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  • News

    X-ray ‘chimneys’ connect the Milky Way to mysterious gamma-ray bubbles

    Two towering “chimneys” glowing with X-rays extend from the center of the Milky Way. The newly discovered structures could help explain the source of two even larger features: giant bubbles that emit gamma rays, or high-energy light, found above and below the plane of the galaxy.

    Stretching hundreds of light-years, the X-ray chimneys seem to connect the gamma-ray bubbles to the center of...

    03/20/2019 - 14:00 Astronomy
  • News in Brief

    One of the strongest known solar storms blasted Earth in 660 B.C.

    One of the strongest solar storms ever to hurtle toward Earth blasted the planet in 660 B.C., researchers say, based on traces of the storm preserved in both ice cores and tree rings. The study was published online March 11 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    As the sun’s magnetic field shifts, it occasionally releases bursts of charged particles into space. In the most...

    03/11/2019 - 15:26 Astronomy
  • News in Brief

    Merging magnetic blobs fuel the sun’s huge plasma eruptions

    Solar plasma eruptions are the sum of many parts, a new look at a 2013 coronal mass ejection shows.

    These bright, energetic bursts happen when loops of magnetism in the sun’s wispy outer atmosphere, or corona, suddenly snap and send plasma and charged particles hurtling through space (SN Online: 8/16/17).

    But it was unclear how coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, get started. One...

    03/07/2019 - 16:46 Astronomy
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers have questions about Ultima Thule, thirsty plants and vitamin D

    Which way is up?

    Initial observations of the Kuiper Belt object MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule, suggested it had a snowmanlike shape. Ultima Thule’s two lobes are connected by a narrow neck that appears brighter than the rest of the space rock’s surface, Lisa Grossman reported in “New Horizons shows Ultima Thule looks like a snowman, or maybe BB-8” (SN: 2/2/19, p. 7). 

    “The photo of...

    03/07/2019 - 06:00 Astronomy, Plants, Health
  • News

    Hidden ancient neutrinos may shape the patterns of galaxies

    Shadowy messengers from the Big Bang have seemingly left their mark on ring-shaped patterns imprinted on the sky.

    Subatomic particles called neutrinos, released just one second after the universe’s birth 13.8 billion years ago, continually stream through the universe and are exceedingly hard to spot. But circular patterns of galaxies scattered across the sky reveal signs of the shy...

    03/04/2019 - 11:00 Cosmology, Physics, Astronomy
  • News

    3 explanations for ‘Oumuamua that aren’t alien spaceships

    The first known interstellar visitor to the solar system is keeping astronomers guessing.

    Ever since it was spotted in October 2017, major mysteries have dogged the object, known as ‘Oumuamua (SN Online: 10/27/17). Astronomers don’t know where it came from in the galaxy. And they’ve disagreed over whether ‘Oumuamua is an asteroid, a comet or something else entirely.

    One of the...

    02/27/2019 - 11:18 Astronomy, Planetary Science
  • News

    Colliding neutron stars shot a light-speed jet through space

    When a pair of ultradense cores of dead stars smashed into one another, the collision shot a bright jet of charged subatomic particles through space.

    Astronomers thought no such jet had made it out of the wreckage of the neutron star crash, first detected in August 2017. But new observations of the crash site using a network of radio telescopes from around the world show that a high-...

    02/22/2019 - 11:53 Astronomy
  • News in Brief

    Supernovas show the universe expands at the same rate in all directions

    The cosmos doesn’t care whether you’re looking up or down, left or right: In all directions, the universe is expanding at the same clip. When compared across large swaths of the sky, expansion rates agree to better than 1 percent, researchers report in a paper in press in Physical Review Letters.

    Observations of exploding stars, or supernovas, indicate that the universe is not only...

    02/22/2019 - 07:00 Physics, Astronomy
  • News

    LIGO will be getting a quantum upgrade

    WASHINGTON — Gravitational wave detectors are going quantum.

    A planned revamp of the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, LIGO, relies on finessing quantum techniques, LIGO scientists announced February 14. That $35 million upgrade could let scientists catch a gravitational wave every day, on average. LIGO’s current tally of 11 gravitational wave events could be...

    02/15/2019 - 14:54 Quantum Physics, Astronomy
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers marvel at AI, space missions and wombat poop

    Defining intelligence

    Artificial intelligence followed fauna, diagnosed disease, mapped the moon and more in 2018, Maria Temming reported in “Artificial intelligence is mastering a wider variety of jobs than ever before” (SN: 12/22/18 & 1/5/19, p. 25).

    Online reader greg found the term “artificial intelligence” misleading. “In reality what we call AI are merely classification...

    02/10/2019 - 07:15 Artificial Intelligence, Astronomy, Animals