Get Ready for the First Pictures of a Black Hole’s Event Horizon It might sound trite to say that the Universe is full of mysteries. But it’s true. Chief among them are things like Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and of course, our old friends the Black Holes. Black Holes may be the most interesting of them all, and the effort to understand them—and observe them—is ongoing. That effort will be ramped up in April, when the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) attempts to capture our first image of a Black Hole and its event horizon. The target of the EHT is none other than Sagittarius A,Read More →

Huge News, Seven Earth-Sized Worlds Orbiting a Red Dwarf, Three in the Habitable Zone In what is surely the biggest news since the hunt for exoplanets began, NASA announced today the discovery of a system of seven exoplanets orbiting the nearby star of TRAPPIST-1. Discovered by a team of astronomers using data from the TRAPPIST telescope in Chile and the Spitzer Space Telescope, this find is especially exciting since all of these planets are believed to be Earth-sized and terrestrial (i.e. rocky). But most exciting of all is the fact that three of these rocky exoplanets orbit within the star’s habitable zone (aka. “Goldilocks Zone”).Read More →

Ultracool Dwarf and the Seven Planets Astronomers have found a system of seven Earth-sized planets just 40 light-years away. Using ground and space telescopes, including ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the planets were all detected as they passed in front of their parent star, the ultracool dwarf star known as TRAPPIST-1. According to the paper appearing today in the journal Nature, three of the planets lie in the habitable zone and could harbour oceans of water on their surfaces, increasing the possibility that the star system could play host to life. This system has both the largest number of Earth-sized planets yet found and the largestRead More →

Here’s Something We Never Thought We’d See on a Comet: Shifting Dunes The Rosetta mission’s close-up views of the curiously-shaped Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko have already changed some long-held ideas about comets. But here’s more: there’s a ‘wind’ blowing across the comet’s surface, creating moving shifting dunes. “The approach to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko by the spacecraft Rosetta has revealed the presence of astonishing dune-like patterns,” wrote Philippe Claudin, of the Institute of Industrial Physics and Chemistry, Paris, France, in his new paper, noting the unusual and unexpected conditions found on Comet 67P. Left, an image of comet Chury showing outgassing of water vapor, which entrains dust (© ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM).Read More →

How Long is a Year on Venus? Venus and Earth have many similarities. Both are terrestrial planets, meaning that they are composed predominately of metal and silicate rock, which is differentiated between a metal core and a silicate mantle and crust. Both also orbit the Sun within its habitable zone (aka. “Goldilocks Zone“). Hence why Venus and Earth are often called “sister planets”. However, Venus is also starkly different from Earth in a number of ways. It’s atmosphere, which is composed primarily of carbon dioxide and small amounts of nitrogen, is 92 times as dense as Earth’s. It is also the hottest planet in theRead More →

United Arab Emirates Has a Plan to Colonize Mars with 600,000 People in 100 Years Elon Musk has been rather outspoken in recent years about his plan to create a human settlement on Mars. Stressing the need for a “backup location” for humanity, he has dedicated his company (SpaceX) to the creation of a reusable spacecraft (aka. the Interplanetary Transport System) that in the coming decades will be able to transport one-hundred people at a time to Mars. In addition to Musk, Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp has also expressed an interest in creating a permanent settlement on Mars. In 2012, he founded MarsOne with theRead More →

Spectacular SpaceX Space Station Launch and 1st Stage Landing – Photo/Video Gallery Historic maiden blastoff of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center) at 9:38 a.m. EDT on Feb 19, 2017, on Dragon CRS-10 resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Sunday’s inaugural blastoff of a commercial SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from historic pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 19 proved to be space spectacular like none other along the Florida Space Coast, that will help path the path for eventual human journeys to theRead More →

Sad About Pluto? How about 110 Planets in the Solar System Instead? In 2006, during their 26th General Assembly, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) adopted a formal definition of the term “planet”. This was done in the hopes of dispelling ambiguity over which bodies should be designated as “planets”, an issue that had plagued astronomers ever since they discovering objects beyond the orbit of Neptune that were comparable in size to Pluto. Needless to say, the definition they adopted resulted in fair degree of controversy from the astronomical community. For this reason, a team of planetary scientists – which includes famed “Pluto defender” Alan SternRead More →

Drone Captures Amazing Footage of Falcon 9 Landing Let’s just take a moment to admire how amazing it is when science fiction becomes routinely real: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared this amazing drone footage of the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage returning for a perfect landing after the launch of the Dragon capsule to the International Space Station. It drops flawlessly through the clouds, easy as pie, touching down at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral. As cool as the first stage landing was, the launch had a notable starting place. As our Ken Kremer reported yesterday, “the era of undesired idleness for America’sRead More →

Messier 35 – the NGC 2168 Open Star Cluster Welcome back to Messier Monday! In our ongoing tribute to the great Tammy Plotner, we take a look at the open star cluster known as Messier 35. Enjoy! During the 18th century, famed French astronomer Charles Messier noted the presence of several “nebulous objects” in the night sky. Having originally mistaken them for comets, he began compiling a list of them so that others would not make the same mistake he did. In time, this list (known as the Messier Catalog) would come to include 100 of the most fabulous objects in the night sky. OneRead More →

