Primordial Gravitational Waves Continue to Elude Astronomers The standard model of cosmology is a remarkably powerful and accurate description of the universe, tracing its evolution from the big bang to its current state, but it is not without mysteries. One of the biggest unsolved questions of the standard model is known as early cosmic inflation. The idea is that in the earliest moments after the big bang, the universe had an intense snap of expansion. Spatial distances on the order of a nanometer expanded to more than 10 light-years in a tiny fraction of a second. It’s a wild idea but is widely accepted amongRead More →

The Early Solar System Had a Gap Where the Asteroid Belt is Today Wind the cosmic clock back a few billion years and our Solar System looked much different than it does today. About 4.5 billion years ago, the young Sun shone much like it does now, though it was a little smaller. Instead of being surrounded by planets, it was ensconced in a swirling disk of gas and dust. That disk is called a protoplanetary disk and it’s where the planets eventually formed. There was a conspicuous gap in the early Solar System’s protoplanetary disk, between where Mars and Jupiter are now, and whereRead More →

Astronomers discover infant planet One of the youngest planets ever found around a distant infant star has been discovered by an international team of scientists led by University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa faculty, students, and alumni. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Gravitational self-lensing of massive black hole binaries A “massive” black hole (MBH) is one whose mass is more than about one hundred thousand solar-masses. MBHs reside at the centers of most galaxies, and when they actively accrete gas and dust onto their surrounding hot disk environments they radiate across the electromagnetic spectrum and are classified as active galactic nuclei. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Black hole thermodynamics: A history from Penrose to Hawking In 1969, English physicist Roger Penrose discovered a property which would later allow for a long-awaited link between thermodynamics, and the far stranger mechanics of black holes. Through new analysis published in EPJ H, Carla Rodrigues Almeida, based at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, sheds new light on Penrose’s motivations and methods, and explores their historical influence on the groundbreaking discovery of Hawking radiation. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Examining the accelerating universe A special edition of EPJST, edited by Balasubramanian Ananthanarayan, Centre for High Energy Physics, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and Subhendra Mohanty, Department of Theoretical Physics, Physical Research Laboratory, Navrangpura, Ahmedabad, brings together a collection of papers focusing improving our understanding of the accelerating expansion of the Universe and the nature of the dark energy that drives it. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

A map of River Beds on Titan for Dragonfly to Explore Explorers either have the benefit of having maps or the burden of creating them.  Similarly, space explorers have been building maps as they go, using all available tools.  Those tools might not always be up to the task, but at least something is better than nothing.  Now, a new map of an exploration destination has emerged – a map of the river valleys of Titan. Titan is the destination of the Dragonfly mission, which hopes to act like a small drone and jump between different interesting locales on the moon’s surface.  There are plentyRead More →

I Could Look at James Webb Unboxing Pictures all Day On Oct. 12th, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) arrived safely at Port de Pariacabo in French Guiana after spending 16 days traveling between California and South America. Since then, the observatory was transported from California to French Guiana and brought to a cleanroom in the Guyanese Space Center (GSC). Here, crews “unboxed” the observatory from its protective cargo container in preparation for launch – now targetted for Dec. 18th. These events were captured in a series of beautiful images recently shared by the Guyanese Space Center, the European Space Agency (ESA), and NASA viaRead More →

Hubble Space Telescope gives unprecedented, early view of a doomed star’s destruction Like a witness to a violent death, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope recently gave astronomers an unprecedented, comprehensive view of the first moments of a star’s cataclysmic demise. Hubble’s data, combined with other observations of the doomed star from space- and ground-based telescopes, may give astronomers an early warning system for other stars on the verge of blowing up. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Uh oh, one of Lucy’s Solar Arrays Hasn’t Latched Properly As we’re fond of saying here at UT, space exploration is hard. Many things can go wrong when launching thousands of kgs of highly engineered equipment that took years to develop into space.  Now, something seems to have gone wrong with NASA’s latest Discovery mission.  Lucy, launched successfully by a ULA rocket on October 16th, seems to have a solar panel that didn’t quite “latch.” The mission to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids seems to be functional, with almost optimal power outputs from its two solar arrays.  However, engineers noticed that they hadn’t received a “latched”Read More →

Meteorites Found With Little Pieces of Other Stars When Carl Sagan said, “We are all made of star stuff,” he didn’t just mean we were made up of parts of our own star. Other stars contributed to the material that built our solar system, and some of that “presolar” material is still present in a pristine form inside meteorites.  Now, a team led by Dr. Nan Liu at Washington University in St. Louis took a close look at some of the parts of meteorites that formed before the Sun.  They held some exciting surprises and answers. Scientists have known for a long time that meteoritesRead More →

There are 6×10^80 Bits of Information in the Observable Universe Since the beginning of the Digital Age (ca. the 1970s), theoretical physicists have speculated about the possible connection between information and the physical Universe. Considering that all matter is made up of information that describes the state of a quantum system (aka. quantum information), and genetic information is coded in our DNA, it’s not farfetched at all to think that physical reality can be expressed in terms of data. This has led to many thought experiments and paradoxes, where researchers have attempted to estimate the information capacity of the cosmos. In a recent study, Dr.Read More →

The Large Magellanic Cloud Stole one of its Globular Clusters Astronomers have known for years that galaxies are cannibalistic. Massive galaxies like our own Milky Way have gained mass by absorbing smaller neighbours. Now it looks like smaller galaxies like the Large Magellanic Cloud have also feasted on smaller neighbours. Astronomers have uncovered evidence that the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a dwarf satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, has absorbed globular clusters. Globular clusters aren’t quite galaxies; they’re spherical clusters of thousands or even millions of stars, and they’re the largest and most massive type of clusters. They’re older and usually have lower metallicity thanRead More →