Science News

Our top 6 questions in astronomy and astrophysics

A closer look at astronomy and astrophysics

At the Earth and Planets Laboratory (EPL), the astronomy and astrophysics team explores space to find distant planets and understand their (and our!) origins. In this article, we’ve distilled this work into our top six research questions (with a couple of extras sprinkled in.) Each question is complex and connected to the others in a way that requires EPL scientists to collaborate across research interests to answer. 

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Earth and Planets Laboratory Goes to Mars Again

Carnegie on Mars Perseverance Touchdown

Last week, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover made it safely to Mars. Now, the fun begins! 

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"FarFarOut" officially added to count of dwarf sized planets in distant Solar System

(Photo credit: Roberto Molar Candanosa, Scott S. Sheppard from Carnegie Institution for Science, and Brooks Bays from University of Hawaiʻi.)

A team of researchers including Carnegie astronomer Scott Sheppard discovered the most distant object ever observed in our Solar System. The object is officially named 2018 AG37 but is nicknamed "FarFarOut" for just how far away from the Sun it is orbiting—about 132 AU, where 1 AU is the distance between the Earth and Sun. At that distance, it takes an entire millennium to orbit the Sun.

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Can super-Earth interior dynamics set the table for habitability?

Illustration of mimicing planet formation in the lab

New research led by Carnegie’s Yingwei Fei provides a framework for understanding the interiors of super-Earths--rocky exoplanets between 1.5 and 2 times the size of our home planet--which is a prerequisite to assess their potential for habitability.  Planets of this size are among the most abundant in exoplanetary systems.  The paper is published in Nature Communications.

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Asteroid discovered by Carnegie’s Scott Sheppard right before it zooms past Earth

Diagram showing the 2020 YE5 asteroid's Near Earth Trajectory

While surveying the sky for distant objects, astronomer Scott Sheppard discovered a new asteroid a little closer to home. Asteroid 2020 YE5 poses no immediate risk, but it will come very close to Earth. The asteroid will zoom past only 437,691 km away from Earth, almost as close as our own Moon. It will be at its nearest on Friday, January 22 at around 9:08 AM EST (14:08 UTC). According to Sheppard, someone with a good backyard telescope could catch a glimpse. 

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