Knowledge of Earth’s location in the universe has been shaped by 400 years of telescopic observations, and has expanded radically in the last century. Initially, Earth was believed to be the center of the universe, which consisted only of those planets visible with the naked eye and an outlying sphere of fixed stars. After the acceptance of the heliocentric model in the 17th century, observations by William Herschel and others showed that the Sun lay within a vast, disc-shaped galaxy of stars, later revealed to be similar to our own. By the 20th century, observations of spiral nebulae revealed that our galaxy was only one of billions in an expanding universe, grouped into clusters and superclusters
In the three years since it first provided images of the sun in the spring of 2010, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has had virtually unbroken coverage of the sun’s rise toward solar maximum, the peak of solar activity in its regular 11-year cycle. This video shows those three years of the sun at a pace of two images per day.
SDO’s Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) captures a shot of the sun every 12 seconds in 10 different wavelengths. The images shown here are based on a wavelength of 171 Angstroms, which is in the extreme ultraviolet range and shows solar material at around 600,000 Kelvin. In this wavelength it is easy to see the sun’s 25-day rotation as well as how solar activity has increased over three years.
This year marks the 23rd year of observing for the Hubble Space Telescope. Alongside cutting-edge science, the orbiting observatory has produced countless stunning astronomical images. Some of the most striking and beautiful subjects of Hubble’s images have been nebulae — vast interstellar clouds of gas and dust.
I’m often asked by students in my community education astronomy classes whether any new elements have been found in outer space unknown on Earth. The answer to the question is no – nature uses the same 98 natural elements to fashion everything from the familiar stars and planets to those in the farthest galaxies we can see. Outside of an occasional compound or mineral, Earth is the place where you’ll find more exotic elements than anywhere else in the universe.
Orbital Sciences Antares rocket successfully launched at 5 p.m., Sunday,
April 21 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at NASA’s
Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. All system nominal. The Antares launch vehicle made its maiden flight Sunday, launching from Pad 0A at the Wallops Flight Facility, Va. at 5 p.m. Eastern time on a test flight that served as the precursor for a demonstration flight of its Cygnus resupply ship to the International Space Station later this year. Antares will be delivering a mass simulator payload to orbit 10 minutes after launch designed to mimic the Cygnus spacecraft’s weight and characteristics.
NASA’s Kepler space telescope has discovered three planets that may be able to support life, while one of them is the most earth-like world spotted to date, scientists say. Two exoplanets have been discovered in their stars’ habitable zones, what is known as just the right range of distance where liquid water can exist on [...]
This year, in time for Earth Day on Monday, we’ve done it again, putting together another list of 10 notable discoveries made by scientists since Earth Day 2012—a list that ranges from specific topics (a species of plant, a group of catfish) to broad (the core of planet Earth), and from the alarming (the consequences of climate change) to the awe-inspiring (Earth’s place in the universe).
Most of the early galaxies that astronomers have been able to observe are small with a low-to-moderate amount of star production. But now the Herschel Space Observatory has found a massive dust-filled galaxy churning out stars at an incredible rate, with all of this taking place back when the cosmos was a just 880 million years old. The galaxy is about as massive as our Milky Way, but produces stars at a rate 2,000 times greater, prompting the researchers to call it a “maximum-starburst” galaxy.
Hank tells the story of the mysterious star known as “Methuseleh,” and why scientists think that it is the oldest known star in the universe.