A nanoscopic speck of Moon dust, roughly as wide as a human hair, can now be analysed in high resolution atom by atom. Using an innovative approach called atom probe tomography (APT), researchers at the University of Chicago say they have found a way to conserve our limited sample of precious Moon rocks, gathered during
Astronomers have found a monster galaxy causing trouble in the early Universe. When the Universe was just 1.8 billion years old, galaxy XMM-2599 was already a colossal chonker. It was also already dead as a doornail. Sometime between the Big Bang (13.8 billion years ago) and 12 billion years ago, it had ballooned out
NASA’s Christina Koch returned to Earth safely on Thursday after shattering the spaceflight record for female astronauts with a stay of almost 11 months aboard the International Space Station. Koch touched down at 09:12 GMT on the Kazakh steppe after 328 days in space, along with Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and
Wrapped up within the nearby Cocoon Galaxy, astronomers have detected a rare double heart. Recognised in the Northern Hemisphere for its distinct shape, this distorted spiral galaxy, otherwise known as NGC 4490, appears to be hiding a true rarity. Despite its relatively small size – its system is roughly a fifth of the Milky Way –
In 2017, astronomers captured a mysterious signal from deep space. For mere milliseconds, it flared brightly in the radio spectrum and fell away, and that seemed to be that. But it wasn’t. Follow-up observations have now revealed the signal repeating, nearly 600 times fainter than that first burst. The repetition suggests these weird radio flares we
The epic collision between two neutron stars in 2017 really is the science gift that keeps on giving. As they merged, gravitational waves rippled out across the Universe; now reverberations from that event could confirm a decades-old hypothesis about black holes. Astronomers poring over the gravitational wave data believe they have found evidence of
A dramatic encounter between two stars has strewn their remains out across their little corner of space in the most spectacular fashion – and we get to actually see it with our own eyes. Here’s how it went down: As a dying star expanded into a red giant, it engulfed another, lower mass star.
In July and August of 2016, astronomers noticed something really strange in the data from the Gaia space observatory. A distant star oddly brightened, then dimmed. A few weeks later, it brightened again, and dimmed again. This odd behaviour wasn’t because of anything the star was doing; rather, the gravity of an invisible object
Solar storms powerful enough to wreak havoc on electronic equipment strike Earth every 25 years, according to a new study. And less powerful – yet still dangerous – storms occur every three years or so. This conclusion comes from a team of scientists from the the University of Warwick and the British Antarctic Survey.
On 19 October 2016, the NASA/ESA ExoMars mission arrived at the Red Planet to begin its study of the surface and atmosphere. While the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) successfully established orbit around Mars, the Schiaparelli Lander crashed on its way to the surface. At the time, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) acquired images of
After 6,002 days in space, NASA has finally retired its groundbreaking Spitzer Space Telescope. On January 30, mission control downloaded the last of Spitzer’s data, and sent through the final command to enter safe mode. At 2:34 pm PST, Spitzer Project Manager Joseph Hunt officially declared the Spitzer Space Telescope decommissioned. Spitzer was one
One of the predictions of Einstein’s general theory of relativity is that any spinning body drags the very fabric of space-time in its vicinity around with it. This is known as “frame-dragging”. In everyday life, frame-dragging is both undetectable and inconsequential, as the effect is so ridiculously tiny. Detecting the frame-dragging caused by the
It appears we have missed another close call between two satellites – but how close did we really come to a catastrophic event in space? It all began with a series of tweets from LeoLabs, a company that uses radar to track satellites and debris in space. It predicted that two obsolete satellites orbiting Earth
Scientists have donned their Sherlock Holmes caps to solve a mystery that’s been running for decades – the origins of a huge, layered expanse of CO2 ice and water ice at the south pole of Mars, and its link to the CO2 in the Martian atmosphere. One leading hypothesis is that these layers were
A couple of years ago, astronomers marvelled over the discovery of the hottest planet in the known Universe. And just when you thought KELT-9b couldn’t get even more insane, it goes and outdoes itself. New research shows that not only is this planet hotter than most stars, with vaporised iron and rare Earth metals in
A new telescope built to study the Sun has released its first images, and they are just breathtaking. They show the surface of the Sun in the most exquisite detail we’ve ever seen – revealing convection granules the size of Texas, and tiny magnetic features – the roots of fields that extend far into space.
