Friday, August 2, 2019

🚀 Is There Life on Titan? Amazing Video of Falcon 9 Booster's Return, Hayabusa 2 Nabs a Sample, LightSail 2 is Working! And More...


Titan Dragonfly

Double the Videos... Thanks Patrons!

Hi, Vasiliy.

Thanks to the generous, ongoing support from our Patrons, we wanted to give back and increase the number of Guide to Space videos we're releasing every week for the next couple of months. Normally our episodes come out on Tuesdays, as well as the Questions Show on Wednesday.

Now we're releasing a special bonus extra episode on Fridays. Last week was about the Planetary Society's LightSail 2, and this week's bonus is about the Habitability of Titan and the Dragonfly Mission.

Universe Today is still mostly funded by advertising, but I would love to get to a point where we're supported by Patrons. It's still a long way to go, but I wanted to let you all know how much this support means to us, and what we spend the money on... more space news, videos and podcasts.

If you do want to become a Patron, you'll get our videos early, see behind the scenes and bloopers, and I'll remove all the advertising on Universe Today for you.

Join our community at Patreon.


Fraser Cain
Universe Today

As always, if you have comments or questions, or suggestions on how I can improve this newsletter, please don't hesitate to reply this email or email me at info@universetoday.com.

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Search for water

Why Is The Moon's South Pole So Important? It's All About Water


As NASA prepares to return to the Moon by 2024 as part of its Artemis program, the agency is focusing its efforts on exploring the Moon's polar regions. These are areas of the Moon which seem to have a lot of water mixed in with the regolith.

Some of these craters are permanently in shadow, and might still have large quantities of water, that's accessible to human and robotic explorers. This is a critical resource, and the Moon might be just the place to help humanity as it pushes out to explore the rest of the Solar System.

But it might also be an illusion. We really won't know until we look up close.

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A weekly round-up of all the breaking space news. Rocket launches, new discoveries from Hubble, and planetary science by three PhD astronomers... and me.

Milky Way

What Did the Early Milky Way Look Like?

The Milky Way has been around for a long time, almost to the beginning of the Universe itself. And over the billions of years, our galaxy has gone through quite a few mergers and impacts, becoming the majestic barred spiral we live in today. Astronomers have used the Gaia mission to trace back what the Milky Way might have looked like in its youth, as the building blocks were coming together.


Great News! The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Might be Named for Vera Rubin

Anyone who's watched my videos, or listened to me ramble on podcasts knows I'm a huge fan of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. This is an instrument that's going to change our understanding of the Universe in so many ways. And, it looks like it might get officially named for Vera Rubin, one of the most influential astronomers in the 20th Century. 


Watch this Amazing Video of Hayabusa 2 Picking Up a Sample from the Surface of Ryugu

You have got to see this video. Seriously, click the link, watch the video, you'll love it. You're looking at a series of images stitched together from Hayabusa 2 as it descended down and captured a sample from the surface of Ryugu. This is after it shot the asteroid with an anti-tank shell, exposing regions below the surface. Hayabusa 2 has become the first spacecraft to retrieve a sample from the inside of an asteroid.

Mt Hood

Interested in Hiking? You've Got to Read this Satellite Guide to the Pacific Crest Trail

NASA's Earth Observatory website published one of the coolest articles I've seen in a long time. It's a guide to the Pacific Crest Trail, seen from space. This amazing article describes the incredible terrain the hikers pass through from British Columbia through Washington, Oregon and finally into California. Seriously, this is a beautiful read with amazing pictures.


The Moon

The Moon is Older Than Scientists Thought

Astronomers used to think that the Moon formed when a Mars-sized planet crashed into the Earth about 150 million years after the Solar System formed. But new research contradicts this conclusion, proposing that the Moon actually formed only 50 million years after the formation of the Solar System, making the Moon 100 million years older than we thought.


TOI 270

NASA Promised More Smaller, Earth-size Exoplanets. TESS is Delivering

When TESS was launched about a year ago, the goal was to find many more Earth-sized exoplanets in the nearby regions of space around us. This week, NASA announced three new planets discovered by the observatory, all orbiting a faint, cool star located about 73 light-years away. The closest is a rocky world, but about 25% larger than Earth. Unfortunately, it's also probably scorching hot.

LightSail 2

LightSail 2 is Doing it! The Spacecraft is Changing its Orbit Through the Power of Sunlight

The Planetary Society announced this week that their LightSail 2 solar sail is working well, and actually raising the orbit of the spacecraft as it travels around the Earth. According to mission managers, they've been able to raise the orbit of the spacecraft by about 2 kilometers at the high point of its orbit. Unfortunately, they'll only be able to go for about a month before the sail dips into the atmosphere at the low point of its orbit and it crashes.

Falcon 9

Check Out This Super-Cool Quad Video of the Falcon Re-Entry. Two Sonic Booms!

Here's another amazing video that you really really need to watch. It's a complete filming of a Falcon 9 booster as its returns to Earth after lofting a satellite into orbit. You can see the sequence from the ground, and from the rocket's perspective, watching it make the whole journey to land safely on its landing pad. Incredible, we're really living in the future.


As Meteorites Slice Through the Atmosphere, They're Sculpted Into Cones

Almost all the meteors that strike the Earth burn up in the atmosphere. But for the few that do make it down to the ground, they tend to have a similar cone shape. And now scientists have been able to model the forces that sculpt chunks of rock into these similar shapes.

Archinaut 1

NASA Seeks to Break the "Tyranny of Launch" with In-Space Manufacturing

One of the challenges of launching missions into space is that your satellite or space telescope needs to be able the handle Earth gravity first, then the rigors of launch, and then it has to be able to unfurl itself from within a rocket fairing. But what if you could construct space infrastructure... in space out of raw materials. NASA recently awarded a contract to Made in Space to build a space-based construction robot called Archinaut One.


Thanks to Gaia, we Now Know Exactly How Big Europa is

Another of my favorite missions is the European Space Agency's Gaia mission. Its primary job is to map out the locations and movements of stars in the Milky Way, but it's also been doing other science. Such as, figuring out how large Jupiter's moon Europa is. Gaia was able to predict a time when Europa would pass in front of a distant star with enough precision to know it's 1562 km by 1560.4 km across.


The Moon

Rock Almost Rolled into this Crater on the Moon... Almost

Take a close look at this picture and you'll see the trail that a boulder on the Moon took as it rolled down into a large crater. Had it gone just 75 meters more, it would have plopped nicely into the 30-meter-diameter smaller crater. It's possible that a moonquake shook the boulder loose, sending it downhill.

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday

Milky Way

Just a straight up beautiful shot of the Milky Way rising above Joshua Tree National Park in California. You can see the iconic joshua trees across the landscape as well as the bizarre rock formations. Photo by @wilderness_dawn.

We have featured over 1,000 astrophotographers on our Instagram page, which has more than 180,000 followers. Want to do a takeover? Use the hashtag #universetoday and I'll check out your photos.

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