Heavens

The C1XS X-ray camera, jointly developed by the UK's STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has successfully detected its first X-ray signature from the Moon. This is the first step in its mission to reveal the origin and evolution of our Moon by mapping its surface composition.

New Haven, Conn.—A team of Yale University astronomers has discovered that galaxies stop forming stars long before their central supermassive black holes reach their most powerful stage, meaning the black holes can't be responsible for shutting down star formation.

Jerusalem, January 20, 2009 – A new theory as to how galaxies were formed in the Universe billions of years ago has been formulated by Hebrew University of Jerusalem cosmologists. The theory takes issue with the prevailing view on how the galaxies came to exist.

Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have discovered a planet somewhat larger and more massive than Neptune orbiting a star 120 light-years from Earth. While Neptune has a diameter 3.8 times that of Earth and a mass 17 times Earth's, the new world (named HAT-P-11b) is 4.7 times the size of Earth and has 25 Earth masses.

Astronomers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Spain) used NACO, a sharp-eyed adaptive optics instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), to study the fine detail in NGC 253, one of the brightest and dustiest spiral galaxies in the sky. Adaptive Optics (AO) corrects for the blurring effect introduced by the Earth's atmosphere. This turbulence causes the stars to twinkle in a way that delights poets, but frustrates astronomers, since it smears out the images.

LIVERMORE, Calif. - Scientists may have solved one of the most longstanding astrophysical mysteries of all times: How massive stars - up to 120 times the mass of our sun - form without blowing away the clouds of gas and dust that feed their growth.

New research by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, University of California, Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley has shown how a massive star can grow despite outward-flowing radiation pressure that exceeds the gravitational force pulling material inward. The study appears in the Jan. 15 online edition of Science Express.

SANTA CRUZ, CA--Theorists have long wondered how massive stars--up to 120 times the mass of the Sun--can form without blowing away the clouds of gas and dust that feed their growth. But the problem turns out to be less mysterious than it once seemed. A study published this week by Science shows how the growth of a massive star can proceed despite outward-flowing radiation pressure that exceeds the gravitational force pulling material inward.

ITHACA, N.Y. – A Cornell-led team of astronomers has observed dust forming around a dying star in a nearby galaxy, giving a glimpse into the early universe and enlivening a debate about the origins of all cosmic dust.

The findings are reported in the Jan. 16 issue of the journal Science (Vol. 323, No. 5912). Cornell research associate Greg Sloan led the study, which was based on observations with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The researchers used Spitzer's Infrared Spectrograph, which was developed at Cornell.

Washington, D.C. Two independent groups have simultaneously made the first-ever ground-based detection of extrasolar planets thermal emissions. Until now, virtually everything known about atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars in the Milky Way has come from space-based observations.

Transiting exoplanets are routinely detected when they pass in front of their parent star as viewed from the Earth, which only happens by chance. The transit event causes a small drop in the observed starlight, which can then be detected. Fifty-five exoplanets have been detected this way since the observation of the first transiting planet HD 209458 b in 1999. When the planet revolves around its star or when it goes behind, the light coming from the system also varies, though the resulting smaller modulation is much harder to detect.

Researchers have discovered that the mysterious overweight stars known as blue stragglers are the result of 'stellar cannibalism' where plasma is gradually pulled from one star to another to form a massive, unusually hot star that appears younger than it is. The process takes place in binary stars – star systems consisting of two stars orbiting around their common centre of mass. This helps to resolve a long standing mystery in stellar evolution.

Hamilton, ON. January 15, 2009 – Researchers have discovered evidence that blue stragglers in globular clusters, whose existence has long puzzled astronomers, are the result of 'stellar cannibalism' in binary stars. In other words, binary stars are eating each other and turning into a blue straggler.

The findings appear in the most recent issue of Nature, published today.

XMM-Newton has caught the fading glow of a tiny celestial object, revealing its rotation rate for the first time. The new information confirms this particular object as one of an extremely rare class of stellar zombie – each one the dead heart of a star that refuses to die.

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– A team of NASA-funded scientists, including two from UC Santa Barbara, have discovered cosmic radio noise that they find completely unexpected and exciting.

The finding came from data collected from a large helium-filled NASA balloon, big enough to fit a football field inside. The scientists discovered cosmic radio noise that is blasting six times louder than expected.

The launch of the NASA ARCADE balloon.

(Photo Credit: NASA/ARCADE)

In 1609, exactly four centuries ago, Galileo revolutionised humankind's understanding of our position in the Universe when he used a telescope for the first time to study the heavens, which saw him sketching radical new views of the moon and discovering the satellites orbiting Jupiter.