Space

By Marsha Lewis, Inside Science TV. The moon — it can appear full, shining like a beacon in the night or just a sliver of a nightlight. Still, it’s always there.

Image Credit: NASA.gov

But what if we didn't have a moon?

Here’s the top five things we would miss without it.

1.       Nights would be much, much darker. The next brightest object in the night sky is Venus – but it still wouldn’t be enough to light up the sky – a full moon is nearly two thousand times brighter than Venus is at its brightest.

Astronomers discovered a nest of monstrous baby galaxies 11.5 billion light-years away and they speculate that the galaxies seem to reside at the junction of gigantic filaments in a web of dark matter. 

Since dark matter is the umbrella term for matter that inference says must exist but which has never been detected, how can they know the galaxies are surrounded by it? Read on. Thugh things are relatively quiet now, ten billion years ago, long before the Sun and Earth were formed, areas of the Universe were inhabited by monstrous galaxies with star formation rates hundreds or thousands of times what we observe today in our Milky Way galaxy.


Fast Radio Bursts - bursts of energy from space that appear as a short flashes of radio waves to telescopes on Earth - have baffled astronomers since first detected a decade ago.

Though only 16 have been recorded, there could be thousands of of these mysterious events each day.


Discussions of the ethics of terraforming often touch on  rights of planets or extraterrestrial lifeforms, or near term utilitarian values. But what about our responsibilities to terraformed worlds, and their long term future? I suggest that we are nowhere near mature enough as a civilization to be responsible parents to a newly terraformed world with a gestation period of millennia and an "adult life" of hundreds of millions of years.

Our Sun is a relatively quiet star that only occasionally releases solar flares or blasts of energetic particles that threaten satellites and power grids. You might think that smaller, cooler stars would be even more sedate. However, astronomers have now identified a tiny star with a monstrous temper. It shows evidence of much stronger flares than anything our Sun produces. If similar stars prove to be just as stormy, then potentially habitable planets orbiting them are likely to be much less hospitable than previously thought.


Dark matter is "dark" because no one knows what it is and a blanket term for whatever outnumbers particles of regular matter by more than a factor of 10 is necessary.

Because it can't be detected, dark matter is inferred by gravitational influence in galaxies, and by measuring the mass of a nearby dwarf galaxy called Triangulum II, Assistant Professor of Astronomy Evan Kirby says they may have found the highest concentration of dark matter in any known galaxy. 


Research provides first ever weather map of a planet outside our solar system and it finds wind hurtling at speeds 20x faster than ever recorded on Earth - and seven times the speed of sound.

The researchers measured the velocities on the two sides of HD 189733b and found a strong wing moving at over 5400mph blowing from its dayside to its night side. The velocity was measured using high resolution spectroscopy of the Sodium absorption featured in its atmosphere. As parts of HD 189733b's atmosphere move towards or away from the Earth the Doppler effect changes the wavelength of this feature, which allows the velocity to be measured.


A team of astronomers have discovered an extremely rare galaxy of gigantic size. The galaxy,  J021659-044920
and located about 9 billion light years away towards the constellation Cetus, emits powerful radio waves and has an end to end extent of a whopping 4 million light years. 


In a bit less than two days an orbiting object known with the peculiar name of WT1190F - but I'd like to rename it as WTF 1190 for obvious reasons - is expected to fall on Earth. The object was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey in 2013 and little is known about its origin. It has a low density and makes a very eccentric revolution around us every three weeks. 
Below is a picture taken by the University of Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope in October. The object is observed as a bright spot that shows a relative motion with respect to fixed stars.



The long, shallow grooves lining the surface of Phobos are likely early signs of the structural failure that will ultimately destroy this moon of Mars.

Orbiting a mere 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) above the surface of Mars, Phobos is closer to its planet than any other moon in the solar system. Mars' gravity is drawing in Phobos, the larger of its two moons, by about 6.6 feet (2 meters) every hundred years. Scientists expect the moon to be pulled apart in 30 to 50 million years.

"We think that Phobos has already started to fail, and the first sign of this failure is the production of these grooves," said Terry Hurford of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.