The Lick Observatory's Newest Telescope Is an Exoplanet Hunting Robot

Exoplanets—planets orbiting stars that aren't our Sun—seem to be popping out of the cosmic woodwork now that we know where and how to look for them. The Kepler mission alone has discovered 961 of them, and it's only looking at a tiny sliver of distant space. Just think of how many we'll find when the new James Lick… » 3/28/14 5:40pm 3/28/14 5:40pm

Lasers Create Ultra-Lightweight Mirrors From Styrofoam Beads

It's much easier for a telescope to see deep into the universe when it doesn't have to peer through the Earth's atmosphere, but getting them into space is expensive. There is a much cheaper solution, though, as researchers have actually found a way to make incredibly light mirrors using lasers and polystyrene—aka… » 1/22/14 2:20pm 1/22/14 2:20pm

This Space Surveillance Telescope Tracks Wayward Satellites

As nations around the world launch more and more satellites into geosynchronous orbit above the Earth, the danger of them accidentally colliding and creating a Gravity-esque cascade of destruction increases exponentially. To keep tabs on everything zooming around 22,000 miles above the surface, DARPA's developed this… » 12/09/13 11:40am 12/09/13 11:40am

This Foldable Space Telescope Would Put Big Optics in Small Rockets

For all the futuristic advancements packed into modern space-based telescopes, they all still rely on the same bulky, heavy glass optics that Galileo used centuries ago. But thanks to this DARPA project, future telescopes could eventually use optics as thin as saran wrap to peer into deep space. » 12/05/13 3:40pm 12/05/13 3:40pm

Australia's Using Pop Radio to Track Space Junk

Space junk is a serious problem: it threatens satellites and spacecraft, and can plummet unpredictably to earth. Australia's Murchison Widefield Array is a high-sensitivity radio telescope that tracks space debris as small as 1 meter across, by observing how the objects reflect FM signals from Australian radio… » 11/30/13 6:00pm 11/30/13 6:00pm

How a Superconducting Camera Could Revolutionize Astrophysics

Over the past four decades, the field of astrophysics has enjoyed a pair of massive technological advances. First, we jumped from archaic photographic plates that relied on chemical emulsions to charge couple devices (CCDs). Now, the transition from CCDs to hyperspectral imaging devices that utilize exotic… » 11/14/13 11:40am 11/14/13 11:40am

The Telescope That Told Us the Age of the Universe Retires Today

The Planck deep space telescope is off to a warm retirement. After a four year mission that revealed the universe is 80 million years older than scientists estimated, Planck is headed to a permanent parking spot orbiting the sun. Rest well, little traveler. » 10/23/13 6:03pm 10/23/13 6:03pm

The Giant Telescope That Helps Take the Sharpest Space Photos Yet

The Hubble Telescope has revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos but the venerable telescope has been orbiting for nearly a quarter century and is quickly nearing the end of its already-extended service life. That's not a bad thing, mind you, telescope technology has advanced significantly since the Hubble went… » 8/30/13 11:30am 8/30/13 11:30am

New Camera Lets Astronomers Take Sharpest Ever Photos of the Universe

An international team of astronomers are having a blast with a new type of camera that can take photos of space that are twice as sharp as those taken by the Hubble Telescope. The technology's been in the works for over 20 years, and when you see the pictures you can see why they were worth the wait. » 8/23/13 9:53am 8/23/13 9:53am

Let's Get Caught Up on Five Years of Fermi Space Porn

At this very moment, NASA's Fermi space telescope is up in the sky, zooming around Earth, and doing space stuff like sidestepping Soviet space junk and spotting mysterious galactic soap bubbles. For its (roughly) five year anniversary, NASA put out a little montage of the 'scopes stellar achievements so far, and the… » 8/21/13 2:51pm 8/21/13 2:51pm

Behold the Glowing Glory of a Sunspot In Unprecedented Detail

When you stare at the sun it just looks like pain. But when the New Solar Telescope (NST) does, it can catch glimpses of truly mesmerizing solar activity, and all without going blind. Here, for example, is the most precise picture of a sunspot ever taken, in all its flaming glory. It's like a solar black hole in a… » 8/07/13 4:40pm 8/07/13 4:40pm

This Telescope Shoots Lasers to Unlock the Mysteries of the Cosmos

Ground-based telescopes have long struggled to achieve the image clarity and resolution of their orbiting cousins due in large part to atmospheric distortions. That's why we build observatories on mountain tops: to minimize the amount of atmosphere between the telescope and incoming starlight. But with the help of a… » 7/04/13 11:00am 7/04/13 11:00am

This Subterranean Telescope May Have Just Seen Humanity's First Cosmic …

Catching a glimpse of even regular neutrinos—low-energy particles generated in the atmosphere—is difficult enough, but spotting a "cosmic neutrino" left over from the Big Bang has been downright impossible. That is until this cubic kilometer buried under Antartica's frozen wastes started looking. » 5/16/13 11:55am 5/16/13 11:55am

How NASA's Fermi Telescope Sidestepped a Gigantic Space Crash

There's all kinds of asteroids and other debris cruising through space, but a lot of the really dangerous stuff is stuff we put there ourselves. NASA's cosmic bubble-spotting Fermi telescope almost had an intergalactic fender bender, but not with some epoch-old rock floating through the cosmos. No, it almost got… » 5/02/13 11:16am 5/02/13 11:16am