Amateur radio users help scientists study space weather

F5VIH. KM3T. PY1NB. These strings of letters and numbers aren’t license plate numbers but call signs. They belong to a handful of Ham radio operators, just three of the more than 2 million amateur enthusiasts whose chatter fills the global airwaves day and night. Now, research suggests these communications may represent a vast trove of data that could help scientists study and monitor space weather.
03 Jul 2015

Exoplanets could have long-lived oceans

At last count, the Kepler spacecraft had identified more than 1,000 confirmed exoplanets in the Milky Way Galaxy. Some of these bodies orbit their parent stars in the so-called habitable zone, where liquid water, and thus, life, could survive. But scientists say favorable surface temperatures may not be enough to foster life. Exoplanets also need to generate and maintain liquid water at the surface, raising the question: Do exoplanets have stable oceans?

12 Jun 2015

Exploding source of lithium

Trace amounts of lithium are found in all living organisms, and the soft metal is widely used in cellphones and batteries, and as a mood-stabilizing medication. But the galactic source of the element has been unclear.

10 Jun 2015

Mapping solar winds

Two types of solar winds emanate from the sun: fast winds that travel at more than 700 kilometers per second, and slow winds that move at a mere 400 kilometers per second. As they pass by Earth on their way to the outer reaches of the heliosphere, these winds — composed of charged particles called plasma — can interact with the geomagnetic field and set off spectacular auroras. Now, a newly constructed solar map, published in a study in Nature Communications, has illuminated the sources and directions of the sun’s solar winds in greater detail than ever before.

02 Jun 2015

Comment: The new frontier: Homesteading on Mars

Once relegated to science fiction, the idea of humans colonizing Mars could become a reality. But the lack of an international agreement governing the colonization of other planets challenges us to think about how to use the resources of space fairly, efficiently and ethically.
25 May 2015

Red Planet Roundup: May 2015

With two rovers patrolling the surface of Mars, five spacecraft in orbit above it, and scientists back here on Earth studying the Red Planet from afar, new findings are announced almost weekly. Here are a few of the latest updates.

15 May 2015

Comet water unlike Earth's

Scientists have long suspected that much of the water that fills our planet’s oceans may have come from asteroids or comets that collided with the early Earth. Now, recently reported data from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission, which landed its Philae probe on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November, appears to favor an asteroid origin story for Earth’s water.

10 May 2015

Mysterious rapid radio burst captured live

Last year, astronomers received a signal from the depths of the cosmos: a fleeting pulse of intense electromagnetic radiation known as a fast radio burst (or FRB). First discovered in 2007, these millisecond blasts occur sporadically and continue to baffle astronomers. Now, for the first time, an FRB has been caught red-handed.

29 Apr 2015

Two new looks at Titan's dunes

Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, is covered with extensive fields of sand dunes around its equator. From a distance, the wind-swept landscape looks similar to those seen on Earth, Mars and Venus, but new research suggests that dune formation on Titan may require different conditions than previously thought.

31 Mar 2015

A journey to Pluto and beyond with New Horizons

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, the first mission to Pluto, will reach the former planet on July 14, 2015. After that, it will fly by the Kuiper Belt to explore the most distant bodies in the solar system.

22 Mar 2015