July 5, 2012 |
A disc of planet-forming dust around a distant star has disappeared unexpectedly, leaving astronomers scratching their heads and questioning current theories of how planets are formed. "It's like the classic magician's trick: Now you see it, now you don't," said astronomer Carl Melis of UC San Diego, who led the team that discovered the phenomenon. "Only in this case, we're talking about enough dust to fill an inner solar system and it is really gone. " The team has proposed several possible explanations for the disappearance, but "none are really compelling," Melis said.
June 21, 2012 |
Besides our one beautiful star, the sun, we have eight planets, several dwarf planets, dozens of moons, millions of asteroids, a trillion comets and — most important of all — us! We call it: our solar system. How did our solar system even get here? What were the ingredients that made the sun and all the planets and other objects? How can we find out? What if we could watch a video and see it all unfold again? When the video starts, we see a huge, wispy cloud of gas and dust swirling slowly throughout a huge region of space.
June 15, 2012 |
Thirty-five years after NASA's Voyager 1 was launched, the spacecraft is on the edge of the solar system and verging on entering interstellar space, the agency said Friday. The craft is now 11.1 billion miles from Earth, a distance that means radio signals from the craft require 16 hours and 38 minutes to reach the antennas of NASA's Deep Space Network. "It is very exciting. We are approaching the solar system's frontier," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at Caltech. Three instruments onboard are providing key data about the craft's passage into interstellar space.
June 4, 2012 |
The first thing you need to understand about Venus is that Earth is practically its sister -- that is, if your sister looked like you, had the same body mass but was extremely harsh and super hot-tempered. And she's clingy too. Venus is the closest planet to Earth in the solar system. After the spectacular annular eclipse last month, it's Venus' turn to shine, celestially speaking. The transit of Venus , i.e., the rare event that occurs when Venus moves between Earth and sun, starts at 3:06 p.m. Pacific time Tuesday in Los Angeles and continues until the sun sets at 8 p.m. It won't happen again for 105 years.
June 3, 2012 |
Forget the "ring of fire" solar eclipse. On Tuesday, the heavens have something much more exciting in store: a transit of Venus, which is one of the rarest of astronomical events. In the afternoon, just after 3 p.m. in California, Venus will move between Earth and the sun, and for a few hours it will be a perfect black dot moving slowly across the sun's burning face. Such transits come as pairs - with an eight-year interval - but it then takes more than a century for the planets to do the dance again.
May 31, 2012 |
Two Los Angeles-area scientists will share the 2012 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics for their work studying the Kuiper Belt in the outer solar system, the Kavli Foundation announced Thursday. Michael Brown of Caltech and David Jewitt of UCLA were honored along with Jane Luu of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory “for discovering and characterizing the Kuiper Belt and its largest members, work that led to a major advance in the understanding of the history of our planetary system,” according to the foundation . David Jewitt and Luu are credited with spotting the first known object in the Kuiper Belt , an icy, disc-shaped territory beyond the orbit of Neptune.
May 25, 2012 |
SACRAMENTO - California is poised to more than double its targeted electricity output from rooftop solar panels. The state Public Utilities Commission on Thursday tweaked its rules to authorize an increase in the number of residential, commercial and government buildings that can participate in a program that allows solar users to lower their electricity bills by getting credit for excess power sent back to the grid. The move raises the maximum total capacity of all the state's rooftop solar systems to about 5,200 megawatts from a current 2,400 megawatts.
May 11, 2012 |
The sun and its solar system are moving through the universe significantly more slowly than astronomers had previously believed, too slowly to generate the bow shock wave that researchers had thought preceded it. The bow shock wave, much like the sonic boom that accompanies an aircraft traveling at supersonic speeds, occurs when particles in gas clouds cannot get out of the way fast enough, and has been routinely demonstrated in images of other...
May 10, 2012 |
NASA'sfirst hard look at the protoplanet Vesta has given scientists an unprecedented view of its makeup, terrain and history - and revealed that major activity on this ancient rock occurred far more recently than researchers had expected. Images sent back from NASA's trailblazing Dawn spacecraft reveal the full size of a massive crater in the southern hemisphere and indicate that it may have been made just 1 billion years ago, well after Vesta formed more than 4.5 billion years ago, according to one of half a dozen studies published in Friday's edition of the journal Science.
March 11, 2012 |
The chest-high rack of electronics Justin Kasper is assembling in a Massachusetts office park will fit in a shoe box before he's done. It won't be much to look at - a few inches across, shaped rather like a coffee cup attached to a Kindle - but to Kasper, it'll serve as eyes across nearly 100 million miles of space. In less than seven years, that cup will be journeying to the center of the solar system to scoop up bits of the sun. "This really has been a life's dream," said Kasper, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.