Habitable Planets Could Exist around Pulsars

It is theoretically possible that habitable planets exist around pulsars – spinning neutron stars that emit short, quick pulses of radiation. According to new research, such planets must have an enormous atmosphere that converts the deadly x-rays and high energy particles of the pulsar into heat. The results, from astronomers at the University of Cambridge[…]

Dating the Sun’s Prenatal History Can Help Find Life on Other Planets

A new approach to dating the birth of our solar system could help find other similar systems. Flickr/Dmitry Boyarin, CC BY Without the sun, there would be no Earth – but amazingly, we don’t know the finer details about the prenatal history of our sun.    By Dr. Maria Lugaro (left) and Dr. Alexander Heger (right) / 08.08.2014[…]

How the Greeks Used Geometry to Understand the Stars

10th century CE Greek copy of Aristarchus of Samos’s calculations of the relative sizes of the sun, moon and the earth. / Konstable, Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Michael Fowler Maxine S. and Jesse W. Beams Professor of Physics , Physics Education,Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics University of Virginia Crystal Spheres: Plato, Eudoxus, Aristotle Plato, with his belief that the world[…]

Ancient Greek Astronomy: Measuring the Solar System

Eratosthenes teaching in Alexandria, by Bernardo Strozzi / Montreal Museum of Fine Arts via Wikimedia Commons The Greeks made the first real measurements of astronomical distances: the size of the earth and the distance to the moon, both determined quite accurately, and the distance to the sun, where their best estimate fell short by a factor of[…]

Star Wars and Medieval Manuscripts

By Dr. Bryan C. Keene / 12.14.2015 Adjunct Professor of Art History Pepperdine University As a certified Star Wars fan (thanks to my amazing father) *and* a curator of medieval manuscripts, I couldn’t resist putting together a guide of the out-of-this-world imagery and ideas about the universe from the Middle Ages. In medieval Europe there was a close link[…]

Ancients, Medievals, and Motion in the Heavens

Celestial map from 1670, by the Dutch cartographer Frederik de Wit / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Michael Fowler / 07.23.2015 Maxine S. and Jesse W. Beams Professor of Physics , Physics Education,Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics University of Virginia Introduction The purpose of this lecture is just to review the various motions observed in the heavens in the simplest,[…]

Kindred Skies: Ancient Greeks and Aboriginal Australians Saw Constellations in Common

Yurri and Wanjel – the Gemini stars Castor and Pollux in the Wergaia traditions of western Victoria, Australia. Stellarium/John Morieson and Alex Cherney, CC BY-SA Many of the constellations we know in the night sky come from myths of the ancientGreeks. But similar stories are told by the oldest living cultures on Earth, including those of Australia. By Dr. Duane M. Hamacher /[…]

Goodbye Kepler, Hello TESS: New Satellite in the Search for Distant Planets

Imagined view from Kepler-10b, a planet that orbits one of the 150,000 stars that the Kepler spacecraft is monitoring. NASA/Kepler Mission/Dana Berry, CC BY When NASA first started planning the Kepler mission, no one knew if the universe held any planets outside our solar system. Thousands of exoplanets later, the search enters a new phase. By Dr. Jason Steffen / 04.09.2018 Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy[…]

How Eclipses were Regarded as Omens in the Ancient World

More than 2,000 years ago, the Babylonians understood the cycle of eclipses. They also regarded them as signs that could foretell the death of a king. By Dr. Gonzalo Rubio / 08.08.2017 Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies Pennsylvania State University On Monday, August 21, people living in the continental United States will be able to see a total solar eclipse. Humans have been alternatively amused, puzzled,[…]

From the Pyramids to Stonehenge – Were Prehistoric People Astronomers?

Ricardo Liberato/wikimedia, CC BY-ND Understanding the past requires knowledge that goes beyond modern science. By Dr. Daniel Brown / 03.12.2018 Lecturer in Astronomy Nottingham Trent University Ever since humans could look up to see the sky, we have been amazed by its beauty and untold mysteries. Naturally then, astronomy is often described as the oldest of the sciences,[…]

Stephen Hawking: A Life of Success against All Odds

By Dr. Martin Rees / 03.14.2018 Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics University of Cambridge Soon after I enrolled as a graduate student at Cambridge University in 1964, I encountered a fellow student, two years ahead of me in his studies, who was unsteady on his feet and spoke with great difficulty. This was Stephen[…]

Why Physics Needs Art to Help Picture the Universe

Fig 1 By Dr. Frank Wilczek / 12.11.2015 Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics Massachusetts Institute of Technology Historians of science usually date the origin of the Scientific Revolution as 1543, when Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus first put the Earth in motion. While that is a convenient and defensible choice, it is not the only good candidate. An earlier[…]

