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Meet The Oldest And Most Distant Galaxy Ever Discovered

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ancient distant galaxyThe Hubble Space Telescope is a gift that keeps on giving. The number of cosmic discoveries scientists have made with the help of the Hubble keeps growing, and each addition more awesome than the last. Recently, astronomers at the Keck observatory in Hawaii confirmed the Hubble’s discovery of the oldest and most distant galaxy known to man. So far, anyway.

The z8_GND_5296 galaxy—which I’ll refer to as the Gandalf galaxy, since it clearly needs a catchier name—has a mass of about one billion suns, less than two percent of that of the Milky Way, but it seems to be popping out stars like it’s received the best fertility treatments ever. Gandalf produces about 330 solar masses each year, which is approximately 100 times more than the Milky Way. Scientists believe this production may be related to the Gandalf’s high gas content, or that it might be hoovering the excess gas that exists in the interstitial spaces between galaxies.

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Comet ISON Soars Before The Stars In Mesmerizing Hubble Image

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ison filteredThe most beautiful thing on Earth might fight a tough fight, but it will eventually get trumped by the most beautiful things our universe has to offer. NASA recently released an image of the comet ISON, and in true space-photo fashion, it would look spectacular on my wall, maybe done up so that it looks super groovy under a black light. Somebody turn on some Iron Butterfly.

Captured by the Hubble Space Telescope on April 30, the image is the result of filtering and a change in focus. While astronomers use Hubble to track ISON, this doesn’t allow for the smaller specks of starlight in the background to show up at all. So while it’s cool to have a photo of just ISON doing its thing, it’s so much more fantastic to see it set against the magnificence of space. It almost has to fight for our attention.

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Neptune’s Tiny 14th Moon Has Been Discovered

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neptune new moonOne of the most fascinating and humbling aspects of space exploration is that almost everything is billions of years older than the discovery. (Just once, I’d like to see someone find an advertisement for the iPhone 7 plastered all over an alien planet.) Every once in a while, though, astronomers don’t even realize what they’re looking at, and what should have been an old discovery takes a while to be found.

The SETI Institute’s Mark Showalter was studying images of Neptune’s rings taken back in 2009 by the Hubble Space Telescope. On July 1, he started looking along the outer edges of the rings when he noticed a white dot that neither he nor anybody else had identified before. And a new Neptunian moon was born, so to speak. It’s now called S/2004 N 1, just in case you were thinking of writing a song about it.

“The moons and arcs orbit very quickly, so we had to devise a way to follow their motion in order to bring out the details of the system,” said Showalter in a press release. “It’s the same reason a sports photographer tracks a running athlete — the athlete stays in focus, but the background blurs.”

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Hubble Identifies A Beautiful Blue Exoplanet Where It Rains Glass

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hd189733b blueIf there are any other habitable planets out there, with populations that have dedicated sizable portions of their resources to studying the universe, I wonder if they’d even be able to see our humble Earth, much less be able to tell what color it is. It seems unlikely that the “Big Blue Marble” or Mars’ “Red Planet” nicknames would be a part of their nomenclature. “Measly little polluted rock ball” is a better choice.

Now, for the first time, astronomers have identified the visible color of a distant exoplanet. Scientists have long studied the star system of exoplanet HD 189733b, located approximately 63 light-years from Earth. But only recently has the planet’s color been measured by detecting how much light reflects off of its surface, a process also known as albedo. It turns out HD 189733b is a beautiful azure blue. So beautiful, in fact, that I’d like to petition Lowes and Home Depot, demanding that they add HD 189733b to their paint swatch collections.

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Hubble Telescope Discovers Possible Planet Forming 7.5 Billion Miles From Its Star

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TW Hydrae DiskAstronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope may have discovered a new exoplanet forming very, very far away from its parent star. The exoplanet looks to be forming some 7.5 billion miles away from the red dwarf star TW Hydrae, located in the Hydra constellation. That would put it nearly double the distance from our Sun to the dwarf planet Pluto, and make it the planet furthest from its star of any we have discovered up to now.

NASA announced the discovery of the exoplanet last week. The system in question is 176 light-years from Earth, and the suspected exoplanet is estimated to be between six and 28 times the mass of our blue planet. While the existence of the planet hasn’t yet been confirmed, astronomers spotted a 1.9 million-mile-wide gap in the disk of dust and gas that surrounds TW Hydrae. This is believed to be a sign of a forming planet as it zips through the dust and coalesces.

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Jaw-Dropping Hubble Image Reveals Thousands Of Ancient Galaxies

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Working here at GFR, there have been plenty of times when I’ve seen some new photograph of our crazy, beautiful universe and thought, ” Well, that’s it. It doesn’t get any more amazing than that.” So, when I took a look at this new picture compiled from 10 years’ worth of Hubble Telescope photographs, I immediately thought, “Well, that’s it. It doesn’t get any more amazing than that.” Except this time I think I may actually be right.

Most of those colorful blobs below aren’t stars; they’re some 5,500 galaxies (Click the image to embigen.)

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