What's up in

astrophysics

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.

Lede art for "Troubled Times for Alternatives to Einstein’s Theory of Gravity"
astrophysics

Troubled Times for Alternatives to Einstein’s Theory of Gravity

New observations of extreme astrophysical systems have “brutally and pitilessly murdered” attempts to replace Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

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.

Illustration for first stars
cosmology

Whisper From the First Stars Sets Off Loud Dark Matter Debate

A surprise discovery announced a month ago suggested that the early universe looked very different than previously believed. Initial theories that the discrepancy was due to dark matter have come under fire.

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?

Plunge Into A (Virtual Reality) Black Hole
Multimedia

Plunge Into a (Virtual Reality) Black Hole

Join a fleet of robotic probes on a one-way virtual-reality trip into the abyss of a massive black hole.