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Atmosphere

A team of ESO astronomers working from the La Silla Observatory, Chile, has detected the first direct reflection of light from an exoplanet orbiting a Sun-like star. The exoplanet, 51 Pegasi b, is what is known as a hot Jupiter, a prevalent form of gas giant that sits much closer to its parent star than our own Jovian neighbor. Read More
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has detected two unexpected phenomena in the short time since making orbit around the red planet – an aurora occurring deep in the Martian atmosphere, and an as of yet unexplained high altitude dust cloud. MAVEN is currently four months into a primary mission lasting one Earth year, during which time it is attempting to shed light on the characteristics of the Martian upper atmosphere and ionosphere, studying how they interact with our Sun. Read More
MIT researchers have developed a method of analyzing data from NASA's Keplar space observatory, that allows for the detection of clouds present in the atmosphere of distant exoplanets. Whilst such work may seem like blue sky science, the research has potentially profound implications for determining the habitability of distant worlds. Read More
NASA’S Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter has taken a deep dive into the Martian atmosphere. The first of a series of five planned deep-dip maneuvers by the unmanned spacecraft, its purpose was to gather information about the lower limits of the upper regions of the Red Planet's atmosphere. Read More
The northern lights are more than one of nature's most awe inspiring sights, they are an electromagnetic phenomenon that can adversely affect power grids and communications and navigation systems. Researchers from the University of Oslo have flown a rocket through the lights to take a closer look with the aim of gathering data that will help in predicting space weather. Read More
Astronomers are scratching their heads over mysterious plumes that have been sighted in the atmosphere of Mars. First seen by amateur astronomers using Earthbound telescopes, the plumes are at an altitude much higher than that of any clouds yet seen on the Red Planet, and may not even be clouds. Read More
One reason exoplanets are so fascinating is the possibility that they may harbor life, but the definition of habitable used by astronomers is so broad that it could include planets that obviously aren't. To help zero in on the more likely candidates, a British-built satellite called Twinkle will look at the atmospheres of exoplanets to seek more definite signs of life, as well as clues as to the chemistry, formation and evolution of exoplanets. Read More
ESA's IXV experimental spaceplane has successfully carried out its 100-minute mission to test technology re-entry and navigation technology for the next generation of European spacecraft. Whilst often described as a spaceplane, the IXV is in reality an atmospheric re-entry testing package wrapped in what appears to be a basic space shuttle fuselage. The resulting data accrued from the launch will inform a wide range of endeavors, spanning from re-supply trips to the ISS, to manned return missions to Mars. Read More
Mars is regarded as the most Earth-like of the planets in the Solar System, but its atmosphere is only 0.6 percent as dense as Earth's and is constantly leaking what little air it has into space. NASA'S Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) Mars orbiter is providing new insights into the loss of the Martian atmosphere by discovering how the solar winds penetrate to surprisingly low altitudes. Read More
There's an element of déjà vu in the most recent political news on climate change: UN-led talks, like the recent Lima summit, that end with disgruntled environmentalists and plans for yet another summit. At this point, our best hope is to mitigate the effects of global warming (which is occurring faster than previously thought) and, if possible, keep temperature rises to a maximum of 2° C (3.6° F). While the future of the planet looks uncertain with unpredictable climate patterns, U.S researchers looking to the past to gain a better understanding of modern climate change have found the rate of modern, human-caused global warming resembles that which occurred almost 56 million years ago much more closely than previously thought. Read More
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