Astronomy


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Artwork illustrating the concept of an alternate ‘bubble’ universe in which our universe (left) is not the only one. Some scientists think that bubble universes may pop into existence all the time, and occasionally nudge ours. NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

Illustration by Claire Scully
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Astronomy
In the beginning

Cosmology has been on a long, hot streak, racking up one imaginative and scientific triumph after another. Is it over?

Ross Andersen

Photo by Vincenzo Penteriani
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Astronomy
Moonstruck

The lunar phases influence all sorts of creatures from corals to eagle owls. Does the Moon tug on human behaviour too?

Cameron Walker

Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Caltech
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Astronomy
Life in the dark

In the dark corners of our galaxy, there are billions of rogue planets roaming around, starless – can they support life?

Sean Raymond

Chicago glows through a blanket of clouds. Photo by Jim Richardson/National Geographic
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Astronomy
The end of night

An eternal electric day is creeping across the globe, but our brains and bodies cannot cope in a world without darkness

Rebecca Boyle

'When interstellar archaeologists tilt their telescopes to the sky, they are gazing into the deep history of the cosmos, but to find a civilization more advanced than ours, they have to tilt their imaginations into the future'. Photo courtesy W. M. Keck Observatory, Hawaii

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Astronomy
Distant ruins

Scientists used to scan the skies for messages from alien civilisations. Now they go looking for their ruins

Paul Gilster

Trails left by circumpolar stars, as viewed from Star Axis, a monumental work of land art in the New Mexico desert. Photo courtesy of Charles Ross
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Architecture
Embracing the void

The ancients had pyramids to tame the sky’s mystery. We have Star Axis, a masterpiece forty years in the making

Ross Andersen

Astrobiologist Cyprien Verseux walks up the hill near the HI-SEAS habitat on Mauna Loa volcano, Hawaii. Mauna Kea, with it's corona of telescopes, is visible in the background Photo by Sheyna Gifford
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Astronomy
Life on Mars

In a white dome on a bare mountain, six of us are road-testing life in a Martian colony. This is what I’ve learned so far

Sheyna Gifford

Illustration by Eleanor Taylor/Heart Agency
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History of ideas
Sky readers

For most of human history, the stars told us where we were in space and time. Have we forgotten how to look up?

Gene Tracy

Photo by Jim Crotty/Gallery Stock
Essay/
Astronomy
Save the Universe

It is only a matter of time before our Universe goes black, cold and dies. Must this be the end of the road for life?

Michael Hanlon

Photo courtesy NASA/Stsci/ESA
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Astronomy
The superfluid Universe

Quantum effects are not just subatomic: they can be expressed across galaxies, and solve the puzzle of dark matter

Sabine Hossenfelder

An infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows the centre of the Milky Way galaxy where the brightest white spot marks the site of a supermassive black hole. Photo by NASA/Caltech/JPL
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Cosmology
Echoes of a black hole

Ripples in space-time could herald the demise of general relativity and its replacement by a quantum theory of gravity

Sabine Hossenfelder

Illustration by Matt Murphy at Handsome Frank
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Cosmology
Universe in a bubble

Maybe we don’t have to speculate about what life is like inside a bubble. It might be the only cosmic reality we know

J Richard Gott

Photomultiplier array at LUX, South Dakota. Photo courtesy of Luxdarkmatter.org
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Astronomy
In the dark

Dark matter is the commonest, most elusive stuff there is. Can we grasp this great unsolved problem in physics?

Alexander B Fry

Alien life? Blue Christmas Tree Worm. Photo by Reinhard Dirscherl/Corbis
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Astronomy
Alien rights

When we meet aliens, it won’t be a friendly encounter nor a conquest: it will be a gold rush. Can we make sure it’s ethical?

Lizzie Wade

Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy replaces a pump controller box, leaking ammonia coolant on the International Space Station, May 11, 2013. Photo courtesy NASA

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Astronomy
Outer limits

Where does earth end and space begin? Finding the border between the two is not as simple or scientific as you might think

Greg Klerkx

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

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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