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Airborne scientists search distant stars for complex organic molecules

This graphical representation from the SOFIA Science Center compares two infrared images of the heart of the Orion nebula captured by the FORCAST camera on the SOFIA airborne observatory's telescope with a wider image of the same area from the Spitzer space telescope. (Credit: SOFIA image — James De Buizer / NASA / DLR / USRA / DSI / FORCAST; Spitzer image — NASA/JPL)

Dec. 10, 2012 — A team of astrobiology researchers -- including two from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute -- will use a series of nighttime flights on an airborne observatory to search newly born stars for the presence of precursors to life.

The scientists, led by Douglas Whittet, director of the New York Center for...

World's first glimpse of a black hole 'launchpad'

This artist's conception shows the region immediately surrounding a supermassive black hole (the black spot near the center). The black hole is orbited by a thick disk of hot gas. The center of the disk glows white-hot, while the edge of the disk is shown in dark silhouette. Magnetic fields channel some material into a jet-like outflow - the greenish wisps that extend to upper right and lower left. A dotted line marks the innermost stable circular orbit, which is the closest distance...

Measuring the universe’s 'exit door': For the first time, an international team has measured the radius of a black hole

This image, created using computer models, shows how the extreme gravity of the black hole in M87 distorts the appearance of the jet near the event horizon. Part of the radiation from the jet is bent by gravity into a ring that is known as the 'shadow' of the black hole. (Credit: Avery E. Broderick (Perimeter Institute & University of Waterloo))

BestAstronomy (Sep. 27, 2012) — The point of no return: In astronomy, it's known as a black hole -- a region in space...

Peering to the edge of a black hole

This artist's conception shows the region immediately surrounding a supermassive black hole (the black spot near the center). The black hole is orbited by a thick disk of hot gas. The center of the disk glows white-hot, while the edge of the disk is shown in dark silhouette. Magnetic fields channel some material into a jet-like outflow - the greenish wisps that extend to upper right and lower left. A dotted line marks the innermost stable circular orbit, which is the closest distance...

Pluto/Charon poses for sharpest ground-based images ever

Speckle image reconstruction of Pluto and Charon obtained in visible light at 692 nanometers (red) with the Gemini North 8-meter telescope using the Differential Speckle Survey Instrument (DSSI). Resolution of the image is about 20 milliarcseconds rms (root mean square). This is the first speckle reconstructed image for Pluto and Charon from which astronomers obtained not only the separation and position angle for Charon, but also the diameters of the two bodies. North is up, east is...

Farthest ever view of the universe assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs

Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, this photo was assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope images taken of a patch of sky at the center of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). The XDF is a small fraction of the angular diameter of the full Moon. The HUDF is an image of a small area of space in the constellation Fornax, created using the Hubble Space Telescope data from 2003 and 2004. By collecting faint light over many hours of observation, it revealed...

First two James Webb Space Telescope flight mirrors delivered to NASA

Technicians and scientists check out one of the Webb telescope's first two flight mirrors in the clean room at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

BestAstronomy (Sep. 24, 2012) — The first two of the 18 primary mirrors to fly aboard NASA's James Webb Space Telescope arrived at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The mirrors are going through receiving and inspection and will then be stored in the Goddard cleanroom until...

NASA's Chandra shows Milky Way is surrounded by halo of hot gas

This artist's illustration shows an enormous halo of hot gas (in blue) around the Milky Way galaxy. Also shown, to the lower left of the Milky Way, are the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, two small neighboring galaxies (roll your mouse over the image for labels). The halo of gas is shown with a radius of about 300,000 light years, although it may extend significantly further.

BestAstronomy (Sep. 24, 2012) — Astronomers have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to...

NuSTAR celebrates first 100 days

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, celebrates 100 days in orbit on Sept. 21, 2012. The black-hole spying telescope was blasted into orbit around Earth's equator on June 13, 2012. The mission's goal is to measure high-energy X-ray light from the most extreme objects in the universe, including black holes, neutron stars and supernovae. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

BestAstronomy (Sep. 21, 2012) — Sept. 21, 2012, marks 100 days since NASA's Nuclear...

Astrochemistry enters a bold new era with ALMA

Matching the "Fingerprints" -- Plot of radio emission at numerous frequencies from the molecule ethyl cyanide (CH3CH2CN). Blue is the plot from terrestrial laboratory measurement; red is the plot from ALMA observation of a star-forming region in the constellation Orion. The ability to do this type of matching represents a major breakthrough for studying the chemistry of the Universe. Plots are superimposed on Hubble Space Telescope image of the Orion Nebula; small box indicates...

