Space

Is our Earth an oddity in space? Space

Is our Earth an oddity in space?

When you think of the rocks that make up our home planet (but also all the other rocky planets in the solar system), you probably immediately think of the fact that olivine and orthopyroxene are the predominant minerals in the Earth's mantle. If not, you are probably not a geologist. I confess, I didn't know that either. But is this actually normal? Are all rocky planets in the universe composed primarily of these minerals? That's an important question, because other rock types absorb more water than Earth's rocks, for example, which would affect the development of oceans. Others melt…
42 of the largest asteroids: from spheres to dog bones Space

42 of the largest asteroids: from spheres to dog bones

More than 650,000 objects orbit in the solar system's asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory ESO imaged 42 of the largest in a large-scale effort from 2017 to 2019; the results have now been published. What did they notice? (more…)
Planets on a collision course Space

Planets on a collision course

The binary star system XZ Tauri, 450 light-years from Earth, could be an interesting sight in a few billion years. As researchers have discovered with the help of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the protoplanetary disks of the two stars are perpendicular to each other, see animation. The first planets are apparently being formed in these disks, which consist of gas and dust. When this process is complete, it should have a fascinating (but possibly dangerous) effect for the system's inhabitants: Again and again, planets belonging to another star approach and move away again - depending on the…
A planet at maximum fluffiness Astrophysics

A planet at maximum fluffiness

It's not often that the word "fluffy" appears in a press release about a new astronomical discovery. It refers to the exoplanet WASP-127b, which orbits a star a good 500 light-years from Earth that is slightly larger than the Sun. An international team of astronomers has now not only detected clouds there, but also measured their height with unprecedented precision. WASP-127b is a so-called "hot Saturn" - a giant planet with a similar mass to Saturn, but unlike our (cold) Saturn, it orbits very close to its sun. During one orbit around its star, WASP-127b therefore receives 600 times more radiation…
A huge hole in space Astrophysics

A huge hole in space

About 500 to 1000 light-years from Earth, two large masses of cold cosmic matter are concentrated in space. "Cold" because they are matter in molecular form. The Perseus and Taurus molecular clouds each contain so much mass that at least 10,000 suns could form from them. Nevertheless, they are almost invisible in their entire extent, because they do not glow. The situation is different in the infrared. Heat radiation arises here, because an area concentrates more and more and gives birth to new stars. Between these two clouds, however, there is no normal interstellar matter. Rather, astronomers have now…
There are fewer boulders lying around on Mercury than on Moon Space

There are fewer boulders lying around on Mercury than on Moon

Mercury can very well be imagined as an extreme version of the Earth's moon. The rocky planet orbits so close to the sun that it is exposed to much stronger temperature fluctuations than the moon. Water, like on the Moon, exists only in the few areas that are never exposed to sunlight. Nevertheless, as NASA's Messenger probe photos have shown, there are a few characteristic differences at the surface. For example, there are far fewer boulders lying around on Mercury. Why is that? An international group of planetary scientists has now analyzed this for the first time and described…
Superflares may not be that dangerous for planets Life

Superflares may not be that dangerous for planets

In "Proxima Rising," the planet Proxima b and its inhabitants become victims of an eruption of the central red dwarf, a superflares. Astronomers have long suspected that such radiation bursts can permanently damage the atmospheres - and thus the habitability - of exoplanets. A new study published Aug. 5 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society may now give the all-clear. Using optical observations from the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite - TESS for short - the team, led by astronomers from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam, studied large superflares on red dwarfs, a class of young, small…
Interesting planetary system in our neighborhood Life

Interesting planetary system in our neighborhood

At a distance of 34 light-years, the red dwarf L98-59 belongs to the closer neighborhood of the solar system. The fact that three rocky planets orbit it was discovered two years ago by the planet hunter TESS. The three inner planets are relatively close to their parent star. It is probably too warm there for life. The innermost planet is only about half the size of our Venus and thus one of the smallest planets discovered so far. Technically, it is easier to find large and heavy planets than small and light ones, so the true distribution of planet…