Astronomy


'Planet Nine' may exist:
New evidence for another world in our solar system

Planet Nine May Exist
The mythical "Planet X" may actually be real, and scientists are calling it "Planet Nine."

Astronomers have found evidence for a planet 10 times more massive than Earth in the far outer solar system, orbiting about 20 times farther from the sun than distant Neptune does.

"This would be a real ninth planet," one of the researchers, Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, said in a statement. "There have only been two true planets discovered since ancient times, and this would be a third. It's a pretty substantial chunk of our solar system that's still out there to be found, which is pretty exciting."

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How Much Light Is in the Universe?

Light Is in the Universe?
The first choice we have to make is how, exactly, to define "how much." A convenient way is to count light using photons. If you've ever wanted to know what a photon is, well, you're in luck: It's a bit of light. And "bit" here means "fundamental unit," or "quanta" if you want to be all fancy pants about it.


Light is made of photons. Radio waves are made of photons. X-rays are - you got it! - made of photons. If you have a bunch of light, you have a lot of photons. If you have only a single photon, that's it. You can't split it or dissolve it or break its heart. A single photon is the smallest amount of light you're ever going to get.


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Visible Light from a Black Hole Spotted by Telescope, a First

Visible Light from a Black Hole Spotted by Telescope
For the first time, astronomers have seen dim flickers of visible light from near a black hole, researchers with an international science team said. In fact, the light could be visible to anyone with a moderate-size telescope.


These dramatically variable fluctuations of light are yielding insights onto the complex ways in which matter can swirl into black holes, scientists added. The researchers also released a video of the black hole's light seen by a telescope. In a statement, they added that such light from an active black hole could be spotted by an observer with a 20-cm telescope.

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Ceres reveals its salty secrets - and blurs the line between comets and asteroids

Ceres reveals its salty secrets


When Guiseppe Piazzi reported his observations of a minor planet in 1801, he originally thought it might be a comet. But follow-up observations by fellow astronomers suggested that Ceres was actually an asteroid. So it's somewhat ironic that the latest results from NASA's Dawn mission suggest this asteroid is confusingly similar to a comet.

Dawn has found a number of mysterious features on Ceres so far, including bright white spots on its surface. Its latest results suggest that these are salts left behind as ice vaporised from the surface by sublimation - a process often seen in comets. They also suggest Ceres may have formed far away from its current location in orbit between Mars and Jupiter. This would be surprising as many astronomers believe that a key difference between comets and asteroids is that asteroids form closer to the sun.

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Stickney crater

Mars is ripping its moon apart

Phobos will eventually disintegrate and form a ring around the red planet. Belinda Smith reports.

Naming the red planet for the god of war was a prescient move. But naming it for Hercules, the god who slaughtered his own children, would have been better.

Mars, it turns out, is mercilessly crushing one of its own moons. When its death throes are finally over, the moon Phobos will have disintegrated into a orbiting disc of dust and rock, and Mars will be a ringed planet, the Solar System's fifth. That's the conclusion of a study in Nature Geoscience in November by Benjamin Black and Tushar Mittal from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Superflare: Sun could release flares 1000x greater than previously recorded

The Sun demonstrates the potential to superflare, new research into stellar flaring suggests.

Led by the University of Warwick, the research has found a stellar superflare on a star observed by NASA's Kepler space telescope with wave patterns similar to those that have been observed in solar flares.

Superflares are thousands of times more powerful than those ever recorded on the Sun, and are frequently observed on some stars.

Found in the Milky Way, the binary star, KIC9655129, is known to superflare. The researchers suggest due to the similarities between the superflare on KIC9655129 and the Sun's solar flares, the underlying physics of the flares might be the same, supporting the idea that our Sun could also produce a superflare.

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black hole

Scientists get first glimpse of black hole eating star, ejecting high-speed flare

An international team of astrophysicists led by a Johns Hopkins University scientist has for the first time witnessed a star being swallowed by a black hole and ejecting a flare of matter moving at nearly the speed of light.

The finding reported in the journal Science tracks the star -- about the size of our sun -- as it shifts from its customary path, slips into the gravitational pull of a supermassive black hole and is sucked in, said Sjoert van Velzen, a Hubble fellow at Johns Hopkins.

"These events are extremely rare," van Velzen said. "It's the first time we see everything from the stellar destruction followed by the launch of a conical outflow, also called a jet, and we watched it unfold over several months."

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