Latest Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Stories
Common wisdom among astronomers holds that most star systems in the Milky Way are multiple, consisting of two or more stars in orbit around each other. Common wisdom is wrong. This means planets may be more common than previously suspected.
Astronomers using the MMT Observatory in Arizona have discovered two stars exiled from the Milky Way galaxy. Those stars are racing out of the Galaxy at speeds of more than 1 million miles per hour - so fast that they will never return.
While examining a region where new stars are forming with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers found a surprise - an object that looks like a giant tornado in space.
The Helix Nebula (NGC 7293) is a challenging stargazing target for amateur astronomers. It is one of the closest planetary nebulas - a type of nebula formed from gas ejected by a dying sunlike star. Yet it is so large and spread out in the sky that it appears very dim in a telescope eyepiece.
The Perseus spiral arm - the nearest spiral arm in the Milky Way outside the Sun's orbit - lies only half as far from Earth as some previous studies had suggested.
A team of astronomers has found faint visible echoes of three ancient supernovae by detecting their centuries-old light as it is reflected by clouds of interstellar gas hundreds of light-years removed from the original explosions.
Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered a remarkably small brown dwarf surrounded by a dusty disk. The brown dwarf contains only about 8 times the mass of Jupiter.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has harvested a bounty of young stars. A new infrared image of the reflection nebula NGC 1333, located about 1,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Perseus, reveals dozens of stars like the Sun but much younger.
A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope reveals billowing mountains of dust ablaze with the fires of stellar youth. The majestic image resembles the iconic "Pillars of Creation" picture taken of the Eagle Nebula in visible light by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
Hubble's iconic images include many shots of cosmic clouds of gas and dust called nebulae. For example, the famous "Pillars of Creation" mark the birthplace of new stars within the Eagle Nebula. Yet despite their beauty, visible-light images show only the nebulae surfaces. Baby stars may hide beneath, invisible even to Hubble's powerful gaze.
- Growing in low tufty patches.