Quick Reads

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…

Article11 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,…

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
This animation pans across a visualization of the night sky. There are numerous stars against a black background. Lines connect the main stars in the constellations of Orion and Taurus, and they are labeled on the sky. In addition, the location of the Orion Nebula is marked. The animation is watermarked with the text, “Credit: ESO/S. Brunier.”

Discovering the Universe Through the Constellation Orion

6 min read

Do you ever look up at the night sky and get lost in the stars? Maybe while you’re stargazing you spot some of your favorite constellations. But did you know there’s more to constellations than meets the eye? They’re not…

Article1 year ago
A rotating gif of examples of a stellar nursery, NGC 346, and a planetary nebula, the Helix Nebula. The stellar nursery is a blue wispy cloud taking up nearly the entire scene and bright stars can be see dotted throughout the image, with bright ones near the center of the cloud. The Helix nebula looks like a giant eye with a blue center and pale yellow light fading into orange to form the “white” of the eye. redit: Helix Nebula image: NASA, NOAO, ESA, the Hubble Helix Nebula Team, M. Meixner (STScI), and T.A. Rector (NRAO); NGC 346: NASA, ESA and A. Nota (STScI/ESA)

Decoding Nebulae

3 min read

We can agree that nebulae are some of the most majestic-looking objects in the universe. But what are they exactly?

Article3 years ago
This animated gif of supercomputer data takes you to the inner zone of the accretion disk of a stellar-mass black hole. Purple and blue-colored swirls spin in toward a central black circle.

Black Holes: Seeing the Invisible!

4 min read

Black holes are some of the most bizarre and fascinating objects in the cosmos. Astronomers want to study lots of them, but there’s one big problem – black holes are invisible! Since they don’t emit any light, it’s pretty tough…

Article3 years ago
Two circular views of the night sky captured by NASA’s TESS mission are side by side. Each is made up of segments that look like a film strip studded with stars. On the left is the southern hemisphere, which is a complete circle of segments. A band of white light runs through the upper half of the circle in a gentle arc. This bright band is the plane of the Milky Way. On the right is the northern hemisphere. The bright white band continues through this hemisphere as a gentle downward arc in the bottom part of the circle.

Cosmic Piece of Pi

3 min read

What is pi? We’re not talking about your favorite pastry with yummy fillings and a side of ice cream. Pi can be written as the Greek letter 𝞹 or the number 3.14159…, which goes on and on because pi is…

Article3 years ago
This visualization provides a three-dimensional perspective on Hubble's image of the nebula Gum 29 with the star cluster Westerlund 2 at its core. The flight traverses the foreground stars and approaches the lower left rim of the nebula Gum 29. Passing through the wispy darker clouds on the near side, the journey reveals bright gas illuminated by the intense radiation of the newly formed stars of cluster Westerlund 2. Within the nebula, several pillars of dark, dense gas are being shaped by the energetic light and strong stellar winds from the brilliant cluster of thousands of stars. Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon, L. Frattare, Z. Levay, and F. Summers (Viz3D Team, STScI), and J. Anderson (STScI)

The Lives, Times, and Deaths of Stars

4 min read

Who among us doesn’t covertly read tabloid headlines when we pass them by? But if you’re really looking for a dramatic story, you might want to redirect your attention from Hollywood’s stars to the real thing. From birth to death,…

Article4 years ago
This animation shows what happened in the nine days after a neutron star merger detected in 2017. First, a pair of glowing blue neutron stars spiral quickly toward each other, merging with a bright flash. The merger creates gravitational waves (shown as pale arcs rippling outward), 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.

Cosmic Couples and Devastating Breakups

4 min read

Relationships can be complicated – especially if you’re a pair of stars. Sometimes you start a downward spiral you just can’t get out of, eventually crash together, and set off an explosion that can be seen 130 million light-years away.…

Article4 years ago