Friday, January 25, 2019

🚀 Meteor Hit the Moon During the Eclipse, SpaceX Starhopper Blown Over, Blue Origin Flights, and More...

Lunar impact

An Asteroid Smacked Into the Moon During the Lunar Eclipse!

Were you watching the lunar eclipse on Sunday night? If you were watching one of the live feeds or through a telescope, you might have spotted a brief flash during totality. It turns out a small asteroid smacked into the Moon, just as all eyes were watching the Moon. If you captured the moment, astronomers want your information to help locate the impact point.

Check out David Dickinson's article about the eclipse, including amazing images from astrophotographers.

Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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Can There Be Life On Planets Around Red Dwarf Stars?

As astronomers find more and more planets around other stars, the big question we want to know is: are they habitable, could there be life there?

The vast majority of stars in the Milky Way are red dwarf stars, and most of the planets in habitable zones have been found orbiting these cooler, less massive stars. What are the chances that life could get going on these worlds?

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Cassini Saw Rain Falling at Titan's North Pole

Back during its mission, NASA's Cassini spacecraft made some impressive observations of Saturn's moon Titan. A recent study showed that Cassini actually tracked the rains on Titan, falling at the moon's northern pole. Of course, it's not water, but falling ammonia, which has been seen collecting into seas on Titan. We really really need to go back to explore this amazing place more thoroughly.



How Long is a Day on Saturn? It Took Watching its Rings to Finally Figure That out

And speaking of Saturn, astronomers have finally solved a longstanding mystery. How long is a day on Saturn? You'd think it would be easy, but it's a gas giant so it's hard to pin down exactly when it's turned once on its axis. Astronomers used interactions between the planet and its rings to calculate an exact time of 10 hours, 33 minutes and 38 seconds.

Genesis mission

Seeding the Milky Way with Life Using Genesis Missions

Let's say that we never do find life in the Universe. Would there be a way we could seed the Universe with life from Earth? A recent proposal involves sending a spacecraft with a gene factory on board that could distribute microbial life to planets we've detected in their stars' habitable zones. In the far future, we could see life from Earth flourishing across the Milky Way.

Steam hopper

Steam-Powered Spacecraft Could Explore the Asteroid Belt Forever, Refueling Itself in Space

Once a spacecraft runs out of propellant, the mission is pretty much over. But a clever new steam-powered spacecraft developed by Honeybee Robotics could extract water from asteroids, and then use this as a propellant. By heating up the water with solar power, the spacecraft would have everything it needs to keep on exploring the Solar System, forever.


Oumuamua, SETI and the Media

In the last few months, Dr. Avi Loeb has stirred up quite a bit of controversy with his ideas that the interstellar comet Oumuamua could actually be a solar sail sent from an extraterrestrial civilization. Exoplanet researcher Jason Wright considers the implications of talking about these kinds of topics in the media, and what benefits and harm could come from it.


SpaceX Starhopper Damaged in High Winds

The launch tests of the new SpaceX Starhopper had a serious setback on Tuesday night when 80 kph winds knocked the top half over, crushing it. According to Elon Musk, this is going to take several weeks to repair before the spacecraft can make its first tests. Fortunately, it's made of relatively inexpensive stainless steel, so it shouldn't be that expensive to rebuild.

Supermassive black hole

One of Our Best Views of the Supermassive Black Hole at the Heart of the Milky Way

We're still waiting on the first images of the Milky Way's supermassive black hole from the Event Horizon Telescope, but let this picture hold you over until we see it. This is a radio photograph of the black hole, using a network of telescopes. One interesting discovery is that the jets from the black hole appear to be pointing directly at Earth, of course, don't worry, it's too far away to cause us any damage.

Lunar impacts

Earth has Been Getting Whacked by Asteroids More Often in the Last 300 Million Years

Fortunately, asteroid strikes are a pretty rare occurrence these days. But a recent study has shown that they've actually picked up a bit in the last 300 million years or so. Astronomers counted up the number and ages of craters on the Moon and discovered that impact rates were actually lower in the past and have increased. No idea what caused the increase, though.

Blue Origin

10th Successful Flight for Blue Origin's New Shepard. They're hoping to launch humans some time this year

Blue Origin continues to test its New Shepard rocket, flying the suborbital launch vehicle on Wednesday. The rocket blasted off and flew to an altitude of 106 km, before returning to its launch pad. This was the 10th test of the New Shepard, which Blue Origin hopes to have paying customers flying to the edge of space some time this year.

Icy Material

A Disc of Icy Material, not Planet 9, Might Explain the Strange Movements in the Outer Solar System

Because of the movements of various objects in the Kuiper Belt, astronomers have proposed that there is a larger object out there in the Solar System, influencing them with its gravity: Planet 9. But a new theory proposes that instead of a single large planet, there could be a disk of icy material with enough mass out there to cause the same effect.

Mars streaks

Planetary Scientists Continue to Puzzle Over the Mysterious Slope Streaks on Mars. Liquid? Sand? What's Causing Them?

Photographs from Mars have turned up bizarre streaks on the sides of craters that come and go with the seasons. They look like some kind of liquid is pouring out onto the surface of Mars and running downhill. What could be causing it? Is it actually a liquid, or could it be just darker sand that moves more easily in the lower Martian gravity. The mystery continues.


Saturn's Rings are Only 10 to 100 Million Years Old

Scientists have been puzzling over the nature of Saturn's rings for years. Are they new or old? It all depends on how much mass they have, which has been always difficult to calculate. But new data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft have finally provided an answer to this question. It turns out the rings are actually quite new, and have only been around for 10-100 million years. Amazing to think we're here at a time when the rings are possible to see.

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday

Milky Way

Check out this absolutely stunning photograph of a lake in the Atacama Desert, in Chile. It was taken by Daniele Gasparri, who notes that the lake is actually at risk because of a new mining operation. So enjoy it while it lasts.

We have featured nearly 1,000 astrophotographers on our Instagram page, which has more than 153,000 followers. Want to do a takeover? Use the hashtag #universetoday and I'll check out your photos.


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