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Comet Collisions Spotted Around Distant Star

Violent comet crashes are occurring around a star easily visible to sky-watchers, astronomers report. The star is one already known to harbor a burgeoning solar system. Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Telescope in northern Chile announced this week that they have found a giant clump of carbon monoxide gas in the dusty disk…

5 Sky Events This Week: Charioteer Rides With Stellar Gifts, Moon Pairs With Heavenly Gems

Starry skies abound this holiday week, with treats for both the novice and the seasoned sky-watcher.  The moon joins bright stellar landmarks, while brilliant star clusters take center stage in the sky. Celestial charioteer. With the moon absent from the early evening sky on Monday, December 23, it’s a great time to look instead toward…

World’s Largest Backyard Telescope

Ask any backyard stargazer—bigger is better when it comes to telescopes. One Utah amateur has turned just such a towering dream into reality. Truck driver by day and passionate skywatcher by night, Mike Clements has built what appears to be the world’s largest modern-day amateur telescope.  The behemoth telescope has a primary mirror measuring 70…

Photos: Sharpest Views of the Cosmos Ever

Astronomers have built a new astro-camera that, when fitted onto the largest observatories on Earth, can snap photos of the universe twice as sharp as the famed Hubble Space Telescope. With the newly developed technology, giant telescopes can reach their theoretical limits of resolution in visible light —something that was just not possible, until now,…

Photos: Moment of Violent Starbirth Captured

While Hollywood paparazzi prize a first snapshot of a celebrity’s newborn, astrophotographers are always on the hunt for something more elusive—the birth of distant stars like our sun. Now it looks like astronomer may have photographic evidence. Using a giant radio telescope in the Chilean desert, they have managed to  snap images of the first…

Monster Astro Camera on the Hunt

Impressed by your new 12-megapixel digital SLR? Check out the 1,380-megapixel camera astronomers use to keep watch for asteroids that might threaten Earth.

Brief History of the Astronomical Telescope I: Galileo Galilei and the unlikely fate of his middle finger…

Just as 2005, commemorating the Centennial of Einstein’s Annus Mirabilus (“Miracle Year”) was celebrated as the “Year of Physics,” 2009 commemorating the 400th Anniversary of the invention of the astronomical telescope was celebrated as the “Year of Astronomy.” It is generally known that the German-Dutch lens maker Hans Lipperchey had received the first patent for…

Moon Used to Peek Inside Jupiter’s “Missing” Belt

Last May amateur astronomers alerted the world to the fact that the gas giant planet Jupiter had lost a belt. Normally the stormy world is encircled by two dark, rusty bands of clouds created by fast-moving jet streams. The features are easy to spot with a backyard telescope (and even easier with pro ‘scopes, such…

New Dark Matter Map Solving Galactic Puzzle?

One of the brilliant things about astrophysics is being able to take pictures of invisible stuff. Infrared telescopes, for example, allow astronomers to see “dark” nebulas (picture), clouds of dust and gas that weakly reflect light from nearby stars, glowing mostly in thermal emissions. Similarly, high-energy x-rays and gamma rays let scientists “see” black holes,…

Saturn’s Rings: 400 Years of Engagement

Today scientists with the Cassini mission to Saturn released yet another glorious picture of the gassy planet’s icy rings—in this case, a shot of the shepherd moon Prometheus carving arcs in the thin, outer F ring. —Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since June 2004, and it’s sent back…

NASA Balloon Crashes in Australia

Gamma ray astronomy took a hit today, when a balloon carrying a NASA telescope toward space crashed back to Earth, sideswiping an SUV, narrowly missing onlookers, and wrecking its rather pricey payload. The “other” ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, caught video of the failure to launch: The huge, long-duration balloon was supposed to lift up…

Hubble Space Telescope’s New Classic

This past Saturday, April 24, marked 20 years since the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Hubble was released into orbit the following day, but it wasn’t until May that astronomers got a look at the first pictures from their shiny new observatory. The scientists—and eager members of the public…

Big Baby Stars Light Up a Cosmic Rose

To the human eye, the Rosette nebula appears as a vague ghost of a cloud around a bright star cluster in the constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn. But to the infrared eye of the Herschel Space Observatory, this cosmic rose lights up with astonishing color: —Image courtesy ESA/PACS & SPIRE Consortium/HOBYS Key Programme Consortia More precisely,…

OMG Orion!

Happy almost Easter weekend! Here in D.C., spring weather is in full force, with sunny skies, warm temperatures, and cherry blossom petals drifting on the light breeze. I gotta to break away from the keyboard, but I leave you with an Easter egg-colored eye popper from the Spitzer Space Telescope: Click here for a Grade…

Hubble, in All Its 3D Glory

Do you love stellar nurseries, space shuttles, and weightless chicken tacos? Then get out of the house tonight and go see Hubble 3D at an IMAX theater near you! I was lucky enough to see the world premiere last week here at the Air and Space Museum, where astronauts walked the red carpet and NASA…