Heavens

Washington, D.C.—For several decades, scientists have thought that the Solar System formed as a result of a shock wave from an exploding star—a supernova—that triggered the collapse of a dense, dusty gas cloud that contracted to form the Sun and the planets. But detailed models of this formation process have only worked under the simplifying assumption that the temperatures during the violent events remained constant.

Berkeley -- A two-hour observation of Jupiter using an improved technique to remove atmospheric blur has produced the sharpest whole-planet picture ever taken from the ground, according to astronomers from the University of California, Berkeley, and the European Southern Observatory (ESO).

A record two-hour observation of Jupiter using a superior technique to remove atmospheric blur has produced the sharpest whole-planet picture ever taken from the ground. The series of 265 snapshots obtained with the Multi-Conjugate Adaptive Optics Demonstrator (MAD) prototype instrument mounted on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) reveal changes in Jupiter's smog-like haze, probably in response to a planet-wide upheaval more than a year ago.

The "birth rate" for stars is certainly not easy to determine. Distances in the universe are far too great for astronomers to be able to count all the newly formed celestial bodies with the aid of a telescope. So it is fortunate that the emerging stars give themselves away by a characteristic signal known as "H-alpha" emissions. The larger the number of stars being formed in a particular region of the firmament, the more H-alpha rays are emitted from that region.

Astronomers have made the first direct measurement of the magnetic field in a young, distant galaxy, and the result is a big surprise.

Looking at a faraway protogalaxy seen as it was 6.5 billion years ago, the scientists measured a magnetic field at least 10 times stronger than that of our own Milky Way. They had expected just the opposite.

The scientists made the discovery using the National Science Foundation's ultra-sensitive Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia.

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.