Deep Space

  • The Planet that Shouldn’t Be
    Theories of planet formation have certain prerequisites: the solar system that hosts the planet should be of a certain age, temperature and size. For planet hunters, the outliers may present some of the most interesting candidates. One such Neptune-class planet seems to defy the rules.
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  • Where Cosmic Rays Come From
    A century-old mystery is the origin of cosmic rays. Viewing a supernova remnant with high energy detectors, or gamma-ray eyes, shows that particles are likely accelerated by such massive explosions. Cosmic rays are thought to have played a major role in the early Earth's evolution
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  • Marketing to the Mothership
    It is sometimes said that the best form of advertising is education. But what products would our global marketplace tolerate at the borders of an encounter with another, perhaps far different civilization? To get some perspective, an expert entertains the question of how to advertise
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  • Planet Building: Colliding Mountains
    How is a planet built? The standard model assumes aggregation of fine stellar dust, but observations using the infrared Spitzer telescope now suggest that mountain-sized aggregates collide to make new worlds.
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  • Worlds in Collision
    Planet-building is a violent, messy process. Observations made with the Spitzer Space Telescope indicate this process may last much longer than previously thought.
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  • Stellar Night-Goggles
    The recent discovery of a possible visible exoplanet has refocused efforts to understand their companion stars, now thought to be brown dwarfs. This category is best studied in the mid-infrared range which is relatively unavailable from today's surveys.
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  • Extrasolar Planets: A Matter of Metallicity
    The 130 extrasolar planets discovered so far are in solar systems very different from our own, in which life-bearing planets like Earth are unlikely to exist. But an obscure characteristic of these planets and their stars has led astronomers to predict that our galaxy is
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  • The Shape of Things to Come
    It will probe the dark ages before the era of re-ionization, and perhaps before the birth of the first stars. It will observe the formation of the first galaxies. It will map the web of neutral hydrogen that is spread across our universe, near and
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  • Galactic Dead Zone
    At the center of the Milky Way may lie the most fertile star forming region, but the bust-boom cycle of star birthing can hinder what might be considered any real biological fertility.
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  • New Star-Type Stillborn
    When a binary star system starts to transfer mass, one of the twins may well win out, leaving its companion to occupy a strange region half way between a star and a planet. A new star-type of this sort has been found, which resembles the
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  • Pinhole Camera to Image New Worlds
    A University of Colorado study has embarked on demonstrating that new planets can be found with the help of an orbiting starshade. The method has been compared to building a giant pinhole camera in space.
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  • Coming Soon: “Good Jupiters”
    Most of the extrasolar planets discovered to date are gas giants like Jupiter, but their orbits are either much closer to their parent stars or are highly eccentric. Planet hunters are on the verge of confirming the discovery of Jupiter-size planets with Jupiter-like orbits.
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  • Galactic Construction Boom
    Imagine clusters that smash together thousands of galaxies and trillions of stars. Its energy would seem second only to the Big Bang itself. While inconceivable from the comfort of our planet, just such an event was witnessed near the constellation, Hydra, like two heads of
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  • High Carb Heaven
    From 26,000 light-years-- near the center of our galaxy-- comes a radio signal that can be interpreted as a cloud of sugar molecules, one key component of what might have assisted the development of life if transported on primordial comets.
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  • Mira Behind the Molecules
    Among the stellar class known as red giants, Mira stars provide seventy-five percent of our galaxy's molecules including water vapor. These red giants pulsate as fast as every few months to years with their brightness varying by ten times during a cycle.
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