New Map of the Universe Unveiled – Video Inside

The largest digital image of our view of the night sky, which maps the universe in more detail than ever before, has been released. Check out the video below for details.

There Are More Stars Than We Thought

It’s often very difficult for people with a mild interest in astronomy to understand how vast the universe it. It just got a little harder.

Scientists are saying the universe actually contains 3 times as many starts as they thought it did.

From the BBC:

Astronomers say the Universe may contain three times the number of stars as is currently thought.

Their assessment is based on new observations showing other galaxies may have very different structures to our Milky Way galaxy.

The researchers tell the journal Nature that more stars probably means many more planets as well – perhaps “trillions” of Earth-like worlds.

The Yale University-led study used the Keck telescope in Hawaii.

It found that galaxies older than ours contain 20 times more red dwarf stars than more recent ones.

Red dwarfs are smaller and dimmer than our own Sun; it is only recently that telescopes have been powerful enough to detect them.

According to Yale’s Professor Pieter van Dokkum, who led the research, the discovery also increases the estimate for the number of planets in the Universe and therefore greatly increases the likelihood of life existing elsewhere in the cosmos.

“There are possibly trillions of Earths orbiting these stars,” he said. “Red dwarfs are typically more than 10 billion years old and so have been around long enough for complex life to evolve on planets around them. It’s one reason why people are interested in this type of star.”


Report: Solar System 2 Million Years Older than Thought

This news come via the always excellent io9. Scientists have calculated that the solar system is 2 million years older than previously thought – which has huge implications.

From the io9 post:

An ancient meteorite reveals the solar system is 4.5682 billion years old, 1.9 million years older than we thought. The difference seems insignificant, but it could mean our solar system was actually born in the blast furnace of a supernova.

In order to determine the age of the solar system, scientists look for meteorites that date back to the beginnings of the solar system. Some of these meteorites have tiny mineral deposits known as calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions, or CAIs. These minerals were trapped and preserved inside the meteorites formed around them. Because CAIs are thought to be among the very first solids to condense out of the nebular gas that birthed the solar system, they provide the oldest possible measurement of the solar system’s age.

New analysis of meteorite NWA 2364, which touched down in Morocco in 2004, has revealed a centimeter-wide CAI that is 4.5682 billion years old. Arizona State researchers Meenakshi Wadhwa and Audrey Bouvier arrived at this date by measuring the presence of three different lead isotopes in the CAI, two of which are the product of uranium decay. Because uranium takes billions of years to fully decay into lead, it’s possible to measure the levels of decay and figure out an extremely precise age of the sample from the distribution of the isotopes.

Read the rest here at io9.