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Robert Lea

Freelance Journalist

Location icon United Kingdom

Freelance journalist specialising in science, space, physics, astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, quantum mechanics, and technology. Published in Physics World, New Scientist, Astronomy Magazine, All About Space, and ZME Science. Science communication articles for Elsevier and the European Journal of Physics.

Physics World
New images show when it comes to black holes size doesn't matter - Physics World

Astronomers have followed up their seminal 2019 observation of the supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy Messier 87 (M87) with stunning images of another black hole. This time they have used the Event Horizon Telescope to make high-resolution observations of a jet of plasma emerging from the supermassive black hole in the active galaxy Centaurus A, which lies 12 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus.

ZME Science
Astronomers Solve the Mystery of Betelgeuse's 'Great Dimming'

In late 2019 and early 2020 Betelgeuse, a red supergiant in the constellation of Orion, made headlines when it underwent a period of extreme dimming. This dip in brightness for the star, which is usually around the tenth brightest in the night sky over Earth, was so extreme it could even be seen with the naked eye.

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory: New view of the universe

(Image credit: Rubin Observatory/NSF/AURA) The next era of our investigation of the cosmos is about to be kick-started by the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, a ground-based telescope currently under construction on the El Penón peak of Cerro Pachón in northern Chile. The observatory is a federal project run by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S.

Physics World
A new generation takes on the cosmological constant - Physics World

Taken from the March 2021 issue of Physics World. Members of the Institute of Physics can enjoy the full issue via the Physics World app. The long-standing problem of the cosmological constant, described both as "the worst prediction in the history of physics" and by Einstein as his "biggest blunder", is being tackled with renewed vigour by today's cosmologists.

Dark matter: Taking a closer look at the (un)usual suspects

Over the centuries, our understanding of the cosmos has grown by leaps and bounds. But it wasn't until relatively recently that astronomers discovered that around 85 percent of the matter in the universe takes on a bizarre, foreign form.

New Scientist
Black holes leak energy when they eat plasma near the event horizon

Black holes could be a cosmological engine. When their magnetic fields disconnect and reconnect, they can accelerate plasma particles near the event horizon - the point beyond which nothing can escape a black hole's gravitational pull. The finding could allow astronomers to better estimate the mass and spin of black holes.

Small stars are vital to dispersing the building blocks of life

Despite peacefully floating in the night sky, stars are not docile creatures. They're churning caldrons of roiling plasma stirred by countless nuclear explosions within. Scientists know that such stellar nuclear fusion is responsible for creating many heavy elements necessary for life in the universe, such as carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen.

ZME Science
Black Hole Seen Clearly in Historic New Direct Image

Using the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) to observe the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy Messier 87 (M87), astronomers have once again produced another first in the field of astronomy and cosmology.

New Astronomy Reviews Elsevier
The quest to discover supermassive black hole binaries

Supermassive black holes may be monsters, but that doesn’t mean they are always alone, cosmological models suggest they can exist in pairs, but evidence is sparse. A new review points the way to future investigations of such systems.

ZME Science
Rogue Planets Could Outnumber Stars in the Milky Way

Our galaxy is teeming with rogue planets either torn from their parent stars by chaotic conditions or born separate from a star. These orphan planets could be discovered en masse by an outcoming NASA project - Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope.

ZME Science
Distant 'Milky Way Look-Alike' Challenges Theories of Galaxy Formation

Using the phenomenon of gravitational lensing astronomers have examined an extremely distant galaxy that shares many features with the Milky Way. The discovery of a calm galaxy so early in the Universe's history calls into question our theories of how galaxies form.

EPJ--ST Highlight – Introduction to Celestial Mechanics in the XXIst Century
Reducing the risk of space debris collision

Details Published on 29 May 2020 An increase in space launches requires the development of a method to clear space debris which could collide with valuable equipment. One plausible method of achieving this through the use of a tug vehicle requires a successful connection procedure.

An early dark energy model could solve an expanding cosmological conundrum

Much mystery surrounds dark energy and the cosmological constant, the proxies used to explain the accelerating expansion of the Universe. New research suggests that an early model of dark energy presents a competing theory that offers all the benefits of current models without the baggage that comes associated with the cosmological constant.

ZME Science
Warped gas disc torn apart by three stars directly observed for the first time

Astronomers have discovered a spectacular first in terms of star clusters and planet-forming discs of gas, a system-GW Orionis-with a warped disc with torn out inner rings. The team believes that the disc's odd shape -which defies the common view of a flat plane orbiting planets and gas discs-was created when the misalignment of the three stars at the centre of the disc caused it to fracture into distinct rings.

