17 Stories

One of Orion's Stars Went Oddly Dim. Now We Know Why

Nope, Betelgeuse is not about to go supernova

(Newser) - A well-known star in the constellation of Orion—the one that makes up Orion's right shoulder—has been the subject of an 18-month mystery that has now been solved. Betelgeuse rapidly dimmed in late 2019 and early 2020 to a degree that had never been recorded before and one...

Exploding Star Likely Wrecked Life on Earth
Scientists Find New Cause
of Mass Extinction Event
study says

Scientists Find New Cause of Mass Extinction Event

University of Illinois researchers point to possible supernovas

(Newser) - A mass extinction event that struck Earth 359 million years ago still has scientists scratching their heads. Was it volcano eruptions? Meteorites? Gamma-ray bursts? A new paper looks at another possible culprit: exploding stars. Researchers at the University of Illinois argue that evidence hidden in rocks coincides with the effect...

Our Galaxy Might See a 'Spectacular Death'

The 'supergiant' star Betelgeuse is getting dimmer

(Newser) - Keep your telescope handy: Betelgeuse might be about to blow. Astronomers say the "supergiant" star, which sits 650 light-years away, is at its dimmest in about a century—meaning we could witness our galaxy's first supernova in the telescopic era, Science Alert reports. "It kept getting fainter,...

Rock Art Dating Back Millennia May Be More Than Just Art

Painting found in India could be one of the oldest (if not the oldest) sky charts ever found

(Newser) - We can't exactly chat with ancient humans about their lives, but their art gives us glimpses, and a new find in India sheds literal light on a cosmic event they may have witnessed. Quartz cites a new study in the Indian Journal of History of Science in which scientists...

Where This Mound Stands Was a City Larger Than Paris

Exploring what remains of Cahokia in modern-day Illinois

(Newser) - What drove the rapid decline of the largest city of North America some seven centuries ago? Annalee Newitz takes an up-close look for Ars Technica after traveling to the outskirts of East St. Louis, Ill., this past summer to help archaeologists dig up what evidence they can of Cahokia, which...

Brightest Space-Blast Ever Shocks Scientists

Gamma-ray burst defies current theories

(Newser) - Notice a little white spot in the sky earlier this year? That may have been the brightest gamma-ray explosion on record mixed with a powerful supernova, a combination scientists had never seen before, LiveScience reports. Because the blast was fairly close by—a mere 3.5 billion light-years—scientists were...

Gold's Origins Discovered ... in Space

Star collision produces untold quantities of the shiny stuff

(Newser) - If you've got, say, a gold wedding ring, you are currently wearing a memento from the collision of two neutron stars. Or at least, that's what scientists hypothesize after witnessing one such collision in space, seemingly answering a longstanding scientific quandary, the LA Times reports. Neutron stars are...

NASA Spots Nearby 'Young' Black Hole

Could it be a gateway to another universe?

(Newser) - NASA has spotted what appears to be the galaxy's newest black hole—and it's relatively nearby. The Chandra X-Ray Observatory has spotted the aftermath of a super nova that, from Earth's vantage point, is just 1,000 years old, the agency reports . (Of course, it's 26,...

NASA Solves 2K-Year-Old Mystery of China Star

Two NASA telescopes used to understand first documented supernova

(Newser) - It's one of astronomy's oldest mysteries—Chinese astronomers in AD 185 discovered a "guest star" that appeared in the sky for about eight months. Modern scientists have for decades believed it to be the first documented sighting of a supernova, but what kind of supernova was it?...

3 Americans Win Nobel for Finding Expanding Universe

Americans independently made same discovery

(Newser) - The universe isn't just expanding, it's expanding faster every day. Three American scientists who made that discovery have won the Nobel Prize in Physics today for their efforts, the AP reports. The men were split between two competing research teams during the 1990s, with Saul Perlmutter on one...

10-Year-Old Is Youngest to Find a Supernova

Canadian girl inherits dad's love of the stars

(Newser) - While most 4th-graders are playing with dolls, this little astronomer found something stellar 240 million light years away. Kathryn Aurora Gray of New Brunswick, Canada, pored over images of a galaxy made on New Year's Eve and—with the help of her astronomer father—made an excellent discovery: the remnants...

'Citizen Scientists' Find Rare Star

Spare computing power donated to sift through observatory data

(Newser) - Three regular people who volunteered to put their idle home computers to work crunching scientific data in off-hours have been credited with making a major discovery in deep space. The "citizen scientists"—two in Iowa and one in Germany—downloaded and processed the data that found a disrupted...

Nearby Star Could Doom Earth, Scientists Warn

... in 10 million years

(Newser) - The T Pyxidis binary star system is a lot closer than earlier believed, and that could be very bad news for Earthlings, according to a team of astronomers. One of its stars is a white dwarf set to become a Type 1A supernova—10 million times stronger than a regular...

Supercomputers Supercharge Research

Scientists with big questions to benefit more from DOE's two behemoths

(Newser) - It's easier than ever before to get some quality time with one of the most powerful computers on Earth. The Department of Energy has increased the performance of two of its supercomputers more than fivefold, making 900 million processor-hours available to scientists, reports Wired. Expect that boost to lead to...

Stargazers Witness Birth of Supernova

Astronomers first ever to see star's explosive death throes

(Newser) - A  pair of Princeton astronomers have become the first people ever to witness the explosive death of a star, reports. The pair were observing another supernova in its later stages when they happened to spot a huge burst of X-rays 90 million light years away. Astronomers believe their...

Star Could Fire Death Ray at Earth
Star Could Fire Death Ray
at Earth

Star Could Fire Death Ray at Earth

Perfect spiral 8K light years away produces gamma rays

(Newser) - Don't freak out, but an unstable star a mere 8,000 light years away could go supernova at any time, sending a massive gamma ray burst hurtling toward Earth, possibly destroying the ozone layer and blasting half of the planet with deadly radiation. WR 104 is what's known as a...

King of Supernovas Sheds Light on Early Stars

(Newser) - Researchers are reporting the biggest stellar explosion ever recorded—a discovery which could shed light on how the universe was shaped. The star, 150 times more massive than the sun, went out with a bang 100 times more powerful than typical supernovas. Astronomers think the first stars after the Big...

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