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November 6, 2012 | By Michael Lemonick
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 | By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
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.
August 13, 2012 | By Rick Rojas, Los Angeles Times
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.
August 12, 2012 | By Thomas H. Maugh II, Special to The Times
When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, into orbit in 1957, its tiny radio transmitter allowed it to be tracked in space. There was only one instrument in the West that could track the intercontinental ballistic missile that launched it, however: the newly opened 250-foot radio telescope at Jodrell Bank in England. And when Sputnik's transmitter died after only 22 days, Jodrell Bank - towering over the English countryside in a small village south of Manchester - was the only instrument that could track it until it fell to Earth three months later.
June 28, 2012 | By Amy Hubbard
NASA has an eye on the sky for massive asteroids, the kind that could turn our planet to pulp.  But "small" asteroids -- the ones that could simply spur tsunamis, 100-megaton-type explosions and widespread death and destruction -- aren't a priority with NASA. What the world needs is a privately funded telescope to keep an eye on the skies, says the B612 Foundation, spearheaded by a former NASA astronaut. The group, launched about 10 years ago, is now raising funds for just such a telescope -- called the Sentinel.
June 15, 2012 | By Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
Get a close-up look at Saturn and its spectacular rings this weekend, and you won't need special eclipse glasses to see them. Telescopes at the Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park will be pointed at Saturn because it's one of the brightest things in the night sky at the moment. "Mars and Saturn are nearly twins in brightness this week," the observatory's Sky Report says. Saturn also made news this week after the Cassini spacecraft found evidence of large methane lakes on its moon Titan.
June 13, 2012 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
A once-canceled space telescope is set to launch into Earth orbit, where it will search for undiscovered black holes in the Milky Way and at the hearts of other galaxies. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array will hunt for black holes that have been obscured by the dust and gas floating through space and measure how fast some of them are spinning. NuSTAR will also examine with fresh eyes the remnants of exploded stars known as supernovae. "It's a very exciting mission," said Roger Blandford, director of the Kavli Institute of Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University and a member of the NuSTAR science team.
June 6, 2012 | By Eryn Brown and Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times
Across Southern California, sky watchers assembled Tuesday afternoon for a chance to view the last-in-a-lifetime transit of Venus. They donned protective glasses and peered into filtered telescopes to watch the planet as it crossed in front of the sun for the last time in more than 100 years. They spoke of watching a tiny black dot creeping ever so slowly across the solar disk with a combination of reverence and resignation. "It's like watching grass grow," said 93-year-old Don Nicholson, describing Venus' 6-hour, 40-minute progression, most of which was visible locally before sunset.
May 30, 2012 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
NASA will be launching a new telescope expected to bring black holes and supernovae into unprecedented focus, mission scientists announced Wednesday. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, a mission to hunt for black holes, is scheduled to launch no sooner than June 13 from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, located north of the equator. It will look at some of the most mysterious phenomena in the universe, from the high-speed particle jets that blast from black holes to the remnants of exploded stars known as supernovae.
April 27, 2012 | By Chris Erskine, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the more interesting venues being touted as a view spot for the annular eclipse of the sun May 20. Ranger-assisted opportunities to view the eclipse will be provided on both rims. On the South Rim, NASA scientists and amateur astronomers will share their telescopes for views of the eclipse and of the night sky afterward. The Park Service says the largest concentration of telescopes will be behind the Grand Canyon Visitor Center on the South Rim, but telescopes will also be at Lipan Point, at the benches just west of the Desert View Watchtower and on the deck of the Watchtower itself.
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