Found: Giant Gamma Ray Bubbles at the Heart of the Galaxy

Those two purple lobes in the figure-eight shape are balloons of gamma ray energy that reach out 25,000 light years above and below the plane of the galaxy. Yet these huge structures have remained hidden from astronomers, until now.

Using NASA's Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope, Doug Finkbeiner and colleagues detected the bubbles after they managed to remove from their images an obstructing "fog" of gamma rays between here and there.
Researchers do not yet know what produced the bubbles, but the

New Bragging Rights for Pluto? It May Be the Biggest Dwarf Planet

Pluto's dinky diameter wasn't the official reason it was demoted from the planetary club back in 2006, but symbolically, size was the last straw. When Caltech astronomer Mike Brown spotted the object we now call Eris back in 2005 and astronomers figured it to be larger than Pluto, the former ninth planet's fate was sealed. Now Pluto's reclassification as a "dwarf planet" and the subsequent public outcry is behind us, but new research suggests that the former planet's symbolic death knell—Eris' s

I Can See My House From Here

Visual Science readers may be way ahead of me on this, but I was psyched to find out that the International Space Station astronauts are on Twitter, where they are posting fresh images and updates. On Oct 29th 2010, from 220 miles above Earth, an Expedition 25 crew member onboard the ISS shot this nighttime image of the Gulf Coast.

Mobile Bay and the city of Mobile (beneath the solar panels of the docked Russian Soyuz spacecraft), New Orleans, and Houston are visible toward the southwest (dow

Watch Out for Comets! (a quiz)

Facebook quizzes may tell you which Hogwarts house you belong in, which U.S. city is right for you, or what your Disney princess spirit color is--but only Inkfish tests your knowledge of polar research volunteers and space similes.1. Researchers announced this week that which technology seen in the Star Wars movies is close to becoming a reality?a. 3D holographsb. Light sabersc. Death starsd. Doors that slide open when you wave your hand at them, Jedi-style2. Last week, the U.S. Department of Ju

Comet Flyby Yields Close-ups of the Lumpy, Icy Hartley 2

This morning, NASA’s EPOXI mission whizzed by the comet Hartley 2, coming as near as 450 miles to the comet at 8 a.m. and snapping pictures all the while. The icy comet is less than a mile in diameter and has an irregular shape that one NASA researcher recently described as "a cross between a bowling pin and a pickle."

The images are already streaming in: Head to Bad Astronomy for more pictures and a discussion of what these snapshots tell us about Hartley 2.

This is the second cometary encoun

The Super-Tight Spacesuits That Could Protect Astronauts' Bones

MIT may have found the answer to astronauts' bone loss in space: really, really tight suits.
The new suit -- the Gravity Loading Countermeasure Skinsuit -- aims to mimic the effect of gravity on the body. The tight catsuit wouldn’t look out of place in a superhero comic. It features stirrups that hook over the feet and it is purposefully cut too short so that it stretches over the body when worn, pulling the wearer’s shoulders down. The aim is to make sure the legs experience greater force than

These Robots Are Ready for Liftoff

Liftoff of the space shuttle Discovery--the next-to-last NASA shuttle launch ever--has been delayed until at least Thursday (November 4). But one of the shuttle's postponed passengers to the International Space Station claims to feel no anxiety about the upcoming trip:I'm not nervous--with my stomach full of brains, there's no room for butterflies. That's from the Twitter feed of Robonaut 2, also called R2. No relation to R2D2, except that both are cute and helpful space-bots.Once R2 makes it to

This Martian Volcano Would Be a Great Place to Check for Fossils

The Martian rovers and orbiters have sent so much data back to Earth in the last few years that discoveries about Mars' wet and active past come left and right. Yesterday we covered the story that the stuck Spirit rover may have found evidence of recent water right under its tracks. And another study this week, out in Nature Geoscience, pinpoints a spot by a Mars volcano that could contain evidence of a watery system more than 3 billion years old—and perhaps even life, too.

The finding came aft

Ten years of the International Space Station

10 years ago today, Expedition 1 Commander Bill Shepherd and Flight Engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko climbed aboard the International Space Station, marking the first of 3652 days of continuous occupation so far. I think that on that day a decade ago, we truly became a space-faring species.

Since that day, 200 men and women from more than a dozen nations have stayed aboard the station, living there, playing there, working there, and yes, even doing some science there.

I have such

Spirit Serendipity: Stuck Rover Stumbles Upon Evidence of Water

Spirit just can't help itself. Even stuck in a sand trap from which it will never escape, the Mars rover finds clues that reveal more about the nature of Mars and the water cycle on the Red Planet.

It was earlier this year that NASA gave up on freeing Spirit: With a broken wheel, the rover simply could not extricate itself from the loose terrain that ensnares it. But as the rover team drove Spirit back and forth, it dug deeper and deeper into the Martian ground. Says team member Ray Arvidson:


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