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Black hole is sleeping giant

This image shows the elliptical galaxy NGC 4889 in front of hundreds of background galaxies, and deeply embedded within the Coma galaxy cluster. Well-hidden from human eyes, there is a gigantic supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy. Image credit: NASA & ESA

This image shows the elliptical galaxy NGC 4889 in front of hundreds of background galaxies, and deeply embedded within the Coma galaxy cluster. Well-hidden from human eyes, there is a gigantic supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. Image credit: NASA & ESA

At the heart of galaxy NGC 4889 lurks one of the most massive black holes ever discovered. Astronomers think this giant has stopped feeding and is now resting.

Video: The science of kissing

Today’s Friday FAQ: Why do we kiss? Well, duh, because it feels good. But why does it feel good?

Moon and Uranus in Pisces February 12

View larger. | José Luis Ruiz Gómez in Almería, Spain captured Uranus near the moon last month.  He wrote:

View larger. | José Luis Ruiz Gómez in Almería, Spain captured Uranus near the moon last month, on January 15, 2016. He wrote: “Why not try?”

Tonight – February 12, 2016 – the waxing crescent moon and planet Uranus, the seventh planet outward from the sun, float in front of the constellation Pisces the Fishes. Although Uranus will remain within Pisces’ borders for the rest of this year, the moon will leave Pisces after a few more days.

Young moon in evening sky

View larger. | Young moon on February 10, 2016 by Jean-Baptiste Feldmann in France.

View larger. | Young moon on February 10, 2016 by Jean-Baptiste Feldmann in France.

After storms and high winds in England, France and Germany this week, a moment of serenity with a crescent moon.

Gravitational waves’ new window on cosmos

EarthSky News with Deborah Byrd for February 11, 2016. To say that this morning’s announcement of the detection of gravitational waves was momentous is an understatement. At the announcement in Washington D.C. this morning, scientists struggled to find powerful-enough words to convey their excitement.

Gravitational waves detected!

Gravitational waves are created in some of the most violent events in our universe, such as the merger of two black holes.  one.Image via Swinburne Astronomy Productions / NASA JPL.

Gravitational waves are created in some of the most violent events in our universe, such as the merger of two black holes. one.Image via Swinburne Astronomy Productions / NASA JPL.

The science world has buzzed with rumors about this morning’s announcement by LIGO all week but now it’s for real. Scientists have detected gravitational waves. David Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Laboratory at Caltech – compared our newly acquired ability to detect these elusive waves to Galileo’s first use of a telescope 400 years ago. Few doubt that this discovery will be worth a Nobel Prize. These mysterious ripples in spacetime were predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity 100 years ago. They’ll let us explore the universe in a whole new way.

Rare salamander lays eggs in Slovenia cave

A tour guide at Postojna Cave Park first noticed an egg attached to the wall of an aquarium holding captive olm.

A tour guide first noticed an egg attached to the wall of an aquarium holding captive olm. Image via Postojna Cave Park in Slovenia.

Slovenian folklore speaks of baby dragons flushed from parents’ subterranean lairs. Today, we know these rare creatures as the olm, and one of them has laid eggs.

Galaxies hidden by Milky Way revealed

An artist’s impression of the galaxies found in the ‘Zone of Avoidance’ behind the Milky Way. This scene has been created using the actual positional data of the new galaxies and randomly populating the region with galaxies of different sizes, types and colours.  Image credit: ICRAR

Artist’s impression of galaxies found in the ‘Zone of Avoidance’ behind our Milky Way galaxy. The artist created this scene using the actual positional data of newly studied hidden galaxies and randomly populating the region with galaxies of different sizes, types and colours. Image via the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), in Australia.

An international team of astronomers used a radio telescope in Australia – equipped with an innovative receiver – to peer through the stars and dust of our Milky Way galaxy. And what did they find? More galaxies. In this way, they’ve taken steps forward in explaining the Great Attractor – a giant concentration of mass that’s pulling our Milky Way and hundreds of thousands of other galaxies toward it.

Mercury and Venus close before sunrise

2016-february-11-venus-mercury

Technically speaking, Mercury and Venus will not have a conjunction this month. However, these two worlds will be staging a quasi-conjunction over the next several mornings. A quasi-conjunction is said to take place whenever two planets come to within 5o of each other on the sky’s dome, yet do not align north and south of one another.

Lightning strikes, seen from ISS

Is this cool or what? Time-lapse video from International Space Station astronaut Tim Peake.