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  • News

    Mysterious high-energy particles could come from black hole jets

    It’s three for the price of one. A trio of mysterious high-energy particles could all have the same source: active black holes embedded in galaxy clusters, researchers suggest January 22 in Nature Physics.

    Scientists have been unable to figure out the origins of the three types of particles — gamma rays that give a background glow to the universe, cosmic neutrinos and ultrahigh-energy...

    01/22/2018 - 15:48 Astronomy, Particle Physics
  • Context

    Speed of universe’s expansion remains elusive

    Unless you are a recent arrival from another universe, you’ve no doubt heard that this one is expanding. It’s getting bigger all the time. What’s more, its growth rate is accelerating. Every day, the universe expands a little bit faster than it did the day before.

    Those day-to-day differences are negligible, though, for astronomers trying to measure the universe’s expansion rate. They...

    01/16/2018 - 12:52 Astronomy, History of Science
  • News in Brief

    Spaceships could use blinking dead stars to chart their way

    OXON HILL, Md. — Future spacecraft could navigate by the light of dead stars.

    Using only the timing of radiation bursts from pulsating stellar corpses, an experiment on the International Space Station was able to pinpoint its location in space in a first-ever demonstration. The technique operates like a stellar version of GPS, researchers with the Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and...

    01/12/2018 - 17:15 Astronomy
  • News

    Trio of dead stars upholds a key part of Einstein’s theory of gravity

    OXON HILL, Md. — Observations of a trio of dead stars have confirmed that a foundation of Einstein’s gravitational theory holds even for ultradense objects with strong gravitational fields.

    The complex orbital dance of the three former stars conforms to a rule known as the strong equivalence principle, researchers reported January 10 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society....

    01/12/2018 - 16:19 Astronomy, Physics
  • News

    Pollution is endangering the future of astronomy

    OXON HILL, Md. — Even as technological advances allow astronomers to peer more deeply into the cosmos than ever before, new technologies also have the potential to create blinding pollution.

    Three sources of pollution — space debris, radio interference and light pollution — already are particularly worrisome. And the situation is getting worse. In the next two decades, as many as 20,000...

    01/12/2018 - 13:27 Astronomy, Pollution, Technology
  • Science Ticker

    See a 360-degree visualization of the center of the Milky Way

    View the video

    OXON HILL, Md. — Ever wonder what it would be like to sit at the center of the Milky Way and watch the galaxy swirl by? A video debuted in a January 10 news conference at the American Astronomical Society Meeting provides a glimpse.

    The 360-degree-simulation, made with data from several telescopes, including NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Southern...

    01/12/2018 - 06:00 Astronomy
  • News

    Fast radio bursts may be from a neutron star orbiting a black hole

    OXON HILL, Md. — Fast radio bursts could come from a turbulent home. At least one source of these bright, brief blasts of radio energy may be a young neutron star assisted by a nearby massive black hole, new research suggests.

    “The biggest mystery around fast radio bursts is how such powerful and short-duration bursts are emitted,” says astronomer Daniele Michilli of the University of...

    01/10/2018 - 13:42 Astronomy
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers wrangle with definition of ‘species’

    Species shmecies

    In “Defining ‘species’ is a fuzzy art” (SN: 11/11/17, p. 22), Susan Milius asked scientists to define “species.” Schoolbooks may define the concept as a group of organisms that create fertile offspring when mating with each other but not when mating with outsiders. But for researchers specializing in the topic, a single definition is hard to come by.

    “It seems to me...

    01/10/2018 - 12:37 Evolution, Technology, Astronomy
  • Editor's Note

    We’ll be watching the skies, plus a lot more, this year

    If this issue is any clue, 2018 may be the Year of Space. Our pages are packed with a surprising wealth of content for astronomy lovers, and anyone who dreams of otherworldly encounters.

    In our cover story, astronomy writer Lisa Grossman reports on the race to Mars. SpaceX announced last year that it plans to get people to the Red Planet by 2024, but the battle over what humans’...

    01/10/2018 - 12:32 Science & Society, Astronomy, Climate
  • News

    White dwarf’s inner makeup is mapped for the first time

    Astronomers have probed the inner life of a dead star. Tiny changes in a white dwarf’s brightness reveal that the stellar corpse has more oxygen in its core than expected, researchers report online January 8 in Nature. The finding could challenge theories of how stars live and die, and may have implications for measuring the expansion of the universe.

    By the end of a sunlike star’s life...

    01/08/2018 - 11:00 Astronomy, Cosmology