50 years after the Apollo 11 landing, the US is planning on returning to the moon. While such a mission could answer new scientific questions about the history of our corner of the universe and help test new technology, lack of federal support and behind-schedule and over-budget projects make a 2024 landing a challenging goal. Continue reading Back to the Moon: Challenges Facing the 2024 Return
Everyone on Earth is familiar with gravity to some extent; it is the force that pulls us down to the planet’s surface. In fact, all objects with mass tug on other objects moving around them because of gravity. The strength of the gravitational pull depends on the mass of the object, and is often too weak to notice. However, for things as massive as galaxies, … Continue reading Seeing with Gravity: How invisible particles can be observed in outer space
by Lisa Heppler figures by Jovana Andrejevic Weightlessness is something many of us have dreamed about since we were kids. We have seen footage of astronauts floating around the International Space Station playing Ping-Pong with balls of water and Pac-Man with strings of M&Ms. For a moment, as we watch these astronauts thriving in an environment completely alien to us, we are able to imagine ourselves … Continue reading Free Falling: the science of weightlessness
If you travel into deep space and look back at Earth through a sophisticated telescope, you could measure what’s called the vegetation red edge (VRE). The vegetation red edge is a mixture of red and infrared light that is reflected by plants on Earth’s surface. Because of clouds, ice masses, and large oceans, the vegetation red edge on Earth is actually fairly small and difficult … Continue reading Signs of Life: Searching for Plants on Other Planets
If you saw the blockbuster Gravity, then you probably had the dangers of orbiting space debris impressed upon you by a 90-minute emotional Hollywood roller coaster. While such catastrophic events haven’t ever happened, the risks of in-space collisions are certainly very real. In 2009, two satellites collided and rapidly produced thousands of smaller orbiting objects. It is this high production of smaller material from a … Continue reading Taking out the (space) trash
After a new star is born, the surrounding gas and dust flattens out into a rotating disk. Some of that matter will condense, eventually forming the planets that circle the star. Unfortunately, it is challenging to watch the formation of a new planet. Light from the star tends to drown out light from the planet. Astronomers have only been able to spot planet-like-objects in these … Continue reading It’s a planet! Scientists find newborn planet for the first time
by Katherine J. Wu In space, no one would hear you scream. But make a quick detour down to the surface of Venus, and all bets are off. Because even if you scream on another planet with no one else around to hear it, you’ll certainly make a sound – just not quite the one you’d make on Earth. And with that cliffhanger, let’s tap … Continue reading You Asked: If you were able to talk on another planet, how would you sound?
Since the first exoplanet discovery in the 1990s, scientists have learned of the diverse and abundant nature of exoplanets, having now found more than 3700. With such a large and disparate sample set, ESA (European Space Agency) has set its sights on learning how these planets form and what their chemistry is like. A new telescope, or ‘mission’, ARIEL (Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey), has … Continue reading ARIEL: Exploring strange new worlds and boldly observing what no telescope has observed before.
Black holes are fascinating objects to study because we can use them to learn more about about astronomy, cosmology, and gravity. Black holes are super-massive and super-dense objects in the universe. Because of these properties, they produce strong gravitational and electromagnetic forces that suck nearby objects in. After ‘eating’ all this extraneous matter, the black hole has energy to spare and then ‘burps’, emitting high-energy … Continue reading Black Hole Burps: Particle Absorption and Emission in Supermassive Black Holes
No, I don’t mean Matthew McConaughey. A few weeks ago, our first interstellar visitor flew nearby Earth and now is on its way back out of our solar system. While these types of extra-solar system objects have long been expected to exist as a bi-product of planet formation in nearby solar systems, this is the first ever detected – an event scientists have been waiting decades for. Continue reading Saying goodbye to our first interstellar visitor