NASA's Hubble telescope finds Pluto's fifth moon
This image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows five moons orbiting Pluto.
July 11th, 2012
06:20 PM ET

NASA's Hubble telescope finds Pluto's fifth moon

Almost exactly one year after discovering dwarf planet Pluto's fourth moon - though not before actually naming poor little P4 - NASA announced Wednesday a fifth moon has been discovered orbiting the ex-planet.

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope found the irregularly shaped moon, which they said measures 6 to 15 miles across. For now, it's being called P5.

"The moons form a series of neatly nested orbits, a bit like Russian dolls," said Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in a statement released by the European Space Agency. Showalter is the leader of the scientific team that discovered the new moon.

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Richard Branson: Galactic spaceship will blast off in 2013
July 11th, 2012
11:35 AM ET

Richard Branson: Galactic spaceship will blast off in 2013

The first tourists to book flights on the Virgin Galactic spaceship will blast off next year, Richard Branson said Wednesday.

The Virgin boss, who also announced his company was expanding to include a satellite launching service, said he and his children would be the first customers.

"My children Holly and Sam, I haven't told them yet but next year they will be joining me on their first voyage into space, which means everyone will be following soon after," Branson told an audience at the UK's Farnborough Air Show.

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Filed under: In Space
Dark galaxies come to light for the first time
This is the region of the sky around quasar HE0109-3518, the bright circle at the center of this image.
July 11th, 2012
10:56 AM ET

Dark galaxies come to light for the first time

The question of how galaxies form is a hot issue among astronomers. Computer models have helped them make educated guesses about how these groups of stars come to be, but it's been hard to validate these theories.

Now scientists have made a significant stride in confirming part of the story of galaxy formation. They believe they have found several examples of dark galaxies, dense clouds of gas that essentially don't have stars, so they can't be detected with optical telescopes.

"This may be considered the building blocks of galaxies," said Sebastiano Cantalupo, postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz and lead author of the study. "What we believe is that this is an evolutionary phase into the whole history of galaxies."

Basically, a dark galaxy is the middle stage between a diffuse cloud of gas, and a galaxy as we know them, with a lot of stars.

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Filed under: Discoveries • In Space

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