The Clue to the Missing Matter of the Nearby Universe

In May of 2010, Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton detected a vast reservoir of gas lying along a wall-shaped structure of galaxies about 400 million light years from Earth. In the image above the spiral and elliptical galaxies are shown in the Sculptor Wall along with the newly detected intergalactic gas, part of the so-called Warm Hot Intergalactic Medium (WHIM), shown in blue. This discovery is the strongest evidence yet that the “missing matter” in the nearby Universe is located in an enormous web of hot, diffuse gas.

The Sculptor Wall, a type of galaxy filament, the largest known structures in the universe, is a wall-shaped structure of galaxies about 400 million light years from Earth. The wall is faint beyond 500 million light years because the data is incomplete beyond that distance. The nearest part of the wall (the Phoenix supercluster) lies next to a large rectangular void, the Sculptor Void -one of the largest voids in the nearby universe.

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The Probability of Finding Aliens Is Now Three Times Higher


The total number of stars in the Universe “is likely three times bigger than realized.” Yale University astronomer Pieter van Dokkum says there are “possibly trillions of Earths orbiting these stars,” dramatically increasing the possibility of finding alien civilizations.

According to the new study just published in Nature, new observations on the red end of the optical spectrum at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii show an overwhelming population of red dwarfs in eight massive nearby elliptical galaxies. The team has discovered that these galaxies hold twenty times more red dwarfs than the Milky Way.

Van Dokkum says that “there are possibly trillions of Earths orbiting these stars” which are “typically more than 10 billion years old.” According to him, that’s long enough for complex life to evolve, which is “one reason why people are interested in this type of star.” In fact, astronomers discovered the first exoplanet similar to our own Earth—and therefore capable of harboring complex life—orbiting the Gliese 581 red dwarf star system, 20.3 light years from our home planet.

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NASA IMAX 3D movie features astonishing Hubble repair footage

NASA IMAX movie in 3D clip

Coming to an IMAX theatre near you soon is this astonishing 3D movie film from NASA.

Served up in delicious high definition 3D, the film promises to take viewers on a, “journey through distant galaxies to explore the grandeur and mysteries of our celestial surroundings.”

NASA IMAX 3D movie features astonishing Hubble repair footageEven better, there’s some breathtaking footage capturing plucky astronauts embarking on five long spacewalks to fix the Hubble telescope.

The astronauts were trained to use the washing machine-sized IMAX camera in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab over the course of eight months

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Mysterious Distant Planet ‘Disappearing Before Our Eyes’

Astronomers appear to have caught an exoplanet – a planet orbiting another star – in the middle of a cosmic vanishing act.

The planet, tagged CoRoT-7b, first hit the headlines last September when a team of astronomers confirmed the orb as the smallest exoplanet yet found. Its diameter is roughly 1.7 times that of Earth. Based on its size and mass, its density is similar to Earth’s, indicating that it is a rocky Earth-like orb.

But it wasn’t always this small. Scientists estimate that CoRoT-7b initially tipped the cosmic scales at 100 times more mass than Earth and orbited the star at a distance of about 2.3 million miles.

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KEPLER MISSION: Space Telescope Finds its First Extrasolar Planets, NASA in 2010

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler mission is off to a precocious start. The first six weeks of observations recorded by the spacefaring telescope, combined with follow-up studies from the ground, have revealed five previously unknown extrasolar planets—one body roughly the size of Neptune and four low-density versions of Jupiter. All reside within roasting distance of their parent stars.
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The findings appear to reinforce hints from ground-based observations that stars have relatively few close-in planets with a mass between that of Saturn and Neptune, says Kepler scientist Dimitar Sasselov of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.

All four hot, Jupiter-like planets discovered by Kepler have densities lower than that predicted for such giant, gaseous planets. One of these bodies, Kepler-7b, has one of the lowest densities—0.17 grams per cubic centimeter—of any known extrasolar planet. (By comparison, Jupiter’s average density is 1.33 grams per cubic centimeter, slightly higher than that of water, but Jupiter lies much farther from the sun than does Kepler-7b from its star.)

Although Kepler began observations only in May 2009, its ability to find a variety of transiting planets has already lent considerable significance to something it did not detect: a planet less massive than Jupiter but considerably heavier than Neptune. (Saturn has about a third the mass of Jupiter.) In the standard model of planet formation, Sasselov notes, the recipe to make a gas giant like Jupiter or Saturn requires that a rocky or icy core several times heavier than Earth must coalesce within the planet-forming disk around a young star.

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WOW: Herschel space telescope captures birth of stars

Herschel space telescope captures the birth of stars

The European Space Agency (Esa) has released stunning new pictures from the recently launched Herschel telescope. Credit: ESA

The pictures show star formation, and have been described as among the most important images obtained from space for decades.

Astronomers hope that, by analysing these images, they will be able to answer questions about how stars and galaxies are made.

Herschel is the largest astronomical telescope ever to be put into space.

It has captured images of previously invisible stardust. This is the stuff that galaxies, stars, planets and all life is made from, and scientists are studying it to follow the life cycle of the cosmos.

Bruce Swinyard, from the UK’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, is a member of the research team that designed Herschel’s Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (Spire), one of the three scientific instruments that is providing the telescope’s eyes.

These three detectors allow Herschel to see far-infrared and sub-millimetre (radio) wavelengths of light, allowing it to peer through clouds of dust and gas and to see stars as they are born.

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