Space

Pluto orbits the sun more than 29 times farther away than Earth, with a surface temperature estimated to be about 380 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

The environment on Pluto, which 2 percent of astronomers voted on no longer being really a planet anyway, is far too cold to allow liquid water on its surface. Its moons are in the same frigid environment.

Pluto's remoteness and small size make it difficult to observe so take speculation about Charon, a moon of Pluto, having cracks in its surface and perhaps a subterranean ocean of liquid water, with a grain of otherworldly salt. In July of 2015, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will be the first to visit Pluto and Charon, until then we have numerical models and a fair amount of educated guessing. 


The standard cosmological model is the frame of reference for generations of scientists but some question its ability to accurately reproduce what is observed in the nearby universe. 

Dwarf galaxies that orbit the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxies defy the accepted model of galaxy formation,  according to an international team of astrophysicists, and recent attempts to wedge them into the model are flawed, they believe. 

David Merritt, professor of astrophysics at Rochester Institute of Technology, says their work pokes holes in the accepted model of the origin and evolution of the universe. According to the standard paradigm, 23 percent of the mass of the universe is shaped by invisible (insert your definition here) known as dark matter.


Space looks empty but unseen to the naked eye, a wind of charged particles pummels us from the Sun, carrying a magnetic field with it. Sometimes this solar wind can break through the Earth’s magnetic field, but one of the questions about how this actually occurs is difficult to answer.

When two areas with plasma (electrically charged gas) and magnetic fields with different orientations collide, the magnetic fields can be “clipped off” and “reconnected” so that the topology of the magnetic field is changed. This magnetic reconnection can give energy to eruptions on the solar surface, it can change the energy from the solar wind so that it then creates aurora, and it is one of the obstacles to storing energy through processes in fusion reactors.

Will anyone own land in space? Could an individual, company or country claim the Moon? Will we have countries in space, organized by ideas and religions, and territories just as we have on Earth? Will they go to war with each other over territories, resources or ideas as they do on Earth?

Look at this carefully, and you find that there are various things about the space environment that make a difference from the way things work on the Earth. Many of our Earth based concepts may be impossible to apply in space or may need to be radically changed.

In 1975, physicist Kip Thorne and astronomer Anna Żytkow proposed that there are hybrids of red supergiant and neutron stars that superficially resemble normal red supergiants, such as Betelguese in the constellation Orion, but differ in their distinct chemical signatures that result from unique activity in their stellar interiors.


A gamma-ray burst of light from the enormous explosion of a star more 12.1 billion years ago — shortly after the Big Bang — recently reached Earth and was visible in the sky.

Gamma-ray bursts are believed to be the catastrophic collapse of a star at the end of its life. Farley Ferrante, a graduate student in Souther Methodist University's Department of Physics, who monitored the observations along with two astronomers in Turkey and Hawaii, says they were  first on the ground to observe the burst and to capture an image, using the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.

Recorded as GRB 140419A by NASA's Gamma-ray Coordinates Network, the burst was spotted at 11 p.m. April 19 by SMU's robotic telescope, ROTSE-IIIB.


Kapteyn's Star, named after Dutch astronomer Jacobus Kapteyn, who discovered it at the end of the 19th century, is the second fastest-moving star in the sky and belongs to the Galactic halo, an extended group of stars orbiting our Galaxy on very elliptical orbits. 

With a third of the mass of the Sun, this red-dwarf can be seen with an amateur telescope in the southern constellation of Pictor. 

An international team of astronomers reports the discovery of two new planets orbiting Kapteyn's Star. One of these planets orbits the star at the right distance to allow liquid water to exist on its surface, a key ingredient to support life. 


In our solar system, there are two basic kinds of planets- smaller, rocky terrestrials like Earth and Mars and then large gas giants like Neptune and Jupiter.

Though a middle ground between those two is missing locally, NASA's Kepler mission has discovered that these types of planets are very common around other stars. The aliens worlds of other systems - exoplanets - include terrestrials and gas giants, like we have, but also mid-sized "gas dwarfs" - based on how their host stars tend to fall into three distinct groups defined by their compositions.


Kim Stanley Robinson in his famous Trilogy Red, Green and Blue Mars describes a science fiction future with Mars changing colour to green and then to blue. But what also about snowball white after a failed terraforming attempt? Or, what about purple, or black (or darker in colour)? Perhaps you can think of other colours it could turn as well?

I thought this would be a great way to explore some of the complexities of planetary transformation, to imagine the possible future colours of Mars - depending on human actions, deliberate or accidental.

You can't seeit from here, but the moon is lopsided; that's because of its gravitational tug-of-war with Earth.

The mutual pulling of the two bodies is powerful enough to stretch them both and they wind up shaped a little like two eggs with their ends pointing toward one another. On Earth, the tension has an especially strong effect on the oceans, because water moves so freely. The moon is the driving force behind tides. 

For the first time, scientists can see the moon's lopsided shape and how it changes under Earth's sway – a response not seen from orbit before. Because orbiting spacecraft gathered the data, the scientists were able to take the entire moon into account, not just the side that can be observed from Earth.