As soon as the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu in December 2018, there was a big surprise. Scientists expected Bennu’s surface would consist of fine-grained material like a sandy beach. But take a look at that surface: Bennu is a jumbled mess.
Here’s a closer view:
Continue reading “Bennu is Constantly Getting Sandblasted by Tiny Meteoroids”
Are we alone in the universe?
It is one of the most profound questions posed in modern astronomy. But although our understanding of the cosmos has grown significantly, the question remains unanswered. We know that Earth-like planets are common, as are the building blocks necessary for terrestrial life, and yet we still haven’t found definitive evidence for life beyond Earth. Perhaps part of our problem is that we are mostly looking for life similar to our own. It is possible that alien life is so radically different from that of Earth it goes unnoticed.
Continue reading “Could There Be a Form of Life Inside Stars?”
Black holes have been the subject of intense interest ever since scientists began speculating about their existence. Originally proposed in the early 20th century as a consequence of Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, black holes became a mainstream subject a few decades later. By 1971, the first physical evidence of black holes was found and by 2016, the existence of gravitational waves was confirmed for the first time.
This discovery touched off a new era in astrophysics, letting people know collision between massive objects (black holes and/or neutron stars) creates ripples in spacetime that can be detected light-years away. To give people a sense of how profound these events are, Álvaro Díez created the Black Hole Collision Calculator (BHCC) – a tool that lets you see what the outcome of a collision between a black hole and any astronomical object would be!
Continue reading “Behold! The Black Hole Collision Calculator!”
It takes oxygen to make iron rust. So when scientists discovered hematite spread widely through lunar high latitudes, they were surprised. How did that happen?
A new study suggests that oxygen from Earth could be playing a role in rusting the Moon.
Continue reading “Earth’s Oxygen Could be Making the Moon Rust”
In August 2014, the ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft arrived at its destination, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, after a 10 year journey. Rosetta carried a small companion, the Philae Lander. On November 12th, Philae was sent to the surface of Comet 67P. Unfortunately, things didn’t go exactly as planned, and the lander’s mission lasted only 63 hours.
During that time, it gathered what data it could. But mission scientists weren’t certain of its precise location, meaning its data was difficult to interpret accurately. Only when scientists knew precisely where Philae was located on the comet, could they make best use of all of its data.
Continue reading “Rosetta’s Philae Lander Was Alive on the Surface of 67P for 63 Hours, Trying to Communicate”
Whatever we grow up with, we think of as normal. Our single solitary yellow star seems normal to us, with planets orbiting on the same, aligned ecliptic. But most stars aren’t alone; most are in binary relationships. And some are in triple-star systems.
And the planet-forming disks around those three-star systems can exhibit some misshapen orbits.
Continue reading “The Strange, Misshapen Orbits of Planet-Forming Disks in a Triple-Star System”
This summer, the European Space Agency’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre (NEOCC) started posting “riddles” or challenges on their website. These riddles provide a look at how difficult it is for astronomers to find faint, near Earth objects (NEO). Try it for yourself by looking at the animation below:
Continue reading “There are Three Asteroids Hiding in this Animation, See If You Can Find Them”
It’s one of the stranger observations in ancient literature, and one of the earliest recorded tales of daytime astronomy.
A curious account comes to us from the 1st century AD Roman scholar Pliny the Elder, concerning the exploits of Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus, who notes that:
“The Sun’s radiance makes the fix’d stars invisible in the daytime, although they are shining as much as in the night, which becomes manifest at a solar eclipse and also when the star is reflected in a very deep well.”
Continue reading “Astro-Challenge: Adventures in Daytime Astronomy”
Explaining the concept of a dust bunny to small children can be quite amusing. No, it’s not actually alive. It’s moving around because of really small currents of wind that we can’t even see. It’s mainly formed out of dead skin and spider webs. No, the spiders don’t actually eat the dead skin. Most of the time.
Now take that same concept of a bunch of particles stuck together, scale it up a few orders of magnitude, and put it in space. Though it’s still not alive, it would be blown by solar radiation rather than the winds. And instead of being made out of skin and spider webs, it could be made up of cometary dust particles. That is what scientists think our first detected visitor from another star might be – an interstellar dust bunny.
Continue reading “Okay, New Idea. Oumuamua is an Interstellar “Dust Bunny””