cosmos

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The Milky Way is 13 BILLION years old. Some of our Galaxy’s oldest stars were born near the beginning of the Universe itself. During all these eons of time, we know at least one technological civilization has been born – US!

But if the Galaxy is so ancient, and we know it can create life, why haven’t we heard from anybody else? If another civilization was just 0.1% of the Galaxy’s age older than we are, they would be millions of years further along than us and presumably more advanced. If we are already on the cusp of sending life to other worlds, shouldn’t the Milky Way be teeming with alien ships and colonies by now?

Maybe. But it’s also possible that we’ve been looking in the wrong place. Recent computer simulations by Jason T. Wright et al suggest that the best place to look for ancient space-faring civilizations might be the core of the Galaxy, a relatively unexplored target in the search for extra terrestrial intelligence.

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Gravitational waves have brought us long-sought proof of a cataclysmic meeting between a black hole and a neutron star.

Are you in the mood to feel small? Like cosmically small? And not because of the usual dreamy, slightly cheesy stuff that space can offer—the idea that we exist on a tiny speck of rock clinging to our beautiful sun in the darkness. I’m talking about some truly wild action, so intense that it warps space-time, the invisible scaffolding that holds up everything we know, and reverberates for hundreds of millions of light-years.

Then astronomers have got something for you.

An international team of researchers announced today that it has detected evidence of one of the most extreme objects in the cosmos, a black hole, colliding with another of the most extreme objects in the cosmos, a neutron star, forming an even bigger black hole. And the team caught it happening not once, but twice.

Until now, these kinds of mergers, as astronomers call them, were purely hypothetical. Theoretical models predicted that they could, and should, happen. Astronomers had found evidence of other mash-ups between extreme astrophysical objects; in the past several years, they have detected mergers between two black holes and mergers between two neutron stars. But they couldn’t be certain that a meeting between one of each was possible, that nature could really bring them together, until one day, in a flash, the evidence arrived on Earth.

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Exoplanet discoveries used to be nothing but a dream for scientists, but new telescope technology and more advanced observation techniques have made the task of finding planets outside of our solar system easier than ever. In fact, so many new exoplanets are being found these days that scientists have to pick and choose which ones are most in need of study since there simply aren’t enough eyes to go around.

Now, a massive international team of astronomers and other scientists have revealed the discovery of a particularly interesting exoplanet that is sure to get a lot of attention. It’s called TOI-1231b, and it orbits a star much cooler than our own Sun. The star, named NLTT 24399, is a red dwarf, so despite TOI-1231b being much closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun, the planet is actually similar in temperature, and it is thought to have a robust atmosphere that warrants future study.

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A new discovery could soon be raising the total number of confirmed magnetars to 25.

On 3 June, a brief X-ray burst close to the galactic plane caught the attention of the Swift Burst Alert Telescope (BAT). Follow-up observation and analysis seem to confirm that it was emitted by a previously unknown magnetar, now named Swift J1555.2-5402.

Given how few magnetars we have identified within the Milky Way, any new addition has the potential to vastly increase our understanding of these mysterious objects.

Magnetars have been something of a cosmic celebrity lately. They're a very rare type of neutron star, which are the collapsed cores of stars that started out with masses between 8 and 30 times that of the Sun.

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The Jupiter moon Europa may be an even more promising abode for life than scientists had thought.

A recent study suggests that active volcanoes may lurk on the seabed of the 1,940-mile-wide (3,120 kilometers) Europa, which harbors a huge ocean of salty water beneath its icy shell.

Such volcanoes could power deep-sea hydrothermal systems, environments rich in chemical energy that potential Europa lifeforms could exploit, researchers said.

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On the broad Martian equatorial plain called Elysium Planitia, a huge swath of dark material has been hiding a secret, one that could upend our beliefs about the recent history of Mars.

In research published in April in Icarus a team led by David Horvath of the Planetary Science Institute used Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) images to study rocky debris in the Cerberus Fossae fissures, finding evidence of volcanism on Mars — and what’s more, the Martian eruption happened so recently that ancient humans were already roaming the Earth.

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Voyager 1, having spent over 43 years zooming away from Earth since its 1977 launch, is now a very long way away indeed.

Its distance from the Sun is over 150 times the distance between Earth and the Sun. It takes over 21 hours for transmissions traveling at light speed to arrive at Earth. It officially passed the heliopause - the boundary at which pressure from the solar wind is no longer sufficient to push into the wind from interstellar space - in 2012.

