Hard Science Fiction by Brandon Q. Morris
Are black holes surrounded by a firewall? Space

Are black holes surrounded by a firewall?

Black holes suck in anything that gets too close to them—even light. In their interiors, researchers imagine objects that, according to current physics, should not even exist: singularities, where matter becomes infinitely dense and hot and classical physics breaks down. The area around a black hole is also a hot subject of discussion. In particular, astrophysicists run into problems when they consider a black hole simultaneously with the general theory of relativity and quantum physics. One problem arises with the quantum states of all the particles that fall into the black hole. For the rest of the universe, information…
Terraforming Mars: There’s not enough carbon dioxide Life

Terraforming Mars: There’s not enough carbon dioxide

The atmosphere of the red planet not only lacks enough oxygen, it is also very thin. Instead of a surface pressure of one bar on Earth, the surface pressure in Mars’s atmosphere reaches only 6 millibars, thus, less than one-hundredth of the Earth’s surface pressure. Consequently, to work on Mars, astronauts would have to wear pressurized suits. The atmosphere would have to be considerably denser for a respiratory mask to be sufficient. If the density were even higher, carbon dioxide, the main component of Mars’s atmosphere, could play its same role that is so dreaded on Earth, that of…
A dozen new moons of Jupiter – including a maverick Space

A dozen new moons of Jupiter – including a maverick

With 67 moons, Jupiter was already the record holder among all the planets of the Solar System. Now a team of astronomers has identified twelve more moons of Jupiter for a grand total of 79. The researchers first discovered the new moons in 2017 while searching for objects at the outermost edge of the Solar System. “Jupiter just happened to be in the way,” explained team leader Scott S. Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science. Confirmation that the new objects actually had an orbit around Jupiter took one year. Nine of the new moons form a small group…
How fast is the universe expanding? Space

How fast is the universe expanding?

Since the big bang 13.8 billion years ago, the universe has been expanding. The decisive question is: how fast? This speed is also called the Hubble constant – after Edwin Hubble, who first noticed the expansion of the universe. Astronomers have come up with two methods to calculate this constant. Method 1 involves the measurements by the ESA’s Planck satellite. This satellite measured the precise structure of the cosmic microwave background, which was produced 380,000 years after the big bang. This can be used to extrapolate the speed of expansion – by using the laws of physics. Calculated in…
The Milky Way meets a sausage Book

The Milky Way meets a sausage

Eight to ten billion years ago, thus, in its youth, our Milky Way apparently had a fateful encounter: it crossed paths with another, significantly smaller galaxy. The researchers who discovered this gave the smaller galaxy the name “Sausage Galaxy,” but this is perhaps a little unfair, because in reality it had a similar elliptical shape as the Milky Way. The name “Sausage” came from the way the collision was proven. To do this, astronomers examined the distribution of velocities of the stars in the Milky Way. This showed that a sausage-shaped group of stars with similar patterns of motion…
The missing third of matter detected Space

The missing third of matter detected

According to our current knowledge, the universe is made up of 68 percent dark energy and 27 percent dark matter. Just five percent is normal matter, which makes up you, your car, and the Pope. The fact that researchers have been searching intensively for traces of dark matter and have little idea of the nature of dark energy is well known and is always material for exciting articles and new theories. But there’s also quite a lot of missing normal matter too. Between 30 and 40 percent of the amount predicted by the current theories on the creation of…
Searching for planets with molecular fingerprinting Space

Searching for planets with molecular fingerprinting

The star Beta Pictoris is 63 light years from Earth. In 1983, a dusty disk was discovered around it and in 2008, an exoplanet. This exoplanet is a gas giant with thirteen times the mass of Jupiter and was named Beta Pictoris b. Now the planet is being used for a test run of a new method for searching for planets. The technique, which the team of researchers describes here, works like this: The fact that planets can rarely be seen directly in a telescope is normally due to the brightness of the central star that outshines everything else.…
Life on distant moons? Life

Life on distant moons?

In the search for Earth’s siblings, astronomers often focus on rocky planets, and for good reason: in our Solar System, planets similar to Earth are located only in the habitable zone. But this does not have to be the case in other solar systems. There, gas giants as big as Jupiter or even bigger could be located in the habitable zone of their host star. The habitable zone might even be larger in these systems, because these giant planets could also provide energy to the moons in their orbit. (more…)