Obliquity and eccentricity determine exoplanet habitability

Finding habitable Earth-like planets may be even more challenging than previously thought, suggests a recent Astronomical Journal study looking at how the planetary obliquity, or tilt relative to an orbital axis, and orbital eccentricity affect the habitability of planets orbiting G-dwarf stars — which are similar to the sun.

05 Sep 2018

Benchmarks: August 27, 1958: Operation Argus creates first anthropogenic space weather

Sixty years ago this month, a fleet of nine U.S. Navy ships with 4,500 people aboard maneuvered into the Atlantic. Eight of these ships continued to the South Atlantic, about 1,800 kilometers southwest of Cape Town, South Africa, while the ninth headed to the North Atlantic, near the Azores. The clandestine military operation — code-named Operation Argus — was not an invasion, but a scientific mission, carried out at a staggering pace and inspired by an unpublished research paper by an elevator engineer with an interest in accelerator physics.

27 Aug 2018

Red Planet Roundup: August 2018

With two rovers patrol­ling the surface of Mars, six spacecraft orbiting above it, and scientists here on Earth studying the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced often. 

13 Aug 2018

Comment: Leveraging physical oceanography in exoplanet exploration

Some exoplanets may host oceans, which are key to life on Earth. It’s time for astronomers who assess the potential habitability of other worlds to tap oceanographers’ knowledge of our own planet’s oceans.
03 Aug 2018

Lunar isotopes suggest early water on Earth

The moon is a child of catastrophe, born from a massive collision between the young proto-Earth and a Mars-sized object during the formation of the solar system. 

30 Jul 2018

Benchmarks: July 29, 1958: The Birth of NASA

Growing up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., meant that my house was often frequented by guests who wanted to visit our nation’s capital. Without fail, this meant my family and I would be taking a trip to one of the Smithsonian’s most popular attractions, the National Air and Space Museum. I can’t count the number of times I visited the museum before I left for college, but it was a lot. Although glimpsing the museum’s collection of aircraft and spacecraft was cool at first, I would much rather have spent those afternoons wandering the halls of the National Museum of Natural History.

29 Jul 2018

Geomedia: Books: Revisiting the Galileo affair

Galileo’s commitment to Copernican cosmology — with Earth orbiting the sun — despite his 17th-century inquisition and imprisonment by Roman Catholic authorities remains a pivotal moment in the history of modern physics and astronomy, and in the history of tension between science and religion. Though today we take the fundamentals Galileo espoused for granted, in his day, the scientific debate among proponents of different celestial models remained hotly contested.

19 Jul 2018

An aurora named Steve

In 2015 and 2016, more than 30 reports of odd, purple-hued ribbons of light over southern Canada popped up in forums on Aurorasaurus, a citizen science project funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation that tracks the aurora borealis through user-submitted reports and tweets. The amateur astronomers nicknamed the strange phenomenon “Steve,” and in a new study, researchers have defined the new type of aurora.

03 Jul 2018

Red Planet Roundup: June 2018

With two rovers patrolling the surface of Mars, six spacecraft orbiting above it, and scientists here on Earth studying the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced often.

12 Jun 2018

TRAPPIST-1 system hosts seven "Earth-like" planets

In 2017, astronomers discovered seven planets orbiting a star dubbed TRAP­PIST-1, a faint red dwarf 40 light-years from Earth and only 9 percent as bright as our sun. The Earth-like qualities of these planets made headlines: they are of similar sizes to our planet, and their orbits fall within TRAPPIST-1’s habitable zone — two characteristics that scientists think are important for life to exist on a planet. Researchers now report that the TRAPPIST-1 planets have even more traits in common with Earth: they are likely rocky, and they may have surface water that exists as liquid, ice and vapor.

08 Jun 2018