Hard Science Fiction by Brandon Q. Morris
When the fog dissolves Astrophysics

When the fog dissolves

In winter the fog sometimes does not dissolve the whole day. In space, planetary nebulae usually exist for many millennia, because they are star shells that have been ejected by their stars at the end of their lifetime. In the case of the Stingray Nebula, which was first catalogued in 1976 and is located 18,000 light years from Earth, this seems to be an exception. Images of the system taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2016 show a nebula that has drastically lost brightness and changed shape compared to Hubble images from 1996. Light blue gas shells near…
The solar system – a crash birth Space

The solar system – a crash birth

About 4.5 billion years ago, a large cloud of gas and dust collapsed where the solar system is today. Everything that makes up our sun, the planets, moons, asteroids and other celestial bodies in the solar system comes from this cloud. As an international team of researchers led by planetologists from the University of Münster has now discovered, the formation of the entire system took a surprisingly short time: only 200,000 years. The first solids that formed in the solar system can now be found as micrometer to centimeter-sized inclusions in meteorites. The so-called calcium- and aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs)…
Milky Way’s Family Tree Astrophysics

Milky Way’s Family Tree

From small to large: this is one of the possible ways in which structures are created in the universe. Galaxies like our Milky Way are formed when several small predecessor objects join together. But what exactly did the Milky Way form from? An international team of astrophysicists led by Dr. Diederik Kruijssen from the Center for Astronomy at the University of Heidelberg has succeeded in reconstructing the merging history of our home galaxy and creating its family tree. To this end, the researchers analyzed the properties of globular star clusters orbiting the Milky Way. Globular clusters are dense groups…
Megafloods on Ancient Mars Life

Megafloods on Ancient Mars

Surface water or even rain clouds are sought in vain on Mars today. In the early days of the planet, however, things looked different. Four billion years ago, a kind of megaflood could have swept over the Red Planet, as a joint project of scientists from Jackson State University, Cornell, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Hawaii shows. It is based on data collected by NASA's Curiosity Rover, which investigated the Gale Crater on Mars. In the paper, published in Scientific Reports, the researchers describe how a megaflood - probably triggered by the heat of a meteorite…
How the universe heats up Astrophysics

How the universe heats up

Shortly after the Big Bang, in the Planck era, the universe was about 1032 Kelvin hot. Afterwards it expanded rapidly and cooled down as the energy spread over an ever larger space. By and large, this process should continue as long as the universe expands - an end to the expansion is not yet in sight, on the contrary. But there is a process that counteracts this cooling - at least temporarily. It is easy to understand. When 10,000 people go home from a football stadium, the mood cools down initially as the density of people decreases. But when…
Where the geysers on Europa could come from Enceladus

Where the geysers on Europa could come from

There are several worlds - usually moons - in the solar system, where it appears that life-friendly conditions could exist in the oceans below their crust. Whether this is really the case, we will only know after we have drilled through the ice and checked (as is done in The Enceladus Mission). A new paper by researchers from Stanford University, the University of Arizona, the University of Texas and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is now lowering hopes somewhat. As the researchers show, some eruptions may not come from the depths of the oceans, but from water pockets embedded in…
Why the brain and the cosmos are structurally similar Astrophysics

Why the brain and the cosmos are structurally similar

The human brain has a volume of a about one liter (0,26 gallons, man: 1.27 l, woman: 1.13 l), i.e. one cubic decimeter or 0.001 cubic meter. The universe, on the other hand, has a volume of 2.3 million billion trillion cubic light years. Obviously, this is a huge difference of over 30 orders of magnitude. Nevertheless, both structures, the network of galaxies that criss-crosses the universe and the neural network in the brain, have surprising similarities, as Franco Vazza (astrophysicist at the University of Bologna) and Alberto Feletti (neurosurgeon at the University of Verona) note in a paper…
Where it rains rocks into magma oceans Space

Where it rains rocks into magma oceans

Not all rocky worlds resemble the Earth or Mars. If a rocky planet has the bad luck to circle too closely around its star, it becomes an extreme world. Such as the planet K2-141b, which is about 200 light years away from Earth, takes just under 7 hours to orbit around its star K2-141 and orbits only about 1 million kilometers away from it (Earth-Sun: 150 million kilometers). In a study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, scientists from McGill University, York University and the Indian Institute of Science Education have analyzed what the weather…