NASA has proven itself to be quite adept at finding planets lately, and this week is no exception: using the Spitzer Space Telescoe, scientists at the Jet Propulsion Lab have found HD 219134b, a rocky exoplanet ‘just’ 21 light-years away.
When we look out over the universe, it's the bright spots that tend to stand out. But the darkness out there is also incredible, particularly in on spot 16,000 light years away, where scientists have recorded the deepest darkness ever seen.
I was looking back for the best, most impressive astronomy images of the year 2012—ready to post a winner when this dropped in my NASA feed. The image is stunning on its own, but the description just made my head spin. Combined with its sheer beauty, it made it the winner. Here is why:
About 4.1 billion years ago, our solar system was a huge cluster of comets bombarding every planet orbiting the Sun and crashing into each other. That period of chaos is known as the Late Heavy Bombardment, and astronomers believe it was key to the formation of life in our planet.
NASA researchers have detected the faint glow of what they believe to be the first stars and galaxies to form in the aftermath of the Big Bang — and it's positively stunning. If the team's findings are correct, they could offer valuable insight into the nature of the Universe's very first objects.
This gorgeous infrared image offers a colorful spin on this famous Hubble image of the Sombrero Galaxy. It's actually a spiral galaxy much like the Milky Way...even if it looks more like a giant floating ring than anything else.
They might be microscopic, but as far as molecules go, buckyballs are absolutely gigantic. These soccer ball shaped molecules are made of 60 carbon molecules each, and new data from the Spitzer Telescope suggest they are everywhere in the universe.
This gorgeous image is the work of the Spitzer Space Telescope, which snapped this infrared photo of the Cygnus-X star forming region in 2009. Every bright blue dot represents a star hotter and more massive than anything we can imagine.
When you combine a compound like water with intense heat, said water evaporates. No mystery there. But when you throw extreme pressure into the mix, something funny happens. The compound can actually achieve what is called a "supercritical" fluid state, taking on properties of liquid and gas alike.
This doesn't look much like a galaxy, but it is in fact the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of the biggest satellite galaxies of our Milky Way. This awesome infrared image reveals the real look of this galaxy like never before.
Four newly discovered galaxies are so dim, so dusty, so impossibly distant that even the Hubble telescope couldn't spot them. But that's not all: these galaxies are so insanely red that astronomers are declaring them a new "species" of galaxy.
In 185 CE, Chinese astronomers reported the presence of an incredibly bright "guest star" that appeared suddenly in the sky and stayed there for months. This was the first recorded supernova...and astronomers are only now understanding what it really is.
Imagine a hot summer day in the middle of the desert. That temperature might be dangerously hot here on Earth, but it's almost impossibly cold for any star. But that's the rather pathetic situation for a newly discovered brown dwarf.
This amazing image of the center of our galaxy is the work of three different space telescopes - Hubble, which photographs objects in the visual wavelengths, Chandra, which looks at X-rays, and Spitzer, which investigates the infrared.
We talked to the Spitzer Space Telescope's visualization team about the challenges and rewards of rendering the mission's reams of non-visual data into something that catches the public eye.
This photo shows the Antenna galaxies, which started colliding 100 million years ago, creating millions of stars in the process which later exploded as supernovas. I really find it hard and sad to know that I'll never see this live.
Astronomers estimate that there are 200 to 400 billion stars in our galactic neighborhood, the Milky Way. I guess that someone tried to count them in this fully-zoomable, ultra-high-definition 800,000-image mosaic and got tired around 296,351,284,702.
The world's largest picture of the Milky Way was unveiled today in Chicago, taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, measuring a whopping 120 feet across.
I've seen many amazing, inspiring, and humbling deep space images, but this look inside the heart of our very own galaxy has left me without superlatives. Zoom in to get the 2820x1409 pixel image, and see how it was made.
See that tiny dot in the middle of that ring? That's Saturn. And the newly-discovered glowing ring is 13.4 million miles in diameter. The proverbial 800-pound gorilla has been discovered by the Spitzer Space Telescope, leaving every single astronomer speechless.