Only two of humanity’s spacecraft have left the Solar System: NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Voyager 1 left the heliosphere behind in 2012, while Voyager 2 did the same on Nov. 5th, 2018. Now Voyager 2 has been in interstellar space for one year, and five new papers are presenting the scientific results from that one year.Continue reading “What Voyager 2 Learned After Spending a Year in Interstellar Space”
Dark Energy is the mysterious force driving the expansion of the Universe. We don’t know what dark energy is, even though it makes up about 68% of the Universe. And the expansion is accelerating, which only adds to the mystery.
A new instrument called the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) will study dark energy. It’s doing so with 5,000 new robotic “eyes.”Continue reading “New Telescope Instrument Will Watch the Sky with 5,000 Eyes”
Pluto was discovered in 1930 by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. For decades, not much detail was known about the erstwhile planet. We assumed it was a frozen, dormant world.Continue reading “New Horizons Team Pieces Together the Best Images They Have of Pluto’s Far Side”
Astronomers have spotted Strontium in the aftermath of a collision between two neutron stars. This is the first time a heavy element has ever been identified in a kilonova, the explosive aftermath of these types of collisions. The discovery plugs a hole in our understanding of how heavy elements form.Continue reading “Astronomers See Strontium in the Kilonova Wreckage, Proof that Neutron Star Collisions Manufacture Heavy Elements in the Universe”
It’s time to update the rules. That’s the conclusion of a panel that examined NASA’s rules for planetary protection. It was smart, at the dawn of the space age, to think about how we might inadvertently pollute other worlds with Earthly microbes as we explore the Solar System. But now that we know a lot more than we did back then, the rules don’t fit.Continue reading “A NASA Panel Says We Don’t Need to be so Careful About Infecting Other Worlds”
There’s a problem with Venus. We don’t know how fast it rotates. For a space-faring civilization like ours, that’s a problem.
Measuring the length of day, or rotation rate, of most bodies is pretty straightforward. Mark a prominent surface feature and time how long it takes to rotate 360 degrees. But Venus is blanketed in thick clouds. Those clouds give it its reflectivity, and make it bright and noticeable in the sky, but they make it hard to measure Venus’ day length.Continue reading “How Long is a Day on Venus? Astronomers Make Their Best Measurement Yet”
Quasars are some of the brightest objects in the Universe. The brightest ones are so luminous they outshine a trillion stars. But why? And what does their brightness tell us about the galaxies that host them?
To try to answer that question, a group of astronomers took another look at 28 of the brightest and nearest quasars. But to understand their work, we have to back track a little, starting with supermassive black holes.Continue reading “Some Quasars Shine With the Light of Over a Trillion Stars”
In order to be considered habitable, a planet needs to have liquid water. Cells, the smallest unit of life, need water to carry out their functions. For liquid water to exist, the temperature of the planet needs to be right. But how about the size of the planet?
Without sufficient mass a planet won’t have enough gravity to hold onto its water. A new study tries to understand how size affects the ability of a planet to hold onto its water, and as a result, its habitability.Continue reading “Planet Sizes Matter for Habitability Too.”
The Moon has abundant oxygen and minerals, things that are indispensable to any space-faring civilization. The problem is they’re locked up together in the regolith. Separating the two will provide a wealth of critical resources, but separating them is a knotty problem.Continue reading “This is What Moondust Looks Like When You Remove All the Oxygen. A Pile of Metal”
Exactly how dangerous are solar storms? Scientists think the Carrington Event was one of the most powerful ones to ever hit Earth. They also think that storms that powerful only happen every couple centuries or so. But a new study says we can expect more storms equally as strong, and more often.Continue reading “Power Grids and Satellites Are More at Risk from Extreme Solar Storms Than We Thought”