Hard Science Fiction di Brandon Q. Morris
Searching for planets with molecular fingerprinting Space

Searching for planets with molecular fingerprinting

The star Beta Pictoris is 63 light years from Earth. In 1983, a dusty disk was discovered around it and in 2008, an exoplanet. This exoplanet is a gas giant with thirteen times the mass of Jupiter and was named Beta Pictoris b. Now the planet is being used for a test run of a new method for searching for planets. The technique, which the team of researchers describes here, works like this: The fact that planets can rarely be seen directly in a telescope is normally due to the brightness of the central star that outshines everything else.…
Life on distant moons? Life

Life on distant moons?

In the search for Earth’s siblings, astronomers often focus on rocky planets, and for good reason: in our Solar System, planets similar to Earth are located only in the habitable zone. But this does not have to be the case in other solar systems. There, gas giants as big as Jupiter or even bigger could be located in the habitable zone of their host star. The habitable zone might even be larger in these systems, because these giant planets could also provide energy to the moons in their orbit. (altro…)
The youngest planets in the Milky Way: triplets discovered around baby star Space

The youngest planets in the Milky Way: triplets discovered around baby star

HD 163296, which is 330 light years from Earth, is not an especially spectacular star. It is approximately twice as heavy as our sun, and belongs to the class of Herbig Ae/Be stars. These are very young stars (HD 163296 is 4 million years old) that are still on their way to the main series. Hydrogen fusion has not yet ignited in its interior. Instead, the radiated energy comes from its contraction. At the end of 2016, the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) discovered a pronounced protoplanetary disk around HD 163296 and by analyzing this disk, two thinner sections were…
Tiny diamonds in star dust Space

Tiny diamonds in star dust

To understand the evolution of the universe, astronomers study the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). It is a remnant, an echo of the big bang, and provides answers to how the basic structures of our universe formed. If this radiation is measured, however, it is brighter than predicted. This is because there are also other sources of microwave radiation in the universe. The portion that exceeds the expected quantity is called AME (Anomalous Microwave Emission). For a long time it was believed that very rapidly rotating tiny grains of dust were the source of AME. In particular, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons…
Organic matter on Mars – and a seasonal methane cycle Life

Organic matter on Mars – and a seasonal methane cycle

Researchers estimate that every year, 100 to 300 tons of organic matter from space must land on the Mars surface. If one considers that this process has been going on for billions of years, then there must be abundant organic deposits (which, to be clear, were produced from abiotic processes and thus have nothing to do with organic life) to be found on Mars. However, the first probes, which analyzed Mars’s soil with a gas chromatography, Viking-1 and Viking-2, found absolutely no traces of organic materials in the regolith samples that they analyzed. This was a source of astonishment…
Lifting the veil from star-formation areas: more heavyweights than thought Space

Lifting the veil from star-formation areas: more heavyweights than thought

In some areas of space, stars are being formed much faster and much more frequently than in our Milky Way. Astronomers call such areas starburst galaxies. In these areas, the star formation rates are up to 100 times greater than the average in the Milky Way. The high dynamics often produce an extended veil of dust that settles around these galaxies. This makes it harder for astronomers to get a closer look, which would be valuable because, in the early universe, such areas were significantly more common than they are today. With a new technique, researchers under the guidance…
Book now: NASA opens a travel bureau for exoplanets Life

Book now: NASA opens a travel bureau for exoplanets

NASA had a great idea there: At the "Exoplanet Travel Bureau" you can now book – fictious – trips to different exotic destinations in space. You have the choice between Trappist-1d (or 1e, NASA isn’t sure), Kepler-16b, Kepler-186f, and more. The program then beams you to the surface of the planet, where you can look around by clicking your mouse and learn about some of the sights. Of course the views are (for now) only from an artist’s imagination. (altro…)
Dwarf planet Pluto – a gigantic comet? Space

Dwarf planet Pluto – a gigantic comet?

Researchers from the Southwest Research Institute in the USA have put forward an exciting theory in the journal Icarus. The scientists have tried to assemble a model for the formation of the dwarf planet Pluto. Here they have looked in particular at the nitrogen-rich Sputnik Planitia basin that is covered by a gigantic glacier made from frozen nitrogen. They combined this data with results from the Rosetta probe that studied the comet 67P. Their findings: the nitrogen content fits well with the theory that Pluto is a conglomeration of approximately one billion (!) comets or other similar Kuiper Belt…