How Planetary Age Reveals Water Content

distant_planet

Water is necessary for life as we know it, but too much water is bad for habitability. Therefore, to study the habitability of extrasolar planets, determining the abundance of water is a key element. Yann Alibert, Science Officer of PlanetS at the University of Bern, shows that the observation of exoplanets at different ages can be used to set statistical constraints on their water content – an important result for future space missions. Read More →

Planetary Striptease

Planet being stripped by host star's heat. Credit: Peter Devine

Planet being stripped by host star’s heat. Credit: Peter Devine

Planets of the “super-Earth” category lose their atmosphere through too great proximity to their star. That is the result of an international research project coordinated by astronomer Dr. Mia Lundkvist, who is doing post-doc research at the Königstuhl observatory of Heidelberg University’s Centre for Astronomy (ZAH). Read More →

2015: An Exciting Year for Space Research

international-space-station

Image: NASA

With war, terrorism and climate change dominating the headlines of 2015, it’s easy for good news to get lost in the noise. However, 2015 also saw many more positive, albeit lesser known headlines, including those highlighting some of the most impressive scientific discoveries of recent times. In the world of astronomy and exploration, 2015 will hopefully be remembered as the year Pluto was explored by a robotic space probe for the first time and water was discovered on Mars. Read More →

Searching for Life in the Alpha Centauri System

Alpha Centauri

An international team has discovered that biopigments of plants, so-called biological photosynthetic pigments, leave behind unique traces in the light they reflect. Prof. Dr. Svetlana Berdyugina from the Institute of Physics of the University of Freiburg and the Freiburg Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics studied these biosignatures together with researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, USA, and the University of Aarhus, Denmark, with the help of polarization filters. If biopigments were present as a sign of life on a planet, they would leave behind a detectable polarized signature in the reflected light. The scientists have now published their findings in the International Journal of Astrobiology. Read More →

The Science of Black Holes: Hawking Radiation Explained

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Black holes are one of the most intriguing features of our universe. They were originally predicted by the equations in Einstein’s theory of general relativity in 1915. Many scientists doubted the existence of black holes throughout the 20th century, assuming they were merely a mathematical glitch in an incomplete theory. However, modern physicists almost unanimously accept that black holes exist. In fact, current theories in cosmology posit that supermassive black holes are at the center of almost every major galaxy. Read More →

Improved Detection of Radio Waves from Space

The dish of the radio telescope based in Yebes, Spain, measures more than 13 meters across. Here, the researchers will implement their high-performance radio wave reception technology for the first time. © Instituto Geográfico National

The dish of the radio telescope based in Yebes, Spain, measures more than 13 meters across. Here, the researchers will implement their high-performance radio wave reception technology for the first time. © Instituto Geográfico National

Together with their Spanish colleagues from the Instituto Geográfico Nacional and the University of Cantabria, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF in Freiburg have developed a very sensitive high frequency amplifier for radio telescopes used on Earth. The amplifier generates extremely little internal electromagnetic noise and will help measure our planet from space more precisely than ever before. Read More →

Observing the Early Life of Massive Protostars

First, the massive protostar W75N(B)-VLA 2 ejects matter in in all directions. Jet turns into collimated when it expands in toroidal gas and dust environment. Image: Wolfgang Steffen (UNAM)

First, the massive protostar W75N(B)-VLA 2 ejects matter in in all directions. Jet turns into collimated when it expands in toroidal gas and dust environment. Image: Wolfgang Steffen (UNAM)

An international team of astronomers has, for the first time, observed the moment in which a massive protostar begins to develop jets of matter and energy, crucial for star formation. The study, led by Carlos Carrasco-González (UNAM, México) and recently published in the journal Science, has been developed by researchers from the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the UB (ICCUB-IEEC), the Institute of Space Sciences (CSIC-IEEC) and the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC). Read More →

Scientists Detect Nitrogen Molecules on Comet

Gases and dust rise from Chury's surface as the comet is nearing its perihelion. Photo: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Gases and dust rise from Chury’s surface as the comet is nearing its perihelion. Photo: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

ESA’s comet probe Rosetta has for the first time ever measured nitrogen gas at a comet, providing clues to the early stages of the formation of our solar system. The findings of the study, which was led by researchers at the University of Bern, have now been published in the journal Science [citation below]. Read More →

Anomalies in the Standard Model of Cosmology

Dark Energy Research

Researchers, including physicists from Heidelberg University, have gained new insights into dark energy and the theory of gravitation by analyzing data from the Planck satellite mission of the European Space Agency (ESA). Their results demonstrate that the standard model of cosmology remains an excellent description of the universe. Yet when the Planck data is combined with other astronomical observations, several deviations emerge. Read More →

Sending a Rocket Through the Northern Lights

ICI-4 - a space weather mission. Illustration: Trond Abrahamsen, Andøya Space Center

ICI-4 – a space weather mission. Illustration: Trond Abrahamsen, Andøya Space Center

The combination of American electron clouds and Norwegian northern lights spells trouble for navigation and communication in the Northern regions. The ICI4 rocket will provide knowledge that can help us predict the weather in space.

Follow the scientists live-blogging the attempt to launch the rocket on facebook.com/ici4rocket and twitter: #ICI4 Read More →