Tagged With astronomy

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Last year, the pair of LIGO experiments announced a discovery a hundred years in the making: Gravitational waves, tiny ripples in space time from a pair of colliding black holes a billion light years away. You might wonder what scientists will do with two giant gravitational wave detectors now that they have fulfilled their primary goal. Well, those ripples weren't the end of the story — they were the start of a whole new saga in astronomy.

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You might wonder why Mars gets all the interplanetary attention when Venus, our sister planet, is actually closer. Well, the hellish orb has the hottest surface in the solar system, hotter even than Mercury. Combined with its dense, caustic atmosphere, none of our computers can handle Venus for more than a few hours. Now, scientists think they have come up with a solution.

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Physicists have long known that the Sun spins, like the Earth. But a few decades ago, they realised the surface of the Sun spins more slowly than their models predicted — not by a lot, but enough to signal that something they didn't understand was going on. This kicked off a solar mystery, and some scientists started to doubt their own understanding of the Sun's behaviour.

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Scientists have detected thousands of exoplanets in recent years, by catching dips in light as they orbit their parent stars. These days, finding new ones isn't usually such a big deal. But taking direct images of exoplanets, and turning them into videos so we can watch their orbits, makes these faraway worlds a little more real.

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Humans don't know much about the universe, but we do know that most of the gravity holding it together — around 85 per cent of it — comes from something we can't see or touch called dark matter. And some other force we can't see or touch, called dark energy, is simultaneously causing the universe to expand, at an ever-increasing rate. But our measurements that seek to nail down the effects of dark energy don't seem to be adding up.

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Our planet is due to be hit with a powerful solar storm, an event that happens about once every hundred years. New research shows that losses from the ensuing blackouts could total $US41.5 billion ($54 billion) per day in the US alone, including nearly $US7 billion ($9 billion) lost in trade.