According to predominant theories of galaxy formation, the earliest galaxies in the Universe were born from the merger of globular clusters, which were in turn created by the first stars coming together. Today, these spherical clusters of stars are found orbiting around the a galactic core of every observable galaxy and are a boon for astronomers seeking to study galaxy formation and some of the oldest stars in the Universe.
Interestingly enough, it appears that some of these globular clusters may not have survived the merger process. According to a new study by an international team of astronomers, a cluster was torn apart by our very own galaxy about two billion years ago. This is evidenced by the presence of a metal-poor debris ring that they observed wrapped around the entire Milky Way, a remnant from this ancient collision.
Continue reading “A Globular Cluster was Completely Dismantled and Turned Into a Ring Around the Milky Way”
In 1950, Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi sat down to lunch with some of his colleagues at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he had worked five years prior as part of the Manhattan Project. According to various accounts, the conversation turned to aliens and the recent spate of UFOs. Into this, Fermi issued a statement that would go down in the annals of history: “Where is everybody?“
This became the basis of the Fermi Paradox, which refers to the high probability estimates for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) and the apparent lack of evidence. But despite seventy years of looking, we still haven’t been able to answer Fermi’s question, leading to multiple proposals as to why this is. Today, we look at the “Aestivation Hypothesis,” which argues that aliens are not dead (or non-existent), they’re just resting!
Continue reading “Beyond the Fermi Paradox V: What is the Aestivation Hypothesis?”
Ready for the Perseids?
It’s August once again, and that means the Perseid meteors are inbound. This shower is a sure-fire bet starting this weekend, though 2020 sees the spectacle go down under somewhat challenging circumstances.
Continue reading “Meteors of August: Our Guide to the 2020 Perseids”
On Sunday, August 2nd, astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley splashed down with their Crew Dragon spacecraft (Endeavour) in the Gulf of Mexico. This brought their historic mission (Demo-2) to a close and marked the beginning of a new era in space exploration. For the first time in almost ten years, astronauts bound for the ISS had been launched from American soil – effectively restoring domestic launch capability to the US.
Continue reading “NASA Astronauts are Back on Earth After a Successful Crew Dragon Splashdown”
Yesterday (on Tuesday, August 4th), ground crews at the SpaceX launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas, accomplished a major milestone. After 11 months of prototyping, testing, and more than a few explosions, the fifth Starship prototype (SN5) successfully completed a 150 meter (~500 ft) hop test and landed safely again. This latest test puts SpaceX on track towards full-scale orbital testing of their future launch vehicle.
Continue reading “Finally! SpaceX Starship Prototype SN5 Flies Just Over 150 Meters Into the Air”
In recent decades, over 4,000 extrasolar planets have been confirmed beyond our Solar System. With so many planets available for study, astronomers have learned a great deal about the types of planets that exist out there and what kind of conditions are prevalent. For instance, they have been able to get a better idea of just how common habitable planets are (at least by our standards).
As it turns out, a surprisingly high number of planets out there could support life. That is the conclusion reached by a team of astronomers and planetary scientists who conducted a study of the possible sizes of habitable zones (HZ) based on stellar classification. After considering many planets could stably orbit within them, they came to the conclusion that stars with no Jupiter-sized gas giants can have as many as seven habitable planets!
Continue reading “Some Stars Could Support as Many as 7 Habitable Planets”
On Thursday, July 30th, NASA launched the most sophisticated Mars rover ever built atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.This mission includes the Perseverance rover (Curiosity‘s sister vehicle) and the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, both of which are being flown on a seven-month journey by the Mars 2020 spacecraft.
In a minor hiccup, the Mars 2020 spacecraft entered safe mode a few hours after launch, apparently due to a temperature anomaly. This was the conclusion reached by mission controllers after receiving telemetry data on the spacecraft via the NASA Deep Space Network. Luckily, the spacecraft is working nominally and is on its way toward Mars to join in the search for evidence of past (and present) life!
Continue reading “Perseverance Went Into Safe Mode Shortly After Launch, But it’s Fine”
It’s been a busy week for SpaceX! Yesterday (Sunday, Aug. 2nd), astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley returned from the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the same Crew Dragon spacecraft that had carried them to space two months before. With their safe return, the first crewed mission to launch from US soil in almost a decade (Demo-2) was complete, signaling that NASA has restored domestic launch capability to the US.
In all the hubbub, another major SpaceX accomplishment went largely unnoticed. This was the successful completion of a full-duration static fire test by the SN5 Starship prototype, which took place at the company’s South Texas Launch Facility near Boca Chica on Thursday, July 30th. With this milestone reached, SpaceX is moving ahead with the next major test of the SN5, the long-awaited 150 meter (~500 foot) hop test!
Continue reading “SpaceX Just Completed a Static Fire of Starship Prototype SN5. Next Comes the Hop”
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”
In the past few decades, the study of extrasolar planets has grown by leaps and bounds, with the confirmation of over 4000 exoplanets. With so many planets available for study, the focus of exoplanet-researchers is shifting from discovery to characterization. In the coming years, new technologies and next-generation telescopes will also enable Direct Imaging studies, which will vastly improve our understanding of exoplanet atmospheres.
To facilitate this process, astronomers will rely on costly technologies like coronagraphs and starshades, which block out the light of a star so any planets orbiting it will become more visible. However, according to a new study by an international team of astronomers and cosmologists, eclipsing binary stars could provide all the shading that’s needed to directly image planets orbiting them.
Continue reading “There are Natural Starshades Out There, Which Would Help Astronomers Image Exoplanets”