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Study Details What Happens When Galaxies Collide 52

Aspiring Astronomer writes: According to a recent study, when two galaxies of a similar mass collide, both galaxies will begin producing more stars. However, when one galaxy considerably outweighs the other, the larger galaxy begins producing more stars, whereas the smaller galaxy's star production begins to slow. This may be because the larger galaxy is able to draw gases from the smaller one, resulting in the formation of more stars. The Milky Way may experience a collision of it's own, because the Andromeda Galaxy is moving towards us at speeds upwards of 200,000 miles per hour. No need to worry, though; this collision is a few billion years away.

Astronomers Discover Third-Closest Star System To Earth 151

The Bad Astronomer writes "Astronomers have found the third-closest star system to the Earth: called WISE 1049-5319, it's a binary brown dwarf system just 6.5 light years away. Brown dwarfs are faint, low mass objects 13 — 75 times the mass of Jupiter, and are so dim they are very difficult to detect. These newly-found nearby objects were seen in observations from 1978 but went unnoticed at the time, but since that date the large apparent motion of the binary made their proximity obvious. Only two star systems are closer: Alpha Centauri (4.3 light years) and Barnard's star (6 light years)."

The Science Behind Building a Space Gun Screenshot-sm 131

An anonymous reader writes "Astronomer and gamer Scott Manley (more famous for his Kerbal Space program coverage) has created a fantastic video explaining the science behind building guns that could one day be used to launch payloads into space. It's not as easy as simply making a bigger gun, there's a whole host of unorthodox 'gun' designs which work around the limitations of garden variety propellants."

Study Estimates 100 Billion Planets In the Milky Way Galaxy 101

The Bad Astronomer writes "A new study finds that there may be 100 billion alien planets in the Milky Way alone, with 17 billion of them the size of Earth. Announcements like this have been made before, but this new research is more robust than previous studies, using data from the Kepler planet-hunting spacecraft over a longer period and analyzing it in a more statistically solid way (PDF). They also found that smaller planets are not as picky about their host stars, with terrestrial planets forming around stars like the Sun or as small as tiny, cool red dwarfs with equal ease."

Teenager Makes Discovery About Galaxy Distribution 247

Janek Kozicki writes "It has been long thought that dwarf galaxies orbiting Andromeda galaxy (M31), or any other galaxy for that matter, are distributed more or less randomly around the host galaxy. It seemed so obvious in fact that nobody took time to check this assumption. Until a 15-year-old student, Neil Ibata, working with his father at the astronomic observatory, wanted to check it out. It turned out that dwarf galaxies tend to be placed on a plane around M31. The finding has been published in Nature. Local press (especially in France) is ecstatic that a finding by a 15-year-old got published in Nature. However, there's another more important point: what other obvious things didn't we really bother to check?"

Sir Patrick Moore Dies Aged 89 130

First time accepted submitter Tastecicles writes "Patrick Moore, the monocled surveyor of the sky who awakened in millions of people an interest in galactic goings on, has died at 89. His love of astronomy began at the age of six, and that childhood curiosity developed into a lifelong passion. It was a passion he shared through his program, The Sky at Night, which he presented for more than 50 years, only ever missing one episode due to illness. Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore was born at Pinner, Middlesex on 4 Mar 1923. Heart problems meant he spent much of his childhood being educated at home and he became an avid reader. His mother gave him a copy of GF Chambers' book The Story of the Solar System, and this sparked his lifelong passion for astronomy. He was soon publishing papers about the moon's surface, based on observations made with his first three-inch telescope. His 1908 vintage typewriter enabled him to publish more than a thousand books on subjects ranging from astronomy, his first love, to cricket, golf, and music."

Astronomers Get Picture of Nearby Exoplanet 24

The Bad Astronomer writes "While nearly a thousand planets are known to orbit other stars, getting direct pictures of them is extremely difficult due to the glare from their host stars. Fewer than a dozen images of exoplanets exist. However, we can now add one more to the list: Kappa Andromedae b, or Kap And b for short. It's about 170 light years away, and orbits Kappa And, a massive star bright enough to see with the naked eye. One hitch: its mass puts it right at the upper limit for a planet, and it may edge into brown dwarf territory. Further observations are needed to pin its mass down."

Amateur Planet Hunters Find First Planet In a Four-Star System 52

The Bad Astronomer writes "For the first time, a planet has been found in a stellar system composed of four stars. The planet, called PH-1, orbits a binary star made of two sun-like stars in a tight orbit. That binary is itself orbited by another binary pair much farther out. Even more amazing, this planet was found by two "citizen scientists", amateurs who participated in Planet Hunters, a project which puts Kepler Observatory data online for lay people to analyze. At least two confirmed planets have been found by this project, but this is the first — ever — in a quaternary system."

