Four billion years from now, the Milky Way galaxy as we know it will cease to exist. Our Milky Way is bound for a head-on collision with the similar-sized Andromeda galaxy, researchers announced on May 31. Over time, the huge galactic smashup will create an entirely new hybrid galaxy, one likely bearing an elliptical shape rather than the Milky Way’s trademark spiral-armed disk. Astronomers have long known that the Milky Way and Andromeda, which is also known as M31, are barrelling toward one another at a speed of about 250,000 mph (400,000 kph).
NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is being prepared for the final journey to its launch pad on Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean. The mission will study everything from massive black holes to our own sun. It is scheduled to launch no earlier than June 13. The observatory is perched atop an Orbital Sciences Corporation Pegasus XL rocket. If the mission passes its Flight Readiness Review on June 1, the rocket will be strapped to the bottom of an aircraft, the L-1011 Stargazer, also operated by Orbital, on June 2.
The world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope will be shared by South Africa and Australia, project organizers announced on May 25. Both nations had been vying to host the Square Kilometer Array (SKA), a future mega-scope that will connect 3,000 separate radio dishes, each about 50 feet (15 meters) wide. But SKA officials have now decided to spread the project over both sites, rather than pick one over the other.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured the image of the spiral galaxy known as ESO 498-G5. One interesting feature of this galaxy is that its spiral arms wind all the way into the center, so that ESO 498-G5’s core looks like a bit like a miniature spiral galaxy. This sort of structure is in contrast to the elliptical star-filled centers of many other spiral galaxies, which instead appear as glowing masses. Astronomers refer to the distinctive spiral-like bulge of galaxies such as ESO 498-G5 as disc-type bulges, or pseudobulges, while bright elliptical centers are called classical bulges.
The Herschel Space Observatory has discovered a giant, galaxy-packed filament ablaze with billions of new stars. The filament connects two clusters of galaxies that, along with a third cluster, will smash together and give rise to one of the largest galaxy superclusters in the universe. Herschel is a European Space Agency mission with important NASA contributions. The filament is the first structure of its kind spied in a critical era of cosmic buildup when colossal collections of galaxies called superclusters began to take shape.
The new image shows spectacular new view of a peculiar galaxy Centaurus A, which is a sprawling elliptical galaxy located about 12 million light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur). The peculiar galaxy emits strong radio emissions and is the most prominent radio galaxy in the sky, according to officials from the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Centaurus A’s bright nucleus, powerful radio emissions, and jets may be produced by a supermassive central black hole that is 100 million times more massive than the sun, astronomers have said.
New photo, snapped by the European Space Agency’s Herschel space observatory, shows Cygnus-X, an extremely active star-forming region about 4,500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus (The Swan). As said researchers in the new photo, bright white areas highlight areas where large stars have recently formed out of such clouds. These clumps are particularly evident in the right-hand side of the image, which shows a chaotic network of filaments.
According to NASA scientists huge sunspot that dwarfs the Earth is unleashing a series of powerful solar flares as it moves across the surface of the sun. The sunspot AR 1476 was detected by space telescopes on May 5. The huge sunspot is 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) across, so large that when it was first seen in views from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft, mission scientists dubbed it a “monster sunspot.”
NASA’s infrared Spitzer Space Telescope spotted light from the alien planet 55 Cancri e, which orbits a star 41 light-years from Earth. A year on the extrasolar planet lasts just 18 hours. The planet 55 Cancri e was first discovered in 2004 and is not a habitable world. Instead, it is known as a super-Earth because of its size: The world is about twice the width of Earth and is super-dense, with about eight times the mass of Earth. But until now, scientists have never managed to detect the infrared light from the super-Earth world. Spitzer first detected infrared light from an alien planet in 2005.