At Nine Billion Light Years, ‘Icarus’ Is the Most Distant Star Ever Observed

Original story via MOTHERBOARD

Thanks to gravitational lensing, astronomers can observe normal stars across colossal stretches of space and time.

Nine billion light years is a practically unfathomable distance, but astronomers have managed to peer across this vast expanse of spacetime to capture images of a single “normal” star (meaning that it is not currently going through a supernova).

This far-flung star, nicknamed “Icarus” though it is officially called MACS J1149 Lensed Star 1, is the most distant non-exploding star ever observed by humans, according to new research published Monday in Nature Astronomy. The paper’s first author, University of Minnesota astronomer Patrick Kelly, said in a statement the star is “at least 100 times farther away than the next individual star we can study, except for supernova explosions.”



Stephen Hawking, One of the World’s Brilliant Minds, has died.


World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.

He died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday, his family said.

The British scientist was famed for his work with black holes and relativity, and wrote several popular science books including A Brief History of Time.

At the age of 22 Prof Hawking was given only a few years to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease.

The illness left him in a wheelchair and largely unable to speak except through a voice synthesiser.

In a statement his children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said: “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today.

“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.”

They praised his “courage and persistence” and said his “brilliance and humour” inspired people across the world.

“He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”

A book of condolence has been opened at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge, where Prof Hawking was a fellow.


Astronomers Catch Faint Message from Universe’s First Stars

Original Post from Inside Science

Signal hints at possible interactions between ordinary hydrogen and dark matter in the early universe, but some scientists remain skeptical.

(Inside Science) — After spending nearly two decades listening to the skies with radio telescopes, astronomers have finally detected a long-sought-after and subtle signal from the early universe. A group of scientists claim to have found a sign of radiation from the very first generation of stars, only about 180 million years after the Big Bang — just a blink of an eye to the cosmos.

“Other than the cosmic microwave background radiation, this is the earliest observation of any kind in the universe. Compare it to Hubble looking at the first galaxies at 400 million years old; we’re looking at a time roughly half that age,” said Judd Bowman, a cosmologist at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona and lead author of the research, published today in the journal Nature.

During an era known as the “cosmic dawn,” the first stars were forged from primordial hydrogen and helium gas. Their ultraviolet light reached free hydrogen gas in the surrounding regions, interacting with the atoms in a way that left a key signature in the radio spectrum from the afterglow of the Big Bang. Looking for signatures like this helps astronomers probe the early moments of the universe when it was first beginning to form its structure.

Cover image:

Artist’s rendering of how the first stars in the universe may have looked.

Image credits: N.R. Fuller, National Science Foundation





Could the Stability of Gravitational Waves Rule Out Hidden Dimensions?

From Science News

When it comes to the dimensions of spacetime, what you see may be what you get.

Using observations from the collision of two neutron stars that made headlines in 2017 (SN: 11/11/17, p. 6), scientists found no evidence of gravity leaking into hidden dimensions. The number of observed large spatial dimensions — kilometer-scale or bigger — is still limited to the three we know and love, the researchers report January 24 at

Just as insects floating on a pond may be unaware of what’s above or below the water’s surface, our 3-D world might be part of a higher-dimensional universe that we can’t directly observe. However, says astrophysicist David Spergel of Princeton University, a coauthor of the new study, “gravity might be able to explore those other dimensions.”

Such extra dimensions might explain some conundrums in physics, such as the existence of dark matter (an as-yet-unidentified source of mass in the universe) and dark energy (which causes the universe’s expansion rate to accelerate), says coauthor Daniel Holz, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago. “That’s why people get excited about these modifications.”

To look for any hint of leaking gravity, scientists turned to the light and gravitational waves emitted in the neutron star smashup detected on August 17, 2017


Could We have Found Evidence of a Multiverse?

From Space Academy

For many years, scientists have been very much baffled by a weird anomaly far away in space: a mysterious “Cold Spot” about 1.8 billion light-years across. It is cooler than its surroundings by around 0.00015 degrees Celsius (0.00027 degrees Fahrenheit), a fact astronomers discovered by measuring background radiation throughout the universe.

Previously, astronomers believed that this space could be cooler simply because it had less matter in it than most sections of space. They dubbed it a massive supervoid and estimated that it had 10,000 galaxies fewer than other comparable sections of space.


Is the ‘origin’ of Life a Natural Consequence of Physics?

Following on from his appearance in Dan Brown’s latest novel ‘Origin’, Jeremy English publishes more research on his hypothesis that ‘life’ is a natural consequence of the laws of physics. Original post via The Space Academy.

A few years back, a remarkable new hypothesis made its way into the scientific zeitgeist – namely, that life is an inevitable consequence of physics. The author of this concept, an associate professor of biophysics at MIT named Jeremy England, has now published the first major papers testing out this idea, and it’s looking like he might be right on the money.

England’s hypothesis is a key bridge between physics and biology. Although it’s not yet conclusively proven, it potentially holds the key to answering one of the greatest questions of all: Where did we come from?

Here’s what his work is arguing. Thanks to the second law of thermodynamics, the universe is heading towards a state of complete structural disorder. It’s tumbling towards a state where everything is essentially the same no matter how the constituent parts are arranged. READ MORE…

A Major Step Towards Finding Dark Matter

Via Science Alert

In our eagerness to identity the Universe’s occult phenomena of dark energy and dark matter, we often forget that most of its better defined particles also seem to be MIA.

Relax. We now have our first solid piece of evidence that this matter has been hiding in the delicate threads of cosmic webbing bridging neighbouring galaxies, right where the models predicted.


Feature image: S.Epps & M.Hudson/University of Waterloo

Could We Be Wrong About Gravitational Waves?

“In 2010, Erik Verlinde surprised the world with a completely new theory of gravity. According to Verlinde, gravity is not a fundamental force of nature, but an emergent phenomenon. In the same way that temperature arises from the movement of microscopic particles, gravity emerges from the changes of fundamental bits of information, stored in the very structure of spacetime.”

Read More (on The Space Academy)