Jonathan O'Callaghan

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Science and technology journalist, editor, and copywriter. Below is a selection of my work over the last few years.

Can We Find the Home of Our First Interstellar Visitor?

When an interstellar object called ‘Oumuamua raced through our solar system last year, astronomers were thrilled. The event provided the first glimpse, however fleeting, of a visitor from another star. But almost immediately a taxing question was raised: where did it come from? A number of studies have since attempted to answer this question, pointing in the general direction of constellations like Lyra. But none is as accurate as the latest effort by Coryn Bailer-Jones from the Max Planck Inst

A New 'Space Sculpture' Is Launching Soon And Astronomers Hate It Already

An artist from Berlin may be risking the ire of astronomers after revealing a new “space art” project to orbit Earth. Trevor Paglen, in partnership with the Nevada Museum of Art, has been working on his Orbital Reflector idea for 10 years. The idea is to deploy a giant reflective object in space stretching 30 meters (100 feet) across, purely for artistic purposes so that people can see the glint of it in the night sky, at a height of about 575 kilometers (350 miles). The structure will launch

Astronomer Who Controversially Missed Out On Nobel Wins $3 Million Physics Award For Monumental Discovery

An astronomer who infamously missed out on receiving a Nobel Prize for a groundbreaking astrophysics discovery has been announced as the recipient of the $3 million Breakthrough Physics prize. Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell was responsible for discovering the first pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star, in 1967 while a postgraduate student at the University of Cambridge. The discovery has been heralded as changing our view of the universe. But while the finding earned the 1974 Nobel Prize in Phys

Surprising Twist In ISS Leak Story As Russians Suggest A Human, Not A Meteor, Was The Cause

The story about the hole discovered on the International Space Station (ISS) last week has taken an unexpected twist – as it may have been drilled by a person. On August 29, a slow leak was reported on the ISS from a hole on a docked Soyuz spacecraft. Astronauts patched it up pretty quickly, although one of them did have to temporarily plug it with his finger. Originally it was thought the hole was caused by a micrometeoroid hitting the orbital segment of the Soyuz spacecraft. But now Russian

Plastic Straws Aren't Our Biggest Problem When It Comes To Ocean Waste

The world has enjoyed picking up on plastic straws recently when it comes to ocean waste, despite them accounting for just 0.02 percent of ocean waste. But there are bigger fish to fry. One of those appears to be cigarette butts, according to a report by NBC News. They reported it was the number one human-caused contaminant in the world’s oceans, and it has managed to avoid regulation so far. The main issue appears to from cigarette filters, which Thomas Novotny, professor of public health at

A Mysterious Russian Satellite Is Doing Something Suspicious In Orbit, Claims The US

There are fears the satellite could be used to take down others. Johan Swanepoel/Shutterstock The US has voiced concerns that a Russian satellite is performing malicious activities in orbit – although industry experts have expressed doubts about those claims. On August 14 at the UN Conference on Disarmament in Switzerland, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control Yleem Poblete said the US was “concerned with what appears to be very abnormal behavior” from a Russian satellite. Although not

A NASA Spacecraft May Have Detected A Giant Wall At The Edge Of The Solar System

NASA‘s New Horizons spacecraft has helped scientists study a mysterious phenomenon at the edge of the Solar System, where particles from the Sun and interstellar space interact. This region, about 100 times further from the Sun than Earth, is where uncharged hydrogen atoms from interstellar space meet charged particles from our Sun. The latter extend out from our Sun in a bubble called the heliosphere. At the point where the two interact, known as the heliopause, it’s thought there is a build-

A Huge Lake Of Liquid Water Has Been Found On Mars

For decades we have searched for water on Mars, and we’ve found very little, either in the form of trickles on the surface or frozen as ice. But an incredible new discovery may change everything. Reported in the journal Science, researchers led by Dr Roberto Orosei from the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) in Rome say they have found a vast reservoir of water beneath the south pole of Mars. So vast, in fact, that it looks similar to a subglacial lake on Earth – one where life could ari

The UK Is Building Its Own Spaceport, And It Will Be Ready Sooner Than You Think

Exciting news people of Britain, as it’s been announced that the UK will be getting its very own launch pad, set to open in the early 2020s. The announcement was made yesterday by the UK Space Agency, who said the spaceport would be located in Sutherland – a remote peninsula on Scotland’s north coast. Initial funding of $3.3 million has been given to the Highlands and Islands Enterprise to develop the site. “This spaceport grant will help kick-start an exciting new era for the UK space industr

