Our understanding of distant stars has increased dramatically in recent decades. Thanks to improved instruments, scientists are able to see farther and clearer, thus learning more about star systems and the planets that orbit them (aka. extra-solar planets). Unfortunately, it will be some time before we develop the necessary technology to explore these stars up close.
When low- to middleweight stars like our Sun approach the end of their life cycles they eventually cast off their outer layers, leaving behind a dense, white dwarf star. These outer layers became a massive cloud of dust and gas, which is characterized by bright colors and intricate patterns, known as a planetary nebula. Someday, our Sun will turn into such a nebula, one which could be viewed from light-years away.
Most people try their best to avoid residing six feet (or more) underground. But if you want to live on Mars, that might be your only option. This week, SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell sat down for an interview with CNBC. During a chat about the synergy between Elon Musk’s various companies, she made a bold prediction about humanity’s potential future on the Red Planet.
It is springtime in the Northern hemisphere. Countless buds that have been waiting patiently on the stems and branches of trees and shrubs are now blossoming into life. The cosmic equivalent of this season is the time between a few hundred million and a billion years after the Big Bang. This is when the first stars and galaxies ignited, spewing light into the dark universe.
Fast Radio Bursts (FBRs) have fascinated astronomers ever since the first one was detected in 2007. This event was named the “Lorimer Burst” after it discoverer, Duncan Lorimer from West Virginia University. In radio astronomy, this phenomenon refers to transient radio pulses coming from distant cosmological sources, which typically last a few milliseconds on average.
NASA’s next planet hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), is one step closer to searching for new worlds after successfully completing a lunar flyby on May 17. The spacecraft passed about 5,000 miles from the Moon, which provided a gravity assist that helped TESS sail toward its final working orbit.
Using the unparalleled sharpness and ultraviolet observational capabilities of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, an international team of astronomers has created the most comprehensive high-resolution ultraviolet-light survey of star-forming galaxies in the local Universe. The catalogue contains about 8000 clusters and 39 million hot blue stars.
It’s a staple of science fiction, and something many people have fantasized about at one time or another: the idea of sending out spaceships with colonists and transplanting the seed of humanity among the stars. Between discovering new worlds, becoming an interstellar species, and maybe even finding extra-terrestrial civilizations, the dream of spreading beyond the Solar System is one that can’t become reality soon enough!
Galileo Galilei discovered Jupiter's moon Europa in 1610. More than four centuries later, astronomers are still making discoveries about its icy surface. With a diameter of almost 2,000 miles, an orbit equivalent to 3.5 Earth days and a mass about 65 percent of Earth's Moon, Europa is considered by some scientists a likely place to look for present-day environments suitable for life.
At present, there are over a dozen robotic missions exploring the atmosphere and surface of Mars. These include, among others, the Curiosity rover, the Opportunity rover, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter, and the soon-to-arrive InSight Lander. In the coming decade, many more missions are planned.
Along with Mars, Jupiter’s moon Europa has long captured the imagination of science fiction writers as a potential place for life in the solar system beyond Earth. In science fact, missions have found hints of a subsurface water ocean below the icy crust of the moon. And where there’s warm, liquid water, and the right chemistry, there could indeed be life.