Almost all the objects orbiting the sun live in a particular plane, called the ecliptic plane. But a recent analysis of long-period comets reveals a second home, a so-called “empty ecliptic”. And it may be populated with comets dragged there by none other than the gravity of the Milky Way galaxy.Continue reading “The Solar System has a second plane where objects orbit the Sun”
It looks like we may have to update our theories on how stars and planets form in new solar systems. A team of astronomers has discovered young planets forming in a solar system that’s only about 500,000 years old. Prior to this discovery, astronomers thought that stars are well into their adult life of fusion before planets formed from left over material in the circumstellar disk.
Now, according to a new study, it looks like planets and stars can form and grow up together.Continue reading “Planets Don’t Wait for Their Star to Form First”
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”
The better our technologies get, the better we get at finding objects in space. That’s certainly true of Jupiter and its moons. Prior to Galileo, nobody knew the other planets had moons. Then in 1609/10, as he made improvements to his telescope, he aimed it at the gas giant and eventually found four moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. Now those four natural satellites also bear his name: the Galilean moons.
Over the centuries since then, and especially in our digital age, astronomical tools and methods kept improving. In particular, wide-field CCD (Charge Coupled Devices) have led to an explosion of astronomical discoveries. In recent years, the confirmed number of Jovian moons has risen to 79. Now, a new study says that there may be 600 small irregular moons orbiting Jupiter.Continue reading “Jupiter Probably Has 600 Small, Irregular Moons”
At first glance, it looks like something from an alien autopsy. A strange organ cut from a xenomorph’s thorax, under the flickering lights of an operating room in a top secret government facility, with venous tendrils dangling down to the floor, dripping viscous slime. (X-Com anyone?)
But no, it’s just our Solar System.Continue reading “This is What the Solar System Really Looks Like”
Before our Solar System had planets, it had planetesimals. Scientists think that most of the meteorites that have struck Earth are fragments of these planetesimals. Scientists also think that these planetesimals either melted completely, very early in their history, or that they remained as little more than collections of rocks, or “rubble piles.”
But one family of meteorites, that have been found spread around the world, appear to come from a planetesimal that bucked that trend.Continue reading “A Group of Meteorites All Came From a Destroyed Planetesimal With a Magnetic Core”
A comet-eating black hole the size of a planet? It’s possible. And if there’s one out there in the distant Solar System, a pair of researchers think they know how to find it.
If they do, we might finally put the Planet 9 issue to rest.Continue reading “If Planet 9 is a Primordial Black Hole, We Might Be Able to See Flares When it Consumes Comets”
It seems unlikely that an ocean could persist on a world that never gets closer than 30 astronomical units from the Sun. But that’s the case with Pluto. Evidence shows that it has a sub-surface ocean between 100 to 180 km thick, at the boundary between the core and the mantle. Other Kuiper Belt Objects may be similar.
But time might be running out for these buried oceans, which will one day turn to ice.Continue reading “Pluto and Other Kuiper Belt Objects Started Out With Water Oceans, and Have Been Slowly Freezing Solid for Billions of Years”