Spectroscopy and biosignatures: How we'll find evidence of life on other planets

The spectra of the Sun showing spectral lines.

First published on 22nd April 2017. Last updated on 5th June 2017 by Dr Helen Klus

Scientists have found thousands of planets outside of the Solar System, many of which are thought to be habitable. The next step is to search for signs of life. While this may be possible with current and upcoming telescopes, like the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), NASA is currently considering two projects that will be able to directly image Earth-like planets. »

Ancient aliens: Could fast radio bursts be powering extragalactic spaceships?

Image of a solar sail in space.

First published on 11th March 2017. Last updated on 5th June 2017 by Dr Helen Klus

Scientists at Harvard University have recently suggested that intelligent life forms in another galaxy may have used interstellar spacecraft billions of years ago. Their paper, co-authored by Manasvi Lingam and Abraham Loeb and entitled ‘Fast Radio Bursts from Extragalactic Light Sails', has just been published in The Astrophysical Journal. »

Life in crystals: The science of crystal gems

Photograph of a person surrounded by giant crystals.

First published on 26th February 2017. Last updated on 5th June 2017 by Dr Helen Klus

Crystals are objects with atoms that are arranged periodically. This can be seen on a large scale as they form natural cubes, triangles, or more complex symmetrical shapes like snowflakes. Many crystals are minerals. Minerals are naturally occurring solids with a potentially crystalline structure that are not made by life forms. They are made from single elements or molecules that form a repeating pattern. New atoms attach in such a way that the pattern is repeated on every scale, making them natural fractals. »

What are facts?: The difference between scientific hypotheses, theories, and laws

Photograph of the Earth taken from the International Space Station.

First published on 16th February 2017. Last updated on 5th June 2017 by Dr Helen Klus

A scientific law states what happens. This is often a mathematical relationship between two or more things. A theory will never become a law; theories and laws are two separate things. Both have been thoroughly tested, and so both are often referred to as facts. »

A brief history of dinosaurs: From sauropods to hummingbirds

Photograph of a Shoebill bird.

First published on 17th January 2017. Last updated on 5th June 2017 by Dr Helen Klus

In the 20th Century, most people thought that all dinosaurs were lizard-like and extinct. We now know that dinosaurs are not lizards and that birds are a type of dinosaur. Scientists now refer to modern birds as avian dinosaurs and to extinct dinosaurs as non-avian dinosaurs, many of which had feathers and beaks. »

The EM drive: A history of the impossible engine

Photograph of the International Space Station.

First published on 1st December 2016. Last updated on 5th June 2017 by Dr Helen Klus

In November 2016, NASA officially announced that they've tested British engineer Roger Shawyer's controversial spaceship engine known as the EM Drive. They found that it appears to work, despite the fact that it appears to contradict the conservation of momentum, making it as impossible as a perpetual motion machine. »

The new alien water hole: How aliens could use lasers for both communication and cloaking

Photograph of the Yepun Telescope emitting a laser.

First published on 6th August 2016. Last updated on 5th June 2017 by Dr Helen Klus

In a paper published in MNRAS in June 2016, astronomers David Kipping and Alex Teachey showed how we could cloak the Earth using lasers. We could also do the opposite, and use lasers to broadcast our presence. If we can do this, then presumably any other intelligent, technologically advanced species can do this too. »

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The Star Garden is a science news and science education website run by Dr Helen Klus.

How we came to know the cosmos covers the history of physics focusing on space and time, light and matter, and the mind. It explains the simple discoveries we made in prehistoric times, and how we built on them, little by little, until the conclusions of modern theories seem inevitable. This is shown in a timeline of the universe.

The Star Garden covers the basics for KS3, KS4, and KS5 science revision including SATs, GCSE science, and A-level physics.