Hard Science Fiction by Brandon Q. Morris
A sapphire- or ruby-like planet? Space

A sapphire- or ruby-like planet?

55 Cancri e, HD219134 b, and WASP-47 e are three rocky planets – and they have something else in common: they might belong to a new class of super-Earths, according to arguments laid out by scientists from the University of Zurich and the University of Cambridge in a new paper. The astronomers looked at how planets are formed in protoplanetary disks. If they are formed, like the Earth, at a reasonable distance from their central star, then heavy elements, such as iron, magnesium, and silicon, condense. If, however, the protoplanet has an orbit that is very close to its…
Neptunes and super-Earths are the most common types of exoplanets Space

Neptunes and super-Earths are the most common types of exoplanets

With the help of the ALMA radio telescope, astronomers have taken a closer look at a series of protoplanetary disks around young stars in the Taurus Molecular Cloud, a region 430 light-years from Earth, in which many stars are currently being born. The researchers examined 32 protoplanetary disks; twelve of these disks have a structure with rings and gaps. (more…)
Way, way out there: “Farout” is a pink dwarf planet Space

Way, way out there: “Farout” is a pink dwarf planet

It is approximately 500 kilometers big (roughly the size of Saturn’s moon Enceladus), has a surface that appears to be pink from a distance (typical for an ice-rich object), and takes about 1000 years to make one orbit around the Sun. That’s all astronomers know about the dwarf planet nicknamed “Farout,” whose discovery was recently announced. The object’s actual designation is 2018 VG18; it got its nickname because it was discovered so far out from the Earth. (more…)
Here we are: a signal for extraterrestrial civilizations Life

Here we are: a signal for extraterrestrial civilizations

Would it be possible to alert extraterrestrial civilizations to our presence in the universe? Yes, says a feasibility study that was carried out by MIT doctoral candidate, James Clark, and was published in The Astrophysical Journal. Clark combined two already available technologies: a strong laser with an output power of 1 or 2 MW, similar to, for example, the U.S. Air Force’s Airborne Laser, and a large telescope with 30-meter (100-feet) or 45-meter (150-feet) optics, like those already in construction. (more…)
Dark matter + dark energy = fluid with negative mass? Space

Dark matter + dark energy = fluid with negative mass?

Physicists introduced the concept of dark matter after they determined that, among other things, galaxies didn’t have enough mass to explain their rotation. Dark energy with its strange properties is needed to explain, for example, the evolution of the universe during its early childhood when it must have experienced a sudden, tremendous growth spurt. Both concepts are incorporated into the current model of the universe called Lambda-CDM. This model, however, has a small disadvantage: it says nothing about what dark matter and dark energy are made from. Experimental physicists haven’t gotten any closer to an answer to this question…
Eu:Cropis – more than just growing tomatoes in space Life

Eu:Cropis – more than just growing tomatoes in space

On the evening of December 3rd, I was at the German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen and witnessed the successful launch of a SpaceX rocket into space and the final transfer of control over the deployed satellite to the team at the German Aerospace Center (Deutschen Zentrums für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)). Now there is a new garden floating in space. Developed by researchers at the Friedrich Alexander University in Erlangen and built by DLR specialists, Eu:Cropis is intended to study how a closed-loop biological life support system works in space and how it can be used to supply…
A better weather report for the seven worlds of the Trappist system Space

A better weather report for the seven worlds of the Trappist system

The red dwarf Trappist-1 is orbited by seven rocky planets. For a long time, this large number of planets has made it seem likely that at least one of them might be habitable. Now, in an article in the Astrophysical Journal, astronomers have reported on their results from calculations using previously known data to produce more precise atmospheric models for the seven worlds. (more…)
Where did the extrasolar comet ʻOumuamua come from? Space

Where did the extrasolar comet ʻOumuamua come from?

This past year, our Solar System had an interstellar visitor. ʻOumuamua, which was discovered in October 2017, was first thought to be an asteroid. Then it was determined that it had changed its course by itself (and not due to gravitational interaction with the Sun or the planets). Its “propulsion system” is thought to be volatile substances that sublimated during the object’s approach to the Sun – typical behavior for a comet. But where did this extrasolar comet come from? (more…)