Would we know if an alien spacecraft enters the Solar System?

26th August 2015

Photograph of Earth from space.

It seems likely that alien life has evolved somewhere in the Galaxy, given that there may be millions of habitable planets, and many of these may have existed for billions of years. If just one species in the whole of the Galaxy were able to explore using self-replicating spacecraft, then they might be able to place probes across the Galaxy within a million years or so. »

A Brief History of Pluto

29th July 2015

Mountains on Pluto

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are all visible with the naked eye, and can be distinguished from stars because they move around the sky in a different way. The orbits of the planets were determined in the 1600s, and confirmed with telescopes, which had just started to be used in astronomy. »

Trans and genderqueer scientists

16th July 2015

Transgender Pride flag

Many scientists used to think that there are only two genders, male and female, and that a person’s gender can be solely determined from their genitals. We now know that this is not the case. While a person’s sex can, by definition, be determined from their genitals, gender is much more complex than this. »

Robot Dreams

7th July 2015

Image created using Deep Dream

Last month, a team of software engineers working for Google released images created by programs designed for image recognition software. Image recognition software works by using artificial neural networks, which attempt to mimic neural networks in the brain. Information is input, artificial neurons process the image, and the identification is output. »

Neutron stars and extreme physics

1st July 2015

Artist’s impression of a neutron star with a magnetosphere that extends well beyond the neutron star’s radius.

Neutron stars are some of the most extreme objects in the universe, and so they can be used as ‘natural laboratories’ where we can observe matter behaving in ways we could never replicate on Earth. Neutron stars form when massive stars stop fusing matter. »

How to weigh objects in space

10th April 2015

Size comparison between the Sun (which is 1 pixel) and a massive star (which is too large to fully fit in the frame).

Everything with mass produces a gravitational field, which causes things to accelerate towards it. The gravity on the surface of the Earth is about 9.8 ms-2, which is often referred to as 1 g. This is just high enough to keep us from falling off the surface and drifting into space, but low enough to allow us to jump up and down. »

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