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New Definition Could Make the Moon a Planet

Astronomer's mathematical formula could help in identifying exoplanets

(Newser) - You'll remember the International Astronomical Union's redefinition of a planet in 2006 as the move that demoted Pluto to a mere dwarf planet. But scientists recall the change for another reason: The new classification is incredibly vague. Basically, any nearly round celestial body that orbits the sun and... More »

Farthest Object in Our Solar System Has Been Found

Dwarf planet V774104 is about 9.6B miles from the sun

(Newser) - Think Pluto is far from us? It's a hop, skip, and a jump away compared to what may be the most distant object in our solar system, which is "three times farther than Pluto is from the sun," astronomer Scott Sheppard explains. Sheppard and his colleagues used... More »

Planet-Hunting Professor Quits in Disgrace

UC Berkeley didn't punish him for groping students

(Newser) - One of the world's leading experts on planets outside our solar system has had to resign in disgrace because he couldn't keep his hands off female students. Astronomer Geoff Marcy stepped down from his professorship at the University of California, Berkeley on Wednesday after it emerged that a... More »

Earth's Prime Meridian Is Now Mostly Marked by a Trash Can

Science explains how the important longitudinal line moved 334 feet

(Newser) - Don't tell the swarms of tourists paying nearly $15 to pose with one leg on either side of the prime meridian at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, but Earth's true prime meridian actually passes through a park approximately 334 feet to the east near a trash can.... More »

Age-Old Mystery About the Human Eye May Be Solved

We can see a single candle flame from 1.6 miles away, say astronomers

(Newser) - The power of human eyesight is often debated with a single question: How far can the human eye see a single candle flame? A quick Google search turns up guesses ranging from three to 30 miles, but no one has tried to find out for certain—partly because of the... More »

Friday's Rare Blue Moon the Last Until 2018

There are 13 full moons this year

(Newser) - When Friday's blue moon arrives, don't expect it to be blue—a blue moon isn't actually that color, reports CNN , though some full moons can indeed have a bluish hue. The phrase "once in a blue moon" refers to something that is rare, and it was... More »

Physicist Unearths Key Detail About Iconic WWII Photo

His finding debunks several people's claims to be the ones kissing

(Newser) - The party started early on VJ Day. Though the official announcement that World War II ended wasn't made until closer to 7pm on Aug. 14, 1945, a scientific assessment of the famous photo of the couple kissing in celebration, called "VJ Day in Times Square" and widely known... More »

Largest Structure Ever Found Is a Really Cold Hole

Some call the discovery independent evidence of dark energy

(Newser) - Researchers using NASA's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer and a telescope in Maui have discovered what they are calling the "largest individual structure ever identified by humanity," reports the Royal Astronomical Society . So large, in fact, that the only way to measure its size is in light-years—1.... More »

Scan of 100K Galaxies Finds Zero 'Super-Civilizations'

Theoretical 'Kardashev III' galaxy masters may not exist

(Newser) - Super-civilizations that conquer entire galaxies may only exist in science fiction, a new study suggests. In the scale of possible civilizations proposed by Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev, highly advanced Type III civilizations are capable of harnessing the whole power of a galaxy, but a survey of the most promising 100,... More »

Why Astronomers Hate Roomba's Lawnmower Plans

'It's telescopes vs. robots'

(Newser) - The next big thing in lawn-mowing technology could come from the makers of the Roomba—but first, they're facing a fight with astronomers. That's because iRobot's proposed device would use radio signals to keep the mowers from going rogue and moving off a user's property. Robot... More »

The Stars Could Be 'Singing'

But no one can hear it

(Newser) - The mathematician Pythagoras long ago described "music in the spacing of the spheres," and the idea has influenced astronomy for centuries, Universe Today has noted. Now, scientists have found that the music of the spheres might exist quite literally. Researchers studying the way a laser interacts with plasma... More »

Jupiter Made Our Solar System Weird

Wandering planet wiped out early super-Earths

(Newser) - As astronomers get a better look at the planets circling other stars, it's becoming increasingly apparent that our solar system is pretty strange—and Jupiter seems to be the reason why. Most other solar systems appear to have at least one large planet orbiting very close to the star,... More »

Each Year, Spring Is a Tiny Bit Shorter

Don't worry, you're only missing half a minute

(Newser) - Prepare for a spring that's about 30 seconds shorter than last year's, which was 30 seconds shorter than the one before. The changing length of the season is related to the tilt of the Earth's axis, LiveScience reports. It's a matter of what's known as... More »

Blogger: I Know Where the Simpsons Live

Phil Plait says he picked up on revelatory clue in recent Elon Musk episode

(Newser) - Astronomy blogger Phil Plait was psyched when he heard SpaceX chief Elon Musk was set to appear on the Jan. 25 episode of The Simpsons. But what he saw in one scene blew his mind even more than Musk's appearance: an apparent clue to the elusive question of where... More »

Mars Mystery: Bizarre 125-Mile-High Plumes

Scientists have 2 theories, neither likely

(Newser) - Amateur astronomers have made an unexpected discovery: massive plumes spouting up at least 125 miles from the surface of Mars. Two plumes, up to 620 miles wide, were spotted over the Terra Cimmeria area in the red planet's Southern Hemisphere by at least 18 people over two 10-day periods... More »

Jupiter's Red Spot Isn't What We Thought It Was

Researchers re-create phenomenon in lab

(Newser) - Scientists have made their own version of Jupiter's Great Red Spot in a lab, and it suggests that the spot's cause is very different from what's been postulated. An existing theory holds that the spot is the result of chemicals underneath the planet's clouds. But following... More »

Rapidly Vanishing in America: Dark Spots

In a decade, Milky Way could be visible from just 3 places

(Newser) - Even in the vastness of the American West, the glow from cities has become so bright that places with truly dark skies at night are becoming an endangered species. In the continental US, experts predict that in a decade, there will be just three areas where the sky will be... More »

Milky Way Is a 'Galactic Lightweight'

Same-sized neighbor Andromeda has twice the mass

(Newser) - If our galaxy were a boxer, it would have just slipped down a few weight classes—and would be no match for our neighbor Andromeda. New research has revealed that the Milky Way, while still mind-bogglingly vast, is only around half the weight of the Andromeda galaxy, which is about... More »

'Supermoon' Arrives Tomorrow

And for New Yorkers, it's time again for Manhattanhenge

(Newser) - Look, up in the sky. It's ... supermoon. A full moon with that somewhat inflated title arrives tomorrow. As CNN explains, a supermoon is a full moon that happens to occur when the moon is at its closest point to Earth in its orbit. These full moons tend to look... More »

We Got Earth's Birthday Wrong by 60M Years

Same goes for the moon, say scientists

(Newser) - The planet we're living on is about 60 million years older than previously thought. So say scientists in France who studied quartz from Australia and South Africa that dates back about 3 billion years, reports . The ratio of gases in the quartz compared to today's ratios... More »

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