Free Falling: the science of weightlessness

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

Signs of Life: Searching for Plants on Other Planets

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

Taking out the (space) trash

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

It’s a planet! Scientists find newborn planet for the first time

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

You Asked: If you were able to talk on another planet, how would you sound?

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?

ARIEL: Exploring strange new worlds and boldly observing what no telescope has observed before.

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 Hole Burps: Particle Absorption and Emission in Supermassive Black Holes

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

Saying goodbye to our first interstellar visitor

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

Metal On Mars

A recent NASA mission has discovered that the atmosphere on Mars has many similarities to that of Earth. Metal atoms, contained in dust particles, float down from the solar system and become trapped in the atmosphere of a planet. Energetic particles, for example from the Sun, can then rip electrons from the metal atoms, forming ions. Historically, we haven’t known what happens to these ions. Depending on the specifics of the planet in … Continue reading Metal On Mars

Radio Telescope

Radio Waves from Outer Space Continue to Baffle Astronomers

Something in outer space is shouting at us, but astronomers are still trying to figure out the source of this cosmic “noise.” A telescope in Australia recently detected a flood of radio waves, akin to the waves that allow you to listen to the radio in your car, coming from an otherwise unremarkable area of the sky. These millisecond-long pulses of electromagnetic radiation are called fast radio bursts … Continue reading Radio Waves from Outer Space Continue to Baffle Astronomers