A collaboration between physicists and amateur stargazers has yielded the discovery of what researchers say is a previously unknown kind of aurora phenomenon. Called ‘the dunes’, this stunning apparition of luminous, rippling wave patterns does not appear to fit within any established categories of aurora – and it’s only been documented now because of a
It crashed into Earth in 1969, ending an epic journey that had lasted for billions of years, and maybe even much longer than that. Inside this mysterious space rock – the Allende meteorite, which rained down over Mexican desert in a hail of fiery fragments a half-century ago – scientists have now identified interstellar material
There’s a lot of stuff up there, whizzing around in low-Earth orbit. Given the thousands of old, defunct satellites that can no longer communicate with Earth, it’s surprising how seldom they collide; but just such a collision might happen this week. According to space debris tracking service LeoLabs, IRAS (a decommissioned space telescope launched
Super-luminous supernovae are the brightest explosions in the Universe. In just a few months, a super-luminous supernova can release as much energy as our Sun will in its entire lifespan. And at its peak, it can be as bright as an entire galaxy. One of the most-studied super-luminous supernovae (SLSN) is called SN 2006gy.
Here on Earth, we pay quite a lot of attention to the sun. It’s visible to us, after all, and central to our lives. But it is only one of the billions of stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way. It’s also quite small compared to other stars – most are at least eight times
SpaceX is poised to launch its first astronauts into space this spring: Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. Their flight on the company’s Crew Dragon spaceship will mark the first time an American spacecraft has carried NASA astronauts since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. Behnken and Hurley’s liftoff is expected to launch a
The first-ever direct image of a black hole‘s event horizon was a truly impressive feat of scientific ingenuity. But it was extremely difficult to achieve, and the resulting image was relatively low-resolution. Techniques and technology will be refined, and it’s expected that future direct images of black holes will improve with time. In September
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been in orbit around Mars for almost 14 years. It carries a variety of instruments with it, including the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) instrument. That instrument has collected thousands of images of Mars. CRISM’s main purpose is to created detailed maps of the surface mineralogy
Over the years, Star Trek has been responsible for inspiring real world innovations from tablet computers to needleless injection devices and real time translators. Now, the science fiction franchise appears to have influenced Space Force, the US military’s newest branch, in its choice of logo: a symbol resembling an arrowhead ringed by an orbiting object
Artists like to anthropomorphise stars as pretty ladies, but in truth, they can be violent bastards. And astronomers have found a particularly bloodthirsty example in a binary star 3,000 light-years away, in which a small dead star slowly and periodically strips its binary companion of gas. This type of interaction is known as a
It’s been just over a year since China’s Chang’e 4 lander and Yutu 2 rover landed on the far side of the Moon. All this time, they’ve been studying the Von Kármán crater and sharing the results through a solitary link – the Queqiao relay satellite that bounces signals to Earth. As part of
Betelgeuse keeps getting dimmer and everyone is wondering what exactly that means. The star will go supernova at the end of its life, but that’s not projected to happen for tens of thousands of years or so. So what’s causing the dimming? Villanova University astronomers Edward Guinan and Richard Wasatonic were the first to
Black holes are cosmic objects of such fearsome density that even light cannot escape their extreme gravitational clutches. But just because they’re invisible, doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to observe them. This time, astronomers have mapped the contours of a supermassive vortex in the host galaxy IRAS 13224-3809, found in the Centaurus constellation some
The world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope is officially open for business according to Xinhua, China’s official state-run media. The FAST Radio Telescope saw fist light in 2016 but has been undergoing testing and commissioning since then. FAST stands for Five-hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope. FAST’s nickname is Tianyan, which means “Eye of the
Gravitational waves are caused by calamitous events in the Universe. Neutron stars that finally merge after circling each other for a long time can create them, and so can two black holes that collide with each other. But sometimes there’s a burst of gravitational waves that doesn’t have a clear cause. One such burst
Although the Moon has no atmosphere, it has loads of oxygen, all mixed up with the dust on the lunar surface in the form of oxides. Last year, scientists published a paper on how to extract it from a Moon dust (regolith) simulant; now, the first prototype oxygen plant is going to be attempting that extraction
