Bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres continue to puzzle researchers. When recently a team of astronomers led by Paolo Molaro of the Trieste Astronomical Observatory in Italy, conducted observations of these features, they found out something unexpected. The scientists were surprised to detect that the spots brighten during the day and also show other variations. This variability still remains a mystery.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
New research has revealed that fewer than predicted planets may be capable of harboring life because their atmospheres keep them too hot. When looking for planets that could harbor life, scientists look for planets in the ‘habitable zones’ around their stars – at the right distance from the stars to allow water to exist in liquid form. Traditionally, this search has focused on looking for planets orbiting stars like our Sun, in a similar way to Earth.
Using radar data collected by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a Southwest Research Institute-led team found evidence of an ice age recorded in the polar deposits of Mars. Ice ages on Mars are driven by processes similar to those responsible for ice ages on Earth, that is, long-term cyclical changes in the planet’s orbit and tilt, which affect the amount of solar radiation it receives at each latitude.
A new model developed by University of Rochester researchers could offer a new explanation as to how cracks on icy moons, such as Pluto’s Charon, formed. Until now, it was thought that the cracks were the result of geodynamical processes, such as plate tectonics, but the models run by Alice Quillen and her collaborators suggest that a close encounter with another body might have been the cause.
Scientists have uncovered a new class of galaxies with supermassive black hole winds that are energetic enough to suppress future star formation. Devoid of fresh young stars, red and dead galaxies make up a large fraction of galaxies in our nearby universe, but a mystery that has plagued astronomers for years has been how these systems remain inactive despite having all of the ingredients needed to form stars. Now, an international team of researchers have used optical imaging spectroscopy from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-IV Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory (SDSS-IV MaNGA) to catch a supermassive black hole in the act of heating gas within its host galaxy, leading to the prevention of star formation.
A new analysis of the ALMA data for a young star HL Tauri provides yet more firm evidence of baby planets around the star. Researchers uncovered two gaps in the gas disk around HL Tauri. The locations of these gaps in the gas match the locations of gaps in the dust found in the ALMA high resolution image taken in 2014. This discovery supports the idea that planets form in much shorter timescales than previously thought and prompts a reconsideration of alternative planet formation scenarios.
Astronomers have uncovered evidence for a vast collection of young galaxies 12 billion light years away. The newly discovered “proto-cluster” of galaxies, observed when the universe was only 1.7 billion years old (12% of its present age), is one of the most massive structures known at that distance. The discovery, made using telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona and the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, has been reported in the Astrophysical Journal.