More Evidence for the Gravitational Wave Background of the Universe The gravitational wave background was first detected in 2016. It was announced following the release of the first data set from the European Pulsar Timing Array. A second set of data has just been released and, joined by the Indian Pulsar Timing Array, both studies confirm the existence of the background. The latest theory seems to suggest that we’re seeing the combined signal of supermassive black hole mergers.  Gravitational waves are ripples in spacetime caused by violent processes in the Universe. They were predicted by Einstein back in 1916 as part of his General TheoryRead More →

When Uranus and Neptune Migrated, Three Icy Objects Were Crashing Into Them Every Hour! The giant outer planets haven’t always been in their current position. Uranus and Neptune for example are thought to have wandered through the outer Solar System to their current orbital position. On the way, they accumulated icy, comet-like objects. A new piece of research suggests as many as three kilomerer-sized objects crashed into them every hour increasing their mass. Not only would it increase the mass but it would enrich their atmospheres. Uranus and Neptune are the two outermost planets in our Solar System. They differ from Jupiter and Saturn andRead More →

Astronomers Discover the Second-Lightest “Cotton Candy” Exoplanet to Date. The hunt for extrasolar planets has revealed some truly interesting candidates, not the least of which are planets known as “Hot Jupiters.” This refers to a particular class of gas giants comparable in size to Jupiter but which orbit very closely to their suns. Strangely, there are some gas giants out there that have very low densities, raising questions about their formation and evolution. This is certainly true of the Kepler 51 system, which contains no less than three “super puff” planets similar in size to Jupiter but is about one hundred times less dense. TheseRead More →

Did Earth’s Multicellular Life Depend on Plate Tectonics? How did complex life emerge and evolve on the Earth and what does this mean for finding life beyond Earth? This is what a recent study published in Nature hopes to address as a pair of researchers investigated how plate tectonics, oceans, and continents are responsible for the emergence and evolution of complex life across our planet and how this could address the Fermi Paradox while attempting to improve the Drake Equation regarding why we haven’t found life in the universe and the parameters for finding life, respectively. This study holds the potential to help researchers betterRead More →

Hubble Sees a Brand New Triple Star System In a world that seems to be switching focus from the Hubble Space Telescope to the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble still reminds us it’s there. Another amazing image has been released that shows the triple star system HP Tau, HP Tau G2, and HP Tau G3.  The stars in this wonderful system are young, HP Tau for example is so young that it hasn’t started to fuse hydrogen yet and is only 10 million years old! Hubble was launched in 1990 and since then, has revolutionised our understanding of the Universe. It orbits Earth at anRead More →

The Venerable Hubble Space Telescope Keeps Delivering The world was much different in 1990 when NASA astronauts removed the Hubble Space Telescope from Space Shuttle Discovery’s cargo bay and placed it into orbit. The Cold War was ending, there were only 5.3 billion humans, and the World Wide Web had just come online. Now, the old Soviet Union is gone, replaced by a smaller but no less militaristic Russia. The human population has ballooned to 8.1 billion. The internet is a fixture in daily life. We also have a new, more powerful space telescope, the JWST. But the Hubble keeps delivering, as this latest imageRead More →

The BepiColombo Mission To Mercury is Losing Power BepiColombo is a joint ESA/JAXA mission to Mercury. It was launched in 2018 on a complex trajectory to the Solar System’s innermost planet. The ESA reports that the spacecraft’s thrusters have lost some power. BepiColombo’s mission is to complete a comprehensive investigation of Mercury’s magnetosphere, magnetic field, and internal and external structure. But travelling around in the inner Solar System is complicated, and the BepiColombo spacecraft will use more energy getting to Mercury than it takes to get to Pluto. The spacecraft will perform nine planetary flybys before reaching its destination at the end of 2025. BepiColomboRead More →

Astronauts Could Deploy Extra Arms to Stay Stable on the Moon Walking along on the surface of the Moon, as aptly demonstrated by the Apollo astronauts, is no easy feat.  The gravity at the Moon’s surface is 1/6th of Earth’s and there are plenty of videos of astronauts stumbling, falling and then trying to get up! Engineers have come up with a solution; a robotic arm system that can be attached to an astronauts back pack to give them a helping hand if they fall. The “SuperLimbs” as they have been called will not only aid them as they walk around the surface but alsoRead More →

