Water cloud, acid cloud, iron cloud

A little while ago my kitchen sink had a serious clog. The emergency plumber worked on it for two hours. After failing to clear it with the manual plumbing snake and the much larger, electric plumbing snake, he finally tossed in the towel and poured a bottle of 80% sulphuric acid (chemical formula H2SO4) downContinue reading “Water cloud, acid cloud, iron cloud”

How do we know what’s in an exoplanet’s atmosphere?

A planet’s atmosphere contains different chemical elements. The Earth’s atmosphere, for example, consists of about 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.9% argon, and just 0.01% other gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone. Earth’s atmosphere also contains varying amounts of water vapour in different regions and at different heights. That catch-all “other” category may be small,Continue reading “How do we know what’s in an exoplanet’s atmosphere?”

Planet Profile: Proxima Centauri b

The closest star to our Sun is called Proxima Centauri. It was discovered over 100 years ago by the Scottish astronomer Robert Innes and is estimated to be only 4.25 lightyears away. Getting a feel for the kinds of distances we’re talking about in astronomy is difficult, so let’s use a mental yardstick to help.Continue reading “Planet Profile: Proxima Centauri b”