Friday, April 5, 2019

🚀 SpaceX Starhopper... Hops, Get Ready for That Black Hole Photo, India Destroys a Satellite and Risks Astronaut Safety. And More...


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Q&A 82: Could There Be Galactic Panspermia? And More...

In this QA episode, I wonder if there could be a galactic panspermia, why I'm always stealing articles from Fraser Cain from Universe Today, and where the Universe came from.

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Ground-Based Telescope Directly Observes the Atmosphere of an Extrasolar Planet, and Sees Swirling Clouds of Iron and Silicates

Our understanding of exoplanets is growing in leaps and bounds. Not only are astronomers discovering new planets, but they're starting to actually study their atmospheres to understand what they're made of. Astronomers recently announced the analysis of a planet with swirling clouds of iron and silicates.

Moon and Saturn

See the Moon Photobomb Saturn in an Amazing Capture

Astronomy Cory Schmitz from Photographingspace.com was in the right place and the right time to capture an amazing event: an occultation of Saturn behind the Moon. Of course, Cory captured every moment of this event, watching as Saturn passed behind the Moon. You'll want to see all the pictures.

Black hole

The Wait is Almost Over. We'll Finally See a Picture of a Black Hole's Event Horizon on April 10th

Okay, everyone can stop asking me now. On April 10th, just under a week now, an international team of astronomers will be reporting the science results from the Event Horizon Telescope. That was a worldwide consortium of telescopes that viewed the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Prepare yourself, it's going to be a blob, but a scientifically fascinating blob.


Amazon is Building its Own 3,236-Satellite Constellation for Internet Access

The race is on to deliver high-speed internet to every spot on Earth. First SpaceX and now Jeff Bezos' Amazon/Blue Origin has announced plans to build a constellation of internet satellites. Called "Project Kuiper", it'll involve launching 3,236 satellites in low-Earth orbit to provide high speed internet to 95% of the Earth's population. Read the story by Alan Boyle.


Starliner's Mission has Been Delayed Again. Astronauts Probably Won't be Flying Until 2020

It's been a rough month for Boeing, and now it looks like the company's Starliner capsule has slipped in its schedule. Originally expected to launch in April, the first test date has been pushed back to August 2019. And this means that test flights with humans on board probably won't happen until 2020.


The Starhops Have Begun!

The journey to the world's first fully reusable rocket took another step this week with the first hop test of the SpaceX Starhopper prototype. On April 3rd, the rocket fired for 11 seconds, at the SpaceX Boca Chica launch facility, performing a short tethered hop. SpaceX is now hoping to demonstrate a full scale orbital prototype by this summer.

Mars Express

Mars Express Saw the Same Methane Spike that Curiosity Detected from the Surface of Mars

In 2013, NASA's Curiosity rover detected the faint whiff of methane increasing in its location on Mars. Although this could be from natural volcanic emissions, an exciting possibility is that it came from microbial life in the region. And it turns out that Curiosity wasn't alone. ESA's Mars Express spacecraft detected the same spike of methane from space, confirming the event, and providing more evidence that something is generating methane down there on the surface of Mars.


Beresheet Lander is now in Lunar Orbit

Mission controllers announced on Thursday that the Beresheet lander from Israel was officially in lunar orbit. This is a tremendous accomplishment, the first ever private spacecraft to go into orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft will now go into tighter and tighter orbits until it's ready to attempt a landing.


Mars Helicopter Completes More Test Flights. It's Almost Ready to go to Mars

One of the most exciting experiments going to Mars with the 2020 rover will be the tiny Mars Helicopter, designed to test if it's possible to use flying vehicles in the thin Martian atmosphere. A recent test flight in a simulated Martian environment demonstrated that the helicopter can spin its rotors fast enough to generate lift. When it actually goes to Mars, it'll just do short, 90-second flights, serving as a precursor to future flying missions to Mars.


India Destroyed a Satellite With a Missile Last Week, and Pieces Were Thrown Into an Orbit That Risks the International Space Station

Last week India announced that they had joined the "we can destroy satellites" club, smashing one of their own satellites with a ground-based missile. Unfortunately, the cloud of debris this caused has sent some chunks into a higher orbit than the International Space Station, which has increased the risks to astronaut safety. Needless to say, NASA wasn't pleased.


Satellites Watched a Huge Fireball Explode Above the Bering Sea Late Last Year

It's time for that regular reminder that we live in a cosmic shooting gallery. Last December, a spacerock crashed into the Earth's atmosphere, lighting up the skies above the Bering Sea. Nobody saw it happen, but NASA's Terra satellite was flying overhead, and caught the explosion on five of its cameras. It released about half the energy of the recent Chelyabinsk meteor, which crashed into the atmosphere in 2013. 


OSIRIS-REx creates this awesome 3D scan of Bennu with, what else? Lasers

Check out this amazing 3-dimensional scan of asteroid Bennu, captured by NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The mission has been using its (Canadian-built) Laser Altimeter to make more than 11-million measurements of the distance between it and the spacerock. Some parts haven't been fully mapped yet, which is why there are blank spots in the animation.

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday

Milky Way

Time for a photograph of the Milky Way rising over sand dunes in Australia. This photograph was taken by Trevor Dobson, when he was in the Nambung Desert a few hours north of Perth.

We have featured nearly 1,000 astrophotographers on our Instagram page, which has more than 164,000 followers. Want to do a takeover? Use the hashtag #universetoday and I'll check out your photos.


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