NASA Plans to Retire the Space Station in 2030 and Replace it with Commercially Owned “Destinations” in Low Earth Orbit While it may seem like the International Space Station is just now fully hitting its stride as far as scientific output and the ability for crew rotations from several different spacecraft, the ISS has been operating with astronauts on board for over 21 years. Knowing the modules and entire physical structure cannot endure the long-term effects of the harsh space environment forever, NASA’s Office of the Inspector General has issued a new report outlining the agency’s plans to keep the space station in orbit untilRead More →

Alan Shepard’s Daughter Will be Flying on the Next New Shepard Flight Jeff Bezos has hit a particular stride lately with Blue Origin, the commercial space company he founded in 2000 in the hopes of “building a road to space.” For the sake of fostering interest in the space tourism industry, testing their reusable launch vehicle, and growing his company’s brand, he’s conducting recurring launches with the New Shepard featuring high-profile clientele. At the same time, he aims to make each new launch a record-setting event. On Nov. 23rd, Blue Origin announced the names of the six people who would fly aboard the New ShepardRead More →

TESS discovers a planet the size of Mars but with the makeup of Mercury Ultra-short-period planets are small, compact worlds that whip around their stars at close range, completing an orbit—and a single, scorching year—in less than 24 hours. How these planets came to be in such extreme configurations is one of the continuing mysteries of exoplanetary science. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

An Upcoming Asteroid Mission Will be Able to Peer 100 Meters Under the Surface Engineers only get one shot at making a spacecraft work as intended.  Or at least they only get one shot in space.  In the preparation leading up to that final, climactic moment, there are typically thousands of hours of tests run on numerous systems and subsystems.  If all goes well, it bodes well for the mission’s overall success, but if problems arise, it’s much easier to address them on the ground than while a spacecraft is already orbiting.  A model of a new spacecraft known as Juventas just completed a significantRead More →

Study reveals that giant planets could reach ‘maturity’ much earlier than previously thought An international team of scientists, in which researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) participate together with other institutions from Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, UK, and Mexico, has been able to measure the masses of the giant planets of the V1298 Tau system, just 20 million year old. Masses for such young giant planets had not been obtained previously, and this is the first evidence that these objects have already reached their final size at very early stages of their evolution. For this study they have used radial velocity measurementsRead More →

Our Guide to the Only Total Solar Eclipse of 2021 During this weekend’s total solar eclipse, the shadow of the Moon graces the Earth one last time for the year. Saturday’s total solar eclipse literally spans the ends of the Earth. The final eclipse for 2021 and the only total solar eclipse of the year occurs on Saturday, December 4th, as the Moon’s shadow sweeps across a remote segment of the Antarctic continent. You almost couldn’t design a more remote eclipse. The path for totality manages to very nearly miss every possible inhabited outpost on Earth. The only research station along the path is onRead More →

The shortest-period gas-giant exoplanet discovered with TESS Using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), an international group of astronomers has detected a new, ultra-hot gas giant exoplanet with an extremely short orbital period. The newfound alien world, designated TOI-2109b is about five times more massive than Jupiter and turns out to be the shortest-period gas giant known to date. The finding is reported in a paper published November 23 on arXiv.org. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

NASA is Building a Nuclear Reactor to Power Lunar and Martian Exploration! Over the next fifteen years, multiple space agencies and their commercial partners intend to mount crewed missions to the Moon and Mars. In addition to placing “footprints and flags” on these celestial bodies, there are plans to establish the infrastructure to allow for a long-term human presence. To meet these mission requirements and ensure astronaut safety, several technologies are currently being researched and developed. At their core, these technologies are all about achieving self-sufficiency in terms of resources, materials, and energy. To ensure that these missions have all the energy they need toRead More →

Astronomers discover strangely massive black hole in Milky Way satellite galaxy Astronomers at The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory have discovered an unusually massive black hole at the heart of one of the Milky Way’s dwarf satellite galaxies, called Leo I. Almost as massive as the black hole in our own galaxy, the finding could redefine our understanding of how all galaxies—the building blocks of the universe—evolve. The work is published in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

AI can reliably spot molecules on exoplanets, and might one day even discover new laws of physics Do you know what the Earth’s atmosphere is made of? You’d probably remember it’s oxygen, and maybe nitrogen. And with a little help from Google you can easily reach a more precise answer: 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% Argon gas. However, when it comes to the composition of exo-atmospheres—the atmospheres of planets outside our solar system—the answer is not known. This is a shame, as atmospheres can indicate the nature of planets, and whether they can host life. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Image: Hubble’s view of planetary nebula reveals complex structure NGC 6891 is a bright, asymmetrical planetary nebula in the constellation Delphinus, the Dolphin. This Hubble image reveals a wealth of structure, including a spherical outer halo that is expanding faster than the inner nebula, and at least two ellipsoidal shells that are orientated differently. The image also reveals filaments and knots in the nebula’s interior, surrounding the central white dwarf star. From their motions, astronomers estimate that one of the shells is 4,800 years old while the outer halo is some 28,000 years old, indicating a series of outbursts from the dying star at differentRead More →

Mysterious clouds could offer new clues on dark matter The hunt for gravitational waves, ripples in space and time caused by major cosmic cataclysms, could help solve one of the Universe’s other burning mysteries—boson clouds and whether they are a leading contender for dark matter. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

#114 – December 2021 Part 1 The Discussion: Sex with aliens (sorry) Jen’s reveals the secrets of TV trickery AweAst now has videos! Head over to YouTube Emails about our new YouTube channel & aliens watching us   The News: Rounding up the astronomy news in October, we have: Water on exoplanets probably didn’t come from comets Another 301 exoplanets drop out of old Kepler data An(other) weird signal from outer space Violent galaxy growth in the early universe Are exoplanets made of strange materials not conducive to life? A deep dive into the James Webb Space Telescope 3 weeks before launch   The SkyRead More →

InSight Peers Deep Below the Surface on Mars The InSight lander has been on Mars, gathering data for a thousand days now, working to give us a better understanding of the planet’s interior. It’s at Elysium Planitia, the second largest volcanic region on Mars. A newly-published paper based on seismic data from the lander shows something unexpected underground: a layer of sediment sandwiched between layers of lava flows. Much of InSight’s media coverage has centred around the lander’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3), also called the Mole. Its job was to measure the heat coming from the planet’s interior to the surface. AfterRead More →

Astronauts Took A Fly-around of the International Space Station. Here are Their Stunning Pictures When astronauts left the International Space Station in early November to return home on the Crew Dragon Endeavour, they took the opportunity to do a fly-around of the ISS and take photos. NASA just released the new images, and they are a stunning look at both the orbiting outpost and our home planet. The person behind the camera was ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet. He began taking photos after Crew Dragon undocked from the Harmony module. Also on board were NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, and JAXA astronaut Aki Hoshide.Read More →

ESO telescope uncovers closest pair of supermassive black holes yet Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT), astronomers have revealed the closest pair of supermassive black holes to Earth ever observed. The two objects also have a much smaller separation than any other previously spotted pair of supermassive black holes and will eventually merge into one giant black hole. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

Radio emission detected from the Vela X-1 bow shock An international team of astronomers has conducted radio observations of a bow shock in the X-ray binary Vela X-1 using MeerKAT telescope. The observational campaign resulted in the detection of radio emission from this source. The finding is detailed in a paper published November 19 on arXiv.org. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →