All posts by Zand Space

The Improbable Rise of Planet Earth

Planet hunters have detected nearly 5000 confirmed and candidate planets beyond our solar system. Most sun-like stars, it seems, are ringed with giant planets that crowd their parent stars and leave no room for planets like ours. The old theories about planetary formation are giving way to a new one defined by fierce gravitational battles and titanic collisions. How did Earth manage to survive?

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Juno: Scraping Jupiter

The Juno spacecraft will for the first time peer below Jupiter’s dense cover of clouds to answer questions about the gas giant and the origins of our solar system.

Juno’s primary goal is to reveal the story of Jupiter’s formation and evolution. Using long-proven technologies on a spinning spacecraft placed in an elliptical polar orbit, Juno will observe Jupiter’s gravity and magnetic fields, atmospheric dynamics and composition, and evolution.

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Proxima B: The Pale Red Dot

The Pale Red Dot campaign was launched to find a planet orbiting our nearest stellar neighbour, Proxima Centauri. Incredibly, the quest succeeded and astronomers detected a planet. The planet, Proxima b, falls within the habitable zone of its host star. It is by far the closest potential abode for alien life.

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A High Energy Revelation

Measurements of unprecedented detail returned by Japan’s Hitomi satellite have allowed scientists to track the motion of X-ray-emitting gas at the heart of the Perseus cluster of galaxies for the first time. Located about 240 million light-years away and named for its host constellation, the Perseus galaxy cluster contains a vast amount of extremely hot gas.

At temperatures averaging 90 million degrees Fahrenheit (50 million degrees Celsius), the gas glows brightly in X-rays. Prior to Hitomi’s launch, astronomers lacked the capability to measure the detailed dynamics of this gas, particularly its relationship to bubbles of gas expelled by an active supermassive black hole in the cluster’s core galaxy, NGC 1275.

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