Understanding Astronomy and Space Science
Understanding Astronomy and Space Science

Understanding Astronomy and Space Science

The desire to look up at the sky and ask questions about the universe is one that humans have shared for thousands of years. With each new technology scientists have been able to get closer and find more answers, but these new glimpses into the universe have also created even more exciting questions to ask. There are more powerful telescopes and radars on the ground and instruments traveling deeper into space than ever before. This section of Frontiers for Young Minds will include articles that provide insight into the history solar systems, galaxies, the universe, and the various bodies within them by studying the inner workings of stars, formation of galaxies, surfaces of planets, and all of the spaces and signals in between. Understanding Astronomy and Space Science wants to provide the next generation with access to the cutting-edge science that will start them asking the next great questions about our universe. show more show less

New Discovery

Seeing the Shadow of Rings around a “Super Saturn”

Astronomers believe that they have seen the shadows of a giant ring system around an unseen planet move in front of their parent star. The fluctuations in the light coming from the star was found in data from May 2007, but not analysed until 2012. Unlike transiting planets that cause the star to dim by a few percent over a few hours, this star dimmed by an incredible 95% over the course of two months. The best explanation is that there is a planet, with rings about 200 times larger than the rings around Saturn, that moved in front of its star, causing the flickering that we saw. This unexpected discovery is leading us to look for more giant ring systems in older data, both online in astronomy digital archives and in older photographic plates.

Authors

Matthew Kenworthy
Reviewed by Jonah
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New Discovery

Are There Other Earths Out There? Astronomers’ First Clues to an Answer Date Back 100 Years

Of all the questions that science might hope to answer, few excite people more than "is there life on worlds other than our Earth, and, if so, do any alien creatures possess intelligence comparable to that of human beings?” But how can we find rocky Earth-like worlds that orbit around stars other than our Sun? Remarkably, the first astronomical evidence that such worlds exist dates back 100 years! This evidence involved observation of the type of star that our Sun will become five billion years from now, something called a "white dwarf" star. Such studies have shown that rocky worlds with compositions similar to that of Earth are common throughout our Milky Way galaxy. Thus future prospects are bright for finding rocky planets suitable for hosting life.

Authors

Benjamin Zuckerman
Reviewed by Lapwai High School
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Core Concept

What Do Radio Waves Tell Us about the Universe?

Radio astronomy began in 1933 when an engineer named Karl Jansky accidentally discovered that radio waves come not just from inventions we create but also from natural stuff in space. Since then, astronomers have built better and better telescopes to find these cosmic radio waves and learn more about where they come from and what they can tell us about the universe. While scientists can learn a lot from the visible light they detect with regular telescopes, they can detect different objects and events—like black holes, forming stars, planets in the process of being born, dying stars, and more—using radio telescopes. Together, telescopes that can see different kinds of waves—from radio waves to visible light waves to gamma rays—give a more complete picture of the universe than any one type can on its own.

Authors

Sarah Scoles
Reviewed by Green Bank Elementary/Middle School
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New Discovery

What Do “Yellowballs” have to Do with the Birth of New Stars?

Where do stars come from? Human beings have thought about this question for thousands of years and have proposed many different explanations, but scientists have only had the technology to observe the places where stars are forming for a few decades. This is because stars form inside cold “dusty” clouds in space that are invisible to our eyes and to telescopes that study visible light. Fortunately, we have many instruments today that can record light that our eyes can’t see, and we can use familiar colors to represent this light. Even very cold objects give off infrared light, so we can use this type of light to explore how the dusty clouds produce stars. People from around the world have helped scientists identify an early stage in the development of stars (“yellowballs”) by searching infrared images in the Milky Way Project.

Authors

Grace Wolf-Chase / Charles Kerton
Reviewed by Frida
Reviewed by Taylor
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