It came from outer space … and went back there two weeks later, having astonished and excited astronomers and planetary scientists. A cigar-shaped object, less than half a kilometre long and barely bright enough to be detected by the world’s most powerful telescopes, payed us a flying visit in October this year – reminding us that the heavens still hold plenty of surprises.
Some have suggested solar geoengineering — the injection of aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight away from the planet — as a way to counter global warming. However, new research suggests the radical process could do as much harm as good.
We recently bade farewell to the Cassini spacecraft, which after 13 years of faithfully orbiting Saturn and its moons was directed to plunge into the giant planet’s atmosphere. The reason for the “grand finale” was to guard against the possibility that Cassini might crash into one of Saturn’s moons – in particular Enceladus.
In this new space age, we are reaching far beyond the Moon and space travel and considering colonizing other planets. Stephen Hawking has expressed just how dire this need to move away from Earth may be.
Observations of both gravitational waves and light originating from merging neutron stars suggest that the speed of gravity is practically the speed of light. This confirms the theory of general relativity and gives us greater insight into the cosmos.
Newly discovered exoplanets lie within the habitable zone - a physical distance from a host star that supports the existence of liquid water and, potentially, life. Further data confirms these 20 exoplanets might be the most promising yet.
Ethiopia tends to conjure images of sprawling dusty deserts, bustling streets in Addis Ababa or the precipitous cliffs of the Simien Mountains – possibly with a distance runner bounding along in the background. Yet the country is also one of the most volcanically active on Earth, thanks to Africa’s Great Rift Valley, which runs right through its heart.
The discovery of extra-solar planets has certainly heated up in the past few years. With the deployment of the Kepler mission in 2009, several thousands of exoplanet candidates have been discovered and over 2,500 have been confirmed. In many cases, these planets have been gas giants orbiting close to their respective stars (aka. “Hot Jupiters”), which has confounded some commonly-held notions of how and where planets form.
This month, scientists were able to confirm for the first time that a visitor from another part of the galaxy has entered our neck of the celestial woods. This strange space rock, initially thought to be a comet, is the first interstellar object we have ever been able to observe within our solar system.
The Fermi Paradox is the most well-known theory regarding evidence of alien life. Many have come forward to provide potential answers, and planetary scientist Alan Stern has one of his own: what if aliens exist in oceans deep beneath the surface?
As an astrophysicist, I am always struck by the fact that even the wildest science-fiction stories tend to be distinctly human in character. No matter how exotic the locale or how unusual the scientific concepts, most science fiction ends up being about quintessentially human (or human-like) interactions, problems, foibles and challenges.
Finding planets beyond our Solar System is already tough, laborious work. But when it comes to confirmed exoplanets, an even more challenging task is determining whether or not these worlds have their own satellites – aka. “exomoons”. Nevertheless, much like the study of exoplanets themselves, the study of exomoons presents some incredible opportunities to learn more about our Universe.
Eyes play a prominent role in our daily social encounters and are sometimes metaphorically referred to as windows to our souls. There now is compelling evidence to support the notion that much information about another person’s mind can be gleaned from his or her eyes.
Scientists are seriously discussing the ability to create a new universe in a lab. This is mostly a philosophical discussion but more scientists are agreeing that it could actually some day be possible.
The most accepted theory of the origin of the universe is still the Big Bang. The theory proposes the universe started from a small singularity (the gravitational kind), then began to expand over the succeeding 13.8 billion years. Although this expansion has its own issues, a bigger question remains: what preceded the Big Bang?
For decades, the predominant cosmological model used by scientists has been based on the theory that in addition to baryonic matter – aka. “normal” or “luminous” matter, which we can see – the Universe also contains a substantial amount of invisible mass. This “Dark Matter” accounts for roughly 26.8% of the mass of the Universe, whereas normal matter accounts for just 4.9%.
A massive solar storm called a coronal mass ejection could knock out Earth's electrical grid and communication systems, causing trillions of dollars in damage. With such an event likely in the future, two astrophysicists have proposed the construction of a shield to protect Earth.
Dark matter and dark energy are two of the greatest mysteries in the cosmos. We're fairly certain that both exist, yet their nature remains to be fully understood. Now, a team of astronomers suggests that dark energy may be a dynamical field.
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science and the Austrian Academy of Sciences have conducted the first quantum video call using the Micius satellite launched in 2016. The call was between Beijing and Vienna, and was completely unhackable.
The multiverse is one of science fiction's most beloved conceits—travel far enough, or enter the right wormhole, and you can meet your alter ego in another universe.But granting parallel universes even exist, will we ever be able to reach them? Leading physicists weigh in with their own idiosyncratic thoughts—which are, as usual, highly entertaining.
A small dot on an old piece of birch bark marks one of the biggest events in the history of mathematics. The bark is actually part of an ancient Indian mathematical document known as the Bakhshali manuscript.
Only 20 years ago butter was the public villain – contributing to raised cholesterol levels and public concern over an increased risk of heart disease. Now this public perception seems to have been reversed, and reality cooking shows seem to use butter in every recipe. But what has caused this shift in perceptions and is it based on scientific evidence?
The seafaring explorers of the 16th century famously found many new homes for humanity in faraway, unknown corners of the world. While it may seem that such colonisation has since ground to a halt, some have argued it is only a matter of time before humans start moving to “exoplanets” in foreign star systems. But how close are we to such an expansion?
We know Australians are consuming too much sugar. The latest results from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show 52% of the population are consuming more than is recommended, and this is affecting weight and dental health.
In February of 2017, astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced the discovery of seven rocky planets around the nearby star of TRAPPIST-1. Not only was this the largest number of Earth-like planets discovered in a single star system to date, the news was also bolstered by the fact that three of these planets were found to orbit within the star’s habitable zone.
The study of extra-solar planets has turned up some rather interesting candidates in the past few years. As of August 1st, 2017, a total of 3,639 exoplanets have been discovered in 2,729 planetary systems and 612 multiple planetary systems. Many of these discoveries have challenged conventional thinking about planets, especially where their sizes and distances from their suns are concerned.
Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer astronomers have constructed the most detailed image ever of a star — the red supergiant star Antares. They have also made the first map of the velocities of material in the atmosphere of a star other than the Sun, revealing unexpected turbulence in Antares’s huge extended atmosphere. The results were published in the journal Nature.