Hard Science Fiction by Brandon Q. Morris
How the InSight probe will explore the interior of Mars Space

How the InSight probe will explore the interior of Mars

As background research for my up-coming novel “Mars Nation,” I’ve been following live the start of the new Mars “InSight” satellite. For the first time, an interplanetary NASA mission will begin on the west coast of the USA. The launch site is the Vandenberg Air Force Base, home of the US Air Force’s 30th Space Wing. Military and civil missions to Earth orbit have started from here, but the Insight probe is so lightweight that it does not need to take advantage of being close to the equator. In addition, in the available launch window (there is one only…
Star sizes in the universe: can we have a recount, please? Space

Star sizes in the universe: can we have a recount, please?

When astronomers make statements on how many stars of different sizes there might be in our Milky Way and elsewhere, they don’t simply count them – they use an estimate. Their estimates are based on models that have been developed and then checked with reality. One such model is the Salpeter function, first derived in 1955 by Edwin Salpeter for the area around the Sun. It establishes a relationship between the initial masses of young stars and the masses of the cores from which they were created. Accordingly, there should be significantly more low-mass stars than high-mass stars, which…
Did life come from outer space? Life

Did life come from outer space?

How did the building blocks of life come about on Earth? So far, science has not given a very exact answer to this question. The most important experiment on this question was conducted in 1952 by Stanley Miller and Harold Urey at the University of Chicago. They mixed together simple chemical substances of a hypothetical young Earth atmosphere – water, methane, ammonia, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide, but no oxygen – and exposed this mixture to electrical discharges that were meant to replicate the energy supplied from lightning in thunderstorms. The result: after some time, organic molecules were produced. At…
Born from dust: merging proto-galaxies in the early universe Space

Born from dust: merging proto-galaxies in the early universe

As an object of research, the universe is an enviable and unenviable object at the same time. Unenviable because it is really, really big and all of us can only observe it from a single position that is not optimal at all (imagine you had to take all of your photos through the keyhole of your bedroom’s closet door – even pictures of your living room!). Enviable because it permits a look into its own past. Not like a human, who sees his or her own past in their gray hair and wrinkled skin, but instead “as it actually…
Super-heavy black holes on the move Space

Super-heavy black holes on the move

Dass sich im Zentrum der Milchstraße mit Sagittarius A* ein supermassives Schwarzes Loch befindet, ist seit den 1970er-Jahren bekannt. Die Röntgenquelle hat etwa vier Millionen Sonnenmassen. Die Milchstraße ist damit nicht die Ausnahme, sondern die Regel: Im Herzen jeder normalen Galaxie schlägt ein dunkles Herz. Aber was passiert, wenn sich zwei Galaxien begegnen, wie es in der Geschichte des Universums schon oft passiert ist? Dann geht oft eines der Schwarzen Löcher verloren, oder genauer gesagt: Es geht auf Wanderschaft. Forscher u.a. der Yale University haben anhand einer Simulation jetzt untersucht, wie viele ultraschwere Schwarze Löcher es in einer normal großen…