Astronomy


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Artists impression of ʻOumuamua courtesy M Kornmesser/ESO

Essay/
Astronomy
Contact

An alien-made artefact or just interstellar debris? What ʻOumuamua says about how science works when data is scarce

Matthew Bothwell

Saturn’s rings were discovered by Christiaan Huygens in 1659. This image was taken by the Cassini-Huygens mission in 2016 and shows the entire north pole bathed in the continuous sunlight of summer. Photo Courtesy NASA/JPL

Essay/
History of science
Huygens, senior and junior

How a father’s mere curiosity about nature evolved during the Dutch Golden Age into the son’s focused scientific enquiry

Hugh Aldersey-Williams

Photo by Wang Zheng/Getty

Essay/
Space exploration
Do we send the goo?

The ability to stir new life into being, all across the Universe, compels us to ask why life matters in the first place

Betül Kaçar

Viewed from the International Space Station, stars glitter in the night sky above the Earth’s atmospheric glow. Photo courtesy Nasa

Essay/
Cosmology
Big space

Our planet is a tiny porthole, looking over a cosmic sea. Can we learn what lies beyond our own horizons of perception?

Katie Mack

A facsimile of the Carta marina (1539) by Olaus Magnus. Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Essay/
Astronomy
Here be black holes

Like sea monsters on premodern maps, deep-space images are science’s fanciful means to chart the edges of the known world

Surekha Davies

A section of the Andromeda galaxy M31, from the largest and most detailed image ever taken with the Hubble telescope. The full image shows more than 100 million stars stretching across more than 40,000 light years. Photo courtesy NASA, ESA, J Dalcanton, B F Williams, L C Johnson (University of Washington), the PHAT team and R Gendler

Essay/
Astronomy
Does dark matter exist?

Dark matter is the most ubiquitous thing physicists have never found: it’s time to consider alternative explanations

Ramin Skibba

Planetary System. Eclipse of the Sun. The Moon. The Zodiacal Light. Meteoric Shower. From Yaggy’s Geographical Study, 1887. Courtesy the David Rumsey Map Collection

Essay/
History of science
Naming the Universe

How the quick thinking of internationally minded astronomers avoided stamping the solar system with petty European rivalries

Stephen Case

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field of nearly 10,000 galaxies, taken in 2004. The snapshot includes galaxies of various ages, sizes, shapes and colours. The smallest, reddest galaxies may be among the most distant known, existing when the Universe was just 800 million years old. Photo courtesy NASA, ESA, and S Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team

Essay/
Astronomy
Monsters in the dark

The Universe’s biggest galaxies could hold the key to the birth of the cosmos. Why are these behemoths so hard to find?

Matthew Bothwell

The 29 May 1919 solar eclipse taken by the British astronomer Arthur Eddington (1882-1944), confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The stars near the Sun appear slightly shifted because their light is curved by its gravitational field. Príncipe Island, Gulf of Guinea. Royal Astronomical Society/Science Photo Library

Essay/
History of science
Curving the Universe

A century ago, a team of scientists chased the arc of starlight across a total eclipse to prove Einstein right on relativity

Matthew Stanley

Europa as photographed by the Galileo spacecraft. Photo courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

Essay/
Astronomy
Our aquatic universe

We know that the Universe is awash with watery moons and planets. How can we pinpoint which of them could support life?

Tim Folger