NASA has a Ballistic air gun to Hurl Rocks at Space Suits to Test Their Micrometeorite Protection Shock testing is commonly used throughout engineering to determine how a product will do when impacted by something.  That something could be anything from the ground to a cruise missile.  Like so much else in space exploration, engineers at NASA are performing the same type of test, just scaled up.  Instead of simply dropping the object under test, as is common in most settings, they shoot it with a steel ball going 3000 ft/second. Researchers at the Ballistics Impact Lab use a 40-foot-long gun to simulate what itRead More →

Using Quasars as a New Standard Candle to Define Distance A new study shows a way to use quasars to gauge distance in the early Universe. The simple question of ‘how far?’ gets at the heart of the history of modern astronomy. Looking out across our galactic backyard into the primordial Universe, different yardsticks—often referred to as ‘standard candles’ —are used to gauge various distances, from near to far. Now, astronomers may have another tool in their Universe-measuring arsenal. A recent study out of the Center for Astrophysics (CfA) looked at X-ray measurements of 2332 quasars in the Chandra Source Catalog compiled by NASA’s prolificRead More →

By Using Dashcams and Security Cameras, Astronomers Were Able to Track Down the Location of a Meteorite OK, all you meteorites that are falling to Earth … You are being watched! The ever-expanding use of security cameras, doorbell cams and vehicle dashcams have increased the number of fireballs that have been spotted streaking across the skies. And sometimes, all that visual data provides the side benefit of allowing rocks from space to be tracked and found. Back in February of 2020, hundreds of people across Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Austria and Hungary reported seeing a bright ball of light hurtling across the morning sky, along withRead More →

Dashcam detective work leads to recovery of space rocks from fireball over Slovenia On 28 February 2020, at 10:30 CET, hundreds of people across Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Austria and Hungary observed a bright ball of light hurtling across the morning sky. This delivery of rocks from a distant asteroid to the fields and villages of southern Slovenia was captured by cars’ dashcams, security cameras, and even a cyclist’s helmet. It is one of only around 40 fallen space rocks that has been recovered within weeks and for which the origins in the Solar System have been tracked. Initial results are being presented by Dr. DenisRead More →

A new understanding of galaxy evolution with NASA’s Roman Space Telescope When NASA’s Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope launches in the mid-2020s, it will revolutionize astronomy by providing a panoramic field of view at least 100 times greater than Hubble’s at similar image sharpness, or resolution. The Roman Space Telescope will survey the sky up to thousands of times faster than can be done with Hubble. This combination of wide field, high resolution, and an efficient survey approach promises new understandings in many areas, particularly in how galaxies form and evolve over cosmic time. How did the largest structures in the universe assemble? How didRead More →

A LEGO® Version of the Very Large Telescope. It Even has a Laser Interferometer Interferometers are some of the most highly advanced sensor instruments that humans have made.  They are used in everything from astronomy to quantum mechanics and have profoundly impacted our understanding of science.  But not all interferometers have to be functional. A Dutch astronomer named Frans Snik has just designed one that, while it isn’t function, is inspiring all the same – and it happens to be made out of Lego. Mr. Snik is a prolific Lego builder, initially designing a model of the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO’s) European Extremely Large TelescopeRead More →

‘Black widow’ pulsar detected in globular cluster NGC 6712 Using the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), astronomers have discovered a new pulsar in the globular cluster NGC 6712. The newly found object is a so-called “black widow,” and the first radio pulsar identified so far in this cluster. The finding is detailed in a paper published September 14 on arXiv.org. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Moon’s Tycho crater revealed in intricate detail The National Science Foundation’s Green Bank Observatory (GBO) and National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and Raytheon Intelligence & Space (RI&S) have released a new high-resolution image of the moon, the highest-ever taken from the ground using new radar technology on the Green Bank Telescope (GBT). phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

NASA’s VIPER Rover Will Hunt for Water Near Nobile Crater at Moon’s South Pole NASA says its VIPER rover will head for the western edge of Nobile Crater near the moon’s south pole in 2023, targeting a region where shadowed craters are cold enough for water ice to exist, but where enough of the sun’s rays reach to keep the solar-powered robot going. Today’s announcement provides a focus for a mission that’s meant to blaze a trail for Artemis astronauts who are scheduled to land on the lunar surface by as early as 2024, and for a sustainable lunar settlement that could take shape byRead More →

How Could we Light our Cities and Still See the Night Sky? The night sky is a part of humanity’s natural heritage. Gazing up at the heavens is a unifying act, performed by almost every human that’s ever lived. Haven’t you looked up at the night sky and felt it ignite your sense of wonder? But you can’t see much night sky in a modern city. And the majority of humans live in cities now. How can we regain our heritage? Can quiet contemplation make a comeback? It may be possible, and a team of researchers from Spain, Portugal, and Italy have tackled the problem.Read More →

