Here’s Hubble’s First Image in its New Pointing Mode This is probably what the demise of the Hubble Space Telescope was always going to look like: components failing one by one, with no way to replace them. In the last few months, the Hubble has repeatedly gone into safe mode as one of its remaining three gyros keeps giving faulty readings. But the Hubble and the people operating it are resilient and resourceful. The telescope is back to science operations now, though in single gyro mode. NASA has released the first image the Hubble captured in this mode, and it’s clear that the Hubble isRead More →

Slingshotting Around the Sun Would Make a Spacecraft the Faster Ever NASA is very interested in developing a propulsion method to allow spacecraft to go faster. We’ve reported several times on different ideas to support that goal, and most of the more successful have utilized the Sun’s gravity well, typically by slingshotting around it, as is commonly done with Jupiter currently. But, there are still significant hurdles when doing so, not the least of which is the energy radiating from the Sun simply vaporizing anything that gets close enough to utilize a gravity assist. That’s the problem a project supported by NASA’s Institute for AdvancedRead More →

Perseverance Found Some Strange Rocks. What Will They Tell Us? NASA’s Perseverance Rover has left Mount Washburn behind and arrived at its next destination, Bright Angel. It found an unusual type of rock there that scientists are calling ‘popcorn rock.’ The odd rock is more evidence that water was once present in Jezero Crater. Perseverance’s mission is centred on life on ancient Mars. Along with searching for fossilized evidence of ancient life, it’s searching for and trying to understand environments that could’ve supported life. That’s why it’s in Jezero Crater, an ancient paleolake with a delta of sediments and other intriguing geological features. On SolRead More →

Marsquakes Can Help Us Find Water on the Red Planet Earth is a seismically active planet, and scientists have figured out how to use seismic waves from Earthquakes to probe its interior. We even use artificially created seismic waves to identify underground petroleum-bearing formations. When the InSIGHT (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) lander was sent to Mars, it sensed Marsquakes to learn more bout the planet’s interior. Researchers think they can use Marsquakes to answer one of Mars’ most pressing questions: Does the planet hold water trapped in its subsurface? Ground-penetrating radar can tell us what’s underground on Earth. However, itRead More →

If We Want To Find Life-Supporting Worlds, We Should Focus on Small Planets With Large Moons There’s no perfect way of doing anything, including searching for exoplanets. Every planet-hunting method has some type of bias. We’ve found most exoplanets using the transit method, which is biased toward larger planets. Larger planets closer to their stars block more light, meaning we detect large planets transiting in front of their stars more readily than we detect small ones. That’s a problem because some research says that life-supporting planets are more likely to be small, like Earth. It’s all because of moons and streaming instability. Consider Earth’s Moon.Read More →

Earth’s atmosphere is our best defense against nearby supernovae, study suggests Earth’s protective atmosphere has sheltered life for billions of years, creating a haven where evolution produced complex lifeforms like us. The ozone layer plays a critical role in shielding the biosphere from deadly UV radiation. It blocks 99% of the sun’s powerful UV output. Earth’s magnetosphere also shelters us. Go to SourceRead More →

The Earliest Merging Quasars Ever Seen Studying the history of science shows how often serendipity plays a role in some of the most important discoveries. Sometimes, the stories are apocryphal, like Newton getting hit on the head with an apple. But sometimes, there’s an element of truth to them. That was the case for a new discovery of the oldest pair of merging quasars ever discovered – and it all started with a pair of red blots on a picture. Those red blots were on a very particular picture – one taken by the Hyper Subprime-Cam on the Subaru telescope in Manuakea, Hawai’i. Yoshiki MatsuokaRead More →

Observations explore stellar content of nearby young open cluster Berkeley 59 Astronomers from India and Thailand have observed a young nearby open cluster known as Berkeley 59. Results of the observational campaign, published June 12 on the pre-print server arXiv, deliver essential information regarding low-mass stellar and substellar content of this cluster. Go to SourceRead More →

Hubble’s Back, but Only Using One Gyro The Hubble Space Telescope has experienced ongoing problems with one of its three remaining gyroscopes, so NASA has decided to shift the telescope into single gyro mode. While the venerable space telescope has now returned to daily science operations, single gyro mode means Hubble will only use one gyro to maintain a lock on its target. This will slow its slew time and decrease some of its scientific output. But this plan increases the overall lifetime of the 34-year-old telescope, keeping one gyro in reserve. NASA is also troubleshooting the malfunctioning gyro, hoping to return it online. LastRead More →

