The Kessler syndrome

In Neal Stephenson’s 2015 novel Seveneves, he imagines that the Earth’s moon breaking into seven pieces. This being a work of science fiction, the event of course has dire consequences for everyone on the planet. But if the idea of a cloud of space debris left over from the shattering of the Moon seems fanciful, … Continue reading The Kessler syndrome

A new view of distant galaxies

Growing up under the clear night skies of the state of Georgia, in the south-east of the United States, I remember lying in the back of my dad’s pickup truck looking up at the constellations, and even from that very early age of nine or 10 there was just something so fundamental and wonderful about … Continue reading A new view of distant galaxies

Cosmic roadkill: when planets collide, what happens to their atmospheres?

Around 200,000 years ago there was an epic crash on the cosmic highway. In the solar system orbiting the lyrically named star HD 172555, an Earth-size exoplanet collided with another planet with such force it sheared the larger planet of its atmosphere. This space bingle has been recorded in a study, out today in the … Continue reading Cosmic roadkill: when planets collide, what happens to their atmospheres?

Mountains of space junk could carry us to Mars

Space is big. Really big. And there’s not much up there – except all the trash. And that’s suddenly become a valuable resource, as recycling space junk could put an end to the days of fire-and-forget satellite launches. Thanks to South Australian space-industry start-up Neumann Space, every piece of scrap metal in orbit above us … Continue reading Mountains of space junk could carry us to Mars

New insights into the Moon’s evolution

The Moon rocks from China’s Chang’e 5 lander have been analysed, adding to the story of the Moon’s thermal and chemical evolution. More than 50 years ago, the Apollo program brought 382 kilograms of lunar material back to Earth, including Moon rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust. These samples gave us a glimpse of … Continue reading New insights into the Moon’s evolution

Black holes belch out intergalactic smoke

Astronomers have just watched the evolution of streamers of gas around an active black hole – and they look a bit like the smoke produced by a volcanic eruption. The team used the ultra-sensitive Low-Frequency Array (LOFAR) in the Netherlands, as well as the Spektr-RG space observatory, to study a system of 20 galaxies called … Continue reading Black holes belch out intergalactic smoke

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Fish camouflage better without friends watching Like chameleons of the sea, gobies change colour to hide from predators like larger fish and birds – and they do so better when they’re alone. A new study published in Royal Society Open Science tested the colour-changing ability of these bottom-dwelling fish alone and in pairs. When by … Continue reading You may have missed…

A planet with an atmosphere that vaporises rock?

October is planetary science month. That’s when the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences holds its annual meeting, with hundreds of researchers discussing planetary bodies large and small. Want the latest on the search for Planet 9? Here’s the place to find out. (Hint: nobody’s found it.) Wondering what counts as a planet? Forget … Continue reading A planet with an atmosphere that vaporises rock?

Planets that can vaporise rock (and other stories)

October is planetary science month. That’s when the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences holds its annual meeting, with hundreds of researchers discussing planetary bodies large and small. Want the latest on the search for Planet 9? Here’s the place to find out. (Hint: nobody’s found it.) Wondering what counts as a planet? Forget … Continue reading Planets that can vaporise rock (and other stories)

Australia’s space start-ups already bursting at the seams

The Adelaide incubator has been running hot. Space technology start-ups have started to hatch, and Australia’s newest industry is eager to fly the nest. Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) CEO James Brown told Cosmos he’s excited to see the rapid growth of the first clutch of start-ups based at South Australia’s Lot Fourteen precinct. … Continue reading Australia’s space start-ups already bursting at the seams

Venus never had oceans, climate model shows

New research has revealed that Venus may have been too hot to ever form oceans on its surface. In many ways, our neighbouring planet is very similar to Earth. It’s a rocky planet of about the same size, and it has an atmosphere and some water. But its atmosphere is thick and predominantly made up … Continue reading Venus never had oceans, climate model shows

Fossilised stardust found in meteorites

Like rocks on Earth preserving records of prehistoric times, some pristine meteorites hold records of ancient grains of stardust, and astronomers are now trying to trace these grains back to their stellar origins. These specks of stardust were forged in dying stars billions of years ago, becoming part of the debris that helped to form … Continue reading Fossilised stardust found in meteorites