Space & Exploration

Red Nuggets’ Are Galactic Gold for Astronomers

Red Nuggets’ Are Galactic Gold for Astronomers

About a decade ago, astronomers discovered a population of small, but massive galaxies called “red nuggets.” A new study using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory indicates that black holes have squelched star formation in these galaxies and may have used some of the untapped stellar fuel to grow to unusually massive proportions.

New model predicts that we’re probably the only advanced civilization in the observable universe

New model predicts that we’re probably the only advanced civilization in the observable universe

The Fermi Paradox remains a stumbling block when it comes to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI). Named in honor of the famed physicist Enrico Fermi who first proposed it, this paradox addresses the apparent disparity between the expected probability that intelligent life is plentiful in the Universe, and the apparent lack of evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence (ETI).

How we proved Einstein right on galactic scales – and what it means for dark energy and dark matter

 How we proved Einstein right on galactic scales – and what it means for dark energy and dark matter

Gravity may be the weakest of the fundamental forces in nature, but it is ultimately what enabled life on Earth to evolve. Thanks to its weak attractiveness over long distances, mass in the early universe could clump together and form galaxies, stars and planets such as our own.

How an advanced civilization could stop dark energy from preventing their future exploration

How an advanced civilization could stop dark energy from preventing their future exploration

During the 1930s, astronomers came to realize that the Universe is in a state of expansion. By the 1990s, they realized that the rate at which it is expansion is accelerating, giving rise to the theory of “Dark Energy”. Because of this, it is estimated that in the next 100 billion years, all stars within the Local Group – the part of the Universe that includes a total of 54 galaxies, including the Milky Way – will expand beyond the cosmic horizon.

Could cyanobacteria help to terraform mars?

Could cyanobacteria help to terraform mars?

Billions of years ago, Earth’s atmosphere was much different than it is today. Whereas our current atmosphere is a delicate balance of nitrogen gas, oxygen and trace gases, the primordial atmosphere was the result of volcanic outgassing – composed primarily of carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia, and other harsh chemicals. In this respect, our planet’s ancient atmosphere has something in common with Mars’ current atmosphere.

Astronomers watch as black hole drags an exploding star to its death

Astronomers watch as black hole drags an exploding star to its death

Astronomers searching for supernova explosions accidentally stumbled upon a supermassive blackhole recently as it devoured a wandering star that had fallen into its grasp. It is now hoped that this amazing discovery – captured for the first time – will help scientists understand the environment in which galaxies developed billions of years ago. 

Ceres has even more organic molecules on it than previously thought!

Ceres has even more organic molecules on it than previously thought!

In March of 2015, NASA’s Dawn mission became the first spacecraft to visit the protoplanet Ceres, the largest body in the Main Asteroid Belt. It was also the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet, having arrived a few months before the New Horizons mission made its historic flyby of Pluto. Since that time, Dawn has revealed much about Ceres, which in turn is helping scientists to understand the early history of the Solar System. 

The black hole ultimate solar system: a supermassive black hole, 9 stars and 550 planets

The black hole ultimate solar system: a supermassive black hole, 9 stars and 550 planets

Shortly after Einstein published his Theory of General Relativity in 1915, physicists began to speculate about the existence of black holes. These regions of space-time from which nothing (not even light) can escape are what naturally occur at the end of most massive stars’ life cycle. While black holes are generally thought to be voracious eaters, some physicists have wondered if they could also support planetary systems of their own.

A meteoroid smashed into the side of a crater on mars and then started a landslide

A meteoroid smashed into the side of a crater on mars and then started a landslide

In 2006, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) established orbit around the Red Planet. Using an advanced suite of scientific instruments – which include cameras, spectrometers, and radar – this spacecraft has been analyzing landforms, geology, minerals and ice on Mars for years and assisting with other missions. While the mission was only meant to last two years, the orbiter has remained in operation for the past twelve.

A powerful dust storm has darkened the skies over opportunity on mars

A powerful dust storm has darkened the skies over opportunity on mars

NASA’s Opportunity mission can rightly be called the rover that just won’t quit. Originally, this robotic rover was only meant to operate on Mars for 90 Martian days (or sols), which works out to a little over 90 Earth days. However, since it made its landing on January 25th, 2004, it has remained in operation for 14 years, 4 months, and 18 days – exceeding its operating plan by a factor of 50!

ALMA Discovers Trio of Infant Planets around Newborn Star

ALMA Discovers Trio of Infant Planets around Newborn Star

Two independent teams of astronomers have used ALMA to uncover convincing evidence that three young planets are in orbit around the infant star HD 163296. Using a novel planet-finding technique, the astronomers identified three disturbances in the gas-filled disc around the young star: the strongest evidence yet that newly formed planets are in orbit there. These are considered the first planets to be discovered with ALMA.

One way to find aliens would be to search for artificial rings of satellites: Clarke Belts

One way to find aliens would be to search for artificial rings of satellites: Clarke Belts

When it comes to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) in the Universe, there is the complicated matter of what to be on the lookout for. Beyond the age-old question of whether or not intelligent life exists elsewhere in the Universe (statistically speaking, it is very likely that it does), there’s also the question of whether or not we would be able to recognize it if and when we saw it.

Shades of Martian Darkness

Shades of Martian Darkness

Science operations for NASA's Opportunity rover have been temporarily suspended as it waits out a dust storm on Mars. This series of images shows simulated views of a darkening Martian sky blotting out the Sun from NASA's Opportunity rover's point of view, with the right side simulating Opportunity's current view in the global dust storm (June 2018). The left starts with a blindingly bright mid-afternoon sky, with the sun appearing bigger because of brightness. The right shows the Sun so obscured by dust it looks like a pinprick. Each frame corresponds to a tau value, or measure of opacity: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11.

Does climate change explain why we don’t see any aliens out there?

Does climate change explain why we don’t see any aliens out there?

In the 1950s, famed physicist Enrico Fermi posed the question that encapsulated one of the toughest questions in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI): “Where the heck is everybody?” What he meant was, given the age of the Universe (13.8 billion years), the sheer number of galaxies (between 1 and 2 trillion), and the overall number of planets, why has humanity still not found evidence of extra-terrestrial intelligence?

There are strange objects near the center of the galaxy. They look like gas, but behave like stars

There are strange objects near the center of the galaxy. They look like gas, but behave like stars

During the 1970s, astronomer became aware of a massive radio source at the center of our galaxy that they later realized was a Supermassive Black Hole (SMBH) – which has since been named Sagittarius A*. And in a recent survey conducted by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers discovered evidence for hundreds or even thousands of black holes located in the same vicinity of the Milky Way.