As the search for dark matter particles continues to yield nothing, astronomers continue to look at ways these elusive particles might be found. One general method is to look for evidence of dark matter particle decay. Although dark matter doesn’t interact strongly with regular matter, some dark matter models predict that dark matter particles can interact with each other, causing them to decay into regular particles. There have been several searches for this effect, but there’s no clear evidence yet. But a new study suggests looking at white dwarfs could be a good approach.Continue reading “Dark Matter Could Be Annihilating Inside White Dwarfs”
There may come a day when we grow weary of JWST images. But it’s not today. Today, we can lose ourselves in the space telescope’s engrossing image of NGC 6822, also called Barnard’s Galaxy.Continue reading “Lose Yourself in the JWST’s Exquisite Image of Barnard’s Galaxy”
The upcoming solar eclipses and the current high sunspot activity means it’s a great time to observe the Sun. Eclipses also mean that large groups of people will be together to view these events. However, rule #1 for astronomy is to never look at the Sun with unprotected eyes, especially with a telescope or binoculars.
So, how can you safely show the changing Sun to a large group of people without having them line up forever to look through a telescope with a solar filter, or having a lot of equipment?
A group of astronomers have a solution: Get a disco ball.Continue reading “Want to Safely Watch the Sun With a Large Group? Get a Disco Ball”
If we could wind the clock back billions of years, we’d see our Solar System the way it used to be. Planetesimals and other rocky bodies were constantly colliding with each other, and new objects would coalesce out of the debris. Asteroids rained down on the planets and their moons. The gas giants were migrating and contributing to the chaos by destroying gravitational relationships and creating new ones. Even moons and moonlets would’ve been part of the cascade of collisions and impacts.
When nature crams enough objects into a small enough space, it breeds collisions. A new study says that’s what happened at Saturn and created the planet’s dramatic rings.Continue reading “Colliding Moons Might Have Created Saturn’s Rings”
Astronomers are working hard to understand biosignatures and how they indicate life’s presence on an exoplanet. But each planet we encounter is a unique puzzle. When it comes to planetary atmospheres, carbon is a big piece of the puzzle because it has a powerful effect on climate and biogeochemistry. If scientists can figure out how and where a planet’s carbon comes from and how it behaves in the atmosphere, they’ve made progress in solving the puzzle.
But one of the problems with carbon in exoplanet atmospheres is that it can send mixed signals.Continue reading “Is it Life, or is it Volcanoes?”
In 1960, while preparing for the first meeting on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), legendary astronomer and SETI pioneer Dr. Frank Drake unveiled his probabilistic equation for estimating the number of possible civilizations in our galaxy – aka. The Drake Equation. A key parameter in this equation was ne, the number of planets in our galaxy capable of supporting life – aka. “habitable.” At the time, astronomers were not yet certain other stars had systems of planets. But thanks to missions like Kepler, 5523 exoplanets have been confirmed, and another 9,867 await confirmation!
Based on this data, astronomers have produced various estimates for the number of habitable planets in our galaxy – at least 100 billion, according to one estimate! In a recent study, Professor Piero Madau introduced a mathematical framework for calculating the population of habitable planets within 100 parsecs (326 light-years) of our Sun. Assuming Earth and the Solar System are representative of the norm, Madau calculated that this volume of space could contain as much as 11,000 Earth-sized terrestrial (aka. rocky) exoplanets that orbit within their stars’ habitable zones (HZs).Continue reading “If Earth is Average, We Should Find Extraterrestrial Life Within 60 Light-Years”
On Sunday, September 23rd, the Sample Retrieval Capsule (SRC) from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission landed in the Utah desert. Shortly thereafter, recovery teams arrived in helicopters, inspected and secured the samples, and flew them to the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR). On Monday, the sample canister was transferred to the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate (ARES) in Houston, Texas. Yesterday, on Tuesday, September 26th, NASA announced that the process of unsealing and removing the samples from the canister had begun with the removal of the initial lid.Continue reading “NASA Opens the Lid on OSIRIS-REx's Sample Capsule”
Earth was once entirely molten. Planetary scientists call this phase in a planet’s evolution a magma ocean, and Earth may have had more than one magma ocean phase. Earth cooled and, over 4.5 billion years, became the vibrant, life-supporting world it is today.
Can the same thing happen to exo-lava worlds? Can studying them shed light on Earth’s transition?Continue reading “How Do Lava Worlds Become Earth-Like, Living Planets?”
It looks like India’s Chandrayaan-3 succumbed to the cold, and its mission is over. The frigid lunar night lasted about two weeks, and a new day has dawned. With that day came hopes of a sunlit revival for the lander and the rover, but the India Space Research Organization (ISRO) says the chances of the spacecraft awakening in the Sun are diminishing by the hour.Continue reading “Day Has Returned, but India’s Lander and Rover have Failed to Wake Up”
The Search for Life is focused on the search for biosignatures. Planetary life leaves a chemical fingerprint on a planet’s atmosphere, and scientists are trying to work out which chemicals in what combinations and amounts are a surefire indicator of life. Martian methane is one they’re puzzling over right now.
But new evidence suggests that super-tiny amounts of DNA can be detected in Martian rocks if it’s there. And though it requires physical samples rather than remote sensing, it’s still an intriguing development.Continue reading “Even Tiny Amounts of DNA on Mars Will Be Detectable”