Friday, November 9, 2018

🚀 Mini-BFR, Solar Sail Controversy, Extremely Large Telescope, Wreckage from SN-1987a And More...


SpaceX is Building a Mini-BFR That Can Be Tested on a Falcon 9

This week SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced that the company is going to be building a smaller version of its upcoming BFR spacecraft for testing purposes. This scaled down version will fit on top of its existing Falcon 9, and will help the company test out various technologies like heat shielding, control surfaces. The question is, what's the least amount of mass that can return from orbit unscathed?

Unlike the full version, the mini-BFR won't have the ability to propulsively land, so it won't achieve the full dream... yet.

Of course, classic Elon Musk, his tweet and follow on replies didn't provide many details, so people are still trying to guess exactly what they're planning. Still, it's pretty exciting stuff and another step forward.

Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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Weekly Space Hangout

Weekly Space Hangout: How to Live in Space

This week on the Weekly Space Hangout we were joined by Colin Stuart to talk about his new book, "How to Live in Space". We also talked about the Oumuamua controversy, SpaceX's plans for the mini-BFR, and what the election means for the future of US space exploration.

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Timelapse Shows the Glowing Wreckage from Supernova 1987a Expanding Outward Over 30 Years

The closest brightest supernova we've seen in modern memory happened in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud back in 1987. And astronomers have been watching the cosmic wreckage expand outward into space ever since.  Check out this cool timelapse by Yvette Cendes showing how the shockwaves have expanded outward over time. 


Could Life Be Floating in Venus's Clouds?

Venus is the worst place, with crushing pressures, horrible temperatures and an unbreathable atmosphere... on the ground. But high up in the atmosphere, it's actually much more Earthlike. This has led scientists to wonder if there could be airborne lifeforms that float around in Venus' cloudtops. Obviously we'll need to go back and check.


An Extremely Large Hole has Been Dug for the Extremely Large Telescope

There are a lot of really large observatories under construction right now, but the biggest will be the ESO's Extremely Large Telescope. Measuring 39 meters across, this monster observatory will be capable of directly observing planets orbiting other stars. But for right now, it's an extremely large hole, but it should be operational by 2024.


Of Course Oumuamua is Almost Anything but an Alien Spacecraft

Last week we reported on that story that the interstellar asteroid Oumuamua's trajectory could be explained by a solar sail passing through the Solar System. Although we were very clear in our article that it's probably not aliens, the mainstream media hasn't been quite so careful. So, don't cry "aliens" just yet. Or, ever, really


Exoplanets Will Need Both Continents and Oceans to Form Complex Life

As we're continuing to search the cosmos for other habitable worlds, astronomers are trying to figure out what kinds of conditions will need to be on those planets to support life. In a new study, researchers have proposed that you need the right mix of oceans and continents to get a successful environment for life. Too much land or water is a problem.

Iridium launch

SpaceX's Starlink Internet is Going to Be "a License to Print Money"

If I was a traditional telecommunications company, I'd start getting a little worried about SpaceX's plans to launch thousands of satellites into orbit. With just 1/3rd of the 4425 satellites they have planned, they'll be able to have a full high-speed internet service that works almost anywhere on Earth, cutting valuable milliseconds off communication times.


Coffin Shaped Iceberg is Reaching the End of its 18-Year Life

Nothing lives forever, especially icebergs that have broken off from Antarctica. Scientists have been tracking this one, B15-T for 18 years now, and it recently drifted up into the South Atlantic, where the waters are significantly warmer. It's going to start melting much faster and will probably melt away within the next few years now. On another note, remember that rectangular iceberg? It actually took a pretty long, hazardous journey.

Black hole

Astronomers Get as Close as They Can to Seeing the Black Hole at the Heart of the Milky Way

We're still waiting on the first pictures of our supermassive black hole from the Event Horizon Telescope (Spring 2019?), but that hasn't stopped astronomers from getting closer and closer. New observations from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope has imaged the region around the black hole, seeing dust and gas swirling around, preparing to be consumed.


This Star Killed its Companion and is now Escaping the Milky Way

Astronomers have found a star speeding away from the scene of a crime: it killed another star, and now it's on the run. It used to have a binary companion, but the two stars orbited each other so closely that one store gobbled up the material from its partner. Then they collided, and the star was kicked into a trajectory that'll take it out of the Milky Way.. 


We Could Build a Powerful Laser and Let Any Civilizations Within 20,000 Light-Years Know We're Here. Although… Should We?

It turns out we have the technology right now to blast a message to nearby civilizations to let them know we're here. In fact, we can send a detectable laser pulse out to a distance of about 20,000 light-years. Of course, we'll want to hope that any aliens who receive the message are nice and friendly. Okay, on second thought, maybe we should hold off on this idea for a little bit.


Israel Lander

Here's (Almost) Everything you Need to Know About Israel's Moon Lander

When Google announced the Google Lunar X Prize, several teams announced plans to send a lander to the Moon to win the multimillion dollar prize. One by one, the entrants dropped out and eventually Google cancelled the prize itself. But a team from Israel has continued working on their lander concept, and it's almost ready to launch to the Moon. Here's everything you need to know.


Mars InSight Lands on November 26th. Here's Where it's Going to Touch Down

We're just a few weeks away from the landing of NASA's InSight Lander. The Red Planet has actually got quite a few spacecraft down there already, and here's where InSight is going. As landing sites go, it's as flat and boring a region as NASA could find. Perfect for a safe landing since InSight doesn't need to go anywhere to gather its data studying the planet's interior.


Asteroid Bennu

OSIRIS-REx Captures Images of Bennu's Complete Rotation

We're now about a month away from OSIRIS-REx's arrival at asteroid Bennu, and the pictures are already looking amazing. NASA stitched together a full rotation of Bennu from a series of images taken. And what do you know, it also looks like a spinning diamond (or D&D die). Clearly this is a common shape we're going to see as we explore the Solar System.

Other Interesting Space Stuff


Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday


Something a little different this week. This isn't astrophotography, it's a painting of the Pleiades star cluster by @skogens.rymd.art. I love to feature artists inspired by space too, so if you're a painter, use the hashtag too, we'd love to check out your work.

We have featured nearly 1,000 astrophotographers on our Instagram page, which has more than 141,000 followers. Want to do a takeover? Use the hashtag #universetoday and I'll check out your photos.


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