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  • News

    Gaps in gas disks around stars may not always mark newborn planets

    The photo album of baby planets may be emptier than astronomers thought. 

    New research is prompting debate about the theory that gaps in planet-forming disks around young stars mark spaces where planets are being created in real time. It turns out that the planets that, according to simulations, would grow up in those gaps don’t resemble the full-grown planets observed around more mature...

    07/16/2019 - 08:00 Astronomy, Exoplanets
  • Feature

    How NASA has kept Apollo moon rocks safe from contamination for 50 years

    I’m not allowed to touch the moon rocks.

    In the room where NASA stores the samples that Apollo astronauts brought to Earth decades ago, I peer at rocks and trays of dirt through glass. But my tour guides are firm: Nobody touches the moon rocks.

    This is the pristine sample lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Being here is a big deal for me. I’ve spent years looking at...

    07/15/2019 - 07:00 Planetary Science, Astronomy
  • News

    Moons that escape their planets could become ‘ploonets’

    Meet ploonets: planets of moonish origin.

    In other star systems, some moons could escape their planets and start orbiting their stars instead, new simulations suggest. Scientists have dubbed such liberated worlds “ploonets,” and say that current telescopes may be able to find the wayward objects.

    Astronomers think that exomoons — moons orbiting planets that orbit stars other than...

    07/09/2019 - 10:02 Exoplanets, Astronomy
  • Feature

    Moonlight shapes how some animals move, grow and even sing

    Crowds of people gather to watch an evening spectacle on beaches in Southern California: Twice a month, typically from March through August, the sand becomes carpeted with hundreds or thousands of California grunion. Writhing, flopping, silvery sardine look-alikes lunge as far onto shore as possible. As the female fish dig their tails into the sand and release eggs, males wrap around females...

    07/08/2019 - 06:00 Ecology, Animals, Astronomy
  • Editor's Note

    After all this time, the moon still manages to surprise us

    “Look at the moon!” How many times have I said that when it surprised me, rising huge and orange at the end of the street, scudding behind icy winter clouds or floating serenely in the evening sky? I know I’m not alone in the joy I feel each time its nocturnal show stops me in my tracks. How something so constant and predictable continues to enchant us is an enduring mystery. In the...
    07/06/2019 - 06:00 Astronomy
  • News

    How the 2019 eclipse will differ from 2017’s — and what that means for science

    Two years ago, scientists towed telescopes and other equipment into fields and up mountains across the United States for a celestial spectacle: the 2017 Great American Eclipse.

    Now, they’re at it again. On July 2, the next total solar eclipse will be visible shortly before sunset from the Pacific Ocean and parts of Chile and Argentina.

    Eclipse watchers hope to study some of the...

    06/30/2019 - 05:00 Astronomy
  • The –est

    The earliest known galaxy merger occurred shortly after the Big Bang

    The earliest known galaxy smashup happened less than a billion years after the Big Bang, a study affirms.

    Mergers have helped build galaxies up from smaller clumps of stars to the elegant spirals seen in the modern universe. Our own Milky Way galaxy has eaten some of its smaller neighbors (SN: 11/24/18, p. 8), and is expected to collide with the giant Andromeda galaxy in some 4 billion...

    06/28/2019 - 06:00 Astronomy
  • News

    In a first, telescopes tracked a lone fast radio burst to a faraway galaxy

    Astronomers have long wondered what triggers brief, brilliant blasts of radio waves from other galaxies. Now, new observations suggest these events, known as fast radio bursts, or FRBs for short, may emanate from two completely different phenomena.

    For the first time, astronomers have identified the home galaxy of a one-off FRB. Until now, only the repeating FRB 121102 had been pegged to...

    06/27/2019 - 14:00 Astronomy
  • News

    The highest-energy photons ever seen hail from the Crab Nebula

    Physicists have spotted the highest-energy light ever seen. It emanated from the roiling remains left behind when a star exploded.

    This light made its way to Earth from the Crab Nebula, a remnant of a stellar explosion, or supernova, about 6,500 light-years away in the Milky Way. The Tibet AS-gamma experiment caught multiple particles of light — or photons — from the nebula with energies...

    06/24/2019 - 07:00 Astronomy, Particle Physics
  • News

    The cosmic ‘Cow’ may be a strange supernova

    The cosmic oddity known as the Cow may have been a dying star that shed its skin like a snake before it exploded.

    Newly released observations support the idea that the burst occurred in a dense environment with strong magnetic fields, astronomer Kuiyun Huang and colleagues report in The Astrophysical Journal Letters June 12.

    These new measurements “for the mysterious transient …...

    06/21/2019 - 10:54 Astronomy