Researchers mimic high-pressure form of ice found in giant icy moons

Jupiter’s icy moon Callisto. Image credit: NASA Click to enlarge As scientists learn more about our Solar System, they’ve found water ice in some unusual situations. One of the most intriguing of these environments is on icy moons, like Jupiter’s Europa, and Uranus’ Triton. Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have recreated this kind …

Most Milky Way Stars Are Single

For many years astronomers have known that massive, bright stars are usually found to be in multiple star systems. But a recent study by Charles Lada of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics suggests that most stars are actually all alone. A new study on low-mass stars – such as red dwarfs – has found that these stars rarely occur in multiples and that they are more abundant than high-mass stars, such as the Sun. Since planets form more easily around single stars, they could be more common than previously thought.

Life Doesn’t Change Terrain Much

Even through life has flourished on Earth for billions of years, it doesn’t seem to make much of an impact on our planet’s landscapes. A team of scientists from UC Berkeley did an extensive survey of landscapes across the planet, and couldn’t find any place that was obviously modified by lifeforms; from large grazing animals to microscopic bacteria. The only effect seems to be that lifeforms will tend to round off sharp hills. So landscapes once covered with life on Mars might have a higher chance of being smoother and less jagged.

Nearby Disk Contains Life’s Chemicals

A planet forming disk located about 375 light-years from Earth has been found to contain some of the building blocks of life: acetylene and hydrogen cyanide. The chemicals were discovered around “IRS 46” using NASA’s infrared Spitzer Space Telescope. When mixed with water in a laboratory, these chemicals create a soup of organic compounds, including amino acids and a DNA base called adenine.

What’s Up This Week – December 12 – December 18, 2005

Greetings, fellow SkyWatchers! It’s “mid-time of night and the stars in their orbits shone pale through the light of the brighter cold Moon.” But, be sure to take the time to “gaze for awhile on her cold smile”! There will be a brief opportunity this week to hide from that light to catch the Geminid meteor shower, as well as plenty of time to check out bright planets, stars and clusters. So turn your eyes to the skies, because…

Here’s what’s up!

Teeny Tiny Solar System

Astronomers from Penn State University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have found a miniature solar system in the making. A failed star with a hundredth the mass of our own Sun seems to have a planet forming disc of dust and gas surrounding it. With only 8 times the mass of Jupiter, this brown dwarf star is more like a large planet, and yet it’s capable of forming a planetary system of its own.

Upcoming Solutions for Near Earth Objects

Telescopes from around the world are constantly scanning the skies searching for potential Earth-crossing asteroids. The majority if these objects pose little to no threat to us, but the potentially devastating space rocks are out there. The European Space Agency is working on a mission called Don Quixote which would attempt to shift the orbit of an asteroid to understand the mechanics of this kind of operation.

What’s Up This Week – November 7 – November 13, 2005

Greetings, fellow SkyWatchers! “It is a most beautiful and delightful sight to behold the body of the Moon.” Take Galileo’s words to heart and be sure to let Venus and Mars capture the eye this week. Come, now. Let’s explore and observe some of the finest moments in astronomy history as we ask for the Moon…

But keep reaching for the stars.