Detecting the Neutrinos From a Supernova That’s About to Explode

Neutrinos are puzzling things. They’re tiny particles, almost massless, with no electrical charge. They’re notoriously difficult to detect, too, and scientists have gone to great lengths to detect them. The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, for instance, tries to detect neutrinos with strings of detectors buried down to a depth of 2450 meters (8000 ft.) in the dark Antarctic ice.

How’s that for commitment.

Continue reading “Detecting the Neutrinos From a Supernova That’s About to Explode”

How an Advanced Civilization Could Exploit a Black Hole for Nearly Limitless Energy

A black hole as a source of energy?

We know black holes as powerful singularities, regions in space time where gravity is so overwhelming that nothing—not even light itself—can escape.

About 50 years ago, British physicist Roger Penrose proposed that black holes could be a source of energy. Now, researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland have demonstrated that it may be possible.

Continue reading “How an Advanced Civilization Could Exploit a Black Hole for Nearly Limitless Energy”

Newborn Exoplanets can be Completely Stripped of Their Atmosphere by Stars

Newborn exoplanets can have a tough life. They may form an atmosphere, but that atmosphere can be doomed. Their stars can emit intense X-ray and UV radiation, stripping away those atmospheres and laying their surfaces bare.

A team of researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics looked at a family of four newborn sibling planets, and tried to understand how their star strips away their gaseous envelopes.

Continue reading “Newborn Exoplanets can be Completely Stripped of Their Atmosphere by Stars”

Finally! Mars InSight’s Mole is Now Underground

It looks like the InSight Lander’s Mole instrument is making some progress. After months of perseverance, the team operating the instrument has succeeded in getting the Mole at least some distance into the ground.

That’s a victory in itself, considering all the setbacks there’ve been. But it’s too soon to celebrate: there’s quite a ways to go before the Mole can deliver any science.

Continue reading “Finally! Mars InSight’s Mole is Now Underground”

Ocean Circulation Might Be the Key to Finding Habitable Exoplanets

Artist's depiction of a waterworld. A new study suggests that Earth is in a minority when it comes to planets, and that most habitable planets may be greater than 90% ocean. Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)

We’ve found thousands and thousands of exoplanets now. And spacecraft like TESS will likely find thousands and thousands more of them. But most exoplanets are gassy giants, molten hell-holes, or frozen wastes. How can we find those needles-in-the-haystack habitable worlds that may be out there? How can we narrow our search?

Well, first of all, we need to find water. Oceans, preferably, since that’s where life began on Earth. And according to a new study, those oceans need to circulate in particular ways to support life.

Continue reading “Ocean Circulation Might Be the Key to Finding Habitable Exoplanets”

New Data Show How Phytoplankton Pumps Carbon Out of the Atmosphere at an Enormous Scale

One of the most fascinating things about planet Earth is the way that life shapes the Earth and the Earth shapes life. We only have to look back to the Great Oxygenation Event (GOE) of 2.4 billion years ago to see how lifeforms have shaped the Earth. In that event, phytoplanktons called cyanobacteria pumped the atmosphere with oxygen, extinguishing most life on Earth, and paving the way for the development of multicellular life.

Early Earth satisfied the initial conditions for life to appear, and now, lifeforms shape the atmosphere, the landscape, and the oceans in many different ways.

At the base of many of these changes is phytoplankton.

Continue reading “New Data Show How Phytoplankton Pumps Carbon Out of the Atmosphere at an Enormous Scale”