Space

The surface of Venus can't be seen from orbit in visible light due to its hot, dense and cloudy atmosphere. Instead, radar has been used by spacecraft to penetrate the clouds and map out the surface – both by reflecting radar off the surface to measure elevation and by looking at the radio emissions of the hot surface. The last spacecraft to map Venus that way was Magellan, two decades ago. 

One of the Venusian surprises discovered at that time is that radio waves are reflected differently at different elevations on Venus. Also observed were a handful of radio dark spots at the highest elevations. Both enigmas have defied explanation.



Image: NASA

By Monica Grady, The Open University

A recent model says it provides the first characterization of the progenitor for a hydrogen-deficient supernova. Their simulation predicts that a bright hot star, which is the binary companion to an exploding object, remains after the explosion so they secured observation time with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) to search for such a remaining star.  



Credit: Niall Carson/PA

By Saskia Vermeylen, Lancaster University

Whether you’re into mining, energy or tourism, there are lots of reasons to explore space.

Some “pioneers” even believe humanity’s survival depends on colonizing celestial bodies such as the moon and Mars, both becoming central hubs for our further journey into the cosmos. Lunar land peddlers have started doing deals already – a one-acre plot can be yours for just £16.75.


An artist's impression of a galactic protocluster forming in the early universe. Credit: European Southern Observatory, CC BY

By Nick Seymour, Curtin University

Clusters of galaxies have back-stories worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster: their existences are marked by violence, death and birth, arising after extragalactic pile-ups where groups of galaxies crashed into each other.

On April 23rd, 2014, NASA's Swift satellite detected the strongest, hottest, and longest-lasting sequence of stellar flares ever seen from a red dwarf star - 10,000 times more powerful than the largest solar flare ever recorded.

'Just produced' in the title is cosmologically speaking -  the "superflare" came from one of the stars in a close binary system known as DG Canum Venaticorum (DG CVn), which is 60 light-years away. Both stars are dim red dwarfs with masses and sizes about one-third of our sun's. They orbit each other at about three times Earth's average distance from the sun, which is too close for Swift to determine which star erupted. 

Astronomers have used the APEX telescope to probe a huge galaxy cluster that is forming in the early Universe and revealed that much of the star formation taking place is not only hidden by dust, but also occurring in unexpected places.

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Our view of other solar systems just got a little more familiar, with the discovery of a planet 25,000 light-years away that resembles our own Uranus.

Astronomers have discovered hundreds of planets around the Milky Way, including rocky planets similar to Earth and gas planets similar to Jupiter, but there is a third type of planet in our solar system — part gas, part ice, like Uranus and Neptune — called an "ice giant" and researchers have spotted one outside Sol's orbit for the first time.

But let's not build a cute robot and send it there just yet; it's 25,000 light years away.