Astronomers Propose a 14-Meter Infrared Space Telescope The Universe wants us to understand its origins. Every second of every day, it sends us a multitude of signals, each one a clue to a different aspect of the cosmos. But the Universe is the original Trickster, and its multitude of signals is an almost unrecognizable cacophony of light, warped, shifted, and stretched during its long journey through the expanding Universe. What are talking apes to do in this situation but build another telescope adept at understanding a particular slice of all this noisy light? That’s what astronomers think we should do, to nobody’s surprise. Due toRead More →

A New Venus-Sized World Found in the Habitable Zone of its Star The parade of interesting new exoplanets continues. Today, NASA issued a press release announcing the discovery of a new exoplanet in the Gliese 12 system, sized somewhere between Earth and Venus and inside the host star’s habitable zone. Two papers detail the discovery, but both teams think that the planet is an excellent candidate for follow-up with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to try to tease out whether it has an atmosphere and, if so, what that atmosphere is made of. But before JWST knew where to look, another workhorse of theRead More →

Webb Explains a Puffy Planet I love the concept of a ‘puffy’ planet! The exoplanets discovered that fall into this category are typically the same size of Jupiter but 1/10th the mass! They tend to orbit their host star at close in orbits and are hot but one has been found that is different from the normal. This Neptune-mass exoplanet has been thought to be cooler but still have a lower density. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has recently discovered that tidal energy from its elliptical orbit keeps its interior churning and puffs it out.  WASP-107b is more than three quarters the volume ofRead More →

The Largest Camera Ever Built Arrives at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory It’s been 20 years in the making, but a 3200-megapixel camera built especially for astrophysics discoveries has finally arrived at its home. The Legacy of Space and Time (LSST) camera was delivered to the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile in mid-May, 2024. The camera traveled from its construction lab at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The technical crew outfitted it with specialized data loggers, monitors, and GPS attached to track the conditions of its trip. Then they put it into a specially built container and the whole assemblage made the trip fromRead More →

This is the Largest Planet-Forming Disk Ever Seen Roughly 1,000 light-years from Earth, there is a cosmic structure known as IRAS 23077+6707 (IRAS 23077) that resembles a giant butterfly. Ciprian T. Berghea, an astronomer with the U.S. Naval Observatory, originally observed the structure in 2016 using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS). To the surprise of many, the structure has remained unchanged for years, leading some to question what IRAS 2307 could be. Recently, two international teams of astronomers made follow-up observations using the Submillimeter Array at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Hawaii to better understand IRAS 2307. In a seriesRead More →

Maybe Ultra-Hot Jupiters Aren’t So Doomed After All Ultra-hot Jupiters (UHJs) are some of the most fascinating astronomical objects in the cosmos, classified as having orbital periods of less than approximately 3 days with dayside temperatures exceeding 1,930 degrees Celsius (3,500 degrees Fahrenheit), as most are tidally locked with their parent stars. But will these extremely close orbits result in orbital decay for UHJs eventually doom them to being swallowed by their star, or can some orbit for the long term without worry? This is what a recent study accepted to the Planetary Science Journal hopes to address as a team of international researchers investigatedRead More →

Could Alien Solar Panels Be Technosignatures? If alien technological civilizations exist, they almost certainly use solar energy. Along with wind, it’s the cleanest, most accessible form of energy, at least here on Earth. Driven by technological advances and mass production, solar energy on Earth is expanding rapidly. It seems likely that ETIs (Extraterrestrial Intelligence) using widespread solar energy on their planet could make their presence known to us. If other ETIs exist, they could easily be ahead of us technologically. Silicon solar panels could be widely used on their planetary surfaces. Could their mass implementation constitute a detectable technosignature? The authors of a new paperRead More →

Finding The Age Of A Contact Binary “Moon” There are millions of asteroids floating around the solar system. With so many of them, it should be no surprise that some are weirdly configured. A recent example of one of these weird configurations was discovered when Lucy, NASA’s mission to the Trojan asteroids, passed by a main-belt asteroid called Dinkinesh. It found that Dinkinesh had a “moon” – and that moon was a “contact binary”. Now known as Selam, it is made up of two objects that physically touch one another through gravity but aren’t fully merged into one another. Just how and when such anRead More →

After Swirling Around a Black Hole, Matter Just Falls Straight In The physics surrounding black holes is just plain weird. A gravitational well so strong that not even light can escape can do some pretty strange things to normal matter. Over the decades, plenty of theories have been put forward about what those strange things might be. And now, a new paper from physicists at the University of Oxford has proved that, once again, Einstein’s theory of gravity was right.  Their work focused on a “plunging region” immediately outside the black hole’s radius. In this region, matter “plunges” straight into the black hole rather thanRead More →

The Habitable Worlds Observatory Could See Lunar and Solar ‘Exo-Eclipses’ A future space observatory could use exo-eclipses to tease out exomoon populations. If you’re like us, you’re still coming down from the celestial euphoria that was last month’s total solar eclipse. The spectacle of the Moon blocking out the Sun has also provided astronomers with unique scientific opportunities in the past, from the discovery of helium to proof for general relativity. Now, eclipses in remote exoplanetary systems could aid in the hunt for elusive exomoons. A recent study out of the University of Michigan in partnership with Johns Hopkins APL and the Department of PhysicsRead More →

New Shepard’s 25th Launch Carries Six to the Edge of Space and Back Sending tourists to space is still relatively novel in the grand scheme of humanity’s journey to the stars. Dennis Tito took the first-ever paid trip in 2001, but since then, plenty of others have journeyed to the heavens. Increasingly, they’ve done so via systems developed by private companies. On Sunday, May 19th, Blue Origin, originally founded by Jeff Bezos to pursue his dreams of humanity’s future in space, successfully launched its seventh crewed mission – this time containing six first-time astronauts, including one that waited a long time for his day inRead More →

That Recent Solar Storm Was Detected Almost Three Kilometers Under the Ocean On May 10th, 2024, people across North America were treated to a rare celestial event: an aurora visible from the Eastern Seabord to the Southern United States. This particular sighting of the Northern Lights (aka. Aurora Borealis) coincided with the most extreme geomagnetic storm since 2003 and the 27th strongest solar flare ever recorded. This led to the dazzling display that was visible to residents all across North America but was also detected by some of Ocean Networks Canada‘s (ONC) undersea sensors at depths of almost three kilometers. ONC, an initiative of theRead More →

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 →