Friday, September 6, 2019

🚀 Deflecting an Asteroid, Iranian Rocket Explosion Seen From Space, SpaceX's Plans for the Starship Facility, Chandrayaan-2 Landing, and More...



Podcasting Hiatus is Almost Over...

Hi, Vasiliy.

As you probably know, we take a hiatus from all of our livestreams over the summer to rest and recuperate, and not be tied to high speed internet every few days.

Well, the hiatus is almost over, and the shows are coming back!

Astronomy Cast premieres on Friday, September 6, 2019 at 12:00 pm, PST. So, within a few hours of when you get this newsletter. Our topic will be "Reusable Rocket Revolution".

Open Space, a live QA with me begins on Monday, September 9, 2019 at 5:00 pm PST. No guest, just a live solo show.

And the first Weekly Space Hangout will be on Wednesday, September 11, 2019 at 5:00 pm PST with Dr. Alan Stern, PI of New Horizons.

Make sure you're subscribed to the channels if you want know when we start, and make sure you click the notification bell.

(And everything will be released as podcasts too, so subscribe that way if you prefer to listen at your leisure. Links are below)


Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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A Tour Of The Lagrange Points. Part 1 - Past And Future Missions To L1

Thanks to gravity, there are places across the Solar System which are nicely balanced. They're called Lagrange Points and they give us the perfect vantage points for a range of spacecraft missions, from observing the Sun to studying asteroids, and more.

Various spacecraft have already visited Lagrange Points, used them for some or all of their missions, and there are fascinating plans in the works that could put new missions and even space colonies into these balanced places in the Solar System.

Let's explore the Lagrange Points.

Subscribe to our podcasts:

Universe Today Guide to Space Audio: iTunes - RSS
Audio versions of all the media I upload to my YouTube channel, as well as bonus content, behind the scenes, interviews with Fraser and more

Astronomy Cast: iTunes - RSS
Your weekly facts-based journey through the cosmos, which I co-host with astronomer Dr. Pamela Gay. We have episodes on every concept in space and astronomy, from black holes to the history of astronomy.

Weekly Space Hangout: iTunes - RSS

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.


Mars 2020 Rover Gets its Helicopter Sidekick

One of the coolest additions to the Mars 2020 Rover is the Mars Helicopter, the first vehicle that will fly on another planet. Engineers at NASA bolted the 1.8 kg flying machine to the top of the rover this week. When the mission arrives at Mars, it'll deploy the chopper, which will then take longer and longer flights, testing out how possible it is to fly on Mars, scouting the way forward for the rover.

ESA's Aeolus Shifts Orbit to Give Some Safety Room for Starlink Satellites

According to a communications mixup, ESA controllers needed to change the orbit of its Aeolus Earth observation spacecraft to minimize the collision risk with the SpaceX Starlink configuration. Satellites make these kinds of maneuvers all the time, but according to SpaceX, a bug in their communications software failed to notify ESA properly, so the spacecraft had to take evasive maneuvers. Not a big deal, but a vision of the future, when there'll be constellations with thousands of satellites.


The Spaceline: an Elevator From the Earth to the Moon

A space elevator could dramatically lower the costs of launching material into space, but it'll require strong materials that haven't been invented yet. A pair of astronomy students have proposed going the other way, starting at the Moon, and dropping a cable down into Earth's gravity well. You'd still need to reach the bottom of the strand, but it could provide significant cost savings.


Want to Find Alien Probes in the Solar System? Look for Lurkers


The Universe has been around for billions of years, plenty of time for alien civilizations to build self-replicating spacecraft that could travel from world to world gathering data. In fact, it might make sense to park a spacecraft into stable locations that co-orbit the Solar System with the Earth. These are regions that we could search for ancient spacecraft.


Iran launcher

Thanks to Trump, We've Got a Better Idea of the Capabilities of US Surveillance Satellites

We've known that the United States has a fleet of Hubble-class surveillance satellites pointed down at the surface of the Earth, but we've never known the specific details about their capabilities. All that changed this week when US President Trump tweeted out a picture of an explosion at an Iranian rocket launch facility. Within hours, internet sleuths had figured out which satellite took the picture and worked out its capabilities.


Asteroid mission

Europe and US are Going to Try and Deflect an Asteroid

Asteroid researchers and space engineers are coming together in Rome to figure out the future of asteroid defense during a three-day workshop. They're going to be hashing out the details of the NASA/ESA Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment mission. This spacecraft will collide with a small asteroid, allowing astronomers to measure how difficult it is to move a spacerock, you know, in case one is headed our way in the future.

Sand dunes

It Hasn't Rained on Mars for a Long Time, but These Sand Dunes Look Like Raindrops, and They're Filled with Chemicals Made in Water

Mars is a dry place, and there hasn't been water there for billions of years. But if you looked at this picture, you'd think it's pouring rain there right now. These are actually sand dunes, artificially colored to show off their structure. But the sand dunes actually contain olivine, a chemical that's created by long-term contact with water. So they help indicate that Mars did have water on it a long time ago. But mostly, it's a really beautiful picture that I wanted to share with you.


New Documents Reveal SpaceX's Plans for Launching Mars-Rocket Prototypes from South Texas

We've seen the Starhopper test launches, and now details are starting to come out about SpaceX's larger plans for their Starship. Leaked documents show how SpaceX will be developing the reusable rocket at its Boca Chica, Texas facility, and how they plan to deal with the environmental impacts of such a huge rocket.

Planetary Nebula

This Star Has Reached the End of its Life

Our star, the Sun, still has billions of good years of life left. But this star, located about 10,000 light-years from Earth has reached the end of its days. It's called NGC 5307, and recently went through the red giant stage, blasting off its outer layers into space. But its death does make a beautiful picture, as captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.


Chandrayaan-2 Is Making Its De-Orbiting Maneuvers

We're just a few hours away from India's Chandrayaan-2 mission making its attempt at a powered landing on the Moon. It's already made several de-orbit maneuvers in the last couple of days, and if all goes well, the Vikram Lander will begin a powered descent in just a few hours from now. When you read this newsletter, it might already be on the surface. Good luck!

Solid rocket

Electric Solid Propulsion Could Provide Better Performance, and Actually Turn the Rocket Off and On

Solid rockets are used by many spacecraft and they come with a lot of advantages, like their simplicity and efficiency. But one of the biggest disadvantages is the fact that you can't turn them off. Now researchers have developed electric solid propellant, which could function more like liquid rockets, being able to turn off and on with electricity.



Exoplanet Acts Like a Comet, Dive Bombs Its Star

Exoplanetary astronomers have discovered a planet behaving in a really strange way: it thinks its a comet. While a planet like the Earth has a roughly circular orbit, exoplanet HR 5138 b follows a path that takes it as close as the asteroid belt, and as far as the orbit of Neptune. Astronomers have been monitoring the planet for 22 years now, finally building up all the details of its incredible orbit.

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday

Lagoon Nebula

Now that's an astrophoto! It's a well-known region of Sagittarius that contains M8, M20 and NGC 6334 taken by master astrophotographer Andy Campbell (@andys_astro). We were lucky to have Andy takeover our Instagram account for a day, sharing three amazing photos from his collection.

We have featured over 1,000 astrophotographers on our Instagram page, which has more than 184,000 followers. Want to do a takeover? Use the hashtag #universetoday and I'll check out your photos.

Our book!

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