NASA’s Historic Pad 39A Back in Business with Maiden SpaceX Falcon 9 Blastoff to ISS and Booster Landing Historic maiden blastoff of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on Dragon CRS-10 resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) at 9:38 a.m. EDT on Feb 19, 2017. Photo taken from the VAB roof. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – After a six year lull NASA’s historic pad 39A roared back to business this morning with the dramatic maiden blastoff of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, on a critical cargo delivery mission for NASA to theRead More →

Juno Will Get No Closer To Jupiter Due To Engine Troubles On July 4th, 2016, the Juno mission established orbit around Jupiter, becoming the second spacecraft in history to do so (after the Galileo probe). Since then, the probe has been in a regular 53.4-day orbit (known as perijove), moving between the poles to avoid the worst of its radiation belts. Originally, Juno’s mission scientists had been hoping to reduce its orbit to a 14-day cycle so the probe could make more passes to gather more data. To do this, Juno was scheduled for an engine burn on Oct. 19th, 2016, during its second perijovianRead More →

SpaceX Falcon 9 Goes Vertical with Station Science at KSC Pad 39A – Watch Live SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket goes vertical at night atop Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on 18 Feb 2017 as seen after midnight from the pad perimeter. This is the first rocket rolled out to launch from pad 39A since the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttles in July 2011. Liftoff slated for 18 Feb 2017. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Just hours before blastoff, the first ever SpaceX Falcon 9 set to soar to the space station from historic pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy SpaceRead More →

A Region On Mars With Recent Water Is About To Get Major Attention Striations exposed on the surface between Martian sand dunes (one pictured at top) in Lucaya Crater indicate fluctuating levels of salty groundwater. At “a” we see possible cross beds which are tilted layers of sand within larger layers deposited by wind or water. At b, dark and light strata are similar to that exposed in the dune at top and resemble the striations seen in the Namib Desert on Earth. The photo was taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in infrared, red and blue light. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Researcher Dr. Mary Bourke from Trinity CollegeRead More →

Ceres Provides First Detection Of Life’s Building Blocks In Asteroid Belt NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been poking around Ceres since it first established orbit in March of 2015. In that time, the mission has sent back a steam of images of the minor planet, and with a level of resolution that was previously impossible. Because of this, a lot of interesting revelations have been made about Ceres’ composition and surface features (like its many “bright spots“). In what is sure to be the most surprising find yet, the Dawn spacecraft has revealed that Ceres may actually possess the ingredients for life. Using data from theRead More →

Earth Just Got A New Continent We tend to lump New Zealand and Australia together. They’re similar culturally and share the same geographical position, relative to North America and Europe, anyway. But according to a new paper published in the Geological Society of America Today, it looks like New Zealand and their neighbor New Caledonia are actually their own continent: ‘Zealandia.’ Continent means something different to geographers and geologists. To be considered a geological continent, like Zealandia, the area in question has to satisfy a few conditions: the land in question has to be higher than the ocean floor it has to include a broadRead More →

The Universe Has A Lithium Problem Over the past decades, scientists have wrestled with a problem involving the Big Bang Theory. The Big Bang Theory suggests that there should be three times as much lithium as we can observe. Why is there such a discrepancy between prediction and observation? To get into that problem, let’s back up a bit. The Big Bang Theory (BBT) is well-supported by multiple lines of evidence and theory. It’s widely accepted as the explanation for how the Universe started. Three key pieces of evidence support the BBT: observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background our growing understanding of the large-scale structureRead More →

Poopy Ideas Net $30,000 For Challenge Finalists You may have thought that whole ‘going to the bathroom in space’ issue had already been resolved, with the International Space Station operating continuously with crew on board since 2000. But as we reported back in December, long-duration, deep-space human missions will create a possible scenario of needing to take care of human waste in a spacesuit longer than just a couple of hours. And so NASA and HeroX issued a Space Poop Challenge, to create an “in-suit waste management system” that can handle six days’ worth of bathroom needs. HeroX announced this week that five thousand differentRead More →

Carnival of Space #497 Welcome, come in to the 497th Carnival of Space! The Carnival is a community of space science and astronomy writers and bloggers, who submit their best work each week for your benefit. I’m Susie Murph, part of the team at Universe Today and CosmoQuest. So now, on to this week’s stories! Over at Planetaria, Paul Scott Anderson reports on New Horizons completes another course adjustment in preparation for 2019 flyby of next KBO. Our friends over at Blasting News have a great list of stories for us this week. First, the Hubble repair mission by Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser mini-shuttle proposed.Read More →

Weekly Space Hangout – February 17, 2017: Samuel Mason, Director of the Tesla Science Foundation Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain) Special Guest: Samuel Mason is the Director of the Tesla Science Foundation, NJ Chapter. The mission of the Tesla Science Foundation is to establish and promote the recognition and awareness of Nikola Tesla’s inventions, patents, theories, philosophies, lectures, and innovations. Guests: Morgan Rehnberg (MorganRehnberg.com / @MorganRehnberg) Kimberly Cartier ( KimberlyCartier.org / @AstroKimCartier ) Their stories this week: Expert panel tells Congress NASA is underfunded for human space flight Will NASA put a crew on the first SLS flight? Fixing the Big Bang’s lithium problem Home-grown organicRead More →