Heavens

A new report from the National Research Council, LAUNCHING SCIENCE: SCIENCE OPPORTUNITIES PROVIDED BY NASA'S CONSTELLATION PROGRAM, reviews science missions that would be uniquely suited to the new Constellation system of spacecraft being developed by NASA for human space exploration beyond low Earth orbit. The report evaluates 17 science mission concepts based on their potential to significantly advance a scientific field and therefore benefit from inclusion in the Constellation program.

The explosion of a binary star inside a planetary nebula has been captured by a team led by UCL (University College London) researchers – an event that has not been witnessed for more than 100 years. The study, published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, predicts that the combined mass of the two stars in the system may be high enough for the stars to eventually spiral into each other, triggering a much bigger supernova explosion.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---The powerful black holes at the center of massive galaxies and galaxy clusters act as hearts to the systems, pumping energy out at regular intervals to regulate the growth of the black holes themselves, as well as star formation, according to new data from NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

Scientists from the University of Michigan, the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Jacobs University in Germany contributed to the results.

A team of astronomers from Penn State and Nicolaus Copernicus University in Poland has discovered a new planet that is closely orbiting a red-giant star, HD 102272, which is much older than our own Sun. The planet has a mass that is nearly six times that of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.

ITHACA, N.Y. – In space, no one takes out the trash. Garbage can pile up, spoil and become a health hazard for astronauts in the cramped living quarters of a space station.

There has never been a good system for dealing with space waste - the space shuttle now brings full trash bags back to Earth; on the Russian space station MIR, junk would accumulate in hallways for months before it was sent to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere.

GREENBELT, Md. - Massive energy releases occur every day in the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere. Lightning may give rise to these bursts of radiation. However, unlike the well-known flashes of light and peals of thunder familiar to Earth-dwellers, these energy releases are channeled upward and can be detected only from space. Our atmosphere protects us from the effects of this radiation, but the mechanisms at work can impact Earth's upper atmosphere and its space environment.

Scientists are tracking the violent convulsions in the giant cloud of gas and dust that gave birth to the solar system 4.5 billion years ago via a few tiny particles from comet Wild 2.

These convulsions flung primordial material billions of miles from the hot, inner regions of the gas cloud that later collapsed to form the sun, out into the cold, nether regions of the solar system, where they became incorporated into an icy comet.

Astronomers using the Gemini North telescope and W.M. Keck Observatory on Hawaii's Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the Hawaiian chain, have obtained the first-ever direct images identifying a multi-planet system around a normal star.

LIVERMORE, Calif. -- Astronomers for the first time have taken snapshots of a multi-planet solar system, much like ours, orbiting another star.

The new solar system orbits a dusty young star named HR8799, which is 140 light years away and about 1.5 times the size of our sun. Three planets, roughly 10, 10 and 7 times the mass of Jupiter, orbit the star. The size of the planets decreases with distance from the parent star, much like the giant planets do in our system.

And there may be more planets out there, but scientists say they just haven't seen them yet.

Astronomers using the Gemini North telescope and W.M. Keck Observatory on Hawaii's Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the Hawaiian chain, have obtained the first-ever direct images identifying a multi-planet system around a normal star.

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken the first visible-light snapshot of a planet circling another star.

Estimated to be no more than three times Jupiter's mass, the planet, called Fomalhaut b, orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Australis, or the "Southern Fish."

Fomalhaut has been a candidate for planet hunting ever since an excess of dust was discovered around the star in the early 1980s by NASA's Infrared Astronomy Satellite, IRAS.

LIVERMORE, Calif. -- Astronomers for the first time have taken snapshots of a multi-planet solar system, much like ours, orbiting another star.

The new solar system orbits a dusty young star named HR8799, which is 140 light years away and about 1.5 times the size of our sun. Three planets, roughly 10, 10 and 7 times the mass of Jupiter, orbit the star. The size of the planets decreases with distance from the parent star, much like the giant planets do in our system.

And there may be more planets out there, but scientists say they just haven't seen them yet.

Estimated to be no more than three times Jupiter's mass, the planet, called Fomalhaut b, orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut, located 25 light-years away in the constellation Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish).

Fomalhaut has been a candidate for planet hunting ever since an excess of dust was discovered around the star in the early 1980s by the US- UK-Dutch Infrared Astronomy Satellite (IRAS).

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It's not much bigger than a softball and weighs just 2 pounds.

But the "pico satellite" being designed and built in a University of Florida aerospace engineering laboratory may hold a key to a future of easy access to outer space — one where sending satellites into orbit is as routine and inexpensive as shipping goods around the world.

Flagstaff, Ariz. -- A team of astronomers used the Keck and Gemini North telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii to discover three planets in orbit around the young star HR 8799. Christian Marois (the lead author of a paper to be published in Science) and his collaborators developed an advanced computer processing technique that helped separate the planets from the much brighter light of the star. HR 8799 is located about 130 light-years from Earth and is just visible to the naked eye in the constellation of Pegasus.