Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Ian O'Neill

Contributing Writer

Ian writes about space and especially enjoys writing about astrophysics, Mars exploration, black holes and our brave space robots that allow humanity to push beyond the final frontier. He's a British guy living in Los Angeles with a Ph.D. in solar physics and a master's degree in astrophysics. He digs tea and craft beer, and has an obsession for science fiction and computer games. He's forever optimistic that, despite the chaos and uncertainty of our daily lives, we are only at the beginning of the human story from a cosmic perspective. Space exploration is an adventure; it's his job to chronicle our journey. You can also follow his writing and videos on


There's Never Been an Alien Civilization on Mars, Congressman

The red planet has been extremely inhospitable for a very, very long time. Why would a congressman think differently?

Anonymous Claims NASA Is About to Announce an Alien Discovery. Sadly Not

Everybody wants to find aliens, even the hacktivist group Anonymous.

Small, Alien Worlds Come in Two Flavors: Super-Earths and Mini-Neptunes

Get ready for a new branch in our galaxy's planetary family tree.

Triple Star System Could Be a Stellar Cocktail Shaker for Life

Astronomers have discovered a life-giving chemical in a star system located 400 light-years away. Now we just have to wait and see what arises from the cosmic mix.

Gravitational Waves Detected for a Third Time, Revealing Another Black Hole Collision

Thanks to gravitational wave observatories, we're entering a new era of astronomy, one in which the dark universe will finally be revealed.

Are Aliens Really Building a 'Megastructure' Around Tabby's Star?

Astronomers have been thinking a little more out of the box in the hopes of explaining the weird behavior behind Tabby's Star.

Using TARDIS to Mathematically Travel Through Time

Two physicists have worked out a mathematical model for time travel. Now we just need some heretofore unseen exotic matter to get traveling.

Comets Are Oxygen Factories

And that actually might pose a problem when it comes to the search for life on other planets.

Turning Martian Soil Into Building Blocks for Colonists

If we're going to colonize Mars, we're going to need to figure out how to live off the land. Martian soil might be strangely suited for that task.

'Steve' Lights Up Night Sky and Puzzles  Astronomers

A beautiful ribbon of light in the nighttime sky is generating a lot of talk — and some mystery, too.

Building Sand Castles on Titan Would Be As Awesome As It Sounds

The strange forces at work on Saturn's largest moon would make for some sweet sand castles.

4 Reasons Why 'Earth-like' Gliese 1132b Isn't All That 'Earth-like'

Plus, we throw in one reason to get excited anyway.

Event Horizon Telescope Getting Historic Look at Milky Way's Black Hole

The "virtual telescope" is first getting up close and personal with Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.

This Is How We'll Detect Life on Distant Exoplanets

We might be only a few years away from seeing whether potentially habitable worlds are inhabited. How cool is that?

Becoming Better Solar Meteorologists, With Help From Some Monster Waves

Explosive solar events are bad news for Earth, so it's good to keep an eye on space weather. Newly discovered "Rossby-like" waves could help them out with that big job.