Friday, August 9, 2019

🚀 How to See Auroras, Tardigrades Alive on the Moon, Turning the Earth Into a Telescope, More Starship Hop Tests Coming, and More...



Keep Your Eyes on the Space Weather, See Some Auroras

Hi, Vasiliy.

A few days ago, a huge coronal hole opened up in the Sun's upper atmosphere. This isn't dangerous or scary, but it means an increased chance of geomagnetic storms. In other words: auroras, even in places that don't normally get to see them.

If you live in Iceland or Alaska, you get to see auroras all the time, but even if you live in Southern Canada, the Northern US, and many regions in Europe and Asia, you can get a chance to see the Northern Lights, if you keep your eyes on the space weather forecast.

For the southern hemisphere, New Zealand, Tasmania, South Africa, Chile and Argentina have a shot at seeing them from time to time.

So how do you know when to look?

You can see the Earth's current aurora activity at NOAA's 30-minute aurora forecast. If you happen to live in one of the green areas, there could be auroras at your location right now.

But for your best chance, I recommend that you install an aurora notification app on your phone. There are a bunch that will send you a notification when the activity is high enough in your area that auroras could be possible.

I don't have a specific aurora app to recommend, but if you search the iPhone app store or Google Play,  you should find one. The key is that it needs to send you a notification when the activity is high enough for visibility in your area. This might only happen once or twice a year if you live far from the poles.

When you get the notification, head to a place that's as dark as possible to the North (or the South in the southern hemisphere). Take a camera and take some long exposure pictures and you might be able to detect the faint green glow of auroras.

But they're dynamic and can change at a moment's notice. What starts as a glow on the horizon can explode into a dynamic show of light that you'll remember for the rest of your life.

But you won't see it if you don't get outside and be ready.


Fraser Cain
Universe Today

P.S. It's Perseid meteor shower time. They won't be great because of the full Moon this year, but it's still worth the adventure.

As always, if you have comments or questions, or suggestions on how I can improve this newsletter, please don't hesitate to reply this email or email me at info@universetoday.com.

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What Are Light Echoes? Using Reflections Of Light To See Even Further Back In Time


When we look outward into space, we're looking backwards in time. That's because light moves, at the speed of light. It takes time for the light to reach us.

But it gets even stranger than that. Light can be absorbed, reflected, and re-emitted by gas and dust, giving us a second look.

They're called light echoes, and allow astronomers another way to understand the Universe around us.

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Turning the Entire Earth into a Telescope: The TerraScope

I just love extreme ideas for ground and space-based telescopes, and Professor David Kipping from Columbia University's Cool Worlds Lab has presented an incredible idea for turning the entire planet into the lens of a telescope, thanks to the refractive power of the atmosphere. It could be the equivalent of a 150-meter telescope, detecting very faint objects as they change in brightness.

Early Earth

All Life on Earth is Made up of the Same 20 Amino Acids. Scientists Now Think They Know Why

One of the biggest unsolved scientific mysteries is: how did life get started on Earth? How did all the amino acids that make up the building blocks of life come together to get everything started? A new study has shown how the basic 20 amino acids needed to come together to enable life to function; and the chemistry actually prefers this configuration.

Snowball Earth

Snowball Exoplanets Might Be Better for Life Than We Thought

When astronomers look out into the Universe, they see exoplanets which are just outside the habitable zone of their planet, which means they're probably too cold to have liquid oceans on their surface. But new research is showing that these worlds might be more habitable than previously believed, and could have large areas which are downright livable.


Elon Musk Outlines the Next Few Weeks of Starship Tests

With the recent hop test completed, SpaceX is pushing forward with their next tests of the Starship Prototype. According to Elon Musk on Twitter, the Starship Mk1 prototype will be tested near the end of August with three of its Raptor engines on board. And prototypes could take suborbital flights as early as September or October.



Tardigrades Probably Survived a Crash Landing on the Moon

When Israel's Beresheet lander smashed into the surface of the Moon earlier this year, it was carrying a colony of tardigrades (aka water bears) on board. And it's likely their capsule survived the impact and they're still alive up there. Tardigrades are one of life's toughest creatures, able to live without food or water, and even hibernate in the vacuum of space. I, for one, welcome our lunar tardigrade overlords.


Apollo Computer

The Story of the Apollo Guidance Computer, Part 2

One of the big challenges of sending humans to the Moon was just guiding the spacecraft there. This was done by the Apollo Guidance Computer, a relatively small box containing a whopping 34 kilobytes of memory. Nancy Atkinson looks into the history of this early computer, and how engineers were able to miniaturize their technology to get something that could fly on the mission.

Dark matter

Maybe Dark Matter is Warm, Not Cold

At this point physicists are pretty sure that dark matter is some kind of particle that doesn't interact with regular matter in any way. The main theories assumed that it was cold, but so far, experiments haven't been able to find a particle with these properties. So now, physicists are looking for warm dark matter, using new experiments.


SpaceX Successfully Caught Half of the Rocket Fairing from Yesterday's Falcon-9 Launch

For several years now, SpaceX has been trying to catch the fairings from their Falcon rockets after they've deployed their satellite payload. The fairings float back to Earth with a parachute, and an adapted ship with a huge net tries to catch the fairing before it hits the ocean. They made their first successful catch back in June, and this week, they caught another.


There May be Thick Ice Deposits on the Moon and Mercury

When NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft was exploring Mercury, it returned evidence that there might be a significant amount of water on this scorching planet. That would be a surprise because it's so close to the Sun, but it has permanently shadowed craters (like the Moon) where water ice could be protected. 


Enjoy 2019's Hubble Photograph of Jupiter Taken During Opposition, When the Planet was at its Closest

Once a year, Jupiter reaches a point in our sky called Opposition, when the two planets are closest together. This is the best time for Earth-based telescopes to take pictures of the giant planet. Here's the latest photo taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, showing the bands across the planet and the Great Red Spot.

James Webb

Phew. A Test to Unfold James Webb's Secondary Mirror Goes as Planned

Engineers are continuing to test the James Webb Space Telescope, preparing it for its 2021 launch to space. The space telescope passed another test this week, unfolding its huge secondary mirror without any issues. The next time it does this, it'll be in space, 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth, preparing to study the Universe. 


Black hole

A Monster Black Hole has Been Found with 40 Billion Times the Mass of the Sun

The supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way sounds impressive with its 4.1 million times the mass of the Sun. Well, astronomers just found a black hole with 40 BILLION times the mass of the Sun. It's at the center of the galaxy Holmberg 15A, located about 700 million light-years away.

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday


Speaking of auroras, check out this amazing photograph by @elsamueli_ captured from Finland. Now THAT'S an aurora. 

We have featured over 1,000 astrophotographers on our Instagram page, which has more than 181,000 followers. Want to do a takeover? Use the hashtag #universetoday and I'll check out your photos.

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