Surprising candidates for extraterrestrial life Life

Surprising candidates for extraterrestrial life

When astronomers look for places outside Earth where life might exist, they often first check the habitable zone of star systems. After all, the Milky Way alone is home to 100 to 400 billion stars and at least that many planets. Habitable means that water should exist there in liquid form. Water, as far as we know, is the elixir of life. It has made life on Earth possible and is essential for the continuation of all living systems on the planet. This explains why scientists are constantly searching for evidence of water on other solid bodies in the…
Water oceans in the crust of icy planets Life

Water oceans in the crust of icy planets

A pressure 200,000 to 400,000 times that of Earth's atmosphere, plus temperatures around 1500 Kelvin - these sound like uncomfortable conditions. They prevail where, in water-ice planets of the size of Neptune, the ice merges into the rocky core. Does liquid water exist under these conditions, and if so, how does it interact with the planet's rocky seafloor? New experiments show that on water-ice planets between the size of our Earth and up to six times that size, water selectively leaches magnesium from typical rock minerals. An international team of researchers led by Taehyun Kim of Yonsei University in Seoul,…
The first spiral galaxy Astrophysics

The first spiral galaxy

Well, it may not have been the first spiral galaxy researchers have now discovered in data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), but it was the oldest and most distant (which is synonymous in astronomy) to date. We observed it at a time when the universe was only 1.4 billion years old. Today it is almost ten times as old. The discovery of a galaxy with a spiral structure at such an early date is an important clue to solving the classic questions of astronomy: "How and when did spiral galaxies form?" "I was excited because I had never…
Watching a star being born Astrophysics

Watching a star being born

Starforge is the name of a simulation program developed by an international team of researchers that enables the most realistic and highest-resolution 3D simulation of star formation to date. The result is a visually stunning, mathematically driven marvel that allows viewers to float around a colorful cloud of gas in 3D space as they watch sparkling stars form. STARFORGE (Star Formation in Gaseous Environments) simulates an entire gas cloud for the first time, with masses 100 times greater than previously possible. It is also the first simulation to simultaneously model star formation, evolution, and dynamics, taking into account feedbacks…
The noise of interstellar space Astrophysics

The noise of interstellar space

The vacuum between the stars is not empty. The interstellar medium consists of dust and gas, which in turn can be in atomic, molecular and ionized form. Its density varies widely. Interestingly, it is greatest in cool, dense regions where matter is mainly in molecular form and one could count up to 1 million molecules per cubic centimeter. In hot, diffuse regions, on the other hand, matter is mainly ionized and one finds only a single ion per 10,000 cubic centimeters. Compared to, say, the capabilities of a vacuum chamber constructed by humans, with still ten billion particles per…
What you need to be able to do as a private astronaut at BlueOrigin Space

What you need to be able to do as a private astronaut at BlueOrigin

BlueOrigin, the space company started by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has now announced the date of its first manned space flight. The New Shepard capsule will cross the official boundary to space in a suborbital flight. This means that all passengers will subsequently be real astronauts. You can bid for a seat on the first flight on July 20 at BlueOrigin. The company has now announced the requirements that candidates must meet. Namely these (translated into everyday requirements): (more…)
Tricorder & Co: Analyzing substances with a cell phone? Space

Tricorder & Co: Analyzing substances with a cell phone?

In almost all of my novels, the protagonists use devices the size of a smartphone to examine substances they encounter. Current laboratory technology is quite a bit bigger - but that doesn't have to be the case at all. A team of researchers is now proving this in an article in the Review of Scientific Instruments. The team, led by Peter Rentzepis of Texas A&M, has developed an extension for an ordinary cell phone that allows the device to detect chemicals, drugs, biological molecules and pathogens. Modern cell phones have high-quality cameras capable of detecting low light levels and eliminating…
Watching a planet grow Space

Watching a planet grow

Astronomers usually detect exoplanets based on irregularities in the glow of the parent star. Although more than 4,000 exoplanets have been cataloged to date, only 15 have been imaged directly by telescopes. Even in their best photos, the planets are just dots, simply because they are so far away and quite small. A new technique from the Hubble team is now expected to help image planets directly. The researchers have used it to catch a rare glimpse of a Jupiter-sized planet, still forming, that feeds on material surrounding a young star. They report it in the Astronomical Journal. "We…