Friday, March 1, 2019

🚀 Best Picture of MU69 is Here, SpaceX Crew Dragon is About to Launch, FarFarOut Most Distant Object in the Solar System and More...

Feast Your Eyes on the Sharpest Images of MU69 From New Horizons

It's only taken about 2 months for New Horizons to send back a high resolution photograph of Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 taken during its New Year's Day flyby, but I've got to say, it's pretty great.

This photograph was taken at its closest approach, showing off surface features on MU69 as small as 33 meters across, and it reveals new features that hadn't been seen from previous images taken when the spacecraft was farther away. You can see bright, rough circular patches of terrain and dark pits. What's causing these pits is still a mystery, but they could be from impacts, melting, or an internal collapse.

Scientists will still be waiting another 18 months or so to get the rest of the data back from New Horizons, so I'm sure we'll hear about many more new discoveries made during the flyby.

Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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Q&A 80: Does Everything Orbit Something? And More Featuring Dr. Becky

In this week's QA, I answer if Opportunity could ever phone home, are there stars between galaxies, and who, exactly, is Chad? Featuring a special guest answer from Dr. Becky.

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The Oldest and Coldest White Dwarf Ever Found has Bizarre Dust Rings Around it

When main sequence stars like our Sun die, they puff out their material into space and then collapse into a white dwarf. But a citizen scientist has found an ancient white dwarf with a bizarre dust ring system around it, showing astronomers that they don't fully understand the final time in a star's life. 


Say Hello to Hippocamp! The New Moon Discovered at Neptune, Which Could Have Broken off from the Larger Moon Proteus

We've got the Solar System pretty well mapped out, but astronomers are continuing to discover new moons around the giant planets in the Outer Solar System. Last week astronomers announced the newest moon around Neptune: Hippocamp. This tiny moon is right at the very limits of our current technology, requiring several years of observations from the Hubble Space Telescope to turn up.


NASA is Testing a Drone Submarine, Someday to Search for Life on Europa?

We haven't explored the Solar System very well yet, but we haven't even explored the oceans here on Earth very well either. A new drone submarine called Orpheus is helping to fix that. It will dive down into the Hadal Zone, a dangerous region 6,000 to 11,000 meters deep, which has almost never been explored. This might be similar technology to what might eventually be used in a future mission to Europa to search for life there.


Meet WFIRST, The Space Telescope with the Power of 100 Hubbles

After James Webb launches some time in 2021, the next telescope after that will be WFIRST. Instead of building it from scratch, NASA inherited this telescope from the US National Reconnaissance Office.  In this article, Dr. Paul Sutter explains the history and capability of WFIRST, and gives us an idea of what kinds of new science this next generation space telescope will be capable of.


Dark Matter Needs New Kinds of Experiments

Astronomers have been searching for dark matter for 30 years, trying to find evidence of a mysterious particle that doesn't give off any radiation, and only interacts with regular matter through gravity. In this article, Juan Collar proposes that it's time for the scientific community to let more entrepreneurial physicists try a range of new ideas that could help finally give us a hint about what dark matter might be.


X-rays Might be a Better Way to Communicate in Space

Communications in space are done through radio waves, but NASA just tested out a new technology on the International Space Station that might allow them to transmit more data, using X-rays. They're still part of the electromagnetic spectrum, but X-rays have much shorter wavelengths than visible or radio waves, so they might require less power. They also have an advantage that they can reach a spacecraft that's re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, so they can maintain communications during the dangerous atmospheric re-entry.


Massive Volcanic Eruptions 66 Million Years Ago Happened Almost Exactly When the Dinosaurs Died Off

An asteroid killed the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago, right? Well actually, geologists have calculated the age of a devastating volcanic eruption in India called the Deccan Traps, and it also happened about 66 million years ago. So maybe volcanoes killed the dinosaurs. Or maybe asteroid-powered volcanoes killed the dinosaurs. The point is, poor dinosaurs.


NASA has Cleared Crew Dragon to Fly. Demo-1 Launches on March 2

I know this is last minute, and all, but I thought you'd like to know that NASA has given SpaceX the green light to launch their Crew Dragon capsule in the early morning on Saturday, March 2, 2019. This first launch of Crew Dragon will be uncrewed, testing out the safety of the launch and testing out all the hardware and software for their flight, including docking with the International Space Station. If this goes successfully, NASA will start testing human astronauts later this year.


Virgin Galactic Sends Three People to the Edge of Space. Flights with Paying Customers Around the Corner Now

Want to fly to space? Your opportunity is getting closer every day thanks to the ongoing tests by Virgin Galactic. Earlier this week, SpaceShipTwo did another powered flight, carrying two pilots and a third passenger to the edge of space and back, earning each of them their astronaut wings. With this successful test, Virgin Galactic is almost ready to start accepting $250,000 per ticket for a 90 minute ride to space and back.


The Record for the Most Distant Object in the Solar System has been Shattered. Introducing FarFarOut at 140 Astronomical Units

Remember FarOut, a Kuiper Belt Object found at the outer edges of the Solar System? Well, move aside FarOut, now there's FarFarOut, an even more distant object found at 140 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. This object was discovered by Scott Sheppard and his team, who have turned up many of the objects found in the Outer Solar System. Don't worry about the name, I'm sure it'll get changed with the IAU gets their hands on it.


There was Once a Planet-Wide System of Lakes and Rivers on Mars

Once again, planetary scientists are finding more evidence that Mars was once a much warmer and wetter world than we see today. New evidence from ESA's Mars Express spacecraft shows how the planet once had a network of seas across its surface, connected by rivers and streams. They were probably around 3.5 billion years ago, but then they disappeared, and Mars because dusty and dry.


Canada is Going to the Moon

My country's own Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced this week that Canada was joining the international group of countries building a space station near the Moon. What will Canada be providing? Go ahead and guess... an arm. That's right, we'll be providing the Canadarm3 for the Lunar Gateway, which will help maintain the station, grab stuff, and assist in space walks. 

Other Interesting Space Stuff

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