Space

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Extraterrestrial life, that familiar science-fiction trope, that kitschy fantasy, that CGI nightmare, has become a matter of serious discussion, a “risk factor”, a “scenario”. How has ET gone from sci-fi fairytale to a serious scientific endeavour modelled by macroeconomists, funded by fiscal conservatives and discussed by theologians? Because, following a string of remarkable discoveries over
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In the bewildering quagmire that is the gas between the stars, the Hubble Space Telescope has identified evidence of ionised buckminsterfullerene, the carbon molecule known colloquially as “buckyballs”. Containing 60 carbon atoms arranged in a soccer ball shape, buckminsterfullerene (C60) occurs naturally here on Earth – in soot. But in 2010, it was also detected in
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You can be thankful that we orbit a placid, main sequence, yellow dwarf star. Astronomers recently spied a massive superflare on a diminutive star, a powerful, radiation spewing event that you wouldn’t want to witness up close. The ‘star’ was ULAS J224940.13-011236.9, an L-type sub-stellar brown dwarf near the Aquarius-Pisces border. The cumbersome, phone number-style
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In February of 2016, scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) announced the first-ever detection of gravitational waves (GWs). Since then, multiple events have been detected, providing insight into a cosmic phenomena that was predicted over a century ago by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. A little over a year ago, LIGO was taken
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We are surrounded by alien worlds. In neighbouring star systems, Earth-like planets abound, with unusual names like Proxima b, TRAPPIST–1e, Ross–128b, and LHS–1140b. Are these strange places habitable? Are they homes for life-forms we can’t yet imagine? The jury is out. While these exoplanets all orbit within the so-called habitable aka Goldilocks zones of their
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NASA’s new planet-hunting telescope, TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), just found its first Earth-sized world. Though the Earth-sized planet, and its hot sub-Neptune companion, were first observed by TESS in January 2019, it’s taken until now to confirm their status with ground-based follow-up observations. The discovery is published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. When TESS was
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It was unprecedented. In 2017, astronomers discovered the first known interstellar object in our Solar System: ‘Oumuamua, a mysterious cigar-shaped enigma, identified as our first visitor from outer, outer space. But just because ‘Oumuamua was the first detected interstellar object, doesn’t mean it was the first ever. Just five years ago, in fact, Earth’s atmosphere
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For a year, between March 2015 and March 2016, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly spent his life in the microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station, hundreds of kilometres above Earth. His identical twin and fellow astronaut, Mark, stayed down here. This was a unique opportunity. The Kelly brothers are genetically identical, which meant scientists had