Can one type of planet become another? Can a mini-Neptune lose its atmosphere and become a super-Earth? Astronomers have found two examples of mini-Neptunes transitioning to super-Earths, and the discovery might help explain a noted “gap” in the size distribution of exoplanets.Continue reading “Mini-Neptunes can Lose gas and Turn Into Super-Earths”
The Moon has orbited Earth since the Solar System’s early days. Anyone who’s ever spent time at the ocean can’t fail to notice the Moon’s effect. The Moon drives the tides even in the world’s most remote inlets and bays. And tides may be vital to life’s emergence.
But if Earth were more massive, the Moon may never have become what it is now. Instead, it would be much smaller. Tides would be much weaker, and life may not have emerged the way it did.Continue reading “Massive Rocky Planets Probably Don’t Have big Moons”
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When young stars coalesce out of a cloud of molecular hydrogen, a disk of leftover material called a protoplanetary disk surrounds them. This disk is where planets form, and astronomers are getting better at peering into those veiled environments and watching embryonic worlds take shape. But young stars aren’t the only stars with disks of raw material rotating around them.
Some old, dying stars also have disks. Can a second generation of planets form under those conditions?Continue reading “A Second Generation of Planets can Form Around a Dying Star”
Mercury is the speed champion in our Solar System. It orbits the Sun every 88 days, and its average speed is 47 km/s. Its average distance from the Sun is 58 million km (36 million mi), and it’s so fast it’s named after Mercury, the wing-footed God.
But what if instead of Mercury, Jupiter was closest to the Sun? And what if Jupiter was even closer to the Sun than Mercury and far hotter?Continue reading “Astronomers Find a Planet That Orbits its Star in Just 16 HOURS!”
If we had to rely solely on spacecraft to learn about the outer planets, we wouldn’t be making great progress. It takes a massive effort to get a spacecraft to the outer Solar System. But thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, we can keep tabs on the gas giants without leaving Earth’s orbit.Continue reading “Here are Hubble’s 2021 Photos of the Outer Solar System”
Consumption and disintegration.
Next time you want to be the life of the party—if you’re hanging out with cool nerds that is—just drop that phrase into the conversation. And when they look at you quizzically, just say that’s the eventual fate of the Solar System.Continue reading “In the Far Future, Stellar Flybys Will Completely Dismantle the Solar System”
If a solar system is a family, then some planets leave home early. Whether they want to or not. Once they’ve left the gravitational embrace of their family, they’re pretty much destined to drift through interstellar space forever, unbound to any star.
Astronomers like to call these drifters “rogue planets,” and they’re getting better at finding them. A team of astronomers have found one of these drifting rogues that’s about the same mass as Mars or Earth.Continue reading “A Rogue Earth-Mass Planet Has Been Discovered Freely Floating in the Milky Way Without a Star”
Everything in space is moving. Galaxies collide and merge, massive clouds of gas migrate, and asteroids, comets, and rogue planets zip around and between it all. And in our own Solar System, the planets follow their ancient orbits.
Now a new data visualization shows us just how much our view from Earth changes in two years, as the orbits of the planets change the distance between us and our neighbours.Continue reading “Check Out How Big the Planets and the Moon Will be in Our Sky Over the Next Two Years”
Scientists have learned a lot about the atmospheres on various worlds in our Solar System simply from planetary sunrises or sunsets. Sunlight streaming through the haze of an atmosphere can be separated into its component colors to create spectra, just as prisms do with sunlight. From the spectra, astronomers can interpret the measurements of light to reveal the chemical makeup of an atmosphere.Continue reading “Sunrises Across the Solar System”
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”