Orbital Chaos Inevitable

It’s a little bit less certain that the inner planets— Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars—will still be around to die that way. “There is a one percent chance the inner solar system will go dramatically unstable during the next five billion years,” says Laughlin. The problem is a weird long-distance connection between Jupiter and Mercury. When Jupiter’s closest approach to […]

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A monster black hole

An international team of astronomers has detected a colossal black hole that is 12 billion times more massive than the sun—so big that it is challenging accepted cosmological thinking. Scientists discovered the enormous celestial body, which is 12.8 billion light-years from Earth, at the center of a brilliantly glowing quasar, a cloud of gas that gets superheated and gives off […]

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Earth’s bigger, older cousins

Astronomers have discovered the larg­est rocky planet yet, and its existence has profound implications for our understanding of the early universe and the potential for extraterrestrial life. Kepler-10c, which was spotted by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, has a diameter of roughly 18,000 miles—more than twice that of Earth —prompting scientists to create a new class of planets, dubbed “mega-Earths.”The body’s […]

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Tracing The Moon’s Origins

Some new thinking may have brought astronomers a step closer to solving the mystery of how our moon formed. Researchers have long believed that the moon was cleaved from a Mars-sized planet that collided with Earth some 4.5 billion years ago. Yet recent tests of lunar rock samples suggest that the moon’s chemical makeup is too similar to Earth’s to […]

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Our sun’s hotter sister

Stars are not born alone. Rather, they emerge from clouds of gas and dust in groups of up to 10,000, then slowly scatter through space. For the first time, astronomers have identified a star that came from the same solar nursery as our sun, some 4.5 billion years ago. This stellar relative—located 110 light-years away in the constellation Hercules—is hotter […]

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Relics of the big bang

Astronomers have discovered two clouds of gas some 12 billion light-years away that appear to preserve the primordial conditions of the universe in the minutes after the big bang. The clouds contain just hydrogen and its isotope deuterium, making them “the first examples to fit precisely” into what scientists think the early universe was like, University of California astronomer Jason […]

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The most Earth-like planet yet

Have we found Earth’s twin? For the first time, astronomers have identified a planet outside our solar system that is both Earth-size and orbits its star in the so-called Goldilocks zone, where temperatures may be “just right” for supporting liquid water—and, therefore, life. Researchers discovered the planet while reviewing data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which has spent the past […]

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