April 29, 2013 |
Astronomers knew this day would come. The Herschel Space Observatory has run out of coolant and ceased looking into the cold, distant universe. Without liquid helium to keep the instruments chilled to minus 456 degrees Fahrenheit, the European Space Agency telescope began to run a fever and went blind, leading scientists on Monday to shutter this floating window into space. Launched in 2009, the European Space Agency telescope fixed its infrared eyes on cold, distant regions of the universe, picking up the glow from far-off objects that would have remained invisible otherwise.
April 4, 2013 |
Einstein was right about relativity, again. NASA's Kepler space telescope has beamed back the latest evidence that light can be bent by gravity, an element of the theory of general relativity. It's not that astrophysicists expect observations to contradict Albert. But the findings represent the first time the phenomenon has been detected in a binary star system, according to NASA. In this case, a dead star, known as a white dwarf, bent the light from its partner, a small “red dwarf.” The density of the much smaller white dwarf is far greater than that of its partner.
March 20, 2013 |
Is it possible to crowdsource an old telescope? The Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., is about to find out. Built by the astronomer Percival Lowell in 1894, the 24-inch Alvan Clark Telescope has been in continuous use for 117 years. About the turn of the 20th century, Lowell used it to study Mars - famously arguing (incorrectly) that “canals” he saw on the planet's surface were evidence of intelligent life. Astronomer V.M. Slipher discovered galactic redshifts there in 1912; the Apollo program used the instrument to prepare for moon missions.
March 8, 2013 |
Braving the rain, scientists and engineers have rolled out a full scale model of the NASA James Webb Space Telescope at South by Southwest. The public will get an up-close look at the telescope, which will look deep into the cosmos for starlight from the most distant galaxies to learn about the origins of the universe. "We call ourselves a time machine," said Scott Willoughby, James Webb program manager at Northrop Grumman, where the telescope is being built. "We can look and actually find, further than Hubble did, the first light that came out after the big bang.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
February 25, 2013 |
One night on Mt. Wilson about 1908, a short, powerfully built man with a handlebar mustache looked through the largest telescope in the world. What he saw transformed him, and would put Los Angeles at the forefront of a movement to make astronomy the people's science. We may never know whether Col. Griffith J. Griffith saw the rings of Saturn or another celestial object with the then-new 60-inch reflector telescope, but we can be sure that it inspired his vision of a world-class observatory for the people of Los Angeles, allowing the masses a glimpse of the heavens.
February 20, 2013 |
NASA scientists have discovered a faraway planet that's smaller than Mercury - far tinier than they expected they could find when they launched the Kepler space telescope nearly four years ago. The hot, rocky world orbits a sun-like star that's about 210 light-years from Earth. Astronomers are excited about it because it's smaller than any planet in our solar system, said astrophysicist Thomas Barclay of NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. "This is the smallest exoplanet that's ever been found," said Barclay, lead author of a report on the discovery published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
January 8, 2013 |
Astronomers may have to brace for a much humbler astrophysics mission following the planned launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018, a NASA official told a ballroom full of astronomers Tuesday. Under current budget constraints and with future funding uncertain, such a mission might have to be small enough to cost $1 billion or less, NASA astrophysics division director Paul Hertz told astronomers gathered for a town hall at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach.
November 6, 2012 |
Over the last few weeks, astronomers announced not one but two extraordinary discoveries in the ongoing search for planets orbiting stars beyond the sun. The first was a world about the size of Neptune, 5,000 light-years away, whirling around in a solar system with four stars. It's something like Luke Skywalker's home world of Tatooine in the "Star Wars" movies, except that fictional planet sported only two suns. The second was an Earth-size planet right next door in the Alpha Centauri system - three stars that orbit one another not thousands or hundreds but a mere four light-years from our solar system.
September 19, 2012 |
The Hubble Space Telescope has detected light from a small galaxy emitted just 500 million years after the big bang, a crucial and difficult-to-study era when the universe was very young, scientists reported Wednesday. Scientists were able to see the ancient galaxy because gravity from a massive galaxy cluster situated between it and Hubble acted as a lens, bending the light from the "incredibly faint" galaxy and magnifying it about 15 times, said Johns Hopkins astronomer Wei Zheng.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
August 13, 2012 |
The summer sunset has painted a vivid watercolor of orange, coral and violet over the Pacific, just past the pier in Seal Beach. But Michael Beckage already has his telescope trained on the moon. Even in this light, the moon is bright and crystalline, like a salt mine with dimples and ridges. Yet Beckage hardly has a moment to take a peek. Instead, a little girl perches on a stepladder to squint into the eyepiece, a line forming behind her. "Do you see the holes in the moon?" Beckage says, pointing out the craters.