Hard Science Fiction by Brandon Q. Morris
Greenhouse effect taken to the extreme Space

Greenhouse effect taken to the extreme

Our solar system is relatively unusual with its division into four rocky worlds on the inside and another four gas and ice planets on the outside. What it lacks, for example, is a so-called "Hot Jupiter": a gas giant the size of our Jupiter, which orbits very close to its parent star and thus heats up extremely strongly. Therefore, if you want to learn something about Hot Jupiters, you have to look into the distance. Such a specimen appears in many of the more than 5000 planetary systems catalogued so far. What do these types of planets have in…
Astronomers discover a new type of stellar explosion: micronovae Astrophysics

Astronomers discover a new type of stellar explosion: micronovae

A team of astronomers has observed a new type of stellar explosion - a micronova - using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the European Southern Observatory (ESO). These outbursts occur on the surface of certain stars and consume an amount of stellar material equivalent to the mass of 3.5 billion Cheops pyramids in a few hours. In astronomical terms, this is still small - hence the name. Micronovae are much less energetic than the stellar explosions known as novae. Both types of explosions occur on white dwarfs. "Micronovae challenge our understanding of how thermonuclear explosions occur in stars.…
Jupiter’s moon Europa could have water near surface Enceladus

Jupiter’s moon Europa could have water near surface

Jupiter's moon Europa, like Saturn's moon Enceladus, is an important target for the search for extraterrestrial life. That a liquid, salty ocean exists beneath its ice crust seems clear since the visits of Voyager and Galileo. But to explore this body of water, visitors must first drill through at least 20 to 30 kilometers of ice. Or maybe not? At least that's what a new study based on data from the Greenland Ice Sheet, published in Nature Communications, suggests. The results could provide insights into the geophysical processes that led to the formation of Jupiter's moon. Riley Culberg, a…
Fast growing black hole discovered Astrophysics

Fast growing black hole discovered

Astronomers have known for a while that the centers of most galaxies are home to supermassive black holes. With ever-improving methods of investigation, they have been able to trace these giants far back into the past. They must have existed as early as 750 million years after the Big Bang. This raises one of the biggest mysteries in astronomy today: How could these supermassive black holes, which weigh millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun, grow so large so quickly? Current theories hold that supermassive black holes begin their lives in the dust-shrouded cores of galaxies…
Surprising cold on Neptune Space

Surprising cold on Neptune

Neptune, the outermost planet of our solar system, does not belong to the ice giants with its neighbor Uranus for nothing. The enormous distance to our central star ensures that the temperature out there falls below minus 200 degrees Celsius (-238 °F). Exactly how warm it gets depends, of course, on its current position in orbit. However, distinct seasons are not really to be expected: Neptune has an almost circular orbit, so it only moves away from or comes close to the Sun minimally, and at the same time it stands on this orbit with a very low axial…
4 mile high ice volcanoes on Pluto Space

4 mile high ice volcanoes on Pluto

The exploration of the dwarf planet Pluto is divided into two eras: Before the arrival of NASA's New Horizons probe, the celestial body was thought to be an icy, unspectacular Kuiper Belt object. But New Horizons then delivered images and data that sent astronomers into raptures. The composition of Pluto's surface shows that there are a variety of ages here, from relatively old, heavily cratered regions to very young surfaces with few to no impact craters. One of the regions with very few impact craters is dominated by huge mountains with humpbacked flanks not found anywhere else in the…
Peas, blueberries and grapes – not every galaxy is like the Milky Way Space

Peas, blueberries and grapes – not every galaxy is like the Milky Way

Elliptical galaxies, spiral galaxies, barred spiral galaxies, you've probably heard of them. But did you know that there are types of galaxies named after green peas, blueberries, or purple grapes? When a group of amateurs within the "Galaxy Zoo," a project conducted by citizen scientists, classified galaxies observed by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) by color and morphology, they found 251 very special galaxies that didn't easily fit into the known galaxy types. These galaxies, which looked round and dense like beans and appeared green on digital images, were later named "Green Pea Galaxies." (more…)
Earendel: The farthest star Space

Earendel: The farthest star

Far-away stars, however luminous, cannot be photographed individually even with the best space-based telescopes. But this would be extremely interesting for researchers, because with increasing distance we are entering the early days of the universe, about which we still know too little. But with a bit of luck, the universe itself is helping astronomers - by placing powerful galaxies in such a convenient way that they amplify the light of a star that is actually much too distant - in this case in the form of the galaxy cluster WHL0137-08. For example, the Hubble Space Telescope recently succeeded in…