Not All Black Holes are Ravenous Gluttons Some Supermassive Black Holes (SMBHs) consume vast quantities of gas and dust, triggering brilliant light shows that can outshine an entire galaxy. But others are much more sedate, emitting faint but steady light from their home in the heart of their galaxy. Observations from the now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope help show why that is. It appears that every large galaxy has an SMBH at its heart. This is true of our Milky Way galaxy and of our closest galactic neighbour, Andromeda (M31.) Like all black holes, SMBHs draw material towards them that gathers in an accretion disk. AsRead More →

Hubble views cosmic dust lanes Featured in this new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is a nearly edge-on view of the lenticular galaxy NGC 4753. Lenticular galaxies have an elliptical shape and ill-defined spiral arms. Go to SourceRead More →

Astronomers detect rare neutral atomic-carbon absorbers with deep neural network Recently, an international team led by Prof. Ge Jian from the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences conducted a search for rare weak signals in quasar spectral data released by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) program using deep learning neural networks. Go to SourceRead More →

Data from MAXI J1820+070 shows Einstein was right about how matter plunges into a black hole A team of astrophysicists from the University of Oxford, Newcastle University and the Institute of Astronomy, all in the U.K., working with a colleague from the University of Virginia, in the U.S., has found evidence showing that Albert Einstein was correct when his theory of general relativity predicted how matter that came to close to a black hole would fall into it. Go to SourceRead More →

Webb Sees Black Holes Merging Near the Beginning of Time A long time ago, in two galaxies far, far away, two massive black holes merged. This happened when the Universe was only 740 million years old. A team of astronomers used JWST to study this event, the most distant (and earliest) detection of a black hole merger ever. Such collisions are fairly commonplace in more modern epochs of cosmic history and astronomers know that they lead to ever-more massive black holes in the centers of galaxies. The resulting supermassive black holes can contain millions of billions of solar masses. They affect the evolution of theirRead More →

The Sun Hurls its Most Powerful Flare in a Decades The Sun has been vying for attention these last couple of weeks. First with the appearance of a fabulous complex sunspot region and then with a plethora of solar flares. On the 14th May, yet another was released, this time an X8.7 class flare from the same complex sunspot regions. It was significantly more powerful than the flare that set off the aurora displays which enchanted much of the planet but alas it was not pointing toward the Earth ( sad emoji face.) Even though it was not directed at us, it could still disruptRead More →

Juno Reveals Secrets About Europa’s Icy Surface Europa has always held a fascination to me. I think it’s the concept of a world with a sub-surface ocean and the possibility of life that has inspired me and many others. In September 2022, NASAs Juno spacecraft made a flyby, coming within 355 kilometres of the surface. Since the encounter, scientists have been exploring the images and have identified regions where brine may have bubbled to the surface. Other images revealed possible, previously unidentified steep-walled depressions up to 50km wide, this could be caused by a free-floating ocean!  Juno was launched to Jupiter on 5 August 2011.Read More →

Scientists Test for Quantum Gravity The tension between quantum mechanics and relativity has long been a central split in modern-day physics. Developing a theory of quantum gravity remains one of the great outstanding challenges of the discipline. And yet, no one has yet been able to do it. But as we collect more data, it shines more light on the potential solution, even if some of that data happens to show negative results. That happened recently with a review of data collected at IceCube, a neutrino detector located in the Antarctic ice sheet, and compiled by researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington. TheyRead More →

Q&A: Stellar insights—the Mauve mission’s journey into the cosmos In a quest to study the variety of stars in our galaxy, the Mauve mission has emerged to provide a stronger understanding of the characteristics of stars—including their magnetic activity, flare evolution, and influence on the habitability of neighboring exoplanets. Chuanfei Dong, an assistant professor of astronomy within Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences, is the lead Principal Investigator (PI) at BU for the Mauve mission. Go to SourceRead More →

How NASA tracked the most intense solar storm in decades May 2024 has already proven to be a particularly stormy month for our sun. During the first full week of May, a barrage of large solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) launched clouds of charged particles and magnetic fields toward Earth, creating the strongest solar storm to reach Earth in two decades—and possibly one of the strongest displays of auroras on record in the past 500 years. Go to SourceRead More →

A new space mission may help physicists answer ‘hairy’ questions about black holes Physicists consider black holes one of the most mysterious objects that exist. Ironically, they’re also considered one of the simplest. For years, physicists like me have been looking to prove that black holes are more complex than they seem. And a newly approved European space mission called LISA will help us with this hunt. Go to SourceRead More →