Earth’s Atmosphere is Our Best Defence Against Nearby Supernovae Earth’s protective atmosphere has sheltered life for billions of years, creating a haven where evolution produced complex lifeforms like us. The ozone layer plays a critical role in shielding the biosphere from deadly UV radiation. It blocks 99% of the Sun’s powerful UV output. Earth’s magnetosphere also shelters us. But the Sun is relatively tame. How effective are the ozone and the magnetosphere at protecting us from powerful supernova explosions? Every million years—a small fraction of Earth’s 4.5 billion-year lifetime—a massive star explodes within 100 parsecs (326 light-years) of Earth. We know this because our SolarRead More →

Astronomers see a massive black hole awaken in real time In late 2019 the previously unremarkable galaxy SDSS1335+0728 suddenly started shining brighter than ever before. To understand why, astronomers have used data from several space and ground-based observatories, including the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT), to track how the galaxy’s brightness has varied. In a study out today, they conclude that they are witnessing changes never seen before in a galaxy — likely the result of the sudden awakening of the massive black hole at its core. ESO News Feed Go to SourceRead More →

New simulations reveal hot neutrinos trapped during neutron star collisions When stars collapse, they can leave behind incredibly dense but relatively small and cold remnants called neutron stars. If two stars collapse in close proximity, the leftover binary neutron stars spiral in and eventually collide, and the interface where the two stars begin merging becomes incredibly hot. Go to SourceRead More →

There’s Chang’e-6 on the Far Side of the Moon The newest phase of China’s lunar exploration project is soon coming to an end. On June 20th, the Chang’e 6 sample return mission starts its journey back to Earth from the far side of the Moon, having already collected samples and blasted itself back into lunar orbit. But since a picture is worth a thousand words, let’s look at some of the more memorable images that have come out of this mission so far. China’s National Space Agency (CNSA) released up close and personal images of the Chang’e-6 landers/ascender system on June 14th. They were takenRead More →

The Hubble telescope has shifted into one-gyro mode after months of technical issues Imagine keeping a laser beam trained on a dime that’s 200 miles away. Now imagine doing that continuously for 24 hours, while riding a merry-go-round. Does it seem difficult? Well, that’s basically what the Hubble Space Telescope does. Go to SourceRead More →

Research investigates chemical composition of globular cluster Terzan 6 Astronomers have performed a comprehensive chemical study of a Galactic globular cluster known as Terzan 6. Results of the study, presented in a research paper published June 11 on the pre-print server arXiv, could advance our knowledge about the properties and nature of this cluster. Go to SourceRead More →

A New Way to Survive the Harsh Lunar Night The Moon is a tough place to survive, and not just for humans. The wild temperature extremes between day and night make it extremely difficult to build reliable machinery that will continue to operate. But an engineering team from Nagoya University in Japan have developed an energy-efficient new way to control Loop Heat Pipes (LHP) to safely cool lunar rovers. This will extend their lifespan, keeping them running for extended lunar exploration missions. How do you keep a rover insulated well enough to survive the frozen lunar nights, without cooking it during the day? A teamRead More →

The Great Red Spot Probably Formed in the Early 1800s Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (GRS) is one of the Solar System’s defining features. It’s a massive storm that astronomers have observed since the 1600s. However, its date of formation and longevity are up for debate. Have we been seeing the same phenomenon all this time? The GRS is a gigantic anti-cyclonic (rotating counter-clockwise) storm that’s larger than Earth. Its wind speeds exceed 400 km/h (250 mp/h). It’s an icon that humans have been observing since at least the 1800s, possibly earlier. Its history, along with how it formed, is a mystery. Its earliest observations mayRead More →

A New Way to Prove if Primordial Black Holes Contribute to Dark Matter The early Universe was a strange place. Early in its history—in the first quintillionth of a second—the entire cosmos was nothing more than a stunningly hot plasma. And, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), this soup of quarks and gluons was accompanied by the formation of weird little primordial black holes (PHBs). It’s entirely possible that these long-vanished PHBs could have been the root of dark matter. MIT’s David Kaiser and graduate student Elba Alonso-Monsalve suggest that such early super-charged black holes were very likely a new stateRead More →