The surface of Mars is renowned for its aridity. The entire planet is a dusty, barren desert – a wasteland of rock and, in some regions, ice; but of liquid water, not a confirmed drop has been found. But in 2018, scientists unveiled a bombshell discovery – they’d found evidence of a colossal underground reservoir
As the US prepares to return humans to the Moon this decade, one of the biggest dangers future astronauts will face is space radiation that can cause lasting health effects, from cataracts to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Though the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s proved it was safe for people to spend a
Jupiter. Most massive planet in the solar system – twice that of all the other planets combined. This giant world formed from the same cloud of dust and gas that became our Sun and the rest of the planets. But Jupiter was the first-born of our planetary family. As the first planet, Jupiter’s massive gravitational
The International Space Station has been leaking for more than a year. While the station is perpetually losing some air, officials first noticed an increase in that airflow last September. At the time the leak wasn’t major, but this summer they saw an uptick in that already higher-than-usual rate. So in late August, the three
Last year, for the first time, the world gazed in collective wonder at an actual direct image of a black hole’s shadow. Now, looking back at earlier, more rudimentary images, scientists have found evidence that the ring around M87* has a wobble that makes it look as though it’s glittering. Last year’s history-making image was
A new exoplanet discovery is the first of its kind, sitting in a strange ‘gap’ of exoplanets insanely close to their host stars. The planet is a Neptune-sized body that whips around its star once every 19 hours. Never before has a Neptune-sized exoplanet been found with an orbital period of less than a day.
An asteroid will get awfully close to Earth this Thursday (September 24), when it whizzes by our planet closer than the Moon orbits. The asteroid – known as 2020 SW – isn’t expected to collide with Earth, according to the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. But it will get close, passing
NASA has released its first full plan for its Artemis missions, which aim to put the first woman on the moon and the first man since 1972. The plan calls for a lunar landing in 2024, but before that, NASA intends to launch two other missions to the moon to test its new Orion spacecraft. “Our plan to
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station were carrying out an “avoidance maneuver” on Tuesday to ensure the ISS would not be hit by a piece of debris, the US space agency NASA announced. The debris should pass within “several kilometers” (miles) of the station, but out of an abundance of caution, the ISS’s trajectory was
Every exoplanet is special in its own way, but a newly discovered exoplanet 186 light-years away is an especially delicious treat. It’s a smallish world around the same size as Earth, whipping around its star on an orbit that takes just 3.14 days. That’s extremely close to the mathematical constant π (Pi), the number that
We all know and love our Moon. It’s been Earth’s constant companion for billions of years, a mainstay of the skies. But it’s not our only companion. Every now and again, a smaller object gets temporarily captured in our planet’s orbit, hanging around for a short period of time – a few months or years –
Aurora – the dancing glow of ionised particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere – is not unique to our planet. The phenomenon has been spotted shining in the atmospheres of every other planet except Mercury. Even Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Europa have auroras. Never, until now, had an aurora been detected on a comet. But, in
To human eyes, Saturn’s moon Enceladus looks relatively plain. Shift the wavelength away from the optical, however, and Enceladus starts to look a lot more interesting, as new images amply demonstrate. Although its surface is scored with deep chasms and gorges, Enceladus seems fairly uniform otherwise, with a glistening white ice shell, like a giant snowball
How long does it take Earth to complete a 360-degree rotation? Not quite 24 hours, it turns out – it’s precisely 23 hours and 56 minutes. But because Earth is constantly moving along its orbit around the Sun, a different point on the planet faces the Sun directly at the end of that 360-degree spin.
