Mysterious red spots on Mercury get names – but what are they?

 Mysterious red spots on Mercury get names – but what are they?

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, but far from being a dull cinder of a world, it has instead turned out to be a real eye opener for geologists. Among the revelations by NASA’s MESSENGER probe, which first flew past Mercury in 2008 and orbited it between 2011 and 2015, is the discovery of a hundred or so bright red spots scattered across the globe. Now they are at last being named.

Did you know the earth has a second magnetic field? Its oceans

Did you know the earth has a second magnetic field? Its oceans

Earth’s magnetic field is one of the most mysterious features of our planet. It is also essential to life as we know it, ensuring that our atmosphere is not stripped away by solar wind and shielding life on Earth from harmful radiation. For some time, scientists have theorized that it is the result of a dynamo action in our core, where the liquid outer core revolves around the solid inner core and in the opposite direction of the Earth’s rotation.

The NewSpace revolution is about to bring us tiny space telescopes we can all control

The NewSpace revolution is about to bring us tiny space telescopes we can all control

One of the defining characteristics of the modern era of space exploration is the way the public and private aerospace companies (colloquially referred to as the NewSpace industry) and are taking part like never before. Thanks to cheaper launch services and the development of small satellites that can be built using off-the-shelf electronics (aka. CubeSats and microsats), universities and research institutions are also able to conduct research in space.

How we found a giant ichthyosaur almost as big as a blue whale

 How we found a giant ichthyosaur almost as big as a blue whale

When fossil collector Paul De la Salle discovered pieces of a giant bone on Lilstock beach in Somerset in May 2016, he didn’t realise he had stumbled on a clue to a near 170-year-old mystery. Returning to the beach the following month, he found more pieces that together measured about a metre in length. De la Salle realised he was looking at the lower jaw of a huge ichthyosaur, an ancient type of marine reptile that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs.

Dense star clusters could be the places where black hole mergers are common

Dense star clusters could be the places where black hole mergers are common

In February of 2016, scientists working for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) made history when they announced the first-ever detection of gravitational waves. Not only did this discovery confirm a century-old prediction made by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it also confirmed the existence of stellar binary black holes – which merged to produce the signal in the first place.

Supercontinent formation may be linked to a cycle of supertides

 Supercontinent formation may be linked to a cycle of supertides

Earth’s crust is made up of fractured slabs of rock, like a broken shell on an egg. These plates move around at speeds of about 5cm per year – and eventually this movement brings all the continents together and form what is known as a supercontinent. The last supercontinent on Earth was Pangaea, which existed between 300-180m years ago.

Living underground on other worlds. Exploring lava tubes

Living underground on other worlds. Exploring lava tubes

The Moon and Mars will probably be the first places in the Solar System that humanity will try to live after leaving the safety and security of Earth. But those worlds are still incredibly harsh environments, with no protection from radiation, little to no atmosphere, and extreme temperatures.

Io afire with volcanoes under Juno’s gaze

Io afire with volcanoes under Juno’s gaze

Volcanic activity on Io was discovered by Voyager 1 imaging scientist Linda Morabito. She spotted a little bump on Io’s limb while analyzing a Voyager image and thought at first it was an undiscovered moon. Moments later she realized that wasn’t possible — it would have been seen by earthbound telescopes long ago. Morabito and the Voyager team soon came to realize they were seeing a volcanic plume rising 190 miles (300 km) off the surface of Io. It was the first time in history that an active volcano had been detected beyond the Earth.

A Magnetar Just Woke Up After Three Years of Silence

A Magnetar Just Woke Up After Three Years of Silence

When stars reach the end of their main sequence, they undergo a gravitational collapse, ejecting their outermost layers in a supernova explosion. What remains afterward is a dense, spinning core primarily made up of neutrons (aka. a neutron star), of which only 3000 are known to exist in the Milky Way Galaxy. An even rarer subset of neutron stars are magnetars, only two dozen of which are known in our galaxy.