Ancient Greece and the Origins of the Heliocentric Theory

Illuminated illustration of the Ptolemaic geocentric conception of the Universe by Portuguese cosmographer and cartographer Bartolomeu Velho (?-1568) / Wikimedia Commons      By (left-to-right) Dr. Milan S. Dimitrijevic, Dr. Efstratios Theodossiou, Aris Dacanalis, and Petros Z. Mantarakis Dimitrijevic: Research Professor, Astronomical Observatory Belgrade Theodossiou: Associate Professor of History and Philosophy of Astronomy and Physical Sciences, University of[…]

Most Distant and Youngest Supermassive Black Hole Discovered to Date

This artist’s concept shows the most distant supermassive black hole ever discovered. It is part of a quasar from just 690 million years after the Big Bang. / Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science 12.06.2017 Scientists have uncovered a rare relic from the early universe: the farthest known supermassive black hole. This matter-eating beast is 800 million[…]

Black Holes are Simpler than Forests and Science has Its Limits

Complex nature. Photo by Alan L/Flickr By Dr. Martin Rees / 12.01.2017 Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics University of Cambridge Albert Einstein said that the ‘most incomprehensible thing about the Universe is that it is comprehensible’. He was right to be astonished. Human brains evolved to be adaptable, but our underlying neural architecture has barely changed since[…]

Solar System’s First Observed Interstellar Visitor Dazzles Scientists

Artist’s concept of interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua) as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017. The aspect ratio of up to 10:1 is unlike that of any object seen in our own solar system. Credits: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser 11.20.2017 Astronomers recently scrambled to observe an intriguing asteroid that zipped[…]

First Detection of Gravitational Waves and Light Produced by Colliding Neutron Stars

In a galaxy far away, two dead stars begin a final spiral into a massive collision. The resulting explosion unleashes a huge burst of energy, sending ripples across the very fabric of space. In the nuclear cauldron of the collision, atoms are ripped apart to form entirely new elements and scattered outward across the Universe.[…]

Incredible Photos of Jupiter from NASA’s Jupiter Probe

Image from NASA By Azriel ReShel / 11.09.2017 All photos credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran Witness the Beauty of this Great Gas Giant NASA’s Juno probe has sent thrilling images of Jupiter back to Earth, the largest planet in the solar system. The fresh close-up images of Jupiter share unbelievable views of a hidden world. This is[…]

Dark Matter: The Mystery Substance Physics Still Can’t Identify that Makes Up the Majority of Our Universe

Map of all matter – most of which is invisible dark matter – between Earth and the edge of the observable universe. ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech, CC BY By Dr. Dan Hooper / 10.25.2017 Associate Scientist in Theoretical Astrophysics, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Associate Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago The past few decades have ushered in an[…]

Cosmic Alchemy: Colliding Neutron Stars Show Us How the Universe Creates Gold

Illustration of hot, dense, expanding cloud of debris stripped from the neutron stars just before they collided. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab, CC BY    By Dr. Duncan Brown (left) and Dr. Edo Berger (left) / 10.24.2017 Brown: Professor of Physics, Syracuse University Berger: Professor of Astronomy, Harvard University For thousands of years, humans have searched[…]

A Look Back at Cassini’s Incredible Mission to Saturn before Final Plunge into the Planet

An illustration of Cassini diving between Saturn and the planet’s innermost ring. NASA/JPL-Caltech By Dr. Tanya Hill / 09.04.2017 Honorary Fellow, University of Melbourne Senior Curator, Astronomy Museums Victoria The Cassini space probe mission came to an end this month when the probe made its final destructive plunge in to Saturn. It spent the past thirteen years studying the planet,[…]

Dwarf Planetary Systems Will Transform the Hunt for Extraterrestrial Life

Detail from an impressionistic poster of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. / Amanda Smith, IoA    By Dr. Amaury Triaud and Dr. Michaël Gillon / 05.02.2017 Triaud: Kavli Institute Fellow in Exoplanets, University of Cambridge Gillon: FNRS Researcher, University of Liège Written speculation about life beyond the confines of Earth dates back thousands of years, to the time of the Greek philosophers[…]

Mars Rover Opportunity on Walkabout Near Rim

The Pancam on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity took the component images of this enhanced-color scene during the mission’s “walkabout” survey of an area just above the top of “Perseverance Valley,” in preparation for driving down the valley. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ. 06.23.2017 NASA’s senior Mars rover, Opportunity, is examining rocks at the edge of Endeavour Crater[…]