In popular culture, asteroids play the role of apocalyptic threat, get blamed for wiping out the dinosaurs -- and offer an extraterrestrial source for mineral mining. But for Georgia Tech researcher Nicholas Hud, asteroids play an entirely different role: that of time capsules showing what molecules originally existed in our solar system. Having that information gives scientists the starting point they need to reconstruct the complex pathway that got life started on Earth.
12,800 years ago, thanks to fragments of a comet, humans saw an astonishing 10 percent of the Earth's land surface, or about 10 million square kilometers, consumed by fires.
Dust is everywhere -- not just in your attic or under your bed, but also in outer space. To astronomers, dust can be a tool to study the history of our universe, galaxy, and Solar System. For example, observations indicate that type II supernovae -- explosions of stars more than ten times as massive as the Sun -- produce copious amounts of dust, but how and when they do so is not well understood.
NASA's Swift spacecraft, now renamed the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory after the mission's late principal investigator, has detected the most dramatic change in a comet's rotation ever seen.
A detailed study of blue salt crystals found in two meteorites that crashed to Earth -- which included X-ray experiments at Berkeley Lab found that they contain both liquid water and a mix of complex organic compounds including hydrocarbons and amino acids.
Analyses on a small pebble found in southwest Egypt cast significant questions on a widely held view about the primitive pre-solar dust cloud which our sun, Earth and other planets were formed from. Researchers found exotic micro-mineral compounds in the 'Hypatia' stone that are not known to occur on Earth, elsewhere in our solar system, or in known meteorites or comets.
Santa's winter workshop might be in space, as University of Warwick researchers are exploring whether snowy moons over a billion kilometres away from Earth are potentially habitable. According to Dr David Brown, and colleagues at Warwick's Centre for Exoplanets and Habitability, life could be supported on moons of ice and snow with vast oceans under their frozen surfaces, orbiting Jupiter and Saturn.
Scientists at Queen's University Belfast have led worldwide investigations into a mysterious object that passed close to Earth after arriving from deep interstellar space.
Researchers have identified an explosive new mechanism that breaks down meteors as they hurtle toward Earth. New simulations of falling meteors suggest air particles penetrate the space rocks' porous interiors as they careen through the atmosphere. These air particles create pockets of high pressure that ultimately lead the rock to explode from the inside, tens of kilometers above the Earth.
When a meteor comes hurtling toward Earth, the high-pressure air in front of it seeps into its pores and cracks, pushing the body of the meteor apart and causing it to explode.