SpaceX successfully tested its emergency abort system on an uncrewed spacecraft moments after launch Sunday, according to a live broadcast of the event, the last major test before it plans to send NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The test launch began at 10:30 am (15:30 GMT) at the Kennedy Space Center
A cache of five newly discovered exoplanets orbiting nearby stars has been revealed in a new study. The bounty includes two potentially habitable super-Earths that are perfect candidates to study further in our search for life outside the Solar System, according to the research team. The two planets are called GJ 180 d and
A new image from the ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft shows how beautiful, and desolate, Mars can appear. It also highlights some of the natural process that shape the planet’s surface. The image is of the northern polar region, and it features bright patches of ice, deep dark troughs, and evidence of storms and strong
NASA astronaut Christina Koch shared a short but powerful message from space on Tuesday: “Australia. Our hearts and thoughts are with you.” Koch, who is living on the International Space Station, posted several photos of the smoke from Australia’s fires, as seen from her vantage point 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth. (Christina Koch/NASA) About
There’s something really weird in the centre of the Milky Way. The vicinity of a supermassive black hole is a pretty weird place to start with, but astronomers have found six objects orbiting Sagittarius A* that are unlike anything in the galaxy. They are so peculiar that they have been assigned a brand-new class –
Phosphorus, an element that’s key in forming DNA and fuelling life on Earth, may have first arrived on the planet via comets from newborn stars. Since the element is extremely rare in the Universe, its presence on Earth has been a long-standing mystery. But scientists at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) now suggest that phosphorus
Proxima Centauri is our nearest neighbouring star; it’s just 4.2 light-years away. It has one planet that astronomers know of, a potentially habitable world called Proxima b. But in a new study, researchers from Italy’s National Institute for Astrophysics report that they have observed changes in the star’s activity that indicate it could have another planet.
Shortly after the Solar System formed, astronomers think it went through what’s known as the Great Divide – a splitting up of the planets into two distinct groups. We weren’t around to experience this cosmic schism, but a new study has put forward an intriguing hypothesis on how it would have occurred. Put simply, the
The oldest solid material on Earth has just been identified, and it predates the Solar System itself by at least a few hundred million years. The teensy tiny microscopic grains of dust were forged in a distant star somewhere between 5 and 7 billion years ago, according to new research. By comparison, our Sun is just
About 800,000 years ago, a monster space rock struck the Earth hard and fast. The impact of the 1.2 mile-wide (1.9 kilometre-wide) meteorite flung debris across 10 percent of the planet’s surface. Scientists have found this ancient debris, mostly in the form of glass blobs known as tektites, in Asia, Australia, and Antarctica. But
Astronomers recently discovered that a long time ago, a collision with a satellite galaxy did something interesting to the Milky Way, puffing up its disc and seeding its halo with stars. Now, we’ve established a more precise time frame for that event, all thanks to a single star. That star is visible in the night sky.
A new technique using the Hubble Space Telescope and a feature of general relativity has revealed the smallest clumps of dark matter ever identified – up to 100,000 times less massive than the Milky Way galaxy’s dark matter halo. And these (relatively) teeny tiny clumps of dark matter nicely agree with one of the
We are, by now, pretty familiar with the concept of the Goldilocks zone. Also known as the habitable zone, it’s the distance from a star at which liquid water can be present on the surface on a planet – not so hot as to be vaporised, nor so cold as to be frozen. These
The famous black hole at the heart of the M87 galaxy is emitting jets of material that travel at near the speed of light. The black hole at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy bears the name M87*, and astronomers have been observing it for a long time. Last year, the Event Horizon Telescope
If, by chance, you happened to miss seeing the glorious first quarter Moon of 2020, astrophotographer Andrew McCarthy’s got you covered. In one of his most detailed images to date, the Moon enthusiast has managed to capture Earth’s only natural satellite in absolutely brilliant detail. All it took was a blend of 100,000 photos
After keeping a dead star under close observation for over two decades, astronomers have finally caught it acting out. A pulsar called PSR J0908-4913 (J0908 for short) has, for the first time, been seen glitching – a peculiar and poorly-understood “hiccup” in rotation speed that some pulsars undergo. This not only adds to the