News That Matters

Tag: Astronomers

Astronomers use Gaia data to model Milky Way-Andromeda collision

Astronomers use Gaia data to model Milky Way-Andromeda collision

Science
Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Scientists have long suspected that the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are on a collision course, but now, thanks to new data from the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite, researchers finally know how fast and at what angles the two galactic bodies are approaching impact. The Milky Way and Andromeda, along with the smaller Triangulum, are the three biggest galaxies in the Local Group, a collection of more than 54 galaxies -- most of them dwarf galaxies. While scientists think all 54 members are organized by their gravitational influence on one another, the positioning and trajectories of Local Group members isn't well understood. "We needed to explore the galaxies' motions in 3D to uncover how they have grown and evolved, and what creates and influences their features...
Faint light in Hubble image helps astronomers map dark matter

Faint light in Hubble image helps astronomers map dark matter

Science
Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Scientists have yet to directly detect dark matter, and they don't know what dark matter actually is. But dark matter's presence and influence is reflected in the patterns and movement of light. Using data collected by NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have developed a new way to "see" dark matter via distant starlight. "We have found that very faint light in galaxy clusters, the intracluster light, maps how dark matter is distributed," Mireia Montes, researcher at the University of New South Wales, said in a news release. Intracluster light is the light produced by stars ripped from their homes by the gravity of nearby galaxies. According to Montes and her colleagues, once freed from the gravity of their home galaxy, the roaming stars congregate near concentra...
Astronomers spot young star forming like a planet

Astronomers spot young star forming like a planet

Science
Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Scientists have spotted a young star forming in the disk of gas and dust surrounding another star. The young star is forming like a planet. While studying the young massive star MM 1a, astronomers noticed an anomaly inside the star's rotating disc of gas and dust. Scientists think the observation is one of the first documented "fragmented" circumstellar disks. Astronomers described the discovery this week in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. "Stars form withing large clouds of gas and dust in interstellar space," John Ilee, astronomer at the University of Leeds, said in a news release. "When these clouds collapse under gravity, they begin to rotate faster, forming a disc around them. In low mass stars like our sun, it is in these discs that planets can form." Instead of...
Astronomers find exoplanet orbiting Barnard's star, fourth closest stellar neighbor

Astronomers find exoplanet orbiting Barnard's star, fourth closest stellar neighbor

Science
Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Scientists have found another nearby exoplanet. Astronomers found the so-called super Earth orbiting Barnard's star, the fourth closest star to the sun. Only the Alpha Centauri triple system is closer. The planet, Barnard's star b, and its host star are located six light-years from Earth. The alien world is likely a rocky planet, boasting a mass 3.2 times that of Earth. Barnard's star b completes an orbit around its sun every 233 days. The super Earth lies outside the habitable zone, positioned too far from its sun to host liquid water. Any water found on the exoplanet would be frozen. Scientists estimate the planet features a surface temperature of negative 170 degrees Celsius, though it's possible a substantial atmosphere allows for slightly milder -- but still really c...
Astronomers measure fastest non-lethal stellar blast in history

Astronomers measure fastest non-lethal stellar blast in history

Science
Aug. 2 (UPI) -- New measurements of Eta Carinae suggest the star system produced the fastest non-lethal stellar blast in history. Though the famed binary star system Eta Carinae exploded 170 years ago, scientists are still able to study the blast by measuring its light echoes. Light echoes are produced by light energy produced by stellar events bounce off and become redirected by distant gas clouds. Light echoes produced by the massive Eta Carinae -- witnessed by astronomers and laypeople alike during the mid-1800s -- continue to redirect toward Earth, allowing scientists to peer back into the annals of cosmic history. "A light echo is the next best thing to time travel," Nathan Smith, an astronomer at the University of Arizona, said in a news release. "That's why light echoes are so beau...