Scientists have been searching for “dark matter” – an unknown and invisible substance thought to make up the vast majority of matter in the universe – for nearly a century. The reason for this persistence is that dark matter is needed to account for the fact that galaxies don’t seem to obey the fundamental laws of physics. However, dark matter searches have remained unsuccessful.
Some very clever people have figured out how to use MSL Curiosity’s navigation sensors to measure the gravity of a Martian mountain. What they’ve found contradicts previous thinking about Aeolis Mons, aka Mt. Sharp. Aeolis Mons is a mountain in the center of Gale Crater, Curiosity’s landing site in 2012.
Ever since astronauts began going to space for extended periods of time, it has been known that long-term exposure to zero-gravity or microgravity comes with its share of health effects. These include muscle atrophy and loss of bone density, but also extend to other areas of the body leading to diminished organ function, circulation, and even genetic changes.
Quantum physicists have toiled to no avail for decades in their attempts to subsume gravity (the first cosmological force ever discovered) into quantum physics. A group of researchers recently proposed a new experiment that could redefine nature of gravity, and transform our understanding of the fundamental forces of the universe.
There’s one force whose effects are so deeply entrenched in our everyday lives that we probably don’t think much about it at all: gravity. Gravity is the force that causes attraction between masses. It’s why when you drop a pen, it falls to the ground. But because gravitational force is proportional to the mass of the object, only large objects like planets create tangible attractions. This is why the study of gravity traditionally focused on massive objects like planets.
Gravity is a pretty awesome fundamental force. If it wasn’t for the Earth’s comfortable 1 g, which causes objects to fall towards the Earth at a speed of 9.8 m/s², we’d all float off into space. And without it, all us terrestrial species would slowly wither and die as our muscles degenerated, our bones became brittle and weak, and our organs ceased to function properly.
Around four decades ago, astronomers became aware that our galaxy, the Milky Way, was moving through space at a much faster rate than expected. At 2.2-million kilometres an hour, the speed of the Milky Way through the Cosmos is 2,500 times faster than a cruising airliner; 55 times more than the escape velocity from Earth; and a factor of two greater than even the galaxy’s own escape velocity! But where this motion comes from is a mystery.
It’s easy to assume that astronauts float in space because they are far away from the Earth’s gravitational force. But look at the moon. It is much further away than the International Space Station, yet it orbits around the Earth because it is perpetually attracted by its gravitational pull. So if the Earth’s gravity can affect the moon, the astronauts cannot be floating because there is no gravity where they are.