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Illustration of a bowl of dark energy on a weighing scale
Abstractions blog

Why the Tiny Weight of Empty Space Is Such a Huge Mystery

March 12, 2018

The amount of energy infusing empty space seems too small to explain without a multiverse. But physicists have at least one alternative left to explore.

520px illustration of bottle beam
nuclear physics

Neutron Lifetime Puzzle Deepens, but No Dark Matter Seen

February 13, 2018

Two methods of measuring the neutron’s longevity give different answers, creating uncertainty in cosmological models. But no one has a clue what the problem is.

520px illustration for the bounce model theory

How the Universe Got Its Bounce Back

January 31, 2018

Cosmologists have shown that it’s theoretically possible for a contracting universe to bounce and expand. The new work resuscitates an old idea that directly challenges the Big Bang theory of cosmic origins.

Magellan Baade telescope and CMB illustration

Earliest Black Hole Gives Rare Glimpse of Ancient Universe

December 6, 2017

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.

Hidden Supercluster Could Solve Milky Way Mystery

November 21, 2017

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

November 17, 2017

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.

Zoomable Universe - rectangular thumbnail

From the Edge of the Universe to the Inside of a Proton

November 6, 2017

The Zoomable Universe, a new book by the astrobiologist Caleb Scharf, the illustrator Ron Miller and 5W Infographics, tours the universe’s 62 orders of magnitude.

Artist’s rendering of merging neutron stars.

Colliding Neutron Stars Could Settle the Biggest Debate in Cosmology

October 25, 2017

Newly discovered “standard sirens” provide an independent, clean way to measure how fast the universe is expanding.

Illustration: window showing dark matter map

Scientists Unveil New Inventory of Universe’s Dark Contents

August 3, 2017

The first major results from the Dark Energy Survey signal the start of a new era of cosmology.