Red Sprites are Best Seen from Space Planet Earth is full of some truly awe-inspiring spectacles, but few are as intriguing as a sprite, which are officially known as a Transient Luminous Event (TLE) and consist of large-scale electric discharges that shoot upwards while occurring above the cloud tops in the Earth’s mesosphere at approximate altitudes of 50-90 km (31-56 mi). In October 2023, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut, Dr. Andreas Mogensen, who is currently onboard the International Space Station (ISS) as Commander of the Expedition 70 mission, took an incredible image of a red sprite with the Davis camera as part of the Thor-DavisRead More →

How Can Astronauts Maintain Their Bodies With Minimal Equipment? Decades of research aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and other spacecraft in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) have shown that long-duration stays in microgravity will take a toll on human physiology. Among the most notable effects are muscle atrophy and bone density loss and effects on eyesight, blood flow, and cardiovascular health. However, as research like NASA’s Twin Study showed, the effects extend to organ function, psychological effects, and gene expression. Mitigating these effects is vital for future missions to the Moon, Mars, and other deep-space destinations. To reduce the impact of microgravity, astronauts aboard theRead More →

Will Wide Binaries Be the End of MOND? It’s a fact that many of us have churned out during public engagement events; that at least 50% of all stars are part of binary star systems. Some of them are simply stunning to look at, others present headaches with complex orbits in multiple star systems. Now it seems wide binary stars are starting to shake the foundations of physics as they question the very theory of gravity.  General relativity has been part of the foundation of modern physics since it was published by Albert Einstein in 1915. One of the challenges though is that, along withRead More →

Tracking undetectable space junk Satellite and spacecraft operators may finally be able to detect small pieces of debris orbiting Earth using an approach proposed by researchers from the University of Michigan. Go to SourceRead More →

Europa Clipper Could Help Discover if Jupiter’s Moon is Habitable Since 1979, when the Voyager probes flew past Jupiter and its system of moons, scientists have speculated about the possibility of life within Europa. Based on planetary modeling, Europa is believed to be differentiated between a rocky and metallic core, an icy crust and mantle, and a warm water ocean up to 100 km (62 mi) in depth. Scientists theorize that this ocean is maintained by tidal flexing, where interaction with Jupiter’s powerful gravitational field leads to geological activity in Europa’s core and hydrothermal vents at the core-mantle boundary. Investigating the potential habitability of EuropaRead More →

NASA’s Interstellar Mapping Probe Prepares for a 2025 Launch Engineers at NASA have completed an important milestone in developing the Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) spacecraft. It’s now moving from development and design to the assembly, testing, and integration phase, targeting a launch in late Spring 2025. After launch, the spacecraft will fly to the Earth-Sun L1 Lagrange Point and analyze how the Sun’s solar wind interacts with charged particles originating from outside the Solar System. IMAP will follow up on discoveries and insights from the two Voyager spacecraft and the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) and will help investigate two of the most importantRead More →

A 10-billion-year, 50,000-light-year journey to a black hole A star near the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy originated outside the galaxy according to a new study published in Proceedings of the Japan Academy, Series B. This is the first time a star of extragalactic origin has been found in the vicinity of the supermassive black hole. Go to SourceRead More →

Does Betelgeuse Even Rotate? Maybe Not Betelgeuse is the well known red giant star in the corner of Orion the hunter. The name translated in some languages means ‘armpit of the giant’ which I think of all the star names, is simply the best! Betelgeuse has been fascinating observers of late not only because it unexpectedly faded a few years ago but more recently a study shows it’s super fast rotational speed which is, when compared to other supergiants, is like nothing seen before.  One of the brightest stars in the northern hemisphere sky, in fact the tenth brightest, Betelgeuse has a stunning red colour.Read More →

Eris Could be Slushier Than Pluto In 2005, astronomer Mike Brown and his colleagues Chad Trujillo and David Rabinowitz announced the discovery of a previously unknown planetoid in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune’s orbit. The team named this object Eris after the Greek personification of strife and discord, which was assigned by the IAU a year later. Along with Haumea and Makemake, which they similarly observed in 2004 and 2005 (respectively), this object led to the “Great Planet Debate,” which continues to this day. Meanwhile, astronomers have continued to study the Trans-Neptunian region to learn more about these objects. While subsequent observations have allowed astronomersRead More →

A new possible explanation for the Hubble tension The universe is expanding. How fast it does so is described by the so-called Hubble-Lemaitre constant. But there is a dispute about how big this constant actually is: Different measurement methods provide contradictory values. Go to SourceRead More →

A Planetary System With Six Sub-Neptunes Locked in Perfect Resonance A team of researchers led by University of Chicago astronomer Rafael Luque analyzed data acquired by both NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and ESA’s CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite (Cheops) and found a unique planetary system. Orbiting a star cataloged as HD110067, this system contains six sub-Neptune planets. Incredibly, all six planets are orbiting in direct resonance with each other. The results of the work were published on November 29 in Nature. In 2020, transit data collected by TESS, which tracks the change in the star’s brightness, revealed at least two planets. Their orbits were aboutRead More →

After Stalling Out for 40 Years, the Largest Iceberg in the World is on the Move In 1986, a gigantic iceberg separated from the Fichner-Ronne ice shelf in West Antarctica. It was so big that it became grounded, stuck to the seafloor, and remained in position for 40 years. Finally, it has now been pushed off the seafloor and has begun drifting in the Weddell Sea to a region in the South Atlantic called Iceberg Alley. Designated A23a, this monster berg measures 4000 sq km (1,500 square miles) and is about 400 meters (1,300 feet) thick – the world’s largest. On the surface, A23a isRead More →

#138 Awesome Astronomy December 2023 Pt1 This month we explore what might have happened to the Planet Theia after it hit the Earth, what Lucy saw on its first asteroid encounter, the mystery of a new double crater on the Moon and what the first images from the Elucid telescope show.  We have our monthly skyguide, launch round up and emails and questions from listeners. Produced by Paul, Jen, John, Damien & Dustin Awesome Astronomy Go to SourceRead More →

Ghostlike dusty galaxy reappears in James Webb Space Telescope image It first appeared as a glowing blob from ground-based telescopes and then vanished completely in images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Now, the ghostly object has reappeared as a faint, yet distinct galaxy in an image from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Go to SourceRead More →

Vera Rubin telescope will generate a mind-boggling amount of data, say astronomers When the Vera C. Rubin Observatory comes online in 2025, it will be one of the most powerful tools available to astronomers, capturing huge portions of the sky every night with its 8.4-meter mirror and 3.2-gigapixel camera. Each image will be analyzed within 60 seconds, alerting astronomers to transient events like supernovae. An incredible 5 petabytes (5,000 terabytes) of new raw images will be recorded each year and made available for astronomers to study. Go to SourceRead More →

Should We Send Humans to Europa? Universe Today recently examined the potential for sending humans to the planet Venus despite its extremely harsh surface conditions. But while a human mission to the clouds of Venus could be feasible given the environmental conditions are much more Earth-like, a human mission to the second planet from the Sun could be (at minimum) decades away. With NASA sending humans back to the Moon in the next few years, and hopefully to Mars, what if we could send humans to another planetary body worth exploring, though it could have its own harsh environmental conditions, as well? What about Jupiter’sRead More →