In the past few decades, the study of exoplanets has grown by leaps and bounds, with 4296 confirmed discoveries in 3,188 systems and an additional 5,634 candidates awaiting confirmation. Because of this, scientists have been able to get a better idea about the number of potentially-habitable planets that could be out there. A popular target is stars like our own, which are known as G-type yellow dwarfs.
Recently, an international team of scientists (led by researchers from the NASA Ames Research Center) combined data from by the now-defunct Kepler Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gaia Observatory. What this revealed is that half of the Sun-like stars in our Universe could have rocky, potentially-habitable planets, the closest of which could be in our cosmic backyard!
Continue reading “Based on Kepler Data, There’s a 95% Chance of an Earth-Like Planet Within 20 Light-Years”
There are instances other than pandemics when it is necessary to work remotely. Spacecraft operators are forced to do most of their work remotely while their charges travel throughout the solar system. Sometimes those travels take place a little closer to home. Engineers at DLR, Germany’s space agency, recently got to take the concept of remote working to a whole new level when they operated a rover in a whole different country almost 700 kilometers away while working remotely from their primary office.
Continue reading “Operating a Rover in Real-time From a Distance”
The Mercury-bound BepiColombo spacecraft will observe Venus during tonight’s pass, on the hunt for phosphine and sulfur-dioxide.
The joint Japanese/European Space Agency’s BepiColombo spacecraft makes a scheduled pass near Venus tonight, while the cloud-shrouded planet has been very much in the news.
Continue reading “BepiColombo Mercury Mission to Make First Venus Flyby Tonight”
Evidence of Mars’ watery past is written all over the surface of the planet. Between dried-up river valleys, outflow channels, and sedimentary deposits, it is clear that Mars was once a much different place. But until recently, the mystery of where this water went has remained unsolved. This changed in 2018 when data obtained by the ESA’s Mars Express probe indicated the existence of water beneath the south pole of the planet.
According to the Mars Express probe’s Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS), this body of water is in a 20 km (~12.5 mi) wide area about 1.5 km (~1 mi) beneath the surface. And now, further analysis of the data by a team led by the Roma Tre University has revealed the existence of three new ponds, the largest of which measures about 20 x 30 km (~12.5 x 18.5 mi) and is surrounded by many smaller ponds.
Continue reading “Mars Express Finds Even More Ponds of Water Under the Ground on Mars”
The ESA’s CHEOPS (Characterizing Exoplanets Satellite) mission has announced its first discovery. It’s called WASP-189 b, and it’s a blistering hot temperature of 3,200 °C (5,790 °F), hotter than some stars. They’re calling the planet an “ultra-hot Jupiter.”
Continue reading “Cheops Finds a World That’s Utterly Alien From Anything We Have in the Solar System”
People have been speculating about the possibility of life on Mars for centuries. But it’s only since the 1970s and the Viking 1 and 2 missions that we have been able to search for it. After many decades, evidence has mounted that Mars may have once supported life (like the existence of flowing water and organic molecules), but evidence of present-day life has remained elusive.
Unfortunately, according to a recent study by an international team of scientists led by the Spanish Astrobiology Center (CSIC-INTA), it’s possible that the surface of Mars was bathed in acid and alkaline fluids that destroyed all evidence of past life. These findings could have serious implications for upcoming missions to Mars, which includes NASA’s Perseverance and the ESA’s Rosalind Franklin rover.
Continue reading “The Surface of Mars Might Have Gotten an Acid Bath, Obscuring Evidence of Past Life”
Astronomer William Herschel discovered Uranus—and two of its moons—230 years ago. Now a group of astronomers working with data from the telescope that bears his name, the Herschel Space Observatory, have made an unexpected discovery. It looks like Uranus’ moons bear a striking similarity to icy dwarf planets.
The Herschel Space Observatory has been retired since 2013. But all of its data is still of interest to researchers. This discovery was a happy accident, resulting from tests on data from the observatory’s camera detector. Uranus is a very bright infrared energy source, and the team was measuring the influence of very bright infrared objects on the camera.
The images of the moons were discovered by accident.
Continue reading “Uranus’ Moons are Surprisingly Similar to Dwarf Planets in the Kuiper Belt”
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”
At the Science Gallery of Trinity College Dublin, a beautiful work of art is capturing the imagination of people all over the world. It’s called “Dark Distortions,” a work of interactive art by Dutch artist Thijs Biersteker of Woven Studio. Inspired by the ESA’s forthcoming Euclid mission, a visible to near-infrared space telescope that will launch sometime in 2022 to study the mysterious nature of Dark Matter.
Continue reading “Art Installation that Demonstrates How Dark Matter Bends Light with Gravity”
On July 5, 2016, NASA’s Juno spacecraft arrived around Jupiter, becoming the second mission in history to study the gas giant from orbit – the last being the Galileo spacecraft, which orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003. Since then, the spacecraft has gathered data on Jupiter’s atmosphere, composition, gravity field, and magnetic field in the hopes of learning more about how the planet formed and evolved.
In addition, the spacecraft has gathered some of the most breathtaking images ever taken of Jupiter and its system of moons. In fact, as the spacecraft was making another approach towards Jupiter on December 26th, 2019, it managed to capture the first infrared images of the moon Ganymede’s northern polar region. These images will inform future missions to this satellite, which could host life beneath its icy mantle.
Continue reading “Juno Captures Pictures of Ganymede for the First Time”