft to cross the heliosphere, or the boundary between the sun and the stars. Coming in second place is no mean achievement. Voyager 1 became the first spacecraft to exit the solar system in 2012. But that craft’s

Ice confirmed at the Moon’s poles

NBC News reports: For the first time, scientists have found what they say is definitive evidence of water ice on the surface of the moon. The discovery suggests that future lunar expeditions might have a readily available source of water that would make it easier “to explore and even stay on the moon,” officials at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement Tuesday about the discovery. The ice was

A watery lake is detected on Mars, raising the potential for alien life

The New York Times reports: For the first time, scientists have found a large, watery lake beneath an ice cap on Mars. Because water is essential to life, the discovery offers an exciting new place to search for life forms beyond Earth. Italian scientists working on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission announced on Wednesday that a 12-mile wide underground liquid pool — not just the momentary damp spots

The ecosystem that controls a galaxy’s future — its circumgalactic medium — is coming into focus

Science News reports: There’s more to a galaxy than meets the eye. Galaxies’ bright stars seem to spiral serenely against the dark backdrop of space. But a more careful look reveals a whole lot of mayhem. “Galaxies are just like you and me,” Jessica Werk, an astronomer at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in January at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. “They live their lives in

First sighting of a newborn planet

The Guardian reports: It is a moment of birth that has previously proved elusive, but astronomers say they now have the first confirmed image of the formation of a planet. The startling snapshot shows a bright blob – the nascent planet – travelling through the dust and gas surrounding a young star, known as PDS70, thought to be about 370 light years from Earth. The black circle in the centre

Space is full of dirty, toxic grease, scientists reveal

The Guardian reports: It looks cold, dark and empty, but astronomers have revealed that interstellar space is permeated with a fine mist of grease-like molecules. The study provides the most precise estimate yet of the amount of “space grease” in the Milky Way, by recreating the carbon-based compounds in the laboratory. The Australian-Turkish team discovered more than expected: 10 billion trillion trillion tonnes of gloop, or enough for 40 trillion

The next big discovery in astronomy? Scientists probably found it years ago – but they don’t know it yet

An artist’s illustration of a black hole “eating” a star. NASA/JPL-Caltech By Eileen Meyer, University of Maryland, Baltimore County Earlier this year, astronomers stumbled upon a fascinating finding: Thousands of black holes likely exist near the center of our galaxy. The X-ray images that enabled this discovery weren’t from some state-of-the-art new telescope. Nor were they even recently taken – some of the data was collected nearly 20 years ago.

Colossal cosmic collision alters understanding of early universe

Reuters reports: Astronomers have detected the early stages of a colossal cosmic collision, observing a pile-up of 14 galaxies 90 percent of the way across the observable universe in a discovery that upends assumptions about the early history of the cosmos. Researchers said on Wednesday the galactic mega-merger observed 12.4 billion light-years away from Earth occurred 1.4 billion years after the Big Bang that gave rise to the universe. Astronomers

Gaia mission releases map of more than a billion stars – here’s what it can teach us

Gaia’s view of our Milky Way and neighbouring galaxies. ESA/Gaia/DPAC, CC BY-SA By George Seabroke, UCL Most of us have looked up at the night sky and wondered how far away the stars are or in what direction they are moving. The truth is, scientists don’t know the exact positions or velocities of the vast majority of the stars in the Milky Way. But now a new tranche of data

Stephen Hawking, in his own words

In memory of Stephen Hawking, who died on Wednesday at 76, the New York Times has gathered a selection of his quotes: “Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” Don’t

First glimpses of the cosmic dawn

Marina Koren reports: Near the beginning, not long after the Big Bang, the universe was a cold and dark place swirling with invisible gas, mostly hydrogen and helium. Over millions of years, gravity pulled some of this primordial gas into pockets. The pockets eventually became so dense they collapsed under their own weight and ignited, flooding the darkness with ultraviolet radiation. These were the very first stars in the universe,