Hard Science Fiction di Brandon Q. Morris
How fast is the universe expanding? Space

How fast is the universe expanding?

Since the big bang 13.8 billion years ago, the universe has been expanding. The decisive question is: how fast? This speed is also called the Hubble constant – after Edwin Hubble, who first noticed the expansion of the universe. Astronomers have come up with two methods to calculate this constant. Method 1 involves the measurements by the ESA’s Planck satellite. This satellite measured the precise structure of the cosmic microwave background, which was produced 380,000 years after the big bang. This can be used to extrapolate the speed of expansion – by using the laws of physics. Calculated in…
The Milky Way meets a sausage Book

The Milky Way meets a sausage

Eight to ten billion years ago, thus, in its youth, our Milky Way apparently had a fateful encounter: it crossed paths with another, significantly smaller galaxy. The researchers who discovered this gave the smaller galaxy the name “Sausage Galaxy,” but this is perhaps a little unfair, because in reality it had a similar elliptical shape as the Milky Way. The name “Sausage” came from the way the collision was proven. To do this, astronomers examined the distribution of velocities of the stars in the Milky Way. This showed that a sausage-shaped group of stars with similar patterns of motion…
The missing third of matter detected Space

The missing third of matter detected

According to our current knowledge, the universe is made up of 68 percent dark energy and 27 percent dark matter. Just five percent is normal matter, which makes up you, your car, and the Pope. The fact that researchers have been searching intensively for traces of dark matter and have little idea of the nature of dark energy is well known and is always material for exciting articles and new theories. But there’s also quite a lot of missing normal matter too. Between 30 and 40 percent of the amount predicted by the current theories on the creation of…
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…