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 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)

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

Stellar signals point to hidden planets

Australian and Dutch researchers have unexpectedly found radio waves blasting out from far-flung red dwarf stars. These emissions might indicate unseen planets – potentially marking a new way of discovering exoplanets. “We’ve discovered signals from 19 distant red dwarf stars, four of which are best explained by the existence of planets orbiting them,” says Joseph … Continue reading Stellar signals point to hidden planets

Explainer: when is an asteroid a comet?

The distinction between asteroids and comets used to be clear-cut. Comets were icy bodies that spent most of their time in the cold, dark, outer reaches of the Solar System but occasionally plunged toward the Sun on kamikaze dives that warmed them, vaporised their ices, and produced the dramatic tails we know and love. Asteroids … Continue reading Explainer: when is an asteroid a comet?

Scientists rewrite lunar geological history

Volcanic rocks collected from the Moon last year are about two billion years old — a billion years younger than the samples returned by previous missions. This new discovery means the Moon was volcanically active much more recently than experts had previously thought. Remote images taken over the past few years had already suggested the … Continue reading Scientists rewrite lunar geological history

A winter’s tale (in the Kuiper belt)

Winter is coming on Pluto. And it is a winter, scientists say, unlike anything imaginable on Earth, a winter in which the dwarf planet’s entire atmosphere is expected to freeze out as frost, leaving it nearly as airless at the Moon. Not that Pluto has ever had a thick atmosphere. Its current surface pressure is … Continue reading A winter’s tale (in the Kuiper belt)

How making a film exploring Indigenous stories of the night sky enriched my perspective as a scientist

By Steven Tingay Have you ever looked up at the night sky and wondered what it all means? You are not alone. Billions of people before you have done the same. Looking at the stars to make sense of the universe, and our lives on Earth, extends back many tens of thousands of years, across … Continue reading How making a film exploring Indigenous stories of the night sky enriched my perspective as a scientist

What’s happening to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot?

The Great Red Spot on Jupiter is a vast storm that has been raging for at least 150 years, and new analysis shows that its winds are changing. The storm is an anticyclone big enough to swallow our entire planet, with massive, crimson-coloured clouds spinning in an anticlockwise direction. The winds raging on the outer … Continue reading What’s happening to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot?

Why Australia’s climate shock needs a ‘Moon shot’

The incredibly ambitious Apollo Moon shot program only succeeded because it had the backing of the American public. It was a time of crisis. The Cold War was on the brink of turning hot. And there was a pressing need to prove something in what was a dramatic clash of civilisations. Now the Minderoo Foundation … Continue reading Why Australia’s climate shock needs a ‘Moon shot’

Cosmic dust clouds obscure hidden ‘empty space’ galaxies

In a case of celestial serendipity, an international team of researchers has discovered two hidden galaxies in empty space – the area devoid of almost anything at all – beaming out from behind huge clouds of space dust. One of them represents the most distant dust-obscured galaxies known to date. The discovery suggests that our … Continue reading Cosmic dust clouds obscure hidden ‘empty space’ galaxies