Friday, December 21, 2018

🚀 Farthest Object Discovered in the Solar System, Saturn's Rings are Fading Away, How to Talk to a Flat Earther, and More...


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Weekly Space Hangout

Weekly Space Hangout for December 19, 2018

This week on the Weekly Space Hangout, it was just me, Morgan and Paul (Kimberly had some kind of holiday party). And with no guests this week, we just tore through a bunch of interesting news that happened, from Saturn losing its rings to the launch of Virgin Galactic. Check it out!

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Did You Know that the Earth Loses Several Hundred Tons of Atmosphere to Space Every Day?

The Earth is bleeding atmosphere out into space at a rate of several hundred tons every day. But don't panic, there's lots of atmosphere left, and it'll last us for a long long time. But the amount of auroral activity can contribute to the atmospheric mass loss, so NASA is sending up a suborbital rocket to help study the link between auroras and atmospheric activity.

Flat Earth

How to Talk to a Flat-Earther. Don't

Thanks to the internet connecting us all together, bad ideas can travel at the speed of light. What if you get caught up in a conversation with someone who believes that the Earth is flat? How do you provide evidence for someone who doesn't believe in evidence? Paul Sutter provides his method. Spoiler alert: don't bother.


Just Discovered! "Farout", the Farthest Object Ever Seen in the Solar System

You thought Pluto was far out? Well, that's nothing compared to "Farout", the newly discovered dwarf planet candidate that astronomers just announced. This 500 km-wide world orbits the Sun at a distance of 120 astronomical units away, and it probably has a pink hue. It's not Planet 9, though, the search for that still continues.

Uranus and Neptune

Uranus and Neptune Should Be Top Priority, Says Report

With all this emphasis on Mars, it's easy to forget that there are two huge planets in the Solar System which have barely been explored: Uranus and Neptune. But NASA is thinking about what it would take to go back to those planets and explore them and their moons with a Cassini style orbiter. It's time to go back!

Europa drill

A Nuclear-Powered Tunneling Robot that Could Search for Life on Europa

Of course, Europa is a pretty interesting target too. Wouldn't it be amazing if some kind of probe could dig down through all that ice and sample the oceans underneath? A team of scientists have proposed a nuclear-powered robot (a "tunnelbot") that could melt its way down through the ice sheet, searching for any evidence of life.

Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Comet 46P/Wirtanen Reached its Closest Point to Earth 

It's not that big bright comet that I keep waiting for the Universe to send me, but Comet 46P/Wirtanen is looking pretty great in the night skies right now, recently passing by the Pleiades star cluster. This short period comet was the original target for ESA's Rosetta mission, but when the spacecraft was delayed, they had to find a new target, Comet 67P.


Saturn is Losing its Rings, Fast. They Could be Gone Within 100 Million Years

Well, this is disturbing. It seems like Saturn's rings are fading away and will be gone within 100 million years. When NASA's Voyager spacecraft passed Saturn, they measured the amount of material in the rings. Then the Cassini spacecraft did follow up observations and showed that the planet is eating its rings, they fall as rain into its atmosphere.

Mystery planet

Why Can't We Find Planet Nine?

Astronomers think there's a large planet in the outer Solar System, they can see its impact on the other icy objects out there in the Kuiper Belt. But why can't they find it? In this article, Charlie Wood proposes some of the techniques that astronomers could use to solve this puzzling mystery.

Saturn nebula

The Saturn Nebula Kind of Looks Like the Planet in a Small Telescope, But in One of the Most Powerful Telescopes on Earth, it Looks Like This

One of my favorite targets in the telescope is the Saturn Nebula, a remnant from a dead star, which seriously, looks just like the planet, with a central circular region and then lobes on either side. But when the same object is seen by one of the most powerful telescopes on Earth, it looks like this.


SpaceX Fundraising Exactly Covers 800 Satellites for Operational Starlink Service

SpaceX is planning to launch a constellation of internet satellites into low Earth orbit over the next decade, eventually reaching thousands of satellites. They just raised $500 million to begin construction, and Brian Wang from Nextbigfuture thinks that's exactly enough to pay for 800 satellites, enough to get their network operational for the Northern Hemisphere.


New Horizons

Less Than Two Weeks Away from New Horizon's Date with Ultima Thule

We're getting down to the wire now, as NASA's New Horizons is about to pass its next target in the Kuiper Belt: Ultima Thule. The spacecraft is expected to reach its destination on January 1, 2019 at 12:33am EST. I know what I'll be celebrating on New Year's Eve...

Mars rover

Strange Rovers are Exploring the Sahara Desert. Learning Lessons for Mars

The Sahara Desert is one of the most inhospitable and rugged places on Earth, which makes it the perfect place to test out new ideas for rovers that could explore the surface of Mars. Right now the European Space Agency is testing out three different rovers in the desert to see if they're better for exploring Mars.



InSight Just Placed its Seismometer onto the Surface of Mars to Listen for Marsquakes

Work is continuing with NASA's InSight lander. The spacecraft just reached out with its robotic arm and gently placed its seismometer on the surface of Mars. Once this instrument is operational, the lander will be able to detect earthquakes on Mars - "marsquakes", which will help scientists map out the interior of the planet.

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday

Heart Nebula

This is a familiar object to astrophotographers, the Heart Nebula, a diffuse cloud of gas and dust located about 7,500 light-years from Earth. This photo was captured by @bmamukashvili_

We have featured nearly 1,000 astrophotographers on our Instagram page, which has more than 147,000 followers. Want to do a takeover? Use the hashtag #universetoday and I'll check out your photos.


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