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Scientists discover ancient solar system hosting five Earth-sized planets. Of black holes, naked singularities, and quantum gravity. Spooky alignment of quasar axes across billions of light-years with large-scale structure. Vanishing dark matter points to a dark future for our Universe. A study conducted at the University of Rome and the University of Portsmouth is suggesting that the amount of dark matter in the cosmos, the catalyst that facilitates the creation of new stars and galaxies, is decreasing as it interacts with dark energy.

Vanishing dark matter points to a dark future for our Universe

If this is true it would mean that, as time passes, the Universe could be destined to end up a desolate and nearly featureless place (even more so than it already is). Since the days of Newton, we've known that gravity attracts ordinary matter closer together. Applied to the vastness of space, this means that the stars and galaxies in the Universe, though they are still traveling further and further apart in the wake of the Big Bang, should gradually slow down, come to a stop and eventually start collapsing toward each other. However, over the past few months, several cosmological surveys have cast doubts on the validity of this model. Different theories have been advanced to resolve these discrepancies.

Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time in 4,000 Years of Mapping the Universe. Long before Galileo pioneered the telescope, antagonizing the church and unleashing a “hummingbird effect” of innovation, humanity had been busy cataloging the heavens through millennia of imaginative speculative maps of the cosmos.

Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time in 4,000 Years of Mapping the Universe

We have always sought to make visible the invisible forces we long to understand, the mercy and miracle of existence, and nothing beckons to us with more intense allure than the majesty and mystery of the universe. Four millennia of that mesmerism-made-visible is what journalist, photographer, and astrovisualization scholar Michael Benson explores with great dedication and discernment in Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time (public library) — a pictorial catalog of our quest to order the cosmos and grasp our place in it, a sensemaking process defined by what Benson aptly calls our “gradually dawning, forever incomplete situational awareness.” Supermassive Black Hole Discovered Inside Tiny Dwarf Galaxy. Feel Like Having Your Teeny-Little Mind Blown? Just Start Watching. It Won't Take Long. What Will First Photos of Black Holes Look Like?

A giant black hole is thought to lurk at the center of the Milky Way, but it has never been directly seen.

What Will First Photos of Black Holes Look Like?

Now astronomers have predicted what the first pictures of this black hole will look like when taken with technology soon to be available. In particular, researchers have found that pictures of a black hole ― or, more precisely, the boundaries around them ― will take a crescent form, rather than the blobby shape that is often predicted.

By modeling what these pictures will look like, scientists say they are preparing to interpret the photos that will become available from telescopes currently under construction. Astronomers discover how early planets fuel the growth of their own stars. Observations made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile, which is scheduled for completion this year, have solved a longstanding mystery in solar system formation.

Astronomers discover how early planets fuel the growth of their own stars

They showed how protoplanets forming around a young star can use their own gravitational pull to slingshot matter in the direction of their host star, fueling its growth. When a new star is formed, the surrounding clouds of gas and dust, which amount to a very large mass, slowly begin to orbit it creating a flat disk. Best Space Pictures of the Week - Dec. 15, 2012. Hercules A: Huge black hole emits two beams of matter into space. Black holes may be the most ironic objects in the Universe.

Hercules A: Huge black hole emits two beams of matter into space.

They are objects with gravity so fierce that if you venture too close, literally no force in the Universe can prevent you from falling in. Your Help Needed to Study Andromeda Galaxy. A group of astronomers is inviting the public to join their star-hunting team in a search of the bright Andromeda Galaxy.

Your Help Needed to Study Andromeda Galaxy

The project aims to identify star clusters in our neighboring galaxy, also known as M31. All it takes to find the clusters in Andromeda is an Internet-enabled computer and a desire to help, said Anil Seth, the team's lead investigator. "No special training is required," he said. The so-called "Andromeda Project," which began Wednesday (Dec. 5), will generate the largest sample of clusters from a single spiral galaxy when it is completed. Scientists expect the project could identify 2,500 new star clusters when finished. "The general benefit is to better understand how spiral galaxies form," said Seth, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Utah. Monster Black Hole Is Biggest Ever Found. Astronomers have discovered what may be the most massive black hole ever known in a small galaxy about 250 million light-years from Earth, scientists say.

Monster Black Hole Is Biggest Ever Found

The supermassive black hole has a mass equivalent to 17 billion suns and is located inside the galaxy NGC 1277 in the constellation Perseus. It makes up about 14 percent of its host galaxy's mass, compared with the 0.1 percent a normal black hole would represent, scientists said. Glimpse at early universe finds expansion slowdown. Farthest Known Galaxy in the Universe Discovered. A new celestial wonder has stolen the title of most distant object ever seen in the universe, astronomers report.

Farthest Known Galaxy in the Universe Discovered

The Topsy-Turvy Galaxy NGC 1313. Massive Planets Might Escape Stellar Engulfment Largely Undiminished. Artist's conception of the planets orbiting KIC 05807616.

Massive Planets Might Escape Stellar Engulfment Largely Undiminished

Credit: S. Charpinet Having your planet swallowed by a star is no fun. But some planets might be able to run the astrophysical gauntlet and make it through more or less intact. When a star comparable to or somewhat larger than the sun enters advanced age, it swells up into a red giant, expanding far beyond its original radius. Mercury, Venus and Earth are all too small to endure engulfment, and will quickly spiral in toward the sun due to drag forces from the surrounding stellar atmosphere.

New telescope array reveals death spiral of old star. As stars like our Sun die, they swell to a huge size and shed much of the gas in their outer layers.

New telescope array reveals death spiral of old star

This process seeds the galaxy with raw material for the next generation of stars and planets. Studying the last stages of stellar evolution helps astronomers model the process by which heavier elements are distributed through interstellar space (and incidentally provides some of the most beautiful astronomical images). A refutation of the history channel show Ancient Aliens. Dark Energy Camera captures its first images. Australian study backs major assumption of cosmology.

In mankind's attempts to gain some understanding of this marvelous place in which we live, we have slowly come to accept some principles to help guide our search. One such principle is that the Universe, on a large enough scale, is homogeneous, meaning that one part looks pretty much like another. Recent studies by a group of Australian researchers have established that, on sizes greater than about 250 million light years (Mly), the Universe is indeed statistically homogeneous, thereby reinforcing this cosmological principle. View all. The Habitable Exoplanets Catalog. Click image for more details, or click here for larger version. Does Triton Have a Subsurface Ocean? NASA's Dawn probe sets its sights on dwarf planet Ceres.

After 14 months spent collecting data on the asteroid Vesta, Dawn will soon start its journey toward the dwarf planet Ceres (Image: JPL/NASA) Image Gallery (6 images) Black Holes: Millions Revealed By NASA's WISE Space Telescope. Radiation Belt Probes Mission: NASA Launches Twin Satellites On Quest To Protect Earth From Solar Outbursts. CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Twin satellites rocketed into orbit Thursday on a quest to explore Earth's treacherous radiation belts and protect the planet from solar outbursts. NASA launched the science probes before dawn, sending them skyward aboard an unmanned rocket. Newly discovered planetary system alters our view of planet formation. The discovery of Kepler-47 shows that binary stars can not only house single planets, but planetary systems too. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T.Pyle) Almost a year ago, scientists discovered a planet which totally changed our view of planet formation.

Stunning Galaxy Photos From NASA's WISE Telescope.