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solar system

Astrophysicist: Quit calling our sun an “average star”

Adam Frank: That whole “average star” meme works great if you want to make it seem like we are nothing special at all in the Universe. But from a stellar census point of view, it’s just not true. Read More ›

Remember space junk ‘Oumuamua? A conventional explanation is now offered: Nitrogen ice from Pluto

It’s curious how folklore can prevail for ages in science as long as it has a naturalistic origin. Maybe Top People shouldn’t count on everyone just forgetting that now. Read More ›

Ethan Siegel tells us why he thinks colonizing super-Earths would end in disaster

Siegel thinks that a rocky planet of more than 30% greater radius than Earth stands a good change of becoming a gas giant in consequence of its size. Earth is the right size to avoid that. Read More ›

Out there near Pluto, mysterious Arrakoth may be a time capsule into our early solar system

From Max Planck Society: "There is as yet no explanation as to how a body as flat as Arrokoth could emerge from this process," says Rezac. " Note: No one has so far claimed that it an “extraterrestrial lightsail.” Or a space alien’s experiment. What’s going wrong here? ;) Read More ›

Claim: Solar system might once have had two companion stars

But wait! Who’s claiming this? The second author of this paper is Abraham (Avi) Loeb. That rings a bell. Wasn’t he the one who suggested that the obvious space junk Oumuamua was an extraterrestrial light sail? Look, why does the name “Harvard” put all doubts about credibility to rest? Especially in these times? Read More ›

Guillermo Gonzalez: Earth’s position makes space exploration easier

Gonzalez: In the larger context of the Milky Way galaxy, our Solar System is in the best location to initiate interstellar missions. In summary, we here confirm and expand upon recent studies that argue that the Earth and the Solar System are rare in the degree to which they facilitate space exploration. Read More ›

Galileo’s contemporary science opponents made a lot of sense

Christopher Graney: “… seen from Earth, stars appear as dots of certain sizes or magnitudes. The only way stars could be so incredibly distant and have such sizes was if they were all incredibly huge, every last one dwarfing the Sun. Tycho Brahe, the most prominent astronomer of the era and a favourite of the Establishment, thought this was absurd, … ” The true history is a warning to thoughtful people to avoid popular science written by the village atheist; he knows just enough to get it all wrong. Read More ›

Our solar system is a lot rarer than it was a quarter century ago

Two independent teams of astronomers recently looked into the matter: Astronomers have detected and measured the mass and/or orbital features of 3,869 planets in 2,887 planetary systems beyond the solar system. This ranks as a staggering rate of discovery, given that the first confirmed detection of a planet orbiting another hydrogen-fusion-burning star was as recent as 1995. What do the characteristics of these systems reveal about potential habitability for advanced life? … The presumption back in 1995 was that astronomers would find many exoplanetary systems where the probability of advanced life possibly existing in that system would be greater than zero. More than twenty-three years later, with a database of 2,888 planetary systems and 3,877 planets, only one planetary system Read More ›

We look for planets differently now

It turns out that other solar systems are not shedding much light on how ours came to be: But as the menagerie of young planetary systems grows, researchers are struggling to square their observations with current theories on how our Solar System and others formed. Such ideas have been in turmoil ever since astronomers started discovering planets around distant stars — a list that now numbers in the thousands. The Solar System has rocky planets near the Sun and giant gas balls farther out, but the panoply of exoplanets obeys no tidy patterns. And the rule book for world-building is getting more complicated as researchers find evidence of planets in the process of being born. Still, astronomers hope that witnessing Read More ›