Accurately Forecasting the Weather on Mars and Titan Even meteorologists who forecast the weather on Earth admit that they can’t always accurately predict the weather at a specific location on our planet any given time. And so, attempting to forecast the atmospheric conditions on another world can be downright impossible. But a new study suggests that an oft-used forecasting technique on Earth can be applied to other worlds as well, such as on Mars or Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. “I believe the first accurate forecasts of perhaps a few Mars days may be only a decade away,” said lead author of the study published inRead More →

The Moon was Pummeled Even Harder by Asteroids Than it Looks The Moon’s pitted surface tells a tale of repeated impacts over a long period of time. While Earth’s active geology erases most evidence of impacts, the Moon has no mechanism that can do the same. So there it sits, stark evidence of an impact-rich past. The visible record of lunar cratering is used to understand Earth’s formation and history since periods of frequent impacts would affect both bodies similarly. But something’s wrong in our understanding of the Moon’s history. Impact crater dating, asteroid dynamics, lunar samples, impact basin-forming simulations, and lunar evolution modelling allRead More →

A catalog of solar stream interactions When a fast solar wind stream erupts from a coronal hole (a cooler region in the Sun’s atmosphere) and overtakes a slower moving solar wind stream, a stream interaction region (SIR) can form. In the SIR, a density “pileup” of compressed plasma develops upstream of the interface; typically there is a peak in pressure followed by a rarefaction region in the fast solar wind component. As the SIR propagates away from the Sun, to distances of one astronomical unit or beyond, the compression can form a shock that efficiently accelerates charged particles. Thus SIRs are a major source ofRead More →

Palomar 6 globular cluster investigated in detail An international team of astronomers has conducted a detailed study of a globular cluster known as Palomar 6 (or Pal 6 for short). Results of the research could help us better understand the nature of this cluster. The study was detailed in a paper published September 9 on arXiv.org. phys.org Go to SourceRead More →

Astronomers See Carbon-Rich Nebulae Where Planets are Forming Understanding the birth of a planet is a challenging puzzle. We know that planets form inside clouds of gas and dust that surround new stars, known as protoplanetary disks. But grasping exactly how that process works – connecting the dots between a dust cloud and a finished planet – is not easy. An international team of astronomers is attempting to unlock some of those secrets, and have recently completed the most extensive chemical composition mapping of several protoplanetary discs around five young stars. Their research allows them to begin to piece together the chemical makeup of futureRead More →

ExoMars Will be Drilling 1.7 Meters to Pull its Samples From Below the Surface of Mars In about a year (Sept. 20th, 2021), the Rosalind Franklin rover will depart for Mars. As the latest mission in the ESA’s and Roscosmos’ ExoMars program, Rosalind Franklin will join the small army of orbiters, landers, and rovers that are working to characterize the Martian atmosphere and environment. A key aspect of the rover’s mission will involve drilling into the Martian soil and rock and obtaining samples from deep beneath the surface. To prepare for drilling operations on Mars, the ESA, Italian space agency (ASI), and their commercial partnersRead More →

Finally an Answer to why Gamma Rays are Coming From Seemingly Empty Space Gamma rays strike Earth from all directions of the sky. Our planet is bathed in a diffuse glow of high-energy photons. It doesn’t affect us much, and we don’t really notice it, because our atmosphere is very good at absorbing gamma rays. It’s so good that we didn’t notice cosmic gamma rays until the 1960s when gamma-ray detectors were launched into space to look for signs of atomic weapons tests. Even then, what we noticed were intense flashes of gamma rays known as gamma ray bursts. Gamma-ray bursts are bright but short-lived.Read More →

Astronaut Blood and Urine Could Help Build Structures on the Moon Thinking outside the box has always been a strong suit of space exploration.  Whether taking a picture of the Earth in a sunbeam or attempting to land a rocket on a floating ship, trying new things has been a continual theme for those interested in learning more about the universe.  Now, a team from the University of Manchester has come up with an outside-the-box solution that could help solve the problem of building infrastructure in space – use astronauts themselves as bioreactors to create the building blocks of early colonies. Concrete is typically usedRead More →

Perseverance has Already Detected Over 300 Dust Devils and Vortices on Mars Dust devils are generally used as a trope in media when the writers want to know that an area is deserted. They signify the desolation and isolation that those places represent. Almost none of the settings of those stories are close to the isolation of Perseverance, the Mars rover that landed on the planet earlier this year.  Fittingly, the number of dust devils Perseverance has detected is also extremely high – over 300 in its first three months on the planet.  The paper discussing those findings, written by Brian Jackson of Boise StateRead More →

Astronauts Have Used Bacteria to Extract Useful Metals out of Rocks History has viewed mining as a job that requires a lot of heavy machinery and physical labor.  Pulling valuable material out of the ground has been necessary for human progress for thousands of years.  That progress has led to an alternative method of getting those resources out of the Earth or other celestial bodies. The new technique relies on a symbiotic life partner that has co-habited with us for millennia – bacteria. A recent experiment conducted by ESA’s Biorock investigation team shows that this process – known as “biomining” – might be the mostRead More →