Voyager 1 has left the Solar System - and it's finding that the void of space is not quite so void-like, after all.

In the latest analysis of data from the intrepid probe, from a distance of nearly 23 billion kilometers (over 14 billion miles), astronomers have discovered, from 2017 onwards, a constant hum from plasma waves in the interstellar medium, the diffuse gas that lurks between the stars.

"It's very faint and monotone, because it is in a narrow frequency bandwidth," said astronomer Stella Koch Ocker of Cornell University. "We're detecting the faint, persistent hum of interstellar gas."

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Our telescopes on Earth and in space may one day welcome a new companion: a massive telescope on the moon. What's extra clever about the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope idea is that the LCRT would use an existing crater on the moon's far side.

On Wednesday, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced the LCRT is receiving $500,000 in Phase II funding through NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts program. While the LCRT isn't an official NASA mission yet, the funding round is a vote of confidence in the idea.

Last year, the LCRT earned $125,000 in Phase I funding to explore the concept of sending robots to the moon's far side to build a telescope out of wire mesh suspended in a crater. The moon is a tempting place to locate a telescope because it could shield the device from Earth's radio signals and it wouldn't have to contend with an atmosphere.

"The LCRT's primary objective would be to measure the long-wavelength radio waves generated by the cosmic Dark Ages -- a period that lasted for a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, but before the first stars blinked into existence," JPL said in a statement.

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A team of international scientists, led by the Galician Institute of High Energy Physics (IGFAE) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav), has proposed a simple and novel method to bring the accuracy of the Hubble constant measurements down to 2% using a single observation of a pair of merging neutron stars.

The universe is in continuous expansion. Because of this, distant objects such as galaxies are moving away from us. In fact, the further away they are, the faster they move. Scientists describe this expansion through a famous number known as the Hubble constant, which tells us how fast objects in the universe recede from us depending on their distance to us. By measuring the Hubble constant in a precise way, we can also determine some of the most fundamental properties of the universe, including its age.

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The Hubble Space Telescope has peered out into the cosmos and spotted its youngest exoplanet yet, a giant world 379 light-years from Earth that's still growing.

Planets form as dust and gas, swirling around in a circumstellar disk surrounding their star, collides and condenses to slowly become a "ball." Far out in the constellation Centaurus, Hubble has spotted a planet still coming together. The young gas giant exoplanet, designated PDS 70b, is "just" 5 million years old, Hubble scientists said. While the planet is still gathering mass, pulling it from the young star it orbits, it's already huge — roughly the size of Jupiter.

In a new study, scientists took advantage of this unique opportunity to study a planet in its formative years like PDS 70b with Hubble's telescope eye.

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One of the great mysteries of modern space science is neatly summed up by the view from NASA's Perseverance, which just landed on Mars: Today it's a desert planet, and yet the rover is sitting right next to an ancient river delta.

The apparent contradiction has puzzled scientists for decades, especially because at the same time that Mars had flowing rivers, it was getting less than a third as much sunshine as we enjoy today on Earth.

But a new study led by University of Chicago planetary scientist Kite, an assistant professor of geophysical sciences and an expert on climates of other worlds, uses a computer model to put forth a promising explanation: Mars could have had a thin layer of icy, high-altitude clouds that caused a greenhouse effect.

"There's been an embarrassing disconnect between our evidence, and our ability to explain it in terms of physics and chemistry," said Kite. "This hypothesis goes a long way toward closing that gap."

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In recent years there has been an exhaustive study of red dwarf stars to find exoplanets in orbit around them. These stars have effective surface temperatures between 2400 and 3700 K (over 2000 degrees cooler than the Sun), and masses between 0.08 and 0.45 solar masses. In this context, a team of researchers led by Borja Toledo Padrón, a Severo Ochoa-La Caixa doctoral student at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), specializing in the search for planets around this type of stars, has discovered a super-Earth orbiting the star GJ 740, a red dwarf star situated some 36 light years from the Earth.

The planet orbits its star with a period of 2.4 days and its mass is around 3 times the mass of the Earth. Because the star is so close to the Sun, and the planet so close to the star, this new super-Earth could be the object of future researches with very large diameter telescopes towards the end of this decade. The results of the study were recently published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

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