Ultra-distant galaxy discovered amidst cosmic 'dark ages': May be oldest galaxy ever

In the big image at left, the many galaxies of a massive cluster called MACS J1149+2223 dominate the scene. Gravitational lensing by the giant cluster brightened the light from the newfound galaxy, known as MACS 1149-JD, some 15 times. At upper right, a partial zoom-in shows MACS 1149-JD in more detail, and a deeper zoom appears to the lower right. (Credit: NASA/ESA/STScI/JHU)

BestAstronomy (Sep. 19, 2012) — With the combined power of NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space...

World’s most powerful digital camera opens eye, records first images in hunt for dark energy

Zoomed-in image from the Dark Energy Camera of the Fornax cluster of galaxies, which lies about 60 million light years from Earth. (Credit: Dark Energy Survey Collaboration)

BestAstronomy (Sep. 17, 2012) — Eight billion years ago, rays of light from distant galaxies began their long journey to Earth. That ancient starlight has now found its way to a mountaintop in Chile, where the newly-constructed Dark Energy Camera, the most powerful sky-mapping machine ever...

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes first round of cryogenic mirror test

— The first six of 18 segments that will form NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's primary mirror for space observations completed final cryogenic testing this week. The ten week test series included two tests cycles where the mirrors were chilled down to -379 degrees Fahrenheit, then back to ambient temperature to ensure the mirrors respond as expected to the extreme temperatures of space.

A second set of six mirror...

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The first six of 18 segments that will form NASA's James Webb...

Spectacular Hubble view of Centaurus A

— The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has produced a close-up view of the galaxy Centaurus A. Hubble's out-of-this-world location and world-class Wide Field Camera 3 instrument reveal a dramatic picture of a dynamic galaxy in flux.

Centaurus A, also known as NGC 5128, is well known for its dramatic dusty lanes of dark material. Hubble's observations, using its most advanced instrument, the Wide Field Camera 3, are the...

— The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has produced a close-up...

X-ray telescope finds new voracious black holes in early universe

— Using the deepest X-ray image ever taken, a University of Michigan astronomer and her colleagues have found the first direct evidence that massive black holes were common in the early universe. This discovery from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory shows that very young black holes grew more aggressively than previously thought, in tandem with the growth of their host galaxies.

By pointing Chandra at a patch of sky...

— Using the deepest X-ray image ever taken, a University of...

NASA's Chandra finds massive black holes common in early universe

— Using the deepest X-ray image ever taken, astronomers found the first direct evidence that massive black holes were common in the early universe. This discovery from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory shows that very young black holes grew more aggressively than previously thought, in tandem with the growth of their host galaxies.

By pointing Chandra at a patch of sky for more than six weeks, astronomers obtained what...

— Using the deepest X-ray image ever taken, astronomers found the...

Astronomers discover earliest black holes at dawn of universe

— Astronomers have been peering farther and farther into space, and back in time, using the world's most powerful telescopes to detect galaxies billions of light years away that existed when the universe was just a fraction of its current age. But detecting the giant black holes thought to lurk at the centers of those galaxies has proven much more difficult.

Now a team of astronomers has discovered the earliest black...

— Astronomers have been peering farther and farther into space, and...

Austrian Space Forum successfully tests Mars suit ‘Aouda.X’ in Spain; Maiden trip for ESA's Mars rover ‘Eurobot’

— A team from the Austrian Space Forum is arriving back in Austria April 25, 2011 following a week testing its analogue space suit 'Aouda.X' in the semi-desert of Rio Tinto in Spain. This suit has been developed by the Austrian Space Forum over three years and is one of the best models of its kind worldwide.

The European Space Agency (ESA) also participated in this mission with the Mars rover 'Eurobot'. This 1.5...

— A team from the Austrian Space Forum is arriving back in Austria April...

NASA's next generation space telescope marks key milestone

— The first six of 18 segments that will form NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's primary mirror for space observations will begin final round-the-clock cryogenic testing this week. These tests will confirm the mirrors will respond as expected to the extreme temperatures of space prior to integration into the telescope's permanent housing structure.

The X-ray and Cryogenic Facility at NASA's Marshall Space Flight...

— The first six of 18 segments that will form NASA's James Webb Space...

Fast-rotating asteroid winks for astronomer's camera

— Video imaging of newly discovered asteroid 2011 GP59 shows the object appearing to blink on and off about once every four minutes.

Amateur astronomers, including Nick James of Chelmsford, Essex, England, have captured video of the interesting object. James generated this video of GP59 on the night of Monday, April 11. The video, captured with an 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, is a compilation of 137...

— Video imaging of newly discovered asteroid 2011 GP59 shows the object...

Two kinds of Webb telescope mirrors arrive at NASA

— It takes two unique types of mirrors working together to see farther back in time and space than ever before, and engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center have just received one of each type. Primary and Secondary Mirror Engineering Design Units (EDUs) have recently arrived at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. from Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, Calif. and are ...

— It takes two unique types of mirrors working together to see farther back...