Small Telescopes Make Big Discoveries 37

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Hakeem Oluseyi, an astronomer at the Florida Institute of Technology and president of the African Astronomical Society, says his goal is to put one research telescope in every country, starting with African and Southern Hemisphere nations because there is now an amazing opportunity for small telescopes to discover and characterize new planetary systems, as well as measure the structure of the Milky Way. 'Astronomers are no longer looking at high-definition pictures but at HD movies, scanning for objects that change and for transient ones,' says Oluseyi. 'A 4-inch telescope was used to discover the first exoplanet by the transit method, where you watch the brightness vary.' Small telescopes capable to doing real science are a lot cheaper than people think. A 1-meter telescope costs $300,000 but reduce the size by 60 percent, and it falls to just $30,000. For example the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT) uses hardware costing less than $75,000 to look at millions of very bright stars at once, over broad sections of sky, and at low resolution to see if the starlight dims just a little — an indication that a planet has crossed in front of the star. The KELT team has already discovered the existence of a very unusual faraway planet — KELT-1b, a super hot, super dense ball of metallic hydrogen so massive that it may better be described as a 'failed star' and located so close to its star that it whips through an entire 'yearly' orbit in a little over a day."

New Study Shows Universe Still Expanding On Schedule 173

The Bad Astronomer writes "A century ago, astronomers (including Edwin Hubble) discovered the Universe was expanding. Using the same methods — but this time with observations from an orbiting infrared space telescope — a new study confirms this expansion, and nails the rate with higher precision than done before. If you're curious, the expansion rate found was 74.3 +/- 2.1 kilometers per second per megaparsec — almost precisely in line with previous measurements."
Data Storage

Gold Artifact To Orbit Earth In Hope of Alien Retrieval 282

Lucas123 writes "The problem: What do you leave behind that billions of years from now, and without context, would give aliens an some kind of accurate depiction of mankind. The answer: A gold-plated silicon disc with just 100 photos. That's the idea behind The Last Pictures project, which is scheduled to blast off in the next few months from Kazakhstan and orbit the earth for 5 billion years. The photos, etched into the silicon using a bitmap format, were chosen over a five-year process that involved interviews with artists, philosophers, and MIT scientists, who included biologists, physicists, and astronomers. To each, was posed a single question: What photos would you choose to send into outer space? The answer became an eclectic mix of images from pre-historic cave paintings to a photo of a group of people taken by a predator drone."

Two Space Missions Planned To Look For Killer Asteroids 60

The Bad Astronomer writes "Today, the B612 Foundation announced it's seeking private funds to build Sentinel, a space mission to find Earth-threatening asteroids. Placed in a Venus-like orbit, it should find a large fraction of these potentially hazardous rocks. At the same time, the NEOCam (Near Earth Object camera) website went live today. This is a separate, publicly-funded space mission also designed to look for these asteroids. While Sentinel will concentrate on finding them and getting accurate positions and orbits, NEOCam will focus more on getting their physical characteristics. While not strictly competing with each other, they are more complementary; with both missions flying (in the 2017 time range) we will learn a huge amount about the asteroid threat from space."

Astronomers See Another Star Torn Apart By a Black Hole 127

The Bad Astronomer writes "A star in a galaxy 2.7 billion light years away wandered too close to a supermassive black hole and suffered the ultimate fate: it was literally torn apart by the black hole's gravity. The event was seen as a flash of ultraviolet light flaring 350 times brighter than the galaxy itself, slowly fading over time. Astronomers were able to determine that some of the star's material was eaten by the black hole, and some flung off into space. Although rare, this is the second time such a thing has been seen; the other was just last year."

Large Solar Flare To Glance Off Earth 154

JoeRobe writes "According to, a major X5 solar flare is on its way to deliver a glancing blow to the Earth's magnetic field. This is the second x-class flare to be released by the same sunspot in the past few days, the first being an X1. In both cases, the sunspot (spot 1429) was not directly facing Earth, but it is still active, and poses a threat for a large, Earth-directed flare in the next few days."

New Exoplanet Is Best Yet Candidate For Supporting Life 288

First time accepted submitter uigrad_2000 writes "With all the new exoplanets discovered recently with Kepler, it seemed a sure thing that the first exoplanet in the habitable zone of a star would be found soon. The irony is that Kepler was not involved. GJ 667Cc is at least 4.5 times as massive as Earth, and lies in the habitable region of its host star, reports Scientific American. It was discovered by comparing public data from the ESO to recent observations from Hawaii and Chile. As opposed to the stars Kepler is watching, this is only 22 light-years away, making it even more interesting."

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