New Theory Emerges on the Formation of Jupiter’s Galilean Moons

(From Caltech) During the first few million years of our sun’s lifetime it was surrounded by a protoplanetary disk made up of gas and dust. Jupiter coalesced from this disk and became encircled by its own disk of satellite-building material. This “circum-Jovian disk” was fed by material from the sun’s protoplanetary disk that rained down…

Scientists Use “Sunglasses” to See Bands of Clouds on a Brown Dwarf

(News via Caltech) Astronomers have detected what appear to be bands of clouds streaking across the surface of a cool star-like body known as a brown dwarf. The bands, resembling those that stripe the surface of Jupiter, were discovered using polarimetry, a technique that works in the same way that polarized sunglasses block out the…

Scientists Prove It’s Still Einstein’s Universe and We’re All Just Living In It

In what has truly turned out to be a momentous occasion in astrophysics, today scientists announced the first-ever direct observation of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) experiment, which consists of two enormous detector facilities located in Louisiana and Washington state and an international consortium of thousands of researchers. First predicted by Albert Einstein in…

Titan: Dabbling in the Occult

Back in December of 2001, Saturn’s moon Titan passed in front of two background stars (called an “occultation”) from the point of view of the Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory. Astronomers used the incredible resolving ability of the 5-meter telescope’s adaptive optics to watch the event, which revealed the diffraction of the stars’ light through…

Getting WISE to asteroids

NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer – WISE – has recently finished a survey of small bodies in our solar system. The survey mission, called NEOWISE (for Near Earth Objects), used WISE’s infrared-imaging capabilities to identify 20 new comets and more than 33,000 main-belt asteroids. WISE also spotted 134 near-Earth objects – asteroids or comets that…