I’ve always imagined that one day I’d get home, turn on the news, and see this big developing news story that evidence of life beyond our solar system had been discovered. It’s typically the stuff of movies and comic books, but recently NASA’s chief scientist, Ellen Stofan, predicted that signs of alien life will be discovered by 2025 with even stronger evidence for extraterrestrials in the years that follow.
Democritus was the first to claim that the Milky Way consisted of distant stars, but it was William Herschel in 1785 that made the first map of the Milky Way. Herschel was the first to study and measure the distribution of stars in space, and when he counted the stars he came to a conclusion that they were grouped in a huge disk formation. It is believed that this disk–our Milky Way Galaxy–is about 100,000 light years from tip to tip; however, recent evidence may suggest that it could be about 50 percent larger than we initially ever thought.
Back in 2005, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft first revealed that Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, had active geologic activity. It discovered an icy spray issuing out of the moon’s southern polar region as well as temperatures in that region that were higher than expected. Currently, it is being suggested, that there also may be a 6-mile deep, 25 mile thick, ocean beneath the moon’s icy shell.
In a galaxy far, far away (that is to say, about 12.8 billion light-years away) a supermassive black hole has been discovered that is estimated to weigh as much as 12 billion suns and is 420 trillion times brighter than the sun. But it isn’t the weight and size that is baffling scientists–it’s how young it is.
NASA released photos on Wednesday that show details that astronomers have only dreamed of: first images captured of Pluto’s moons by New Horizons probe in 2015.
The Hubble Space Telescope recently captured an image which looks remarkably like a smiling face in the sky. It is SDSS J1038+4849, a galaxy cluster that resides just outside the constellation of Ursa Major. But what makes this image look so close to a smiley face?
Thanks to NASA and the Hubble Telescope we now have the largest and clearest image ever taken of our universe. It is a 1.5 billion-pixel image (69,536 x 22,230) of M31, also known as the Andromeda Galaxy.
Because of its detailed ring system, Saturn is known as the “jewel of the solar system.” Saturn’s rings stretch from edge-to-edge as wide as 175,000 miles, about the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Even though the other gas planets in our solar system have a series of rings, Saturn’s system of rings is the most prominent and well known. However, a new exoplanet–some 420 light years from Earth–has been discovered with a ring system that dwarfs any ring system ever before seen; it is a ring system over 200 times larger than the rings of Saturn.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has traveled roughly 3 billion miles at this point and it’s finally set its sights on the dwarf planet Ceres. Images of Ceres were released back in December, but those images were just for calibration. Dawn’s recently captured pictures are about 27 pixels across, about three times better than what it took last month.
In 2013, the Kepler telescope had to stop planet hunting due to the failure of two reaction wheels. But that doesn’t mean the telescope is completely out of commission. In fact, using a new technique that takes advantage of the solar wind, the Kepler telescope just discovered its first planet, a planet that could be similar to Earth but over twice the size.