Science & Technology


Baby Versions of Milky Way Spotted

Astronomers have spotted small galaxies near the beginning of time that resemble ancestors of our own galactic home.

The tiny galaxies are about one-tenth to one-twentieth the size of the Milky Way and have 40 times fewer stars. Light from the ancient clusters was emitted about 2 billion years after the Big Bang, the theoretical beginning to the universe that occurred about 13.7 billion years ago. So the galaxies are seen as they existed in a very young universe.

New Risk to Earth Found in Supernova Explosions

An explosive star within our galaxy is showing signs of an impending eruption, at least in a cosmic time frame, and has for quite some time. From 1838 to 1858, the star called Eta Carinae brightened to rival the light of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, and then faded to a dim star. Since 1940 it has been brightening again, and scientists think Eta Carinae will detonate in 10,000 to 20,000 years.

NASA and Gemini Probe Mysterious Distant Explosion

Using the powerful one-two combo of NASA's Swift satellite and the Gemini Observatory, astronomers have detected a mysterious type of cosmic explosion farther back in time than ever before. The explosion, known as a short gamma-ray burst (GRB), took place 7.4 billion years ago, more than halfway back to the Big Bang.

"Blue Blobs" in Space Are Odd Stars

©NASA, ESA, and D. de Mello (Catholic University of America/GSFC)

Mysterious "blue blobs" about 12 million light-years away are actually clusters of orphan stars that formed in an unlikely part of the universe, new images released today reveal.

"Grass Gas" Shows Promise as Superefficient, Clean Fuel

Switchgrass is farmed for ethanol production in Nebraska. The crop produces 540 percent more energy than it takes to grow and refine, a new study says.

Ethanol made from a prairie grass shows promise as a viable fuel that could be much more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient than corn ethanol, a new study says.

Ethanol is often touted as a cleaner-burning gasoline alternative that lessens dependence on oil.

Comet Shoemaker-Levy Home Page

From July 16 through July 22, 1994, pieces of an object designated as Comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter. This is the first collision of two solar system bodies ever to be observed, and the effects of the comet impacts on Jupiter's atmosphere have been simply spectacular and beyond expectations. Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 consisted of at least 21 discernable fragments with diameters estimated at up to 2 kilometers.


Latest Images of Comet Shoemaker-Levy

Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 About to Smash into Jupiter

For a period of about six days centered on July 19, 1994, fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 are expected to collide with Jupiter, the solar system's largest planet. Such an event has never before been available for study. The energy released by the larger fragments will be more than 10,000 times the energy released by a 100-megaton hydrogen bomb! Unfortunately for observers, the collisions will occur on the night side of Jupiter, the back side as seen from Earth. How did this comet fragment? And what do astronomers think will happen when it hits?

©D.A. Seal/JPL
Artist's conception of the collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter, as seen from the Galileo spacecraft. At the time of the first impact, the comet fragments will be much farther apart than shown in this illustration.

Boreholes on the Moon could solve climate puzzle

Scientists have calculated that boreholes on the moon just 10 metres deep would provide a temperature record stretching back to the 1600s, which would help researchers gauge solar energy in the past more accurately.
Better Earth

Space rock risk underreported, researchers argue

A small but growing number of astronomers are arguing that the risks of comets or meteors hitting Earth are much higher than past estimates suggest.

Some of these objects may be going unnoticed in space, the researchers say, and scientists may need to begin new studies tailored to finding them.

But advocates of the earlier estimates are shooting back that the evidence doesn't warrant revising the figures drastically.

The traditional estimates, based on sky surveys and other techniques, vary.

But in general, they conflict with the number of objects actually found to have visited Earth's neighborhood, according to David J. Asher of the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland and three colleagues.

Meteors' mysterious origin traced to 1490 event

Last week's Quadrantid meteor shower was probably debris from a deep-space explosion that went off in the late 15th century, new observations reveal.