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  • News in Brief

    With launch looming, the Parker Solar Probe is ready for its star turn

    Editor’s note: The Parker Solar Probe’s planned Aug. 11 launch was scrubbed to look into an issue with the rocket’s helium pressure. The spacecraft  is now set to lift off on its journey to the sun at 3:31 a.m. EDT on August 12 at the earliest.

    NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is ready to reach for the stars — well, one specific star. It’s about to blast off to become the first spacecraft to...

    08/10/2018 - 14:00 Astronomy
  • News

    A faint glow found between galaxies could be a beacon for dark matter

    Dim light emanating from the purgatory between galaxies could illuminate the most shadowy constituents of the cosmos.

    Dark matter, an unidentified type of particle that interacts gravitationally but otherwise shuns normal matter, lurks throughout clusters of galaxies. Because the elusive substance emits no light, it’s difficult to pin down how it is distributed, even though it makes up...

    08/10/2018 - 07:00 Astronomy, Particle Physics
  • News

    New Horizons may have seen a glow at the solar system’s edge

    The New Horizons spacecraft has spotted an ultraviolet glow that seems to emanate from near the edge of the solar system. That glow may come from a long-sought wall of hydrogen that represents where the sun’s influence wanes, the New Horizons team reports online August 7 in Geophysical Research Letters.

    “We’re seeing the threshold between being in the solar neighborhood and being in the...

    08/09/2018 - 07:00 Astronomy, Planetary Science
  • News

    Astronomers saw the first mass eruption from a star that’s not the sun

    BOSTON — For the first time, a stellar eruption called a coronal mass ejection has been spotted fleeing a distant star.

    Such outbursts of plasma and charged particles are well-known on the sun, and commonly follow a burst of light called a solar flare (SN Online: 4/17/15). Astronomers had detected flares on other stars, but never a corresponding coronal mass ejection, or CME, until now....

    08/07/2018 - 09:00 Astronomy, Exoplanets
  • News in Brief

    Hopes dim that gamma rays can reveal dark matter

    An astronomical calling card, tentatively attributed to mysterious dark matter, seems likely to be due to a more mundane source.

    An unexplained glow of high-energy light from the center of the Milky Way, first spotted in 2009, raised scientists’ hopes of better pinning down dark matter (SN: 11/20/10, p. 11). That unidentified substance has been detected so far only via its gravitational...

    08/06/2018 - 11:00 Astronomy, Particle Physics
  • News

    Next to its solar twins, the sun stands out

    BOSTON — Many sunlike stars are eerie clones, but ours is an individual. A study of solar twins reveals that the sun’s chemical makeup is surprisingly different from that of its nearby peers, while those stars are almost identical to one another. Since a star and its planets are made from the same materials, that may mean the exoplanets orbiting those stars come in just a few flavors. It also...

    08/03/2018 - 12:00 Astronomy, Exoplanets
  • Feature

    How the Parker probe was built to survive close encounters with the sun

    NASA has a mantra for preparing spacecraft to launch: “Test as you fly.” The idea is to test the entire spacecraft, fully assembled, in the same environment and configuration that it will see in orbit.

    But the Parker Solar Probe, set to launch August 11, is no ordinary spacecraft (SN Online: 7/5/18). And it’s headed to no ordinary environment. Parker will sweep through the sun’s...

    07/31/2018 - 12:35 Astronomy
  • News

    A star orbiting a black hole shows Einstein got gravity right — again

    A single star, careening around the monster black hole in the center of the Milky Way, has provided astronomers with new proof that Albert Einstein was right about gravity.

    More than 100 years ago, Einstein’s general theory of relativity revealed that gravity is the result of matter curving the fabric of spacetime (SN: 10/17/15, p. 16). Now, in a paper published July 26 in Astronomy...

    07/26/2018 - 08:00 Physics, Astronomy
  • News

    The Planck satellite’s picture of the infant universe gets its last tweaks

    A spacecraft that revealed details of the hidden tapestry of the infant cosmos has had its last hurrah.

    Scientists have unveiled the final result from the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite, which observed the oldest light in the universe — the cosmic microwave background — from 2009 to 2013. During its mission, the spacecraft provided new details of the intricate patterns woven...

    07/24/2018 - 08:00 Physics, Astronomy
  • News in Brief

    One particle’s trek suggests that ‘spacetime foam’ doesn’t slow neutrinos

    An intergalactic race between light and a bizarre subatomic particle called a neutrino has ended in a draw.

    The tie suggests that high-energy neutrinos, which are so lightweight they behave as if they’re massless, adhere to a basic rule of physics: Massless particles travel at the speed of light.

    Comparing the arrival times of a neutrino and an associated blaze of high-energy light...

    07/19/2018 - 07:00 Particle Physics, Astronomy