New results presented at the 54th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference could change our approach to Mars exploration. Scientists studying the surface of Mars discovered a relict glacier near the planet’s equator. The relict glacier could signal the presence of buried water ice at the planet’s mid-latitudes.Continue reading “Remnants of a Relict Glacier Found Near the Equator on Mars”
The Universe Sparkles in Gamma Rays in this New NASA Animation
We’ve come a long way since gamma rays were discovered.
The late 1800s and early 1900s were a time of great scientific advancements. Scientists were just getting a handle on the different types of radiation. Radium featured prominently in the experiments, including one by French scientist Paul Ulrich Villard in 1900.
Radium decays readily, and scientists had already identified alpha and beta radiation coming from radium samples. But Villard was able to identify a third type of penetrating radiation so powerful even a layer of lead couldn’t stop it: gamma rays.
Now we have a gamma ray detector in space, and it’s showing us how the Universe sparkles with this powerful energy.Continue reading “The Universe Sparkles in Gamma Rays in this New NASA Animation”
Remove All Ads on Universe Today
Join our Patreon for as little as $3!
Get the ad-free experience for life
Ultra-Massive Black Holes: How Does the Universe Produce Objects So Massive?
Black holes are the most massive objects that we know of in the Universe. Not stellar mass black holes, not supermassive black holes (SMBHs,) but ultra-massive black holes (UMBHs.) UMBHs sit in the center of galaxies like SMBHs, but they have more than five billion solar masses, an astonishingly large amount of mass. The largest black hole we know of is Phoenix A, a UMBH with up to 100 billion solar masses.
How can something grow so massive?Continue reading “Ultra-Massive Black Holes: How Does the Universe Produce Objects So Massive?”
Hubble Sees an Epic Merger of Three Galaxies
When is 50,000 light-years only a small distance? When three galaxies are that close to one another. At that range, they’re fiercely interacting.
In the case of the three galaxies referred to as SDSSCGB 10189, they’re 50,000 light-years apart and growing closer as they merge into a single massive galaxy.Continue reading “Hubble Sees an Epic Merger of Three Galaxies”
Dwarf Planet Quaoar has a Ring
Quaoar is one of about 3,000 dwarf planets in our Solar System’s Kuiper Belt. Astronomers discovered it in 2002. It’s only half as large as Pluto, about 1,121 km (697 mi) in diameter. Quaoar has a tiny moon named Weywot, and the planet and its moon are very difficult to observe in detail.
Astronomers took advantage of an occultation to study the dwarf planet Quaoar and found that it has something unexpected: a ring where a moon should be.Continue reading “Dwarf Planet Quaoar has a Ring”
Hungry Black Hole was Already Feasting 800 Million Years After the Big Bang
Black holes swallow everything—including light—which explains why we can’t see them. But we can observe their immediate surroundings and learn about them. And when they’re on a feeding binge, their surroundings become even more luminous and observable.
This increased luminosity allowed astronomers to find a black hole that was feasting on material only 800 million years after the Universe began.Continue reading “Hungry Black Hole was Already Feasting 800 Million Years After the Big Bang”
How Can We Know if We’re Looking at Habitable exo-Earths or Hellish exo-Venuses?
The differences between Earth and Venus are obvious to us. One is radiant with life and adorned with glittering seas, and the other is a scorching, glowering hellhole, its volcanic surface shrouded by thick clouds and visible only with radar. But the difference wasn’t always clear. In fact, we used to call Venus Earth’s sister planet.
Can astronomers tell exo-Earths and exo-Venuses apart from a great distance?Continue reading “How Can We Know if We’re Looking at Habitable exo-Earths or Hellish exo-Venuses?”
Webb NIRISS Instrument has Gone Offline
The JWST is having a problem. One of its instruments, the Near Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS,) has gone offline. The NIRISS performs spectroscopy on exoplanet atmospheres, among other things.
It’s been offline since Sunday. January 15th due to a communications error.Continue reading “Webb NIRISS Instrument has Gone Offline”
Scientists Build a Teeny Tiny Tractor Beam
Tractor beams make intuitive sense. Matter and energy interact with each other in countless ways throughout the Universe. Magnetism and gravity are both natural forces that can draw objects together, so there’s sort of a precedent.
But engineering an actual tractor beam is something different.Continue reading “Scientists Build a Teeny Tiny Tractor Beam”
One Day There Could be a Pipeline of Oxygen Flowing From the Moon’s South Pole
The Artemis program intends to put humans on the Moon for the first time since NASA’s Apollo missions. But Artemis has a larger scope than just landing people there, setting up some science experiments, gathering Moon rocks, playing a little golf, then leaving. The intent is to establish a consistent presence.
That will require resources, and one of those critical resources is oxygen.Continue reading “One Day There Could be a Pipeline of Oxygen Flowing From the Moon’s South Pole”