Hard Science Fiction by Brandon Q. Morris
Rocky planets from the planet factory Space

Rocky planets from the planet factory

Why do rocky planets in a given star system usually look relatively similar? A new theory developed by Konstantin Batygin, professor of planetary science at Caltech, along with Alessandro Morbidelli of the Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur in France, may explain. "With the increase in exoplanet observations over the past decade, it has become clear that the standard theory of planet formation needs to be revised, starting with the basics. We need a theory that can explain both the formation of terrestrial planets in our solar system and the formation of self-similar systems of super-Earths, many of which have…
This is what a dust storm on Mars sounds like Mars

This is what a dust storm on Mars sounds like

In "The Martian," dust storms are quite unpleasant and downright dangerous. This is one of the few scientific inconsistencies of the film and book. In fact, they even seem to be very practical, as researchers have often discovered, because they clean solar panels of the dust that settles over time. But what does a dust devil like this even sound like? When the Perseverance rover landed on Mars, it was equipped with the first working microphone on the planet's surface. Scientists used it to make the first-ever audio recording of an extraterrestrial whirlwind. (more…)
Megatsunami on Mars Mars

Megatsunami on Mars

Our arid neighboring world once had seas, too - and with them all the catastrophes our Earth has experienced over its long existence. Right up to a megatsunami like the one after the Chicxulub impact - which contributed to the mass extinction of all non-avian dinosaurs on Earth 66 million years ago. On Mars, however, the last such event was much longer ago. 3.4 billion years, in fact, as some studies have already suggested. A new study published in Scientific Reports now brings more details to light. Alexis Rodriguez and his colleagues analyzed maps of the Martian surface created by…
Why Venus died the heat death – and the Earth did not Life

Why Venus died the heat death – and the Earth did not

Venus, Earth's hot little sister, was probably once habitable, too, a long time ago. It basically orbits in the habitable zone. Surface temperatures of 450 degrees would actually not be expected there, were it not for the dense CO2 atmosphere that heats up the planet with its greenhouse effect. But why did this happen on Venus - and not on Earth so far? Volcanism is probably to blame, as researchers show in a new paper. According to the paper, volcanic activity that lasted hundreds to thousands of centuries and ejected massive amounts of material may have helped transform Venus…
Neutron star light – or something completely different? Space

Neutron star light – or something completely different?

Stars that are at least about three times heavier than the sun suffer a spectacular end. They manage to use all elements up to iron as fuel in different shells in their interior. Their core, which is only 10,000 kilometers across, then usually consists of iron and heavier elements. What happens to the dying star now depends mainly on this core. When it exceeds the Chandrasekhar limit of 1.44 solar masses, its matter can no longer resist its own gravity - and the star collapses into a neutron star. (more…)
Fluffy planet orbits a cool red dwarf star Space

Fluffy planet orbits a cool red dwarf star

Astronomers using the 3.5-meter WIYN telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona have observed an unusual Jupiter-like planet in orbit around a cool red dwarf star. This planet, designated TOI-3757 b, is located about 580 light-years from Earth in the constellation Auriga, the charioteer, and is the lowest density planet ever discovered around a red dwarf star. Researchers estimate that its average density is equivalent to that of a marshmallow. Red dwarf stars are the smallest and faintest members of the so-called main sequence stars - stars that convert hydrogen to helium at a uniform rate in their…
Record: Most severe gamma eruption observed to date Astrophysics

Record: Most severe gamma eruption observed to date

A cosmic explosion of gigantic proportions kept astronomers on tenterhooks in mid-October - the closest and possibly most energetic gamma-ray burst (GRB) ever observed. The GRB, designated GRB 221009A, occurred at a distance of about 2.4 billion light-years in the direction of the constellation Arrow. It was first detected on the morning of Oct. 9 by X-ray and gamma-ray space telescopes, including NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Wind spacecraft. As news of this discovery quickly spread, two teams of astronomers worked closely with Gemini South staff to obtain the earliest possible observations…