Annals of Physics, Elsevier
Solving the quantum conundrum: Uniting quantum and classical physics

Caption: The unification of classical and quantum mechanics is quite the puzzle. But, new research suggests the solution may lie in a new approach to an old idea. (Peter Morgan/ Robert Lea) Without a shadow of a doubt, the crowning achievement of early twentieth-century physics was the development of quantum mechanics.

Physics Reports Elsevier
Secrets of the Universe’s most powerful and explosive events

Image: Provided by the author. Original source Ore Gottlieb graduate student at Tel Aviv University - author's institute.] Caption: A snapshot of a relativistic shock propagating from a black hole engine after the collapse of a stellar core. When it breaks free it will create an initial electromagnetic signal that could teach us a great deal about how stars die.

High-energy cosmic rays: Solving a century-old mystery

"The Earth is being constantly bombarded from space by cosmic rays of an unknown origin!" This may seem like the cry of a panicking news reporter in a lurid sci-fi tale, but it's actually a scientific fact - albeit a slightly hyperbolic one.

Understanding electron transport in graphene nanoribbons

Graphene is a modern wonder material possessing unique properties of strength, flexibility and conductivity whilst being abundant and remarkably cheap to produce, lending it to a multitude of useful applications -- especially true when these 2D atom-thick sheets of carbon are split into narrow strips known as Graphene Nanoribbons (GNRs).

ZME Science
Death By Spaghettification! Astronomers Spot a Star Being Consumed by a Black Hole

This could solve the mystery of tidal disruption events or 'spaghettification.' Astronomers have spotted the light emitted from a star as it is ripped apart and consumed by a supermassive black hole. This detailed investigation promises to unveil the mystery of tidal disruption events or 'spaghettification.'

ZME Science
Water Found on the Moon's Sunlit Surface

Using the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) NASA researchers have made a stunning discovery regarding the Moon, finding that water is present on the natural satellite's dayside, as well as its colder nightside. Hydrogen traces had previously been found at the lunar south pole, which experiences near-constant sunlight, but researchers did not believe this was related to water molecules.

ZME Science
Astronomers discover an exoplanet system with rhythm

Astronomers have discovered a unique system of exoplanets in which all but one of the planets orbit their parent star in a rare rhythm. The finding could force us to revise our ideas of how planets-including those in our own solar system-form.

Physics Letters B Elsevier
Solving the mystery of universal expansion with the Hubble bubble

If the galaxy Messier 106 (pictured) is contained within a 'Hubble bubble' of low-density, it could explain Hubble tension - why local and global measurements of the Hubble constant continue to disagree. Ever since Edwin Hubble and his colleagues discovered the expanding nature of the Universe in the early 20th Century, scientists have tried to measure its rate of expansion.

ZME Science
Exoplanet telescope CHEOPS gears up for launch day

The European Space Agency's (ESA) space telescope CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) begins its journey into space aboard the Soyuz rocket on December 17th. In preparation for the launch from French Guiana, collaborators in the mission, the ESA, the University of Geneva and the University of Bern held a press conference on the morning of the 5th December.

ZME Science
Marie Curie: The Price of Knowledge

Marie Curie is rightly regarded as not just one of the greatest women who ever lived, but also, one of the most accomplished scientists in history. Her tale is one of sacrifice and suffering for science and of unparalleled dedication to unlocking nature's secrets.

Proximity to Massive Bright Stars may Stunt Planet Formation

By studying Westerlund 2, a dense star cluster containing stars 100 times the size of the Sun, astronomers have discovered why planets don't form around some stars. Using the Hubble Space Telescope researchers have conducted a pioneering 3-year study of the massive dense young star cluster Westerlund 2.

Photoaccoustics Elsevier
Aerosol particles and their effect on the environment

Caption: A depiction of the photoacoustic process originating from an aerosol particle (represented by the purple sphere). A laser induces periodic heating and cooling of the particle, creating a measurable sound wave. Credit: Diveky et al., Figure 1 of the cited paper. Earth's atmosphere is filled with aerosols-tiny particles that absorb and reflect sunlight, influencing our planet's temperature.

ZME Science
The Universe's Missing Matter Problem is Solved

Our theories of the Universe have a missing matter problem: half of its matter is missing. But now this 'missing baryon problem' one of the most lingering puzzles in cosmology has been solved.

ZME Science
Certainly Uncertain. Simplifying Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle

Heisenberg's uncertainty principle is more than a mathematical quirk, a handy guiding principle, or the inspiration for some really nerdy t-shirts. It is intrinsic to nature, weaved into the fabric of all matter. Together we take a trip to ZME labs to use some everyday objects to demonstrate how nature tells us "you can't have it all."

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