Heavens

Comet Wild 2: A window into the birth of the solar system?

Comet Wild 2: A window into the birth of the solar system?

Our solar system, and other planetary systems, started as a disk of microscopic dust, gas, and ice around the young Sun. The amazing diversity of objects in the solar system today - the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets - was made from this primitive dust.

NASA's Stardust mission returned to Earth with samples of comet Wild 2, a comet that originated outside the orbit of Neptune and was subsequently kicked closer to Earth's orbit in 1974 when Jupiter's gravity altered Wild 2's orbit.

The dark side of star clusters

The dark side of star clusters

Globular star clusters are huge balls of thousands of stars that orbit most galaxies. They are among the oldest known stellar systems in the Universe and have survived through almost the entire span of galaxy growth and evolution.

Fresh evidence for how water reached Earth found in asteroid debris

Fresh evidence for how water reached Earth found in asteroid debris

Water delivery via asteroids or comets is likely taking place in many other planetary systems, just as it happened on Earth, new research strongly suggests.

Published by the Royal Astronomical Society and led by the University of Warwick, the research finds evidence for numerous planetary bodies, including asteroids and comets, containing large amounts of water.

The research findings add further support to the possibility water can be delivered to Earth-like planets via such bodies to create a suitable environment for the formation of life.

Proof that famous image shows forming planets

Proof that famous image shows forming planets

A recent and famous image from deep space marks the first time we've seen a forming planetary system, according to a study by U of T astrophysicists.

The team, led by Daniel Tamayo from the Centre for Planetary Science at U of T Scarborough and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, found that circular gaps in a disk of dust and gas swirling around the young star HL Tau are in fact made by forming planets.

EGS-zs8-1 is the farthest galaxy detected yet

EGS-zs8-1 is the farthest galaxy detected yet

An international team of astronomers pushed back the cosmic frontier of galaxy exploration to a time when the universe was only 5% of its present age. The team discovered an exceptionally luminous galaxy more than 13 billion years in the past and determined its exact distance from Earth using the powerful MOSFIRE instrument on the W.M. Keck Observatory's 10-meter telescope, in Hawaii. It is the most distant galaxy currently measured.

PSR J1930-1852: Pulsar with widest orbit ever detected

PSR J1930-1852: Pulsar with widest orbit ever detected

A team of highly determined high school students discovered a never-before-seen pulsar by painstakingly analyzing data from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT). Further observations by astronomers using the GBT revealed that this pulsar has the widest orbit of any around a neutron star and is part of only a handful of double neutron star systems.

This impressive find will help astronomers better understand how binary neutron star systems form and evolve.

How to prepare weather forecasts for exoplanets

"Cloudy for the morning, turning to clear with scorching heat in the afternoon."

While this might describe a typical late-summer day in many places on Earth, it may also apply to planets outside our solar system, according to a new study by an international team of astrophysicists from the University of Toronto, York University and Queen's University Belfast.

MESSENGER revealed Mercury's magnetic field secrets before it went down

New data from MESSENGER, the spacecraft that orbited Mercury for four years before crashing into the planet a week ago, reveals Mercury's magnetic field is almost four billion years old. The discovery helps scientists piece together the history of Mercury, the closest planet to the sun and one about which we knew very little before MESSENGER.

Explosive evidence for supernova asymmetry

New results from the NASA NuSTAR telescope show that a supernova close to our galaxy experienced a single-sided explosion.

A team of scientists including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers found that X-ray emissions taken with the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) show that the Supernova 1987A explosion was highly asymmetric. The results appear in the May 8 edition of the journal, Science.

NuSTAR observations, including those of 1987A, provide strong and compelling observational evidence that supernovae are not symmetric.

Long-term galactic cosmic ray exposure leads to dementia-like cognitive impairments

What happens to an astronaut's brain during a mission to Mars? Nothing good. It's besieged by destructive particles that can forever impair cognition, according to a UC Irvine radiation oncology study appearing in the May 1 edition of Science Advances.

Charles Limoli and colleagues found that exposure to highly energetic charged particles - much like those found in the galactic cosmic rays that bombard astronauts during extended spaceflights - cause significant damage to the central nervous system, resulting in cognitive impairments.