The Earth’s biosphere contains all the known ingredients necessary for life as we know it. Broadly speaking these are: liquid water, at least one source of energy, and an inventory of biologically useful elements and molecules. But the recent discovery of possibly biogenic phosphine in the clouds of Venus reminds us that at least some
Astronomers have painstakingly built models of the asteroid population, and those models predict that there will be ~1 km sized asteroids that orbit closer to the Sun than Venus does. The problem is, nobody’s been able to find one. Until now. Astronomers working with the Zwicky Transient Facility say they’ve finally found one. But this one’s bigger,
The last gasps of dying stars are some of the most beautiful objects in the galaxy. They’re called planetary nebulae, clouds of stellar material ejected out into space as a red giant star enters the last stage of its life. The dying star shucks off its outer layers, which are illuminated from within by the
Majestic Jupiter, our Solar System’s belligerent big brother, is putting its best side forward*. A sharp new image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the giant planet’s wild, ever-evolving weather – revealing both short- and long-term changes. In the northern hemisphere, turbulent clouds could indicate the formation of a new swirling storm, while down south,
Astronomers have discovered a planet the size of Jupiter closely orbiting the smouldering remains of a dead star, the first time that an intact exoplanet has been discovered travelling around a white dwarf, according to research published Wednesday. Researchers said the fate of this giant planet, called WD 1586 b, offers a potential vision of
Far from the woes of planet Earth, our Sun has been having a rather quiet year. A close look at its activity confirms what solar enthusiasts have been suspecting for a while – our closest star has entered a new cycle. Ever since we started to track the Sun’s dark blemishes in earnest, humans have noticed
When humanity finally detected the collision between two neutron stars in 2017, we confirmed a long-held theory – in the energetic fires of these incredible explosions, elements heavier than iron are forged. And so, we thought we had an answer to the question of how these elements – including gold – propagated throughout the Universe.
Uranus, far from Earth in the darker region of the Solar System’s planetary reach, isn’t alone. It’s accompanied by a retinue of moons – 27, to be precise. Far and dim, these moons are difficult to study, but astronomers have made an accidental discovery while observing Uranus. According to infrared images of the five main
Here in the Solar System, we have quite an interesting variety of planets, but they are limited by the composition of our Sun. Since the planets, moons, asteroids and other bodies are made out of what was left over after the Sun was finished forming, their chemistry is thought to be related to our host.
Venus, the Evening Star, may gleam prettily in our night sky, but up close it’s about as inhospitable as a rocky planet can be, with sulphuric acid rains, a suffocating CO2 atmosphere, and a surface atmospheric pressure up to 100 times greater than Earth’s. Based on our understanding of life on Earth, Venus would be among
In the past decade, the study of exoplanets has grown by leaps and bounds. At present, a total of 4,201 planets have been confirmed beyond the Solar System and another 5,481 candidates await confirmation. In the midst of all this, M-type red dwarf stars have become a focus of exoplanet research because they appear to be the most likely
Jupiter’s moons are hotter than they really should be, some 778 million kilometres (483 million miles) away from the Sun. It had been thought that most of this extra warmth was provided by Jupiter itself, but now there’s a new hypothesis: they’re heating each other. Jupiter isn’t acting as a roaring campfire for its surrounding
NASA on Thursday announced it was in the market for Moon rocks, and wants to pay companies to scoop out the dirt, take a photo, and then have it ready for collection by a future mission. The contract doesn’t actually involve getting to the Moon itself – a feat only achieved by the national space
It would be extremely optimistic to suggest that we have a good handle on dark matter. But even the slight grasp we do have may be missing something important. New observations from the Hubble Space Telescope have found much higher concentrations of dark matter than expected in some galaxies, by over an order of magnitude.
Jupiter, thick with chaotic clouds and raging with wild winds, is famous and beloved for its gloriously stormy atmosphere. Ever since the Juno space probe arrived there in 2016, we’ve had unprecedented access that’s been helping us understand what drives the gas giant’s insane weather. But Juno has delivered not just answers, but also more questions.
Like Jörmungandr encircling Earth, so too is the entire galaxy ringed. A huge, high-velocity stream of gas is wrapped most of the way around the Milky Way, at a distance of around 200,000 light-years. We know where it comes from, more or less. It’s been linked pretty conclusively with the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds,
Last year, the astronomical community achieved an absolute wonder. For the very first time, the world collectively laid eyes on an actual image of the shadow of a black hole. It was the culmination of years of work, a magnificent achievement in both human collaboration and technical ingenuity. And, like the best scientific breakthroughs, it
Microgravity is pretty rough on us ground-dwellers – with bodies no longer constantly acting against gravity, muscle mass and bone density withers away. Even with two hours of exercise daily, it can take months for astronauts to recover their muscle density after a six-month stint on the International Space Station. Bone density can take years
The Nancy Roman Telescope has reached another milestone in its development. NASA has announced that the space telescope’s primary mirror is now complete. The 2.4 meter (7.9 foot) mirror took less time to develop than other mirrors because it wasn’t built from scratch. It’s a re-shaped and re-surfaced mirror that came from the National Reconnaissance Office.
