Universe Stories


Big Bang Infographic showing the timeline of the history of the big bang and the formation of the building blocks of the universe. he history of the universe is outlined in this infographic. It starts with Inflation, then the first particles in 1 microsecond, followed by first nuclei (10 seconds); first light (300,000 years); first stars (200 million years); galaxies and dark matter (400 million years); dark energy (10 billion years); present (13.8 billion years). NASA

What is Dark Energy? Inside our accelerating, expanding Universe

11 min read

Some 13.8 billion years ago, the universe began with a rapid expansion we call the big bang. After this initial expansion, which lasted a fraction of a second, gravity started to slow the universe down. But the cosmos wouldn’t stay…

Article3 months ago
Two neutron stars begin to merge in this artist’s concept, blasting jets of high-speed particles. Collision events like this one create short gamma-ray bursts. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/ A. Simonnet, Sonoma State University

Gamma-ray Bursts: Harvesting Knowledge From the Universe’s Most Powerful Explosions

7 min read

The most powerful events in the known universe – gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) – are short-lived outbursts of the highest-energy light. They can erupt with a quintillion (a 10 followed by 18 zeros) times the luminosity of our Sun. Now thought…

Article6 months ago
This animated GIF shows how light is bent by massive objects that create dents in space-time. The first scene shows a white grid on a black background, which represents space-time. In the center is a star shown as a glowing yellow ball. The star creates a dent in the space-time grid, so the lines of the grid are curved under and around it. A line of yellow light comes down from the top of the image and arcs around the star. Then the scene changes to show the Hubble Space Telescope, a silver cylindrical object, in the bottom right of the image, pointed up toward the left. In the upper left is a fuzzy white blob with yellow lines moving toward Hubble. Between them, in the center, is a cluster of galaxies, depicted as several different-sized orange and white specs of light. As the yellow lines approach the galaxy cluster, they bend around it, ending up pointing toward the telescope.

How Gravity Warps Light

5 min read

Gravity is obviously pretty important. It holds your feet down to Earth so you don’t fly away into space, and (equally important) it keeps your ice cream from floating right out of your cone! We’ve learned a lot about gravity…

Article10 months ago
This image depicts a gamma-ray burst caused by the merger of two neutron stars. The merger creates gravitational waves (shown as pale arcs rippling outward) being created following the merger of two neutron stars, a near-light-speed jet that produced gamma rays (shown as brown cones and a rapidly traveling magenta glow erupting from the center of the collision), and a donut-shaped ring of expanding blue debris around the center of the explosion. A variety of colors represent the wavelengths of light produced by the kilonova, creating violet to blue-white to red bursts above and below the collision.

Gamma-Ray Bursts: Black Hole Birth Announcements

4 min read

Gamma-ray bursts are the brightest, most violent explosions in the universe, but they can be surprisingly tricky to detect. Our eyes can’t see them because they are tuned to just a limited portion of the types of light that exist,…

Article11 months ago

Dust in the Stellar Wind: A Cosmological Primer

5 min read

The handsome Horsehead Nebula, rearing up against glowing red gas, is sculpted from dust. Like many of the most iconic images in astronomy, the nebula is made of thick clouds of the stuff, part of a vast molecular cloud complex…

Article1 year ago

What Happens When Something Gets ‘Too Close’ to a Black Hole?

7 min read

Can a star be squeezed like a tube of toothpaste, flattened like a pancake, or stretched out like a piece of spaghetti? If there’s a black hole nearby, maybe. Scattered across the universe, black holes are objects with gravity so…

Article1 year ago

What is Betelgeuse? Inside the Strange, Volatile Star

6 min read

A blazing red supergiant shining brilliantly in the night sky, Betelgeuse is a star that has captured attention for centuries.

Article1 year ago
A black background is speckled by a seemingly infinite number of bright spots, with smaller spots being a pale-yellow color with some brighter and larger spots that are orange, bright red, and blue.

Star Clusters: Inside the Universe’s Stellar Collections

6 min read

Billions of trillions of stars speckle the universe. Star clusters are groups of stars that share an origin, forming at roughly the same time and location, and are tied together by gravity for up to millions or even billions of…

Article1 year ago
At the beginning of this animated GIF, we see the glowing gas surrounding two black holes. The gas is shaded orange and purple, and it is tightly wound around each individual black hole. They each have a tail of gas, looking like a comma. As the animation proceeds, the camera moves to see the two black holes nearly in line with each other and then back to see the bottom of the system. As the view tilts, the gravitational effects of the black holes at the center cause the light to bend like a funhouse mirror.

A Mesmerizing Model of Monster Black Holes

2 min read

Just about every galaxy the size of our Milky Way (or bigger) has a supermassive black hole at its center. These objects are ginormous – hundreds of thousands to billions of times the mass of the Sun! Now, we know…

Article1 year ago
This animated GIF shows clouds moving across a dusky sky. The clouds on the right side have a gray haze extending down to the bottom of the image, where there is rain. Flashes of lightning, stretching from the cloud to the ground, light up the screen periodically.

What’s Made in a Thunderstorm and Faster Than Lightning? Gamma Rays!

3 min read

Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has spotted gamma rays coming from thunderstorms.

Article1 year ago