It’s good to remember how little we know about the outer solar system. Humans only really began observing it within the past 100 years, and given the constraints on that observations there are still plenty of things we don’t know about. For example, researchers recently found an object almost the size of a dwarf planet that is inbound to the inner solar system, with an estimated orbital period of over 2 million years, more than six the lifetime of the modern human species.Continue reading “A Newly-Discovered (Almost) Dwarf Planet Will Come Surprisingly Close in 2031”
There is a cloud of debris surrounding our solar system. It’s known as the Oort cloud, and it is the source of most of the comets in our solar system. It was first proposed by Jan Oort, as a way to explain why there were so many long-period comets, and why they can appear from almost any direction. It’s estimated that there are about 100 billion small icy bodies in the Oort cloud, spread throughout a sphere about 50,000 AU from the Sun. Through our studies of comets we’ve learned a great deal about the Oort cloud, but we still don’t fully understand how it came to be.Continue reading “Researchers Simulate the Formation of the Oort Cloud”
In outer space, an object’s location has a huge impact on its temperature. The closer the object is to its star, the hotter it most likely is. Heat then plays a major role in what materials are present in that object’s atmosphere, if it has one. Lighter elements such as hydrogen and helium and much easier to take a gaseous state and create an atmosphere. So it came as a surprise when two different teams found much heavier elements in the atmosphere of comets that were relatively far away from the Sun. And one of those comets happened to be from another solar system.Continue reading “Comets Have Tails of gas, Dust… and Metal?”
Astronomers finally managed to observe a comet nearing the end of its life. And they found that it’s covered in talcum powder. They have no idea why.Continue reading “A Comet Seen at the end of its Life. It’s covered in talcum powder”
Within the Milky Way, there are an estimated 200 to 400 billion stars, all of which orbit around the center of our galaxy in a coordinated cosmic dance. As they orbit, stars in the galactic disk (where our Sun is located) periodically shuffle about and get closer to one another. At times, this can have a drastic effect on the star that experience a close encounter, disrupting their systems and causing planets to be ejected.
Knowing when stars will make a close encounter with our Solar System, and how it might shake-up objects within it, is therefore a concern to astronomers. Using data collected by the Gaia Observatory, two researchers with the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) determined that a handful of stars will be making close passes by our Solar System in the future, one of which will stray pretty close!Continue reading “In 1.3 Million Years, a Star Will Come Within 24 Light-Days of the Sun”
Whenever I wipe the dust off my coffee table or catch a glimpse of dust motes floating in sunlight, my spacey mind always wonders, is any of that cosmic dust?
It just might be. But the amount of space dust that lands on our planet every year might surprise you.Continue reading “Earth Gains 5,200 Tons of Dust From Space Every Year”
By comparing our local Comet Hale-Bopp to the interstellar visitor 2I/Borisov, a team of astronomers have concluded that the interloper is perhaps one of the most pristine comets we’ve ever seen.Continue reading “Interstellar Comet Borisov is so Pristine, it’s Probably Never Been Close to a Star Before”
Just when do comets get their signature coma? Conventional wisdom says it only happens when they get close enough to the sun, but new research suggests it starts when they are still beyond the orbit of the planets.Continue reading “Comets Already Grow a Coma out in the Kuiper Belt”
Jupiter is notorious for capturing objects that venture too close to the gas giant and its enormous pull of gravity. Asteroids known as Jupiter Trojans are a large group of space rocks that have been snared by the planet, which usually remain in a stable orbit near one of the Jupiter’s Lagrangian points.
But now, the Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a comet near Jupiter’s Trojan asteroid population. This is the first time a comet has been found in this region, and the team of scientists studying the object – named P/2019 LD2 (LD2) – think the unexpected comet is only a temporary visitor.Continue reading “Jupiter has Added a Comet to its Trojan Collection”
About 66 million years ago a massive chunk of rock slammed into Earth in what is the modern-day Yucatan Peninsula. The impact extinguished about 75% of all life on Earth. Most famously, it was the event that wiped out the dinosaurs.
While mainstream scientific thought has pointed to an asteroid as the impactor, a new research letter says it could’ve, in fact, been a comet.Continue reading “Did a Comet Wipe out the Dinosaurs?”