Heavens

Using a powerful radio telescope to peer into the early universe, a team of California astronomers has obtained the first direct measurement of a nascent galaxy's magnetic field as it appeared 6.5 billion years ago.

GREENBELT, Md. -- Hot spots near the shattered remains of an exploded star are echoing the blast's first moments, say scientists using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

Eli Dwek of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. and Richard Arendt of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, say these echoes are powered by radiation from the supernova shock wave that blew the star apart some 11,000 years ago. "We're seeing the supernova's first flash," Dwek says.

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, which is toting an $8.7 million University of Colorado at Boulder instrument to measure Mercury's wispy atmosphere and blistering surface, will make its second flyby of the mysterious, rocky planet Oct. 6.

Astronomers may have discovered the relative of a freakishly behaving exploding star once thought to be the only one of its kind.

For more than two decades, astronomers have intensively studied supernova 1987A, an exploding star that had behaved like no other. Instead of growing dimmer with time, 1987A has grown brighter at X-ray and radio wavelengths.

A team of astronomers that includes the University of Chicago's Vikram Dwarkadas is asking if supernova 1996cr, discovered by Columbia University's Franz Bauer, is actually the "wild cousin" of supernova 1987A.

One of the nearest supernovas in the last 25 years has been identified over a decade after it exploded. This result was made possible by combining data from the vast online archives from many of the world's premier telescopes.

The supernova, called SN 1996cr, was first singled out in 2001 by Franz Bauer. Bauer noticed a bright, variable source in the Circinus spiral galaxy, using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Although the source displayed some exceptional properties Bauer and his Penn State colleagues could not identify its nature confidently at the time.

Two terrestrial planets orbiting a mature sun-like star some 300 light-years from Earth recently suffered a violent collision, astronomers at UCLA, Tennessee State University and the California Institute of Technology will report in a December issue of the Astrophysical Journal, the premier journal of astronomy and astrophysics.

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Swift satellite has found the most distant gamma-ray burst ever detected. The blast, designated GRB 080913, arose from an exploding star 12.8 billion light-years away.

"This is the most amazing burst Swift has seen," said the mission's lead scientist Neil Gehrels at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "It's coming to us from near the edge of the visible universe."

New, very precise measurements have shown that the rotation of the Milky Way is simpler than previously thought. A remarkable result from the most successful ESO instrument HARPS, shows that a much debated, apparent 'fall' of neighbourhood Cepheid stars towards our Sun stems from an intrinsic property of the Cepheids themselves.

The result, obtained by a group of astrophysicists led by Nicolas Nardetto, will soon appear in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Theoretical models of stellar formation propose the existence of very massive stars that can attain up to 150 times the mass of our Sun.

Until very recently, however, no scientist had discovered a star of more than 83 solar masses. Now an international team of astrophysicists, led by Université de Montréal researchers from the Centre de recherche en astrophysique du Québec (CRAQ), has found and "weighed" the most massive star to date.