Seeing with Gravity: How invisible particles can be observed in outer space

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

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

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

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

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

TRAPPIST-1 and Earth’s distant cousins

The recent discovery of Earth-like planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system has been a major headline for the past few weeks. A team led by Michael Gillon found three planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system in 2016, and recently reported at least 4 more which may contain the appropriate elements for life. One of the strongest indicators that a planet could harbor life is if a planet’s … Continue reading TRAPPIST-1 and Earth’s distant cousins

Don’t worry, the expansion of the universe is still accelerating

In the early 1900s, Edwin Hubble observed that distant galaxies are moving away from us. This surprising observation led Hubble to hypothesize that the universe is expanding; more recently, scientists have observed that not only is the universe expanding, but that the expansion is accelerating! The evidence for acceleration emerged from observations of a particular kind of supernovae (Type Ia supernovae) that have a uniform … Continue reading Don’t worry, the expansion of the universe is still accelerating

Galactic Rotation Curves Revisited: A Surprise For Dark Matter

Historically, galactic rotation curves have suggested that galaxies are surrounded by a vast amount of invisible matter, otherwise known as a dark matter halo. A few weeks ago, a team of astrophysicists published a result that completely contradicts these halo models and could even change the popular understanding of dark matter. The team found that galactic rotation curves can be calculated explicitly from a simple … Continue reading Galactic Rotation Curves Revisited: A Surprise For Dark Matter