Space

Why it snows on Pluto’s mountains Space

Why it snows on Pluto’s mountains

In 2015, the New Horizons space probe discovered spectacular snow-covered mountains on Pluto that are strikingly similar to the mountains on Earth. Such a landscape had never before been observed anywhere else in the solar system. However, there is one major difference: On Earth, atmospheric temperatures decrease with altitude. On Pluto, however, they increase with altitude due to the sun's radiation. So where does this ice come from? An international team of researchers has now investigated this. The scientists first discovered that the "snow" on the mountains of Pluto is actually frozen methane, with traces of this gas in…
Massive black hole turns star in solar size into spaghetti Astrophysics

Massive black hole turns star in solar size into spaghetti

About 215 million years ago the fate of a star was fulfilled: It was swallowed by a black hole with a million solar masses. The death struggle dragged on for a whole month. Meanwhile, the dying star was bidding farewell, a high-energy flare that emitted enough energy in the X-ray range alone to accelerate the Earth to one percent of the speed of light. This flare, called AT2019qiz and registered on Earth in 2019, was a gift to terrestrial astronomers. It is the first star death of this kind that was discovered so close to the Earth (although 215…
Who’s watching us? Life

Who’s watching us?

Earthly astronomers are busy scanning distant star systems for planets. There is one limitation: With the popular transit method, we can only detect planets if they move in front of their star from our point of view and change its brightness. Of course, this limits the selection quite a bit, it is a big coincidence if the orbital plane of an exoplanet is roughly parallel to our viewing direction to the star. Now you can also ask different questions. Let's assume that aliens were looking for other planets that harbor life, just like us. Where would they have to…
Astronomers are searching for the super planet Life

Astronomers are searching for the super planet

Again and again, astronomers proudly present exoplanets that would be suitable for life as we know it - i.e. made of solid rock and illuminated by their stars in such a way that water exists on their surface in a liquid state. But is our home planet really ideal for the development of life? After all, when the sun was still young and shone with a third less power, it was still quite cold here until CO2 finally created a greenhouse effect. A study under the direction of the scientist Dirk Schulze Makuch of the Washington State University and…
Why Jupiter’s storms behave so strangely Space

Why Jupiter’s storms behave so strangely

At the south pole of Jupiter there is an impressive sight - even for a gas giant covered with colored bands, which carries a red spot larger than the earth. Near its south pole, a cluster of swirling storms has formed, arranged in a geometric pattern. Since they were first sighted by the NASA space probe Juno in 2019, the storms have puzzled scientists. Basically, they resemble hurricanes on Earth. However, storms on our planet do not gather at the poles and swirl around each other as a pentagon or hexagon. Now a research team in the laboratory of…
How the Magellanic Stream was formed Astrophysics

How the Magellanic Stream was formed

The Milky Way does not travel through the universe alone. It is accompanied on its journey by smaller galaxies. The two largest are the Small Magellanic Cloud and the Large Magellanic Cloud, which are both visible as dusty twin smudges in the southern hemisphere. When the Magellanic Clouds started orbiting the Milky Way billions of years ago (astronomers are not certain about the timing and the gravitational bond, it’s possible that they are still on their first approach to the Milky Way), an enormous stream of gas known as the Magellanic Stream was ripped out of them. The stream…
Deformed disk around the triple star system GW Orionis Space

Deformed disk around the triple star system GW Orionis

Our Solar System is remarkably flat, because all the planets orbit in the same plane. But that’s not always the case, especially not for planet-forming disks around systems made up of multiple stars. GW Orionis, for example, which is located more than 1300 light-years away in the constellation Orion, has three stars and a deformed, broken-apart disk surrounding these stars. “Our images show an extreme case where the disk is not flat at all, but is deformed and has a slanted ring that has detached from the disk,” says Stefan Kraus, professor for astrophysics at the University of Exeter,…
Is dark energy hidden in the husks of burned-out stars? Astrophysics

Is dark energy hidden in the husks of burned-out stars?

The idea that the expansion of the universe is accelerating is taken as fact today. The cause is a repulsive form of energy, dark energy. But its nature remains a mystery. Now, a team of researchers at the University of Hawai’i in Mānoa have made an interesting prediction in The Astrophysical Journal: dark energy, which is responsible for this accelerated growth, could originate from a giant sea of compact objects spread out in the cavities between galaxies. Since the mid-1960s, physicists have known that the collapse of stars might not produce true black holes, but instead so-called “GEneric Objects…