New Study Addresses how Lunar Missions will Kick up Moondust. Before the end of this decade, NASA plans to return astronauts to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era. But this time, through the Artemis Program, it won’t be a “footprints and flags” affair. With other space agencies and commercial partners, the long-term aim is to create the infrastructure that will allow for a “sustained program of lunar exploration and development.” If all goes according to plan, multiple space agencies will have established bases around the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which will pave the way for lunar industries and tourism. For humans toRead More →

How Warm Are the Oceans on the Icy Moons? The Ice Thickness Provides a Clue. Scientists are discovering that more and more Solar System objects have warm oceans under icy shells. The moons Enceladus and Europa are the two most well-known, and others like Ganymede and Callisto probably have them too. Even the dwarf planet Ceres might have an ocean. But can any of them support life? That partly depends on the water temperature, which strongly influences the chemistry. We’re likely to visit Europa in the coming years and find out for ourselves how warm its ocean is. Others on the list we may neverRead More →

NASA Tests the New Starship Docking System The Apollo Program delivered 12 American astronauts to the surface of the Moon. But that program ended in 1972, and since then, no human beings have visited. But Artemis will change that. And instead of just visiting the Moon, Artemis’ aim is to establish a longer-term presence on the Moon. That requires more complexity than Apollo did. Astronauts will need to transfer between vehicles. All of that activity requires a reliable spacecraft docking system. When Artemis astronauts blast off from Earth, they’ll be in the four-seat Orion spacecraft. Orion will take them to lunar orbit, where two willRead More →

China Has Built a Huge Space Simulation Chamber Well it certainly caught my attention when I saw the headlines  “China’s first Space Environment Simulator” sounds like something right out of an adventure holiday. Whilst you can’t buy tickets to ‘have a go’ it’s actually for China to test spacecraft before launching them into the harsh environments of space. It allows researchers to simulate nine environmental factors; vacuum, high and low temperature, charged particles, electromagnetic radiation, space dust, plasma, weak magnetic field, neutral gasses and microgravity – and it even looks futuristic too! The Harbin Institute of Technology and the China Aerospace Science and Technology CorporationRead More →

The International Space Station’s Air Leaks are Increasing. No Danger to the Crew Only the other week I had to fix my leaky tap. That was a nightmare.  I cannot begin to imagine how you deal with a leaky spacecraft! In August 2020 Russia announced that their Zvezda module had an air leak. An attempt was make to fix it but in November 2021 another leak was found. Earlier this week, Russia announced the segment is continuing to leak but the crew are in no danger.  It’s amazing to think that the International Space Station that has graced many a night sky, was launched backRead More →

Planetary Atmospheres: Why study them? What can they teach us about finding life beyond Earth? Universe Today has surveyed the importance of studying impact craters, planetary surfaces, exoplanets, astrobiology, solar physics, and comets, and what these fantastic scientific fields can teach researchers and space fans regarding the search for life beyond Earth. Here, we will discuss how planetary atmospheres play a key role in better understanding our solar system and beyond, including why researchers study planetary atmospheres, the benefits and challenges, what planetary atmospheres can teach us about finding life beyond Earth, and how upcoming students can pursue studying planetary atmospheres. So, why is itRead More →

How Startups on Earth Could Blaze a Trail for Cities on Mars If future explorers manage to set up communities on Mars, how will they pay their way? What’s likely to be the Red Planet’s primary export? Will it be Martian deuterium, sent back to Earth for fusion fuel? Raw materials harvested by Mars-based asteroid miners, as depicted in the “For All Mankind” TV series? Or will future Martians be totally dependent on earthly subsidies? In a new book titled “The New World on Mars,” Robert Zubrin — the president of the Mars Society and a tireless advocate for space settlement — says Mars’ most valuable product will be inventions. “We’reRead More →

This Planet-Forming Disk has More Water Than Earth’s Oceans Astronomers have detected a large amount of water vapour in the protoplanetary disk around a young star. There’s at least three times as much water among the dust as there is in all of Earth’s oceans combined. And it’s not spread throughout the disk; it’s concentrated in the inner disk region. No water means no life, so finding this much water in the part of a protoplanetary disk where rocky planets form is an intriguing discovery. And this isn’t just any disk. It’s a cold, stable disk, the type most likely to form planets. The findingsRead More →

Astronomers measure heaviest black hole pair ever found Using archival data from the Gemini North telescope, a team of astronomers has measured the heaviest pair of supermassive black holes ever found. The merging of two supermassive black holes is a phenomenon that has long been predicted, though never observed. This massive pair gives clues as to why such an event seems so unlikely in the universe. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

