Hard Science Fiction by Brandon Q. Morris
What’s hiding near Andromeda? Space

What’s hiding near Andromeda?

First there was an amateur astronomer: Giuseppe Donatiello found an interesting "spot" in the Dark Energy Camera data on the 4-meter Víctor M. Blanco telescope. Then, using the larger 8.1-meter Gemini North telescope, the professionals took a closer look and confirmed that the object, then named Pegasus V, was an ultra-faint dwarf galaxy on the edge of the Andromeda Galaxy. The observations revealed that the galaxy appears to be extremely poor in heavier elements compared to similar dwarf galaxies, which means that it is very old and probably represents a fossil of the first galaxies in the universe. In…
Worlds quite different from Earth could also harbor life Life

Worlds quite different from Earth could also harbor life

Are our ideas of the habitable zones around a star too Earth-centric? Of course. We've only found one example of life in the universe so far, so we all draw conclusions. But there are alternatives, as researchers from the University of Bern and the University of Zurich have just reported in a study published in the journal Nature Astronomy. According to the study, favorable conditions could even prevail for billions of years on planets that barely resemble our home planet. "One of the reasons water can be liquid on Earth is its atmosphere," explained study co-author Ravit Helled, professor…
What NASA is up to in the clouds of Venus Space

What NASA is up to in the clouds of Venus

In nine years (2031), our hot neighboring planet Venus will be visited by NASA's DAVINCI mission (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging). In a paper, the scientists and engineers involved have now explained what the probe is supposed to do. As its name suggests, it is primarily concerned with the planet's dense atmosphere, in which - unlike on the hot surface - conditions are expected to be favorable even for life. Davinci is therefore primarily a flying chemistry laboratory. Due mission consists of an orbiter (CRIS, carrier, relay and imaging spacecraft) and a lander. The…
Why Uranus and Neptune are colored differently Space

Why Uranus and Neptune are colored differently

Actually, Uranus and Neptune, the two outer planets of the solar system, are quite similar. Known as the "ice giants," the planets have similar masses (14.5 to 17 Earth masses), sizes (51,000 to 49,000 km at the equator), and atmospheric compositions (hydrogen at around 80%, helium around 15%, methane about 2%) - and yet they differ significantly in appearance. In the visible wavelength range, Neptune has a rich, deep blue hue, while Uranus has a much paler cyan hue. Astronomers have now found and published an explanation for the different colors of the two planets. The researchers refer to…
How heavy are the stars? Astrophysics

How heavy are the stars?

R136a1 is currently the heaviest known star. It weighs as much as 265 suns. Most stars, however, are much smaller and lighter - down to about one tenth of the mass of the sun. Celestial bodies that have accumulated too little gas cannot ignite nuclear fusion and remain brown dwarfs. Supergiants like R136a1, on the other hand, glow intensely but die young. How heavy are the stars of the universe on average? This is described by the so-called primordial mass function. It says that heavy stars are much rarer than light ones. So the universe is likely to be…
Does a hidden mirror universe influence our world? Astrophysics

Does a hidden mirror universe influence our world?

One of the fundamental parameters of our universe is the Hubble constant H0. It indicates the speed with which distant objects move away from us and thus determines the fate of the entire universe. Today we know that it is not a constant in the strict sense, since H0 changes with time. However, science has a fundamental problem with it. Depending on how it is measured, its value differs. The difference between the measurement methods even grows the more precise the measurements are. If H0 is calculated from the standard model of cosmology (Lambda Cold Dark Matter, ΛCDM), the…
Topology is everywhere Astrophysics

Topology is everywhere

Topology is an important branch of mathematics. It deals with such properties of mathematical forms that are preserved under constant deformation (i.e. without tearing or cutting them). Topology is also the basis of the plot in my upcoming Möbius trilogy. The strange artifact in question is a topological construct. As an author, I am naturally delighted when an international team of researchers has now discovered and published in the journal Science that almost all materials in nature have at least one topological state. This contradicts the forty-year-old assumption that topological materials are rare and esoteric. "Topology is everywhere" is…
Black hole winds are no longer what they used to be Astrophysics

Black hole winds are no longer what they used to be

In the early times of the universe, black holes in the centers of active galaxies grew much faster than today. Only in this way it can be explained that 500 to thousand million years after the big bang there were already such huge black holes. Today, however, things look different - the black holes at the centers are evolving in parallel with their host galaxies. When and why did this change occur? That's what a study led by three researchers from Italy's National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) in Trieste has found, published in the journal Nature. The work is…