Friday, January 18, 2019

🚀 Lunar Eclipse Sunday! Life on the Moon (in the Chinese Lander), SpaceX Starhopper Tests in 4 Weeks, and More

Lunar eclipse

Our Complete Guide to Sunday's Total Lunar Eclipse

Sunday night is going to be very special for North and South America. It's going to be a total lunar eclipse, where the Moon passes into the Earth's shadow, turning a beautiful red. It's even better since it's also a "supermoon", where the Moon happens to be nearing the closest point in its orbit, making it slighter bigger and brighter. It's also a wolf Moon, but I don't think you need to worry about werewolves.

Want to know all the details? David Dickinson, who wrote our Ultimate Guide to Viewing the Cosmos is here with our complete guide to the eclipse. Who gets to see it, when will it start, why does it happen? All your questions answered.

I'm also planning to do a livestream of the eclipse on my YouTube channel, assuming we get good weather for the night at our observatory. So, if you can't see it yourself, hang out on my YouTube channel Sunday night

Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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Fast Radio Bursts

Many New Fast Radio Bursts Found, Including Another Repeater

One of the big mysteries in astronomy is unfolding right before our eyes: fast radio bursts. And now a new Canadian radio telescope has come online, detecting many new bursts, including the second ever seen repeating. 

Finally, with the right tools at their disposal, astronomers are going to be able to get to bottom of this puzzling mystery.

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Uh oh, Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 is Down

Last year we got nervous when one of Hubble's gyros went offline and scientists had trouble getting its replacement operational. Now the aging telescope has a new problem, its Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) is down. This was installed on Hubble during a spacewalk in 2009, and is the telescope's more advanced instrument - your favorite pictures came from this instrument. Let's hope they get it working again.

White dwarf

In the far Future our Sun will Turn Into a Solid Crystalline White Dwarf. Here's How it'll Happen

A few billion years from now, our Sun will run out of fuel in its core and turn into a white dwarf star. In fact, after a few billion years of cooling, the interior of the stellar remnant becomes a solid giant crystal. A recent study used data from the European Space Agency's Gaia telescope to find hundreds of thousands of white dwarfs, learning their distance, brightness and color. This allowed them to see white dwarfs at every stage of the cooling down process.


Giant Streak Structure Found in Venus' Cloudtops

From our perspective, Venus just looks like a blurry, obscured planet, covered in a thick atmosphere that blocks our view of the surface. But the Japanese Akatsuki spacecraft was able to see fascinating structures in the cloudtops of Venus. Around the poles of Venus there are these huge streaks in the atmosphere, which match the kinds of polar jet streams we have on Earth. 


Astronomers See the Exact Moment a Supernova Turned into a Black Hole (or Neutron Star)

On June 17th, the ATLAS telescopes observed a bright flare in the sky, that astronomers thought was a regular supernova. It was categorized as AT2018cow, or "The Cow". For the first time, astronomers think they witnessed the moment when a supernova collapsed down into a compact object like a black hole or a neutron star.

The Sun

Why our Galaxy Probably Isn't Full of Alien Civilizations Killed off by Climate Change

SETI researcher Seth Shostak has been searching for signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. In this article, he explains why he doesn't think one of the big existential risks to aliens is climate change. Stars like our Sun are constantly heating up, and will eventually boil off the oceans of the Earth, but the process will take a billion years, giving aliens time to work out a solution.

Red dwarf

Habitable Planets Around Red Dwarf Stars Might not get Enough Photons to Support Plant Life

The majority of planets found in the habitable zone of their stars are orbiting red dwarfs. That's mostly because our techniques for finding planets are more likely to turn up planets around less massive stars. Although these planets might be warm enough for liquid water, they probably don't get enough of the right photons to support photosynthesis, which plants on Earth use to turn radiation from the Sun into cells.

Barnard's Star

Geothermal Heating Could Make Life Possible on the Super Earth Planet at Barnard's Star

I just said that planets at red dwarfs probably can't support plant life, but let me try to make it up to you a little bit. According to different research, the super earth planet at Barnard's star - another red dwarf - might be able to support life through geothermal heating. Because of its higher mass, the planet might be able to provide significant energy to an exosystem that doesn't need any energy from the Sun to survive.

Moon plants

There's Life on the Moon! China's Lander Just Sprouted the First Plants

One experiment on board the Chinese Chang'e-4 lander was a tiny greenhouse designed to sprout a variety of planets: cotton, rapeseed and potato. The seeds sprouted up, and grew for a few days before the Sun went below the horizon and the lander entered the long lunar night, where temperatures drop well below freezing. 


A Few New Images of MU69 from New Horizons

We're still waiting for the high resolution images of 2014 MU69 captured during the New Years Day flyby of New Horizons. But it's a long journey for the signals to get home, and the transmission speed is very low. These images were taken before closest approach, but show how the object spins in space like a propeller. 


The Prototype for the Starship has been Assembled, Hop Tests Could be Happening Soon

SpaceX is continuing to build their Starship prototype "Starhopper" in Texas, getting ready to start testing out some of the new technologies that will be used in the new reusable rocket system. Answering questions on Twitter, Elon Musk said that he thinks the hopper will be ready for its first flight in the next 4 weeks or so.


Astronomers Aren't Pleased About a Russian Plan to Put Billboards in Space

Furious about light pollution, or shiny balls launched into space? Hate it when a satellite passes through your telescope's field of view? If a Russian startup gets its way, things are going to get much much worse. StartRocket is proposing to launch cubesats that would deploy a mylar sail that could be configured into different shapes to make billboard messages in space. Astronomers, as you can imagine, aren't pleased.


CERN is Planning to Build a Much Larger Particle Collider. Much, Much, Larger.

The Large Hadron Collider is the biggest on the planet, but if CERN gets its way, a much much bigger particle collider could be comng. The Future Circular Collider could be so powerful it would exceed the capabilities of the LHC by an order of magnitude. This new ring would be 80 to 100 kilometers in diameter, and begin science operations in 2040.

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday


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