Two hundred and fourteen years ago, on Jan. 1 1801, the discovery of a faint celestial body set the stage for one of the biggest arguments in astronomy — planetary classification. Ceres, an asteroid the size of Texas, was known as the solar system’s largest rock for nearly two centuries. Until 2006, when a debate on the planetary status of Pluto called for a reclassification of Ceres to dwarf planet status.
There are myriad reasons why getting from Earth to Mars is hard, but chief among them are two 1) the massive amount of fuel needed and 2) a launch window that is limited to every 26 months, when the two planets are in optimal alignment. A couple of mathematicians have calculated a new path to Mars that solves both — and it’s far from a straight line.
NASA’s focus for human spaceflight seems to change every few years as we learn something new about what it will take to keep human beings alive out there. However, NASA usually picks one of a few targets. Will we go to Mars next, maybe back to the Moon, or perhaps an asteroid is a better option? NASA’s Langley Research Center has put forward an interesting proposal — instead of the traditional choices, why not make the trip to Venus?
Extra-solar planets come in all sizes — from dinky rocky worlds that measure up to Mercury to massive gas giants that would dwarf Jupiter. Exoplanet hunters have developed a sophisticated array of telescopes and techniques to detect this multitude of exoplanetary girths, but we are now on the verge of potentially detecting exoplanets of different shapes.
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has the protoplanet Ceres in its sight, and soon will have a close encounter with this unusual alien world. Still, before Dawn get’s there, it may help to answer some questions such as “what exactly is Ceres?”
U.S. astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array have captured a remarkable image of a young star, HD 107146, surrounded by a deep layer of dust — a layer that’s thicker on the outside than it is on the inside, suggesting the presence of an entire family of Pluto-like objects.
A team of astronomers has found an important new example of a very rare type of galaxy that may yield valuable insight on how galaxies developed in the early Universe. The new discovery technique promises to give astronomers many more examples of this important and mysterious type of galaxy.
2005 cassini captures an astonishing sight, a hundred geysers shooting ice particles miles into space from cracks in the south pole. Enceladus is hurdling its guts into space at a colossal rate. As enceladus orbits saturn, these icy plumes feed a vast shimmering halo around the planet the mysterious e ring.
Quasars are the most luminous objects in the universe, beacons that shine across vast cosmological distances. They are galaxies that have particularly active supermassive black holes at their cores, objects surrounded by discs of extremely hot matter spiralling into oblivion and emitting bright beams of particles along their spin axes at nearly the speed of light.
Astrobiologists like to argue about the various parameters required for planetary habitability, but one thing they tend to agree on is that water must be present. A new theory upends this assumption by suggesting that alien life could thrive on “supercritical carbon dioxide” instead.
Astronomers recently spotted seven galaxies that appeared around 13.1 billion years ago – 700 million years after the Big Bang. Where the galaxies came from initially confused the experts because they seemed to appear almost out of nowhere, very rapidly. But now the team behind the observations suggest the previously hidden cluster of stars appeared when a cosmic ‘fog’ cleared.
Astronomers in the next year will be able to detect hundreds of black holes thanks to the brand new detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory or LIGO, which is a new research by scientists from Cardiff University.