Tag Archives: Planetary science

Faraway Star Is Roundest Natural Object Ever Seen

A star 5,000 light-years from Earth is the closest thing to a perfect sphere that has ever been observed in nature, a new study reports.

Stars, planets and other round celestial bodies bulge slightly at their equators due to centrifugal force. Generally speaking, the faster these objects spin, the greater the force, and the larger the bulge.  Continue reading Faraway Star Is Roundest Natural Object Ever Seen

First-Ever Binary Alien Planets Possibly Found

Astronomers may have found the first binary planets ever observed beyond our solar system.

The two objects straddle the dividing line between gas giants and odd “failed stars” known as brown dwarfs in terms of mass, researchers said. The newfound bodies are also similar to each other in size and age.

“They’re probably brother and sister,” Daniella Gagliuffi told Space.com. Gagliuffi, a graduate student at the University of California, San Diego, found the objects amid a cloud of stars about 65 light-years from Earth. [Gallery: The Strangest Alien Planets] Continue reading First-Ever Binary Alien Planets Possibly Found

On Volcano Moon Io, it Snows Sulfur Every Day

The small Jupiter moon’s atmosphere undergoes a dramatic transformation when it passes into the gas giant’s shadow.
Jupiter’s moon Io is not only interesting in that it’s the most volcanic place in the solar system, it also has a seriously weird atmosphere that collapses and re-inflates as it passes into Jupiter’s shadow every single day.

As Io orbits Jupiter, the extreme Jovian tides warp the moon so much that huge quantities of energy are generated, causing molten rock from the moon’s interior to spew onto the surface, driving perpetual volcanic activity. Continue reading On Volcano Moon Io, it Snows Sulfur Every Day

Exploring the Realm of Saturn with Mobile Astronomy Apps

The planet Saturn captures the imagination with its visually stunning rings. Close-up views from our robotic emissaries have revealed braided ring structures, dynamic weather systems that include a gigantic polar hexagon and a diverse family of moons — each with a distinctive appearance. One of the moons, Titan, features landscapes reminiscent of Earth — but with a twist. Continue reading Exploring the Realm of Saturn with Mobile Astronomy Apps

New Dwarf Planet Discovered Far Beyond Pluto’s Orbit

Astronomers have discovered another dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt, the ring of icy objects beyond Neptune. But this newfound world, dubbed 2015 RR245, is much more distant than Pluto, orbiting the sun once every 700 Earth years, scientists said. (Pluto completes one lap around the sun every 248 Earth years.)  Continue reading New Dwarf Planet Discovered Far Beyond Pluto’s Orbit

Life’s Building Blocks Created on Lab-Grown Comet

Mix water, methanol and ammonia at low temperatures and low pressure, irradiate with ultraviolet light and what do you get? A residue of organics, which when warmed to room temperature, contains ribose and other sugars that are believed to be building blocks for RNA and DNA, molecules essential for all known forms of life. Continue reading Life’s Building Blocks Created on Lab-Grown Comet

Baby Star’s ‘Placenta’ Precisely Measured for the First Time

It is well known that as a massive cloud of gas collapses under its own gravity, baby stars may form. The intense gravitational collapse kicks off fusion processes that begin the coalescence of more matter that feeds into a newborn star. Though the general process is fairly well understood, the details are not. Continue reading Baby Star’s ‘Placenta’ Precisely Measured for the First Time