Double Post: Mini Stars & Morning Micrometeorites on Mercury

Alliteration is accessible to all! Okay I’m done. Start some science! Really done this time.  Today’s double post covers the smallest of stars, still larger than most planets, and the only weather Mercury will ever have. Humans are naturally interested in the extremes, the biggest, smallest, fastest, hottest, coldest, and every other characteristic outlier.  With stars, being so huge and powerful, we are often more interested in the largest, hottest, and most energetic.  Though on the opposite end of the spectrum, Cambridge University astronomers have discovered the smallest star in the known universe. The star, a red dwarf, has the...

Three Nearby Earths

As the search for planets in the galaxy continues, there are two places to focus on: Distant stars with potential large planets, and nearby stars with potential small planets. If we are able to find Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars, they will be prime targets for future generations to explore. Astronomers have just announced the discovery of three new planets orbiting a star only 40 light years from Earth.  The star is a very small red dwarf, only slightly larger than Jupiter, and even though it’s close to Earth, it can’t be seen with the naked eye or even with a large...

Where did the Elements Come From?

The elements that make up our world and our selves, where do they come from? Sure there is plenty of Oxygen in the air, Silicon and Carbon are just lying around, and a bunch of other stuff can be found across our planet.  but where did they come from originally? We know that most of the elements are synthesized within stars, but which ones aren’t? Which ones are made in a lab? The Big Bang gave rise to the first elements Hydrogen and Helium, which eventually clumped together to form the first stars and star producing the heavier stuff.  Lithium,...

Motivation Monday: What do you want out of Life?

What drives you? What is it that makes you get up early? Go to work? Eat well? Do you want a lot of money? Do you want to find love? Be successful? Live a long time? Why? What is your reason? Do you want to be happy? Do you want others to respect and revere you? Or do you just want to be better than other people? Maybe you want to provide a good life for your family, impress your parents, or show off to the world.   Do you want to be remembered? Chances are, something in the last few...

Phobos is Falling to Pieces

The moons of Mars, aptly named for the sons of the god of war, Phobos (Fear) and Deimos (Panic) are more like asteroids than the larger moons we generally associate with planets.  The moons are only 22 Km (phobos) and 12 Km (deimos) in diameter, and orbit their planet is 7 hours and 30 hours respectively.   The larger moon Phobos is moving toward its planet by almost 7 feet every year, due to the massive gravitational forces it feels from Mars.  As it moves closer than its current distance of 6,000 Km, tidal forces from Mars will slowly increase,...

Hyperion the Sponge Moon

A couple of days ago, the still-active Cassini spacecraft orbiting around Saturn performed a flyby of the small Moon Hyperion, taking high resolution photos of the surface, and showing the sponge-like surface of the moon in a different light. Hyperion is a moderate 250 kilometers wide, yet it doesn’t tug very hard on Cassini.  Performing measurements of its surface gravity, Cassini has shown that the moon is mostly empty space, similar to a pumice stone on Earth.  The odd shapes of the craters are thought to be a result of this.  When an impactor hits Hyperion, it blows the material...

Tiny Spacecraft are the Future!

For a long time, the scientific community has been hopeful for a mission to some of the most interesting moons of the solar system.  Europa, Enceladus, and Ganymede all have subsurface oceans and will give substantial insights into the formation and evolution of life in the solar system and beyond. The only problem is that it costs an astronomical (literally) amount of money to get there.  A bare bones mission to Europa would cost over 600 Million dollars, and if we are spending that much we had better be sure it will work. Money aside, the technology to get appropriate...

4.3 Gigabytes and 100 Million Stars in a Single image – Andromeda

When I became a Masters student, a big part of the reason I liked the supervisor I had was that she studied M31: The Andromeda Galaxy.  Since I was young I was obsessed with finding this galaxy in a telescope, and I will never forget when I first found it, seeing photons that had travelled for 2.5 Million years through space, it was my first ever experience with time travel. So its natural that I am excited about a recent Hubble release of the highest resolution photo of the Andromeda Galaxy Ever taken.  Let’s start with a standard shot of...