Our solar system seems like a neat and orderly place, with small, rocky worlds near the sun and big, gaseous worlds farther out, all eight planets following orbital paths unchanged since they formed. However, the true history of the solar system is more riotous. Giant planets migrated in and out, tossing interplanetary flotsam and jetsam far and wide. New clues to this tumultuous past come from the asteroid belt.
NASA's Physical Science Research Program will fund seven proposals to conduct physics research using the agency's new microgravity laboratory, which is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station in 2016.
Brown dwarfs are failed stars which did not have enough mass to ignite nuclear fusion at their core. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy are among the astronomers who have now released the first surface map of such a celestial body.
Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Europe's Herschel Space Observatory have pieced together the evolutionary sequence of compact elliptical galaxies that erupted and burned out early in the history of the universe.
A team of astronomers has conducted infrared observations of luminous, gas-rich, merging galaxies with the Subaru Telescope to study active, mass-accreting supermassive black holes (SMBHs). They found that at least one SMBH almost always becomes active and luminous by accreting a large amount of material.
Using the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, astronomers have discovered what could be a never-before-seen river of hydrogen flowing through space. This very faint, very tenuous filament of gas is streaming into the nearby galaxy NGC 6946 and may help explain how certain spiral galaxies keep up their steady pace of star formation.
An exceptionally close stellar explosion discovered on Jan. 21 has become the focus of observatories around and above the globe, including several NASA spacecraft. The blast, designated SN 2014J, occurred in the galaxy M82 and lies only about 12 million light-years away. This makes it the nearest optical supernova in two decades and potentially the closest type Ia supernova to occur during the life of currently operating space missions.
Astrophysicists have found evidence strongly supporting a solution to a long-standing puzzle about the birth of some of the most massive stars in the universe. Young massive stars shine brightly in the ultraviolet, heating the gas around them, and it has long been a mystery why the hot gas doesn't explode outwards. Now, observations have confirmed predications that as the gas cloud collapses, it forms dense filamentary structures that absorb the star's ultraviolet radiation.
For decades, astrophysicists have encountered a contradiction: although many galactic-wind models - simulations of how matter is distributed in our universe - predict that most matter exists in stars at the center of galaxies, in actuality these stars account for less than 10 percent of the matter in the universe. New simulations offer insight into this mismatch between the models and reality: energy released by individual stars can have a substantial effect on where matter ends up.
The VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile has captured this richly detailed new image of the Lagoon Nebula. This giant cloud of gas and dust is creating intensely bright young stars, and is home to young stellar clusters. This image is a tiny part of just one of eleven public surveys of the sky now in progress using ESO telescopes. Together these are providing a vast legacy of publicly available data for the global astronomical community.