In 2013 February 15, the approach of asteroid (367943) Duende to our planet was being closely monitored by both the public and the scientific community worldwide when suddenly a superbolide entered the atmosphere above the region of Chelyabinsk in Russia. Three years and hundreds of published scientific studies later, we are still looking for the origin of such unexpected visitor, that caused damage to hundreds of buildings and injuries to nearly 1,500 people. Finding the precise value of its speed as it touched the top of the atmosphere appears to be the key to determine the orbit of the parent body of the Chelyabinsk superbolide.
European scientists have gathered tiny fungi that take shelter in Antarctic rocks and sent them to the International Space Station. After 18 months on board in conditions similar to those on Mars, more than 60% of their cells remained intact, with stable DNA. The results provide new information for the search for life on the red planet. Lichens from the Sierra de Gredos (Spain) and the Alps (Austria) also travelled into space for the same experiment.
When our galaxy was born, around 13,000 million years ago, a plethora of clusters containing millions of stars emerged. But over time, they have been disappearing. However, hidden behind younger stars that were formed later, some old and dying star clusters remain, such as the so-called E 3. European astronomers have now studied this testimony to the beginnings of our galaxy.
When a star collapses forming a black hole, a space-time singularity is created wherein the laws of Physics no longer work. In 1965 Sir Roger Penrose presented a theorem where he associated that singularity with so-called ''trapped surfaces'' that shrink over time. That hypothesis -one of the results of the general theory of relativity- is now celebrating its anniversary.
Researchers at University of La Rioja (Spain) have developed a new method to eliminate artificial satellites in Highly Elliptical Orbits when they finish their mission. The methodology, which allows for a reduction of both cost and risk, has been tested with the European Space Agency INTEGRAL mission, which will re-enter into the Earth’s atmosphere in order to disintegrate in 2029.
Complex organic molecules such as formamide, from which sugars, amino acids and even nucleic acids essential for life can be made, already appear in the regions where stars similar to our Sun are born. Astrophysicists from Spain and other countries have detected this biomolecule in five protostellar clouds and propose that it forms on tiny dust grains.
Counting sunspots over time helps in knowing the activity of our star but the two indices used by scientists disagree on dates prior to 1885. Now an international team of researchers has tried to standardise the historical results and has discovered that, contrary to what one may think, the solar activity of our times is very similar to that of other times, such as the Enlightenment.
There could be at least two unknown planets hidden well beyond Pluto, whose gravitational influence determines the orbits and strange distribution of objects observed beyond Neptune. This has been revealed by numerical calculations made by researchers at the Complutense University of Madrid and the University of Cambridge. If confirmed, this hypothesis would revolutionise solar system models.
The intermittent light emitted by pulsars, the most precise timekeepers in the universe, allows scientists to verify Einstein’s theory of relativity, especially when these objects are paired up with another neutron star or white dwarf that interferes with their gravity. However, this theory could be analysed much more effectively if a pulsar with a black hole were found, except in two particular cases, according to researchers from Spain and India.
3,500 million years ago the Martian crater Gale, through which the NASA rover Curiosity is currently traversing, was covered with glaciers, mainly over its central mound. Very cold liquid water also flowed through its rivers and lakes on the lower-lying areas, forming landscapes similar to those which can be found in Iceland or Alaska. This is reflected in an analysis of the images taken by the spacecraft orbiting the red planet.