Top 5 Moon myths [and how to disprove them yourself]

This year’s first supermoon will potentially grace the sky on February 9. A supermoon is usually defined as the largest full moon possible. This is a very loose definition and roughly means this happens when the full moon occurs within 10% of its closest to Earth. But in reality, supermoons are never huge at all. …

Proxima Centauri c: how we spotted a potential new planet around the Sun’s neighbouring star

Most exoplanets, bodies orbiting stars other than the sun, are too far away for us to be able to send probes to. So it’s no wonder that the discovery of a possibly habitable planet around the sun’s nearest neighbour star, Proxima Centauri, a few years ago generated a lot of excitement. Now we have spotted …

Betelgeuse: star’s weird dimming sparks rumours that its death is imminent

Every season has its characteristic star constellations in the night sky. Orion – one of the most recognisable – is distinctly visible on crisp, clear winter nights in the northern hemisphere. The constellation is easy to spot even in light-polluted cities, with its bright stars representing the shape of a person. Betelgeuse, marking Orion’s top …

Planetary confusion: why astronomers keep changing what it means to be a planet

As an astronomer, the question I hear the most is why isn’t Pluto a planet anymore? More than 10 years ago, astronomers famously voted to change Pluto’s classification. But the question still comes up. Christopher Palma, Pennsylvania State University

What are lost continents, and why are we discovering so many?

For most people, continents are Earth’s seven main large landmasses. But geoscientists have a different take on this. They look at the type of rock a feature is made of, rather than how much of its surface is above sea level. In the past few years, we’ve seen an increase in the discovery of lost …

Other humans were the first victims of the 6th mass extinction

Nine human species walked the Earth 300,000 years ago. Now there is just one. The Neanderthals, H. neanderthalensis, were stocky hunters adapted to Europe’s cold steppes. The related Denisovans inhabited Asia, while the more primitive H. erectus lived in Indonesia and H. rhodesiensis in central Africa. Were other humans the first victims of the sixth …

Here’s Why Mars is cold despite an atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide [a scientist explains]

The recipe for the temperature of a planet’s surface has four major ingredients: atmospheric composition, atmospheric density, water content (from oceans, rivers, and air humidity), and distance from the Sun. There are other ingredients, including seasonal effects or the presence of a magnetosphere, but these work more like adding flavour to a cake. Paulo de …

Humanity’s birthplace [why everyone alive today should call northern Botswana home]

Where was the evolutionary birthplace of modern humans? The East African Great Rift Valley has long been the favoured contender – until today. Our new research has used DNA to trace humanity’s earliest footsteps to a prehistoric wetland called Makgadikgadi-Okavango, south of the Great Zambezi River. Our analysis, published in Nature today, shows that the …

How we could move Earth? [a rocket scientist explains]

In the Chinese science fiction film The Wandering Earth, recently released on Netflix, humanity attempts to change the Earth’s orbit using enormous thrusters in order to escape the expanding sun, and prevent a collision with Jupiter. The scenario may one day come true. In five billion years, the sun will run out of fuel and …