Earlier today, NASA announced funding for 22 projects as part of its Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. From a planet hopping laser-driven sail and a solar powered Venusian weather balloon to an autonomous rover on Pluto, the future of space exploration looks incredibly bright.
Only a billion or so years after the universe formed, a galaxy far more massive than our own and a fraction of the size blazed into existence. Just half a billion years later—less than the amount of time it took life to emerge and evolve into humans on Earth—the galaxy was a dead disc, no longer forming stars.
Most asteroids orbit the Sun in a counterclockwise fashion, but a newly-discovered object nicknamed Bee-Zed goes against the grain, spinning around the Solar System the opposite way. Not only that, it frequently ventures within Jupiter’s orbital space—putting it on a potential collision course with the gas giant and…
Space weather forecasting—predicting the kind of energetic particles the Sun will throw at us—is years behind weather forecsting here on Earth. As solar physicist Scott McIntosh put it, “Our current model of space weather forecasting is, ‘oh shit a sunspot happened eight minutes ago, now we have to figure out what’s…
We don’t understand quasars all that well, but are pretty certain that these incredibly bright lights belong in the centers of galaxies. So it looked a little weird when astronomers spotted quasar 3C 186 thirty six thousand light years away from the center of its galaxy, seemingly trying to escape.
There’s a gravitational anomaly that permeates our entire universe: The way most galaxies and clusters of galaxies behave implies that there’s around six times more matter than we actually observe. Scientists called the missing stuff that should create the unaccounted-for gravity we measure “dark matter.”
Since their discovery ten years ago, fast radio bursts have confounded astronomers. These intergalactic pulses of radio energy have defied explanation, but a new theory suggests a technological origin, whereby aliens use these beams to propel their ships through space. Extremely speculative stuff, to be sure, but it’s…
The hallways of math and science history are overflowing with the achievements of white men, from Sir Isaac Newton to Steve Jobs; their faces are printed into elementary school textbooks everywhere, and their achievements have been indelibly drilled into our minds, with countless awards and institutions named after…
At the center of the galaxy sits Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole around four million times the mass of the Sun. If an unlucky star ventures too close, the black hole’s gravity tears it to shreds.
Two billion light years away, two clusters of galaxies are colliding in an intergalactic pileup. As black holes interact with the gas inside the collision, the mass has turned into an enormous particle launcher, spewing some of the universe’s highest-energy stuff.
Stare into the abyss, my friends. The image above features the highest concentration of black holes humans have ever seen. So dense are the merciless chasms of darkness at the center of this map, you could pack 5,000 of them into a patch of sky the size of the full moon.
Fast radio bursts, powerful pulses of radio energy of unknown cosmic origin, are a source of endless fascination to astronomers and alien conspiracy theory fodder to everybody else. But while most FRBs discovered to date are one-off events—a single chirp in the interstellar void, if you will—these phenomena got more…
A lot of cool science happened in 2016, but the obvious “holy shit!” moment came when physicists announced they’d confirmed the existence of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime first predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916.
Vera Rubin, one of the most important astronomers of the 20th century, died on December 25th in Princeton, NJ at age 88. She played a seminal role in our understanding of dark matter, and should have been awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics—but never was.
In August 2012, Voyager 1 went where no human-made object has gone before: it crossed the “heliopause,” the outermost edge of the Sun’s heliosphere, and entered interstellar space.
The world’s leading gravitational wave detector is back online and better than ever. After a series of upgrades, the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (Advanced LIGO) switched on yesterday. Physicists are already stoked about the cosmic collisions they’re going to measure during its next…
Millions of years ago, B3 1715+425 was just an ordinary supermassive black hole. It had a comfortable life, of devouring stars and belching deadly x-rays, at the center of its distant galaxy. Now, starless and alone, it’s screaming through space at 2,000 kilometers per second—and it may never stop.
Using two of the world’s largest configurable telescopes, scientists have created the most detailed map yet of hydrogen atoms the Milky Way.
Using the Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have found evidence of a “wandering” black hole on the outskirts of a distant galaxy. It’s too far away to cause us any trouble, but the discovery of this homeless ball of gravitational despair affirms a long standing theory about the existence of such objects.