In a comprehensive search of a patch of the Southern sky, not even a hint of alien technology has been detected at low radio frequencies. Across at least 10 million stars that populate the Vela region – the deepest and widest survey for extraterrestrial intelligence yet – the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) in Australia found
The moons of Mars are not quite like our Earth’s Moon. Phobos, the larger of the two, is much closer to its planet; compared to the Moon’s 27-day orbit, Phobos swings around Mars in line with the planet’s equator thrice every Martian day (sol). Solar eclipses, therefore, are much more frequent than those here on
The Chinese government has announced a first – they have successfully landed a reusable spacecraft safely back on Earth after it spent two days in orbit. The spacecraft – called Chongfu Shiyong Shiyan Hangtian Qi (CSSHQ) – was launched September 4 on a Long March-2F carrier from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China. It
How do you study something invisible? This is a challenge that faces astronomers who study dark matter. Although dark matter comprises 85 percent of all matter in the Universe, it doesn’t interact with light. It can only be seen through the gravitational influence it has on light and other matter. To make matters worse, efforts
If you’re a Star Trek fan, you may think the above image portrays the “Nexus” from the movie Star Trek: Generations. In the film, the Nexus was a ribbon-like extra-dimensional realm that exists outside of normal space-time. But this is actually a real image from the venerable Hubble Space Telescope, of the Cygnus Loop. This stunning picture from
Imagine you could throw the perfect bullseye, but you’d have to wear glasses to do it. That’s a trade-off some space travellers may unwittingly make when they venture off the planet. A study published Friday examined the brains of eight male Russian cosmonauts roughly seven months after they returned from lengthy missions to the International
SpaceX says early tests of its rapidly growing fleet of internet-providing satellites are yielding promising results. Internal tests of a beta version of internet service from the company’s Starlink project show “super low latency and download speeds greater than 100” megabits per second, Kate Tice, a SpaceX senior certification engineer, said during a live broadcast
One of the most powerful solar observatories in the world has just completed a major upgrade. And now, the GREGOR solar telescope in Spain has taken some of the most high-resolution images of our Sun ever obtained in Europe. In the upgraded telescope’s new images, details as small as 50 kilometres (31 miles) across can
A cloud of dust and gas swirling around an infant star system 1,300 light-years away is like no planet-forming disc we’ve seen yet. It consists of three rings, wrapped around three stars – and all three rings have different orientations, with the innermost wildly misaligned from the other two. It’s the first direct evidence that
The Moon is both seductively close to Earth and cosmically far away: Decades after the end of the space race, it remains extraordinarily expensive and difficult to actually get there. The journey just got a bit easier, however, thanks to a freshly published NASA invention. The agency’s patent doesn’t cover a new piece of equipment
The Moon, our closest cosmic neighbour, and the only other body in the Solar System on which humans have set foot, is fairly well known to us. We know that there is practically no air. We know that there is water ice, but no liquid water. So you can understand why the detection of haematite
A tiny bit of air always leaks from the International Space Station – but not quite as much as is leaking now. Officials first noticed a leak last September, but they didn’t do anything about it for nearly a year, since the leak wasn’t major. Plus, station operations like space walks and crew exchanges kept
From 7 billion light-years away, a pair of colliding black holes has delivered up, on a shiny gravitational wave platter, one of the most sought-after detections in black hole astronomy – the extremely elusive ‘middleweight’ black hole, which lies in between stellar-mass black holes and supermassive behemoths. Not only, however, did the two colliding black
With all sorts of rocks flying around willy-nilly in the space around Earth, telescopes around the world are keeping a careful eye on the sky to make sure we’re not in any danger. So when the University of Arizona’s Catalina Sky Survey and the University of Hawaii’s Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System spotted what seemed
When searching for signs of life in the Universe, we tend to look for very specific things, based on what we know: a planet like Earth, in orbit around a star, and at a distance that allows liquid surface water. But there could, conceivably, be other forms of life out there that look like nothing