In images, it doesn’t look like much: just a blue dot against the black of space. What’s exciting about this little planet is that it has somehow manage to escape its star.
Even getting an image of the object, dubbed CFBDSIR2149, is a pretty good trick: CFBDSIR2149 is only visible in the infrared, and then, only just (it appears blue in the image because methane in its atmosphere absorbs much of its longer infrared wavelengths, the ESO says).
Source: The Register. Read full article. (link)
Astronomers have discovered that the rate of formation of new stars in the Universe has drastically reduced to only 1/30th of its peak and that this decline is set to continue.
In the largest-of-its-kind study ever, scientists carried out the most complete survey ever made of star-forming galaxies at different distances, with around ten times the data of any previous effort.
Source: Zee News. Read full article. (link)
Huge news! Astronomers have announced they have found a planet orbiting one of the stars making up the most famous star in the sky: Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to our own! At 4.3 light years distant, this is far and away the closest exoplanet known… and of course, it has to be.
Alpha Centauri is triple-star system, composed of a binary star, two stars much like the Sun – one slightly larger and hotter, called Alpha Centauri A, and the other slightly smaller and cooler, called Alpha Centauri B – orbited themselves by a red dwarf (called Proxima Centauri) much farther out.
The planet orbits close in to Alpha Cen B, and is technically called Alpha Centauri Bb – planets have lower case letters assigned to them, starting at b. Its mass is only 1.13 times the Earth’s mass, making this one of the lower mass planets yet found! But don’t get your hopes up of visiting it – its period is only 3.24 days, meaning it must be only about 6 million kilometers (less than 4 million miles) from its star. Even though Alpha Cen B is a bit cooler than the Sun, this still means the planet is baking hot, far too hot to sustain any kind of life as we know it, or even liquid water.
Still. Holy crap! A planet for Alpha Cen. Wow.
Astronomers have found a planet whose skies are illuminated by four different suns – the first known of its type.
The distant world orbits one pair of stars which have a second stellar pair revolving around them.
The discovery was made by volunteers using the Planethunters.org website along with a team from UK and US institutes; follow-up observations were made with the Keck Observatory.
A report on the Arxiv server has been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal.
The planet, located just under 5,000 light-years away, has been named PH1 after the Planet Hunters site.
It is thought to be a “gas giant” slightly larger than Neptune – more than six times the radius of the Earth.
“You don’t have to go back too far before you would have got really good odds against one of these systems existing,” Dr Chris Lintott, from the University of Oxford, told BBC News.
“All four stars pulling on it creates a very complicated environment. Yet there it sits in an apparently stable orbit.
“That’s really confusing, which is one of the things which makes this discovery so fun. It’s absolutely not what we would have expected.”
Binary stars – systems with pairs of stars – are not uncommon. But only a handful of known exoplanets (planets that circle other stars) have been found to orbit such binaries. And none of these binary systems are known to have another pair of stars circling them.
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has produced one of its most extraordinary views of the Universe to date.
Called the eXtreme Deep Field, the picture captures a mass of galaxies stretching back almost to the time when the first stars began to shine.
But this was no simple point and snap – some of the objects in this image are too distant and too faint for that.
Rather, this view required Hubble to stare at a tiny patch of sky for more than 500 hours to detect all the light.
“It’s a really spectacular image,” said Dr Michele Trenti, a science team member from the University of Cambridge, UK.
“We stared at this patch of sky for about 22 days, and have obtained a very deep view of the distant Universe, and therefore we see how galaxies were looking in its infancy.”
The XDF will become a tool for astronomy. The objects embedded in it can be followed up by other telescopes. It should keep scientists busy for years, enabling them to study the full history of galaxy formation and evolution.
The Perseid meteor shower is the most reliable meteor display of the year, and it will be lighting up the sky in mid-August.
The Perseid meteor shower happens every year around mid-August.
This year’s peak nights will be during the early morning hours of August 12th and 13th. During the shower you’ll be able to see up to 60 meteors per hour.
You’ll also be able to see a few Perseid meteor showers a few days before and after this time.
On June 5th, 2012, Venus will pass across the face of the sun, producing a silhouette that no one alive today will likely see again.
Transits of Venus are very rare, coming in pairs separated by more than a hundred years. This June’s transit, the bookend of a 2004-2012 pair, won’t be repeated until the year 2117. Fortunately, the event is widely visible. Observers on seven continents, even a sliver of Antarctica, will be in position to see it.
The nearly 7-hour transit begins at 3:09 pm Pacific Daylight Time (22:09 UT) on June 5th. The timing favors observers in the mid-Pacific where the sun is high overhead during the crossing. In the USA, the transit will be at its best around sunset. That’s good, too. Creative photographers will have a field day imaging the swollen red sun “punctured” by the circular disk of Venus.