On an outcrop of exposed volcanic and sedimentary rock on the eastern shores of Hudson Bay in northern Quebec, researchers have discovered what may be the earliest fossilized lifeforms ever discovered. These microbial ancestors lived between 3.75 and 4.28 billion years ago, only 300 million years after the Earth itself formed – a blink of an eye in geologic timescales. If life developed this rapidly on Earth, it suggests that abiogenesis – the process by which non-living matter becomes a living organism – is potentially ‘easy’ to achieve, and life in the Universe may be more common than we thought.Continue reading “Life Might Have Gotten Started Just 300 Million Years After the Earth Formed”
In this series we are exploring the weird and wonderful world of astronomy jargon! You’ll be far from home in today’s topic: trans-Neptunian objects!Continue reading “Astronomy Jargon 101: Trans-Neptunian Objects”
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The vacuum of space isn’t really a vacuum. A vacuum is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a space absolutely devoid of matter.” However, even empty space has some matter in it. This matter, in the form of dust and gas, tends to collect into what are called molecular clouds. Without anything interfering with them they continue to float as a cloud.
When something happens to interrupt the balance of the molecular cloud, some of that dust and gas starts clumping together. As more and more of this dust and gas clump together gravity takes over and starts forming stars. One way that the balance of a molecular cloud can be interfered with is by a supernova remnant, the remains of an exploded star. Plasma jets, radiation, and other clouds can also interact with these clouds.Continue reading “Star Formation Simulated in the lab, Using Lasers, of Course”
We’ve found thousands of exoplanets in the last couple of decades. We’ve discovered exoplanets unlike anything in our own Solar System. But even with all we’ve found, it seems like there’s more and more to discover. Space scientists of all types are always working on the next generation of missions, which is certainly true for exoplanets.
Chinese researchers are developing an idea for an exoplanet-detecting array of space telescopes that acts as an interferometer. But it won’t only detect them. The array will use direct imaging to characterize distant exoplanets in more detail.Continue reading “A Fleet of Space Telescopes Flying in Formation Could Reveal Details on Exoplanets”
A lunar moon dust sample with a strange history made its way to the auction block yesterday.
On July 20, 1969, NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped off the landing pad of the Eagle lunar lander and into history. About eight minutes afterwards, Armstrong performed a crucial task, and collected a small ‘contingency sample’ of the Sea of Tranquility landing site. The sample was a small assurance that, in the event of a hasty departure—due to say, a malfunction or landing site instability—they did indeed still manage to retrieve the very first lunar material for return to Earth.Continue reading “Apollo 11 Moon Dust Sells at Auction for a Cool Half Million”
The latest update on the James Webb Space Telescope literally sent a shiver down my spine! The telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) has now reached its operating temperature of a chilly 7 kelvins (7 deg above absolute 0, or -266 degrees C,-447 degrees F).
MIRI has now been turned on and is undergoing initial checkouts.Continue reading “Brrr. Webb’s MIRI has Reached 6.4 Kelvin, Just a few Degrees Above Absolute Zero”
It’s official. Comet C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) has the largest nucleus ever seen in a comet. The gargantuan comet was Cato cross body., and in January 2022, astronomers turned the Hubble Space Telescope to ascertain more details and determine the exact size.
NASA said a team of scientists has now estimated the diameter is approximately 129 km (80 miles) across, making it larger than the state of Rhode Island. The nucleus is about 50 times larger than other known comets. Its mass is estimated to be a staggering 500 trillion tons, a hundred thousand times greater than the mass of a typical comet found much closer to the Sun.NWOT CAbi Le Flirt Skirt Gray/Cream M #5184
Right now, the Curiosity rover continues to climb Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons), the central peak within the Gale Crater on Mars. This massive pile of rock and sediment was created over the course of 2 billion years by liquid water that flowed into the crater, creating a layered structure that stands around 5.5 km (18,000 ft) tall. Many of these layers were deposited when the crater is thought to have been a lakebed, which makes it a prime location to search for evidence of past life (and maybe present) on Mars.
Climbing this feature is hard work and can cause severe wear on Curiosity’s metal wheels. The rover began climbing the southern edge of “Champion c9 athletic jacket size M,” a gentle slope topped by sandstone rubble that scientists want to learn more about. A few weeks ago, the rover suddenly encountered a huge patch of wind-sharpened rocks known as ventifacts (aka. “gator back” terrain). This forced the mission team to plot an alternate route so that Curiosity can continue to get more life out of its wheels.Continue reading “Curiosity is Going to Find a new Route Around This Tricky Patch Called “Gator-Back Terrain””
Can other planets have geomagnetic storms, even if their magnetosphere is weak and they don’t have an ionosphere like Earth? This question has now been answered, according to research done by a team of scientists in the United States, Canada, and China.
The research team found evidence that Mercury has a ring current, part of a magnetosphere, consisting of charged particles flowing laterally in a doughnut shape around the planet but that excludes the poles. This evidence came from data obtained from the Messenger space probe while it was dropping towards the planet at the end of its mission on April 14, 2015.Continue reading “Even Mercury has Geomagnetic Storms”
In this series we are exploring the weird and wonderful world of astronomy jargon! You’ll feel the heat from today’s topic: tidal heating!Continue reading “Astronomy Jargon 101: Tidal Heating”