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astronomy

astronomy

Stellar Disks Reveal How Planets Get Made

Detailed images of disks swirling around young stars show the details of how solar systems come to be.

Photo of Large Magellan Cloud rotating clockwise.
Abstractions blog

What Astronomers Are Learning From Gaia’s New Milky Way Map

A roundup of some of the most important discoveries gleaned so far from the Gaia space observatory’s new map of the galaxy.

Lede art for "A Radically Conservative Solution for Cosmology’s Biggest Mystery": This Hubble image shows RS Puppis, a type of variable star known as a Cepheid variable. As variable stars go, Cepheids have comparatively long periods— RS Puppis, for example, varies in brightness by almost a factor of five every 40 or so days. RS Puppis is unusual; this variable star is shrouded by thick, dark clouds of dust enabling a phenomenon known as a light echo to be shown with stunning clarity. These Hubble observations show the ethereal object embedded in its dusty environment, set against a dark sky filled with background galaxies.
Abstractions blog

A Radically Conservative Solution for Cosmology’s Biggest Mystery

Two ways of measuring the universe’s expansion rate yield two conflicting answers. Many point to the possibility of new physics at work, but a new analysis argues that unseen errors could be to blame.

Photo of mathematician Donald Richards sitting in a Pennsylvania State University classroom.
Q&A

A Revealer of Secrets in the Data of Life and the Universe

The statistician Donald Richards lives to uncover subtle patterns hiding in real-world data.

Photo of the cosmos by the multi-lensed Dragonfly telescope
Abstractions blog

A Victory for Dark Matter in a Galaxy Without Any

Paradoxically, a small galaxy that seems to contain none of the invisible stuff known as “dark matter” may help prove that it exists.

Illustration for Extreme Radio Bursts
astrophysics

Astronomers Trace Radio Burst to Extreme Cosmic Neighborhood

A mysterious object that repeatedly bursts with ultra-powerful radio waves must live in an extreme environment — something like the one around a supermassive black hole.

Magellan Baade telescope and CMB illustration
astrophysics

Earliest Black Hole Gives Rare Glimpse of Ancient Universe

It weighs as much as 780 million suns and helped to cast off the cosmic Dark Ages. But now that astronomers have found the earliest known black hole, they wonder: How could this giant have grown so big, so fast?

An artist’s conception of the Vela Supercluster peeking out from behind the Milky Way’s Zone of Avoidance.
astrophysics

Hidden Supercluster Could Solve Milky Way Mystery

Astronomers generally stay away from the “Zone of Avoidance.” When one astronomer didn’t, she found a giant cosmic structure that could help explain why our galaxy moves so fast.

A projection showing how the positions of some 2 million stars measured by the Gaia satellite are expected to evolve in the future.
Abstractions blog

Deathblow Dealt to Dark Matter Disks

New data tracking the movements of millions of Milky Way stars have effectively ruled out the presence of a “dark disk” that could have offered important clues to the mystery of dark matter.