Incredible 'Ghost Particle' Discovery Heralds A New Era In Astronomy

Artist's impression of the blazar which sent the neutrino towards us. DESY, Science Communication Lab Gravitational waves have deservedly held the astronomical spotlight for the last two years, opening up a new way to see the cosmos. But thanks to a groundbreaking discovery, it might well be time for the humble neutrino to take the stage. That’s because, for the first time ever, a global team of astronomers has found the source of some of these high-energy particles coming from the distant uni

Astronomers Just Made A Seriously Fascinating Exoplanet Discovery

I’ve got one hell of a soft spot for exoplanet research, especially new and interesting ways to find planets. And this latest one, well, it just might change everything. Here's why. In a paper published on arXiv and accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, researchers led by Helen Giles from the University of Geneva found a planet 1,800 light-years from Earth called (deep breath) EPIC248847494b. The planet itself is very interesting, and we’ll come to that later, but

The EU Just Took A Disastrous Step Towards Destroying The Internet

Another day, another threat to the open and free Internet. Earlier this month, the US officially repealed net neutrality rules. Now, the EU has voted in favor of legislation that could censor the Internet. Called the Copyright Directive, the legislation has been widely derided by pretty much anyone who knows anything about the Internet. This morning, the EU’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) approved it, meaning it will now go to the full European Parliament for a vote in July, after which it cou

This Amazing Image Of A Meteorite Impact On Mars Is Not Quite What You Think

The impact probably occured in the last decade. NASA/JPL/University of Arizona Sometimes you see an image that just takes your breath away at first sight. This, undoubtedly, is one of those images. Snapped by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on February 7, 2018, the image shows the aftermath of a meteorite striking the Martian surface. In the image, you can clearly see the impact crater where the meteorite hit, thought to have

NASA's Opportunity Rover Is Currently Fighting For Its Life

NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover is facing a testing time, as it rides out a huge dust storm that's twice as big as one it experienced in 2007, described as a “dark, perpetual night” by NASA. The rover is currently wrapped up in a storm that spans more than 18 million square kilometers (7 million square miles), bigger than North America. Part of the storm has smothered Opportunity’s current location, Perseverance Valley. Dust storms on Mars are not particularly violent in terms of wind, as the at

Scientists Have Made A Major Discovery In The Search For Life On Mars

We have been exploring the surface of Mars for a good few decades now, and in the process have discovered evidence for water and an ancient habitable environment. One thing remained elusive though – any signs of the building blocks of life. Now that looming problem has been solved by the Curiosity rover. Reporting in the journal Science, researchers have announced that the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument has successfully detected organics on Mars, a major breakthrough in our se

Searching For This Weird Phrase Does Something Creepy To Your Google Assistant

Lots of things are creepy these days. Mind-reading helmets, robots made from living tissue, and just plain old military drones. A new Google bug, however, looks like it’s worthy of being added to the list. As first spotted on Reddit, searching for a number of phrases with your Google Assistant (typing them in, not speaking them) brings up some weird results. More specifically, these phrases bring up your phone’s text message history, which is kinda weird. The first phrase that was reported was

Apollo 12 Astronaut Alan Bean, The Fourth Person To Walk On The Moon, Has Died At 86

Alan LaVern Bean, the fourth human to walk on the Moon, has died at the age of 86. Following reports that he had passed away, the news was confirmed today by NASA. Bean was born on March 15, 1932 in Wheeler, Texas. In 1963, he was selected by NASA to become an astronaut as part of their third group of astronauts. After serving as a backup on the Gemini 10 and Apollo 9 missions, Bean got his first flight to space on Apollo 12 as the lunar module pilot. On November 19, 1969, he and Pete Conrad b

Elon Musk Is Getting Destroyed On Twitter For This Bizarre Rant

Hell hath no fury like a billionaire scorned. And Elon Musk has proved that in emphatic fashion with a Twitter tirade that would put a certain narcissistic president to shame. Last night on Twitter, Musk had a bit of a meltdown. He was seemingly annoyed by a report from Reveal that questioned factory safety at Tesla, one of the companies he is CEO for along with SpaceX and the Boring Company. It’s not his first run-in with the media. “The holier-than-thou hypocrisy of big media companies who l

Plumes Of Water From Europa's Ocean Found By Dead NASA Spacecraft

Scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery of a plume of water on Jupiter’s moon Europa, hidden in decades-old data from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. And it could have important implications in the search for life. In a paper published in Nature Astronomy, a team led by Xianzhe Jia from the University of Michigan described how they re-analyzed data from the Galileo mission, which orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003. And they found that on December 16, 1997 the spacecraft appears to have flown
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