In his upcoming book published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth, Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb makes a provocative assertion: The mysterious “cigar-shaped object” that NASA dubbed “1I/2017 U1 ‘Oumuamua” was junk from an alien civilization.
Sure enough, astronomers have discovered even more of those mysterious fast radio bursts from outside the Milky Way galaxy. Scientists using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope have detected 13 different radio bursts, including six repeat bursts from the same location in a galaxy 1.5 billion light years away. Each of those bursts represents about 25 million times more energy than the Sun, and they were collected at the lowest frequencies yet (400MHz to 800MHz).
In addition to filling balloons at birthday parties, helium can be found scattered throughout the cosmos. To date, however, scientists have struggled to detect the ubiquitous element on distant worlds, even though the gas is certain to be there. But that’s now changed, thanks to the discovery of helium on a Jupiter-sized world located 200 light-years from Earth—but that’s only part of the story. Continue reading The First Exoplanet Known to Contain Helium Is a Truly Alien World
Supernovae produce some of the most powerful explosions in the cosmos, expelling a doomed star’s contents at velocities reaching 10 percent the speed of light. It usually takes a few weeks or months for a supernova to fade into nothingness, but astronomers have now documented a record-setting case in which a star was extinguished in just a few days. Continue reading Rare Type of Supernova Extinguishes Star at Unprecedented Speed
The space-based telescope responsible for detecting 2,245 exoplanets, and another 2,342 yet to be confirmed, is running out of fuel and may have just a few months left before its lights go out. The Kepler spacecraft will go down in history as one of the greatest astronomical tools ever used to scan the heavens. Continue reading NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope Has Only a Few Months to Live
There are an estimated 700 million trillion terrestrial planets in the observable universe. Among them, Earth may very well be one of a kind according to a new study from Uppsala University in Sweden. Astronomer Erik Zackrisson and his team have been running computer simulations to model all of the terrestrial planets that are likely to exist in the universe. The probabilistic exoplanetary statistics that they’ve gleaned from these simulations could potentially upend the Copernican principle and will soon be published in The Astrophysical Journal (it’s currently up on arXiv).