When an Object Like ‘Oumuamua Comes Around Again, We Could be Ready With an Interstellar Object Explorer (IOE) On October 19th, 2017, astronomers with the Pann-STARRS survey observed an Interstellar Object (ISO) passing through our system – 1I/2017 U1 ‘Oumuamua. This was the first time an ISO was detected, confirming that such objects pass through the Solar System regularly, as astronomers predicted decades prior. Just two years later, a second object was detected, the interstellar comet 2I/Borisov. Given ‘Oumuamua’s unusual nature (still a source of controversy) and the information ISOs could reveal about distant star systems, astronomers are keen to get a closer look atRead More →

Astronomers Build a 3D Map of Dust Within Thousands of Light-Years If you explore the night sky it won’t be long before you realise there is a lot of dust and gas up there. The interstellar dust between the stars accounts for 1% of the mass of the interstellar medium but reflects 30% of the starlight in infrared wavelengths. The dust plays a key role in the formation of stars and the evolution of the Galaxy. A team of astronomers have attempted to map the dust out to a distance of 3000 light years and have just released the first 3D map of the dustRead More →

How We Get Planets from Clumping Dust Our gleaming Earth, brimming with liquid water and swarming with life, began as all rocky planets do: dust. Somehow, mere dust can become a life-bearing planet given enough time and the right circumstances. But there are unanswered questions about how dust forms any rocky planet, let alone one that supports life. Planets form inside protoplanetary disks, the massive rotating collections of gas and dust that swirl around young stars. Rocky planets form when dust clumps together, which in turn forms larger and larger bodies. Eventually, there are planetesimals, the true building blocks of planets. A protoplanetary disc surroundsRead More →

A Nova in the Making: Will T Coronae Borealis Pop in 2024? If predictions are correct, a key outburst star could put on a show in early 2024. If astronomers are correct, a familiar northern constellation could briefly take on a different appearance in 2024, as a nova once again blazes into prominence. The star in question is T Coronae Borealis, also referred to as the ‘Blaze Star’ or T CrB. Located in the corner of the constellation Corona Borealis or the Northern Crown, T CrB is generally at a quiescent +10th magnitude, barely discernible with binoculars… but once every 60 years, the star hasRead More →

Diffuse hot gas detected around a potential super-star cluster Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray spacecraft, astronomers have inspected a potential super-star cluster, designated HSO BMHERICC J72.971176-69.391112, or H72.97−69.39 for short. The new observations resulted in the detection of a diffuse hot gas around this cluster. The finding was reported in a paper published February 21 on the pre-print server arXiv. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Astronomers reveal a new link between water and planet formation Researchers have found water vapour in the disc around a young star exactly where planets may be forming. Water is a key ingredient for life on Earth, and is also thought to play a significant role in planet formation. Yet, until now, we had never been able to map how water is distributed in a stable, cool disc — the type of disc that offers the most favourable conditions for planets to form around stars. The new findings were made possible thanks to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which the European Southern ObservatoryRead More →

Odysseus Is Going to Sleep After Sending Snapshots From Moon Landing Intuitive Machines says it’s putting its Odysseus moon lander to bed for a long lunar night, with hopes of reviving it once the sun rises again near the moon’s south pole. The Houston-based company and NASA recapped Odysseus’s six days of operation on the lunar surface, shared pictures showing its off-kilter configuration, and looked ahead to the mission’s next phase during a briefing today at Johnson Space Center in Texas. The original plan called for the solar-powered spacecraft to be turned off when the sun fell below the lunar horizon, but Intuitive Machines CEORead More →

Dwarf Galaxies Banished the Darkness and Lit Up the Early Universe During the Universe’s Dark Ages, dense primordial gas absorbed and scattered light, prohibiting it from travelling. Only when the first stars and galaxies began to shine in energetic UV light did the Epoch of Reionization begin. The powerful UV light shone through the Universe and punched holes in the gas, allowing light to travel freely. New observations with the James Webb Space Telescope reveal how it happened. The telescope shows that faint dwarf galaxies brought an end to the darkness. To reach back in time and answer fundamental questions about our Universe is theRead More →

Watch the Varda Capsule’s Entire Fiery Atmospheric Re-Entry Here’s a front row seat on what it would be like to return to Earth inside a space capsule. Varda Space Industries’ small W-1 spacecraft successfully landed at the Utah Test and Training Range on February 21, 2024.  A camera installed inside the cozy 90 cm- (3 ft)-wide capsule captured the entire stunning reentry sequence, from separation from the satellite bus in low Earth orbit (LEO) to the fiery re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere, to parachute deploy, to the bouncy landing. At the end of this 5-minute video, you’ll see a pair legs with mud-caked shoes approach toRead More →

Webb finds dwarf galaxies reionized the universe Using the unprecedented capabilities of the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, an international team of scientists has obtained the first spectroscopic observations of the faintest galaxies during the first billion years of the universe. These findings, published in the journal Nature, help answer a longstanding question for astronomers: What sources caused the reionization of the universe? These new results have effectively demonstrated that small dwarf galaxies are the likely producers of prodigious amounts of energetic radiation. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →