We all know what water is. And what rock is. The difference is crystal clear. Well, here on Earth it is.
But on other worlds? The difference might not be so clear.
Continue reading “Deep Down in Ocean Worlds, it’s Difficult to Tell Where the Oceans End and the Rock Begins”
Over the next decade, several very powerful telescopes will come online. Observing time on these ‘scopes will be in high demand, and their range of targets will span a whole host of topics in astronomy, astrophysics, and cosomology.
One of the topics near the top of the list is exoplanets.
But how will astronomers know where to spend their precious exoplanet observing time?
Continue reading “Another Collection of Newly Forming Planetary Systems. This Time from the Gemini Planet Imager”
Six billion Earth-like planets in the Milky Way? If true, that’s astounding. But the number needs some context.
The Milky Way has up 400 billion stars. So even if there are six billion Earth-like planets, they’re still spread far and wide throughout our vast galaxy.
Continue reading “Astronomers Estimate There Are 6 Billion Earth-Like Planets in the Milky Way”
Newborn exoplanets can have a tough life. They may form an atmosphere, but that atmosphere can be doomed. Their stars can emit intense X-ray and UV radiation, stripping away those atmospheres and laying their surfaces bare.
A team of researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics looked at a family of four newborn sibling planets, and tried to understand how their star strips away their gaseous envelopes.
Continue reading “Newborn Exoplanets can be Completely Stripped of Their Atmosphere by Stars”
How did Earth evolve from an ocean of magma to the vibrant, life-supporting, blue jewel it is now? In its early years, the Earth was a blistering hot ball of magma. Now, 4.5 billion years later, it’s barely recognizable.
Is it possible to find exoplanets out there in the vast expanse, which are young molten globes much like young Earth was? How many of them can we expect to find? Where will we find them?
Continue reading “It Should Be Easiest to Search for Young Earth-like Planets When They’re Completely Covered in Magma”
At times, it seems like there’s an indundation of announcements featuring discoveries of “Earth-like” planets. And while those announcements are exciting, and scientifically noteworthy, there’s always a little question picking away at them: exactly how Earth-like are they, really?
After all, Earth is defined by its relationship with the Sun.
Continue reading “Astronomers Have Found the Star/Exoplanet Combo That’s the Best Twin to the Sun/Earth”
The closest star to the Sun is a small red dwarf star known as Proxima Centauri. It is only 4.2 light-years away and is now known to have an Earth-sized planet in its habitable zone. That doesn’t mean there is life orbiting the nearest star, but its proximity should help us understand the possibilities.
Continue reading “Powerful Telescope Confirms There’s an Earth-Sized World Orbiting Proxima Centauri”
Thanks to the success of the Kepler mission, we know that there are multitudes of exoplanets of a type called “Hot Jupiters.” These are gas giants that orbit so close to their stars that they reach extremely high temperatures. They also have exotic atmospheres, and those atmospheres contain a lot of strangeness, like clouds made of aluminum oxide, and titanium rain.
A team of astronomers has created a cloud atlas for Hot Jupiters, detailing which type of clouds and atmospheres we’ll see when we observe different Hot Jupiters.
Continue reading “Extremely Hot Exoplanets Can Have Extreme Weather, Like Clouds of Aluminum Oxide and Titanium Rain”
In 2017, astronomers used ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array) to look at the star AB Aurigae. It’s a type of young star called a Herbig Ae star, and it’s less then 10 million years old. At that time, they found a dusty protoplanetary disk there, with tell-tale gaps indicating spiral arms.
Now they’ve taken another look, and found a very young planet forming there.
Continue reading “This is an Actual Image of a Planet-Forming Disc in a Distant Star System”
We’ve found thousands and thousands of exoplanets now. And spacecraft like TESS will likely find thousands and thousands more of them. But most exoplanets are gassy giants, molten hell-holes, or frozen wastes. How can we find those needles-in-the-haystack habitable worlds that may be out there? How can we narrow our search?
Well, first of all, we need to find water. Oceans, preferably, since that’s where life began on Earth. And according to a new study, those oceans need to circulate in particular ways to support life.
Continue reading “Ocean Circulation Might Be the Key to Finding Habitable Exoplanets”