Friday, June 21, 2019

🚀 Table Salt On Europa? How Much Will Artemis Missions Cost? Two New Earthlike Planets Found... And More


Solar System Orbits

An Orbit Map of the Solar System

Hi, Vasiliy.

Last week I talked about the killer asteroid that probably isn't going to hit Earth in September. This week I wanted to direct your attention at the enormous number of objects orbiting around in the Solar System. Seriously, it's a busy place.

This amazing graphic was created by Eleanor Lutz, a PhD student in biology at the University of Washington. It contains the orbits of over 18,000 asteroids in the Solar System, most of which are over 10 km in size. 

This is just one example of the incredible data-based posters that Eleanor creates. You can check out the rest at her website.


Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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Life on Mars

Planetary Protection: What If We Destroy Life Before We Even Find It?

Explorers have always brought stowaways with them on board. Thanks to our travels around the world, hardy creatures like rats, goats, pigs and starlings and more have found their way to every corner of the globe. Not to mention our plants, microbes and viruses. 

Wherever we go, life goes with us, whether we want it to or not. And when we travel to other worlds, it looks like the most extreme life Earth has ever cooked up is ready and willing to make the journey with us. 

Now that the big flybys are over, it's time to dig into the regolith, search for life in underground lakes and oceans, return samples back to Earth. We're going to give life every opportunity to contaminate other worlds.

What can we do to prevent it?

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Starshades Will Reveal Planets Around Other Stars, But They Need to Be Aligned Perfectly

Starshades are a really cool technology being developed by NASA to help see planets orbiting other stars. By positioning the Starshade 40,000 km away from the telescope, the center will perfectly block the star, and the planets will be visible between the petals. But the distance has to be perfect, within 1 meter, or it won't work. That'll be some serious formation flying.


Saltwater Similar to the Earth's Oceans has been Seen on Europa. Another Good Reason Why We Really Need to Visit This Place

Europa is looking like a better and better place to search for life. New research suggests that the oceans under the thick icy crust are salty, just like the Earth's oceans. Like, regular old sodium chloride table salt, and not magnesium chloride (epsom salt) as astronomers originally believed. These yellowy regions on the surface of Europa were the key to understanding what could be under that thick shell of ice.

Apollo missions

How Much Did the Original Apollo Missions Cost?

As NASA embarks on its new missions to return humans to the Moon by 2024, they're being compared to the original Apollo missions that first carried humans to the Moon. Casey Dreier from the Planetary Society does the math on just how much the United States spent on those missions, in original 1960s dollars, inflation adjusted dollars, and as a percentage of the US budget. 

Space Junk

Satellites Equipped With a Tether Would be Able to De-Orbit Themselves at the end of Their Life

Space junk is a problem that's only going to get worse. In order to minimize their future danger, satellites and other space debris need to de-orbit themselves at the end of their lives. One idea to do this would be to extend an electrodynamic tether down behind them in orbit. The tether will emit electrons, which then causes it to be attracted by the Earth's magnetic field. A simple, elegant solution to a big problem.

Lunar module

How Much More Budget will NASA Need to Return to the Moon with Artemis?

Now that NASA has announced their plans to return to the Moon, how much will this whole adventure cost? They've already asked for an additional $1.6 billion to get started, but that's just a drop in the bucket. Administrator Jim Bridenstine says they'll need $20 to $30 billion to get feet on the ground on the Moon.


Asteroid mining

Robotic Asteroid Mining Spacecraft Wins a Grant from NASA

The first trillionaires will be the asteroid mining companies, extracting more precious metals from a single asteroid than has ever been dug out of the ground on Earth. But how will they do it? One company has just won a grant from NASA to use solar concentrators to harvest material from small asteroids they've fully enclosed, dismantling them rock by rock.


This is the Closest OSIRIS-REx has Gotten to Bennu. Just 680 Meters Above the Asteroid

NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission is continuing to get closer and closer to Asteroid Bennu, in preparation for collecting a sample from the surface. This photograph was taken when the spacecraft was orbiting at just 680 meters above the surface. A record! It will make even closer approaches, getting within 225 meters of the surface, and will be able to see rocks as small as a marble on the surface.


Martian Clouds Might Start with Meteor Trails Through the Atmosphere

Even though it has an incredibly thin atmosphere, Mars does get clouds. How do they form? One idea is that meteors streaking through the atmosphere providing particles that water molecules can use to condense out of the atmosphere. Every day, about three tons of dust enters the Martian atmosphere and might just trigger cloud formation.


Competition Will Let You Name an Exoplanet

Got a cool idea for the name of a planet? Well good news, the International Astronomical Union is holding a competition, and taking suggestions from the public. How about a cool sci-fi name like Arrakis, or something historical? You can name the planet and the star it orbits.

New planets

Two Earthlike Worlds Found Orbiting a Red Dwarf Only 12.5 Light-Years Away

I know, I know, more planets... yawn. But hold on, this is pretty cool. Astronomers have found two Earth-sized worlds orbiting within the habitable zone of a tiny red dwarf called Teegarden's Star, located only 12.5 light-years away. The star itself was only recently discovered, since it's so dim and only has 1/10th the mass of the Sun. Of course, just because they're in the habitable zone doesn't mean they're actually habitable, but it's a start.

Sky and Telescope

Sky & Telescope Magazine has Found a New Home: the American Astronomical Society

Earlier this year I was surprised to learn that the venerable Sky and Telescope magazine was up for auction. It was too rich for my blood, but I was nervous about where the magazine would end up next. Seriously, this is one of the publications that got me excited about astronomy in the first place. Good news, the American Astronomical Society picked it up for over $1 million this week. 

Merging galaxies

The Earliest Example of Merging Galaxies Ever Found

We live in a mature spiral galaxy, the Milky Way. But how did it come together? Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array have looked back to the edge of the observable Universe, and seen the earliest example of galaxies merging together, at a time when the Universe was only 800 million years old. 

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday


This picture has it all: auroras, the Milky Way, and ancient glacial ice. Amazing photography by @ollietaylorphotography during a trip to Iceland.

We have featured over 1,000 astrophotographers on our Instagram page, which has more than 174,000 followers. Want to do a takeover? Use the hashtag #universetoday and I'll check out your photos.


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