Friday, June 7, 2019

🚀 Help OSIRIS-REx Collect a Sample, the First Eclipse Film, LEGO Apollo 11 Lunar Lander, and More...



Help OSIRIS-REx Find a Safe Place to Get a Sample From Bennu

NASA's OSIRIS-REx mission is currently at asteroid Bennu, studying it from a safe distance and taking thousands of high-resolution photographs. In July 2020, it will descend to the surface of the asteroid and snag a sample to bring home.

Here's the problem, Bennu is much more rocky than anyone ever thought. It's less of a ball of rock, and more like a loose collection of gravel.

OSIRIS-REx needs your help to find a safe landing place. 

There's a new service on Cosmoquest that lets anyone categorize all the rocks and boulders on the surface of Bennu, to help find locations that might be safe enough to extract a sample. You can use a handy interface, map out rocks and boulders, and scientists will use these maps when they choose the final sample collection spot. You might even get an email letting you know that OSIRIS-REx will touch down in a region you categorized.

If you've ever wanted to directly help out planetary science, this is the time. Go to bennu.cosmoquest.org and sign up. We've got a hard deadline of July 7th, 2019 to get as much data in as possible.


Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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Extreme life

Just How Tough Is Earth Life? Tough Enough To Go Space And Still Thrive

Every time we send a spacecraft to another world, our Earth-based lifeforms are going with us. No matter how well we try to keep them clean, a few stowaways will always come along for the ride.

You'd think that years in the cold hard vacuum of space, suffering extreme temperature changes, and receiving brutal doses of radiation would be all it takes to sterilize any life caught on the outside of a lander or rover headed to Mars or Europa.

Well, think again. Life just demonstrated that it's surprisingly ready to make the journey, and happy to get back to work the moment conditions improve.

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Curiosity has Found the Mother Lode of Clay on the Surface of Mars

NASA's Curiosity Rover has been hard at work searching for past evidence of water on the surface of Mars. And now, it's really hit the mother lode with a huge patch of clay that it found at Mount Sharp. Clay is important, because it can only form in the presence of water that sat exposed on the surface for a long period of time.

Solar eclipse

The First-Ever Film of a Total Solar Eclipse – in 1900 – was Just Discovered and Restored

Magician turned film-maker Nevil Maskelyne recorded the first ever film of a total solar eclipse in 1900 in North Carolina. The archival footage of this event was recently discovered by the Royal Astronomical Society, and has been painstakingly restored to 4K video. 

Europe's rockets

These Are Europe's Rockets

I always love these infographics that show rockets and other spacecraft side by side. In this case, you're looking at the various rockets managed and in design by the European Space Agency: the Ariane 5, Vega, Vega-C, Ariane 62, Ariane 64 and Space Rider.


NASA is Building up a Map of the Entire Sky Seen in X-rays

I know this is a strange looking picture. Let me explain. The International Space Station has an X-ray instrument on board called NICER. Orbit after orbit, the instrument is measuring the entire background of the sky in X-rays building up this map. You can see areas of brightness, usually places where supernovae detonated thousands of years ago.

Double asteroid

A Double Asteroid Came Uncomfortably Close this Weekend. Here's what Astronomers saw

On May 25th a strange double-asteroid flew past the Earth, coming within 5.2 million kilometers of the Earth. It posed no risk to the planet, but it was a great opportunity for powerful telescopes to study the spacerock and its moon at the closest approach. It was a tough observation, considering the fact that the asteroid was going 70,000 km/h as it flew past.


LEGO lander

LEGO's New Apollo 11 Lunar Lander has been Released

Need some downtime? Why not take a few hours and put together this new LEGO set of the Apollo 11 landing. This scale model contains a descent and ascent module, a lunar surface and two astronauts. There are lots of little touches, like opening bays, a LEGO TV camera, scientific instruments, and more.

Lunar lander

NASA Picks Three Companies to Attempt Moon Landings in 2020 and 2021

It feels like just yesterday that we were introduced to NASA's new Artemis mission, and now we've learned they've already assigned contracts to several companies to send payloads to the surface of the Moon, in 2020 and 2021. Orbit Beyond, Astrobiotic and Intuitive Machines... three companies I've never even heard of. Wow, this is all moving quickly.

Pasta rocks

Rovers on Mars Should be Searching for Rocks That Look Like Pasta – They're Almost Certainly Created by Life

If any rover on Mars comes across strange rock formations that look like the picture above, they should stop what they're doing and investigate further, they might have found clear evidence of life. A form of bacteria that thrives in hydrothermal vents assembles itself into these strands and creates calcium carbonate rock. 

Mars missions

How Will NASA and ESA Handle Mars Samples When They Get Them Back to Earth?

We've done the flybys, orbits and landers, now it's time to bring some samples home to study here on Earth. NASA and ESA are working on missions that'll bring samples from Mars back to Earth so scientists can study them. Of course, this is risky, because life from Earth can contaminate any Martian samples, and vice versa.


Is Jupiter's Great Red Spot Vanishing as We Near Opposition 2019?

On June 10th, Jupiter will be at the closest point in its orbit to Earth. This is known as "opposition" and it's a fantastic time to look at the giant planet.  In fact, it should be possible to even see its moons in a pair of binoculars. At the same time, though, it looks like Jupiter's Great Red Spot is continuing to fade away. Will it be gone in our lifetimes?

Coronal mass ejection

Astronomers See an Enormous Coronal Mass Ejection… On Another Star!

We're familiar with the enormous coronal mass ejections that blast off the surface of the Sun, spraying high energy particles out into space. And now astronomers have detected a similar event... on another star. The star is named HR 9024, and it's located about 455 light-years away. Astronomers detected a characteristic flash of X-rays using the Chandra Observatory, generating a CME that was 10,000 times more powerful than anything our Sun ever releases.

InSight Mole

Engineers are Still Troubleshooting Why Mars InSight's Mole is Stuck and Won't Go Any Deeper

NASA's Mars InSight spacecraft has deployed its science instruments onto the surface of Mars, and it's listening to the planet carefully, but one instrument has failed to deploy: its thermal probe, or "mole". It got stuck drilling down in the Martian regolith, probably hitting a rock, and now mission controllers are trying new techniques to get it any deeper.

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday


This was my favorite picture this week, and even though it's a more artistic take on astrophotography, it's absolutely wonderful. Nice work Matt Landon @alma175w.

We have featured over 1,000 astrophotographers on our Instagram page, which has more than 174,000 followers. Want to do a takeover? Use the hashtag #universetoday and I'll check out your photos.


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