It’s a basic fact we’ve all learned in school. Drop any object, be it a baseball, feather, or cat, and it will fall toward the Earth at exactly the same rate. The cat will fortunately land on its feet thanks to a bit of feline grace, but the point is that everything falls at the same rate under gravity. It doesn’t matter what an object is made of, or how heavy it is. While we’ve all been taught this fact, calling it a fact was, until recently, a bit of a lie.Continue reading “It's Official, Antimatter Falls Down in Gravity, Not Up”
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”
Imagine if you could see gravitational waves.
Of course, humans are too small to sense all but the strongest gravitational waves, so imagine you were a great creature of deep space, with tendrils that could extend a million kilometers. As gravitational waves rippled across your vast body, you would sense them squeezing and tugging ever so slightly upon you. And your brilliant mind could use these sensations to create an image in your mind. The ripples of distant supernovae, merging black holes, the undercurrent of the gravitational background. Creation, and destruction, all seen in your mind’s eye.Continue reading “If You Could See Gravitational Waves, the Universe Would Look Like This”
If you take a Universe worth of hydrogen and helium, and let it stew for about 13 billion years, you get us. We are the descendants of the primeval elements. We are the cast-off dust of the first stars, and many generations of stars after that. So our search for the first stars of the cosmos is a search for our own history. While we haven’t captured the light of those first stars, some of their direct children may be in our own galaxy.Continue reading “We Can't See the First Stars Yet, but We Can See Their Direct Descendants”
If dark matter exists, then where are the particles?
This single question threatens to topple the standard cosmological model, known as the LCDM model. The CDM stands for cold dark matter, and according to the model makes up nearly 85% of matter in the universe. It should be everywhere, and all around us, and yet every single search for dark matter particles has come up empty. If dark matter particles are real, we know what they are not. We don’t know what they are.Continue reading “Dark Photons Could Be the Key to Both Dark Matter and the Muon Anomaly.”
You’ve heard this story before. An advanced alien race comes to Earth. They offer peace and prosperity, but they hold a dark secret. One that could destroy humanity. That dark secret has varied over the years, from stealing our water, books on culinary advice, or communism, but the result is always the same. First contact with advanced extraterrestrials goes very badly for us. But in reality, how bad could it be? That’s the question a new study examines using game theory and Hobbesian philosophy.Continue reading “First Contact Could Turn Out Well for Humanity”
Galaxies come in a range of shapes, from elegant spirals to egg-shaped ellipticals. We often categorize galaxies by their shape, which was traditionally done based on what we could observe in the visual spectrum. But as we expanded astronomy into radio, infrared, ultraviolet, and x-ray light, learned that often galaxies have structures invisible to our eyes. Take, for example, an odd type of galaxy known as polar ring galaxies (PRGs).Continue reading “Polar Ring Galaxies Are Bizarre and Rare. Astronomers Just Found Two More”
The race is on to discover truly habitable Earth-like worlds. While we are starting to observe the atmospheres of large potentially habitable planets such as Hycean worlds with the telescopes we currently have, the most significant breakthroughs will likely come with the development of advanced specialized telescopes. These new designs will likely use a starshade to hide the glare of a star and allow us to directly observe its exoplanets. But will that be enough to study distant terrestrial planets?Continue reading “An Ambitious New Technology Might be Needed to See Other Earths”
It’s difficult to determine the shape of our galaxy. So difficult that only in the last century did we learn that the Milky Way is just one galaxy among billions. So it’s not surprising that despite all our modern telescopes and spacecraft we are still mapping the shape of our galaxy. And one of the more interesting discoveries is that the Milky Way is warped. One explanation for this is that our galaxy has undergone collisions, but a new study argues that it’s caused by dark matter.Continue reading “The Milky Way's Disk is Warped. Is That Because our Dark Matter Halo is Tilted?”
The thing about a supernova is that you never know when it might occur. Supernovae are triggered either by a collision with another star or when the interior of a massive star becomes depleted of nuclear fuel and begins a rapid collapse. Neither of these show any major optical changes before the explosion, so we are left to scan the sky in the hopes of catching one in its early stages. But that could soon change.Continue reading “A New Observatory Will Spot Core-Collapse Supernovae Before They Explode”