Black Hole Swallowing a Star Mistaken for Brightest Supernova

The universe’s brightest supernova ever may be something far more rareAn extraordinary display of light in a distant galaxy that had been previously dubbed brightest supernova ever turned out to be a giant black hole tearing apart a massive star. The luminous event, named ASASSN-15lh, took place in 2015, inside a galaxy 4 billion light…

A tour of our solar system

Our solar system is a fascinating place. For decades, ambitious engineers and scientists around the world have been sending brave humans and robotic emissaries deep into our solar system to see what they could find. They’ve learned a lot, with 2016 marking major milestones in space exploration. The Cassini spacecraft has revealed previously unknown truths…

Bizarre Hexagon on Saturn Shines

A stunning new photo of Saturn’s north pole spotlights the planet’s bizarre hexagon-shaped vortex and beautiful bands of swirling winds. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured this dramatic view on Sept. 5, as the probe flew 890,000 miles (1.4 million kilometers) above the planet. The image, which NASA released Monday (Nov. 14), looks toward the sunlit side…

If you like the northern lights, Jupiter takes them to the next level

If you want to see beautiful auroras, forget Alaska, Canada, and Iceland—check out Jupiter. At the gas giant’s north pole, the most powerful and luminous northern lights in the solar system shimmer and glow in an endless geomagnetic storm that’s larger than our entire planet.

The first galaxies came together in three minutes (video)

Minute Physics pieces together what we know about the great-great-grandfathers of galaxies that we see today. The Milky Way is just one of 100 billion galaxies in the universe, and each one is a bit of a time capsule. Thanks to their immense distance, we see them as they were milions or even billions of…

Measuring a massive black hole

It’s about 660 million times as massive as our sun, and a cloud of gas circles it at about 1.1 million mph. This supermassive black hole sits at the center of a galaxy dubbed NGC 1332, which is 73 million light years from Earth. And an international team of scientists that includes Rutgers associate professor…

Shockwave Of An Exploding Star

Shockwaves (aka a “shock breakout”) like this only last for 20 minutes, so it was really exciting for astronomers to capture the moment, which they recorded as a sudden flare of optical light from a distant star. The shock breakout is the initial flash of brightness from the explosion that precedes the big event, as…

Debating Signatures of Alien Life

Huddled in a coffee shop one drizzly Seattle morning six years ago, the astrobiologist Shawn Domagal-Goldman stared blankly at his laptop screen, paralyzed. He had been running a simulation of an evolving planet, when suddenly oxygen started accumulating in the virtual planet’s atmosphere. Up the concentration ticked, from 0 to 5 to 10 percent. “Is…

Charon: A possible ancient ocean?

Pluto’s largest moon may have gotten too big for its own skin. Images from NASA’s New Horizons mission suggest that Pluto’s moon Charon once had a subsurface ocean that has long since frozen and expanded, pushing outward and causing the moon’s surface to stretch and fracture on a massive scale. The side of Pluto’s largest…

17 of Hubble’s greatest space images

  The Hubble space telescope is 25 years old. It has been inspiring and astounding us by capturing previously unseen secrets from far-away galaxies, stars and black holes. In its lifetime it has circled our own planet 137,000 times and given us a clearer insight into the majestic nature and age of our Universe. Hubble…

Black hole caught ‘burping’ galactic gas

Astronomers have spotted two huge waves of gas being “burped” by the black hole at the heart of a nearby galaxy. The swathes of hot gas, detected in X-ray images from Nasa’s Chandra space telescope, appear to be sweeping cooler hydrogen gas ahead of them. This vast, rippling belch is taking place in NGC 5195…