Hard Science Fiction by Brandon Q. Morris
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…
Sharpest radio image of the Andromeda galaxy achieved Astrophysics

Sharpest radio image of the Andromeda galaxy achieved

The Andromeda Galaxy is the closest spiral galaxy to the Milky Way - but still 2.5 million light-years away. Details are therefore difficult to discern. This makes it all the more important to observe our future home (Andromeda will merge with the Milky Way in a few billion years) in all possible wavelengths. Each region of the spectrum reveals different secrets. Such an image has now been obtained with unprecedented accuracy at the microwave frequency of 6.6 GHz by physicist Sofia Fatigoni of the University of British Columbia, together with colleagues from the Sapienza University of Rome and the…
Water vapor on Ganymede Life

Water vapor on Ganymede

Jupiter's moon Ganymede is the largest moon in the solar system and, at 5262 km in diameter, is even larger than the planet Mercury. But while the planet closest to the sun is dry and hot, Ganymede is the complete opposite. The moon harbors more water than all the Earth's oceans combined. However, because it orbits so far from the Sun, most of the water is frozen. All of it? No. At a depth of 160 kilometers, there is a liquid ocean beneath the icy crust, warmed by the gravitational pull of the gas giant Jupiter. But even on…
Clouds on Venus Space

Clouds on Venus

Venus, Earth's hot sister and the setting for my book "Clouds of Venus", is completely enveloped in a dense atmosphere with numerous layers of clouds. Nevertheless, it has much in common with Earth. Both planets are similar in size and mass, they are both in the same orbital region known as the habitable zone, they both have solid surfaces and dense atmospheres. Therefore, studying weather on Venus can help researchers better understand weather on Earth as well. To do this, it would be important to be able to observe cloud movement on Venus day and night. However, nighttime has…
Enceladus: Be careful when walking on ice Enceladus

Enceladus: Be careful when walking on ice

Anyone landing on Saturn's icy moon Enceladus, for example to explore the ocean at its depth, had better be careful: Ice quakes could be part of everyday life on the surface of the 500-kilometer-diameter moon. Researchers are drawing attention to this in a new study. The culprit is the massive tidal forces caused by Saturn and the planet's other, larger moons - much like the moon on Earth. These tidal movements, on the plus side, warm its interior so that life could possibly arise there. But they also cause the surface to crack, sometimes pushing large geysers of water…
Supernova due to overeating Space

Supernova due to overeating

Actually, a type Ia supernova is pretty nasty. The star that will eventually perish has basically done everything right and ended its long, modest life as a white dwarf. As such, it could continue to watch its fellow stars burn up for many billions of years - longer than the universe is old - if it didn't have a younger partner that was still in the prime of its life. Because if material flows from this other star to our white dwarf, an overshooting reaction likes to happen. The (former) white dwarf can no longer cope with the inflowing…
Lonely wanderers not uncommon Space

Lonely wanderers not uncommon

In my upcoming novel "Andromeda: The Encounter," an Earth-sized planet is wandering lonely through space. Planets far from any star - how common are they? Apparently, this is not an uncommon phenomenon. Star systems can become dynamically unstable and eject single planets. This could have happened to our solar system in early times. That it is a normal sight is also shown by a research work of British scientists. They have discovered evidence of a mysterious population of such free-floating planets. The findings were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The study, led by Iain…
New signs of life from Enceladus Enceladus

New signs of life from Enceladus

In the geysers at Enceladus' south pole, the hypothetical probe "Enceladus Life Finder" detects clear signs of life in my book "The Enceladus Mission" - whereupon a crewed spacecraft, the ILSE, is sent to Saturn's moon. But it all really starts with Cassini, the NASA-ESA mission that found a relatively high concentration of certain molecules associated with hydrothermal vents at the bottom of Earth's oceans, specifically hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide, just there. The amount of methane found in the vapor plumes was particularly unexpected. "We wanted to know: Could Earth-like microbes that 'eat' the hydrogen and produce methane…