Exoplanet

More life on younger planets Life

More life on younger planets

Nowadays we know more than 5000 exoplanets. Among them are some that are similar in size to Earth, are also made of rock, and orbit their star in an area that astrobiologists call the habitable zone. Habitable here refers to life as we know it, which is based on water and carbon and therefore also requires liquid water on the surface. Which of these candidates should we look at first, for example with the new James Webb telescope, which will also be able to determine the atmospheric composition of distant worlds? Where are the chances of finding life the…
Ice belts at the equator are more common than ice caps at the poles Life

Ice belts at the equator are more common than ice caps at the poles

We like to go south, towards the equator, to escape the cold. At the two poles of the earth there is permanent frost and ice. In terms of the entire universe, this is by no means the rule, as astronomers have discovered in a scientific work. To do so, a team from the University of Washington and the University of Bern computationally simulated more than 200,000 hypothetical Earth-like worlds - planets that have the same size, mass, atmospheric composition and geography as modern Earth - all in orbit around stars similar to our Sun, a G-type star. So they…
Planets with an eggshell Life

Planets with an eggshell

ou open the airlock door. Your first step onto the surface of a new planet! It is hot, but your spacesuit protects you. A thin layer of clouds hides the sun. But something is wrong. You climb down the ladder. What is it? You spin around your axis. Wherever you look, the horizon is the same distance away. This planet has no elevations at all. It is as if you are standing on the outside of an eggshell. Such planets probably really exist. "Eggshell planets," a recent study shows, are to be expected in a solar system under certain…
Is our Earth an oddity in space? Space

Is our Earth an oddity in space?

When you think of the rocks that make up our home planet (but also all the other rocky planets in the solar system), you probably immediately think of the fact that olivine and orthopyroxene are the predominant minerals in the Earth's mantle. If not, you are probably not a geologist. I confess, I didn't know that either. But is this actually normal? Are all rocky planets in the universe composed primarily of these minerals? That's an important question, because other rock types absorb more water than Earth's rocks, for example, which would affect the development of oceans. Others melt…
A planet at maximum fluffiness Astrophysics

A planet at maximum fluffiness

It's not often that the word "fluffy" appears in a press release about a new astronomical discovery. It refers to the exoplanet WASP-127b, which orbits a star a good 500 light-years from Earth that is slightly larger than the Sun. An international team of astronomers has now not only detected clouds there, but also measured their height with unprecedented precision. WASP-127b is a so-called "hot Saturn" - a giant planet with a similar mass to Saturn, but unlike our (cold) Saturn, it orbits very close to its sun. During one orbit around its star, WASP-127b therefore receives 600 times more radiation…
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…
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…
Watching a planet grow Space

Watching a planet grow

Astronomers usually detect exoplanets based on irregularities in the glow of the parent star. Although more than 4,000 exoplanets have been cataloged to date, only 15 have been imaged directly by telescopes. Even in their best photos, the planets are just dots, simply because they are so far away and quite small. A new technique from the Hubble team is now expected to help image planets directly. The researchers have used it to catch a rare glimpse of a Jupiter-sized planet, still forming, that feeds on material surrounding a young star. They report it in the Astronomical Journal. "We…