It’s good to remember how little we know about the outer solar system. Humans only really began observing it within the past 100 years, and given the constraints on that observations there are still plenty of things we don’t know about. For example, researchers recently found an object almost the size of a dwarf planet that is inbound to the inner solar system, with an estimated orbital period of over 2 million years, more than six the lifetime of the modern human species.Continue reading “A Newly-Discovered (Almost) Dwarf Planet Will Come Surprisingly Close in 2031”
In outer space, an object’s location has a huge impact on its temperature. The closer the object is to its star, the hotter it most likely is. Heat then plays a major role in what materials are present in that object’s atmosphere, if it has one. Lighter elements such as hydrogen and helium and much easier to take a gaseous state and create an atmosphere. So it came as a surprise when two different teams found much heavier elements in the atmosphere of comets that were relatively far away from the Sun. And one of those comets happened to be from another solar system.Continue reading “Comets Have Tails of gas, Dust… and Metal?”
What if we had the ability to chase down interstellar objects passing through our Solar System, like Oumuamua or Comet Borisov? Such a spacecraft would need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, with the capacity to increase speed and change direction quickly.
That’s the idea behind a new mission concept called the Extrasolar Object Interceptor and Sample Return spacecraft. It has received exploratory funding from NASA through its Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program.
“Bringing back samples from these objects could fundamentally change our view of the universe and our place in it,” says Christopher Morrison, an engineer from the Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation-Tech (USNC-Tech) who submitted the proposal to NIAC.Continue reading “Extrasolar Object Interceptor Would be Able to Chase Down the Next Oumuamua or Borisov and Actually Return a Sample”
Astronomers finally managed to observe a comet nearing the end of its life. And they found that it’s covered in talcum powder. They have no idea why.Continue reading “A Comet Seen at the end of its Life. It’s covered in talcum powder”
Whenever I wipe the dust off my coffee table or catch a glimpse of dust motes floating in sunlight, my spacey mind always wonders, is any of that cosmic dust?
It just might be. But the amount of space dust that lands on our planet every year might surprise you.Continue reading “Earth Gains 5,200 Tons of Dust From Space Every Year”
Just when do comets get their signature coma? Conventional wisdom says it only happens when they get close enough to the sun, but new research suggests it starts when they are still beyond the orbit of the planets.Continue reading “Comets Already Grow a Coma out in the Kuiper Belt”
Jupiter is notorious for capturing objects that venture too close to the gas giant and its enormous pull of gravity. Asteroids known as Jupiter Trojans are a large group of space rocks that have been snared by the planet, which usually remain in a stable orbit near one of the Jupiter’s Lagrangian points.
But now, the Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a comet near Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid population. This is the first time a comet has been found in this region, and the team of scientists studying the object – named P/2019 LD2 (LD2) – think the unexpected comet is only a temporary visitor.Continue reading “Jupiter has Added a Comet to its Trojan Collection”
About 66 million years ago a massive chunk of rock slammed into Earth in what is the modern-day Yucatan Peninsula. The impact extinguished about 75% of all life on Earth. Most famously, it was the event that wiped out the dinosaurs.
While mainstream scientific thought has pointed to an asteroid as the impactor, a new research letter says it could’ve, in fact, been a comet.Continue reading “Did a Comet Wipe out the Dinosaurs?”
Rome was the world’s first mega-empire. At its height it stretched from Western Europe to the Middle East, and over 50 million souls lived within its borders. Some historians think that number could’ve been way higher, up to 100 million.
Rome got its start in the mid-8th century BC. It took centuries for that small city to grow into the Roman Empire, which reached its peak around AD 100. A well-known cliche reminds us how long that took.
But the Roman Empire also took centuries to fracture and dissolve.Continue reading “Comet Records From 1240 Accurately Date When a Byzantine Princess Died”
Did comets deliver the elements essential for life on Earth? It’s looking more and more like they could have. At least one comet might have, anyway: 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
A new study using data from the ESA’s Rosetta mission shows that the comet contains the life-critical element phosphorous.Continue reading “Solid Phosphorus has been Found in Comets. This Means They Contain All the Raw Elements for Life”