When galaxies merge, we expect them to produce binary black holes (BBHs.) BBHs orbit one another closely, and when they merge, they produce gravitational waves that have been detected by LIGO-Virgo. The upcoming Vera Rubin Observatory should be able to find them before they merge, which would open a whole new window into the study of galaxy mergers, supermassive black holes, binary black holes, and gravitational waves.Continue reading “Vera Rubin Will Find Binary Supermassive Black Holes. Here’s How.”
If the Universe has adolescent galaxies, they’re the ones that formed about 2 to 3 billion years after the Big Bang. New research based on the James Webb Space Telescope shows that these teenage galaxies are unusually hot. Not only that, but they contain some unexpected chemical elements. The most surprising element found in these galaxies is nickel.Continue reading “Adolescent Galaxies are Incandescent and Contain Unexpected Elements”
The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy, maybe even a grand design spiral galaxy. We can’t be sure from our vantage point. But one thing is certain: there aren’t many disk galaxies like it in our part of the Universe called the supergalactic plane.Continue reading “There Aren’t Many Galaxies Like The Milky Way Nearby. Now We Know Why”
Anybody with a modicum of intellectual curiosity is looking forward to the NASA/ESA Mars Sample Return Mission. NASA’s Perseverance rover is busily collecting and caching samples for eventual return to Earth. While the technical and engineering challenges in getting those samples into scientists’ hands here on Earth are formidable, budgeting and funding might be the mission’s biggest headaches.Continue reading “What’s Going on With the Mars Sample Return Mission?”
If there’s one chemical that causes excitement in the search for biosignatures on other worlds, it’s methane. It’s not a slam dunk because it has both biotic and abiotic sources. But finding it in an exoplanet’s atmosphere means that planet deserves a closer look.Continue reading “Wow. JWST Just Found Methane in an Exoplanet Atmosphere”
The JWST is taking a break from studying the distant Universe and has trained its infrared eye on the heart of the Milky Way. The world’s most powerful space telescope has uncovered some surprises and generated some stunning images of the Milky Way’s galactic center (GC.) It’s focused on an enormous star-forming region called Sagittarius C (Sgr C).Continue reading “Webb’s Infrared Eye Reveals the Heart of the Milky Way”
While preparing for the threat of an asteroid strike might seem like a hypothetical exercise, it’s really not. The Solar System has calmed down a lot from earlier times when impacts were more frequent. But it is only a matter of time before an asteroid heads straight for Earth. The probability of an impact is not zero.
Equally as difficult as determining when one will come for us is the task of getting humanity to cooperate and prepare for it.Continue reading “If You’re Trying to Prevent an Asteroid Impact, the Technical and Political Challenges are Staggering”
Astrophysicists working with the JWST have found a surprising amount of metal in a galaxy only 350 million years after the Big Bang. How does that fit in with our understanding of the Universe?Continue reading “A Galaxy Only 350 Million Years Old Had Surprising Amounts of Metal”
Humans on Mars will need oxygen, and Mars’ atmosphere is pretty anemic when it comes to the life-sustaining element. NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully extracted oxygen from CO2 in Mars’ atmosphere, but there are other ways to acquire it. There seem to be vast amounts of water buried under the Martian surface, and oxygen in the water is just waiting to be set free from its bonds with hydrogen.
On Earth, that’s no problem. Just run an electrical current through water, and you get oxygen. But Mars won’t give up its oxygen so easily.Continue reading “A Robotic Chemist Could Whip up the Perfect Batch of Oxygen on Mars”
The ESO’s Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is perched high in the Chilean Andes. ALMA is made of 66 high-precision antennae that all work together to observe light just between radio and infrared. Its specialty is cold objects, and in recent years, it has taken some stunning and scientifically illuminating images of protoplanetary disks and the planets forming in them.
But its newest image supersedes them all.Continue reading “ALMA Takes Next-Level Images of a Protoplanetary Disk”