NASA’s WISE uncovers a brown dwarf that is not only one of the closest objects to us, but also one of the coldest, with a surface that would make for some great skiing.
An international team of astronomers has found evidence of a planet being eaten by its star, a fate which is presumed to be common for inner planets as their suns age and expand. Ha ha, sucks for that planet! Hey, wait a second, was that inner planets? That's us! We're an inner planet. Uh oh.
The USGS has published a brand new map of the surface of Io, a moon of Jupiter and one of the most geologically active bodies in the entire solar system. The map shows hundreds of volcanoes, massive lava flows, and some of the most violently active surface features planetary scientists have ever seen.
Classical physics is good at describing the motion of big things (such as planets), while quantum physics is needed to describe the behavior of small things, such as atoms. But if you get a big enough atom, its electrons should orbit around just like a planet orbiting the sun, and physicists have managed to make that happen.
I know with the holidays coming up you've probably been worrying about the sun expanding into a red giant, engulfing the Earth, and turning us all into a swirling mass of vaporized rock. A newly discovered planetary system suggests that Earth may actually be able to survive this last dying gasp of our star. Mostly. Sort of. Well, maybe at least a little bit.
All it takes to simulate the electromagnetic field of our planet is about 15 tons of liquid sodium in a giant spinning globe. Cool!
Uranus isn't just gassy, it's also tilted completely sideways, such that instead of rotating like a spinning top, it rolls around the plane of the solar system more like a giant ball. Now astronomers think they know how this happened, and it means that Uranus has been pounded really, really hard not once, but twice.
Our solar system was a tempestuous place in its early days, with asteroids smashing into planets left and right and aliens stopping by to seed life on Earth. But before all that, simulations have shown that there may have been an extra ice giant in the mix, until Jupiter stepped in and flung it off into interstellar space.
Somewhere out in space, something is causing comets to fly out of the Oort cloud towards the inner solar system. New computer models suggest that it could be a giant planet larger than Jupiter that we've never seen before.
NASA has announced that their planet-hunting spacecraft, Kepler, has discovered 1,235 potential new planets around alien stars. Of these, five of them are about the right size, and in about the right place, to potentially support life.