Friday, August 16, 2019

🚀 Milky Way's Black Hole Suddenly Flared, One Year For TESS, ExoMars Parachute Test Fails, And More...


Weekly Space Hangout

Weekly Space Hangout Wants to Help You Be a Better Science Communicator

Hi, Vasiliy.

The Weekly Space Hangout is on its annual hiatus right now, but we're getting set to return with our 2019/2020 season. And we're looking to mix things up a bit, having both veteran science communicators and people who have just started out in their career. 

Specifically, we want to create an opportunity for students and new graduates in science communications to learn the ropes of live video and podcasting in a low-stakes, and friendly environment.

If this is something you're interested in, drop an email to wshcrew1@gmail.com and they'll be in touch with more details.


Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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One Year, Almost 1,000 Planetary Candidates. An Update On TESS


NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Telescope launched back in April, 2018. After a few months of testing, it was ready to begin mapping the southern sky, searching for planets orbiting stars relatively nearby.

We're just over a year into the mission now, and on July 18th, TESS has shifted its attention to the Northern Hemisphere, continuing the hunt for planets in the northern skies.

As part of this shift, NASA has announced a handful of fascinating new planets turned up by TESS, including a couple of worlds in categories which have never been seen before.

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A weekly round-up of all the breaking space news. Rocket launches, new discoveries from Hubble, and planetary science by three PhD astronomers... and me.


Milky Way's Black Hole Just Flared, Growing 75 Times as Bright for a Few Hours

The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way isn't a quasar, it's actually pretty quiet. But every now and then it has a little snack, brightening up significantly. This is what happened in May, when astronomers noticed that the region around the black hole had brightened up by a factor of 75. Did it eat a star? A gas cloud? Stay tuned, I'm sure astronomers will figure that out.

Rocket Lab is Going to try to Re-use its First Stage Booster, Catching it in Mid-air With a Helicopter

Small satellite launch provider Rocket Lab announced this week that they're going to be joining the reusable rocket club. They're planning to re-use the first stage of their Electron rocket, catching it with a helicopter as it returns to Earth on a parachute. This is after Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck said that they'd never chase reusablilty in their launch offerings.

Hubble Space Telescope

Spacecraft Gyroscopes And Reaction Wheels. You Can Never Have Enough

If you've listened to Astronomy Cast, you know that I'm always skeptical of reaction wheels. These rapidly spinning disks are the key to making spacecraft able to turn and track objects without using propellant. Except when they fail, which seems to happen a lot. I explain how reaction wheels and gyroscopes work, and why James Webb has a totally different technology to stay on target.


A Very Well Preserved Crater

Not much to say here, except... isn't this a nice crater? It's a photograph from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of an almost perfectly preserved 2-km crater on the surface of Mars. Which means that it's relatively young as craters go. 


White dwarf

Dead Planets Around White Dwarfs Could Emit Radio Waves We Can Detect, Sending Out Signals for Billions of Years

When a star like our Sun dies, it bloats up to a red giant, and then shrinks down becoming a white dwarf. Planets will be very difficult to detect, but it turns out planets around a white dwarf might still be detectable for billions of years. As they interact with the magnetic field of a white dwarf, they'll emit radio waves that could be detected here on Earth using powerful telescopes. 


Water propulsion

NASA Tests Water Propulsion in Orbit

When spacecraft travel from place to place in the Solar System they'll be using up propellant. Wouldn't it be helpful if they could stop at an asteroid or comet, refuel their propellant tanks and then continue on? NASA just tested a cubesat in orbit with a novel water-based propellant system, to see how well the technology works in the environment of space.


Astronomers Uncover Dozens of Previously Unknown Ancient and Massive Galaxies

Modern telescopes have allowed astronomers to peer deep into the Universe, but even mighty telescopes like Hubble have their limits. A team of astronomers led by Tokyo University's Institute of Astronomy have developed a new technique to be able to sense some of the biggest and oldest galaxies ever seen. And they were right there in the data all along.


ExoMars Parachute Test Fails, Potentially Risking the Mission Timeline

Successfully landing on the surface of Mars is tough, and it pushes a parachute system to the absolute limit, as the European Space Agency is very aware. They just suffered the second failure of the ExoMars parachute system, during a test in early August. The mission depends on this system working, and if not, it could delay the entire mission, which is expected to launch in 2020.


Neutron Star Suffers a "Glitch", Gives Astronomers a Glimpse Into How They Work

Neutron stars are some of the most bizarre places in the Universe, where extreme gravity pulls a dead star together so tightly that its protons and electrons are mashed into neutrons. But they actually have layers, with different structures at different points, and they can suffer an internal collapse, releasing a blast of energy, revealing new secrets about how they work.


An Astrophotographer Noticed a Chunk of Ice Orbiting Comet 67P in Rosetta's Photos

Although Rosetta's mission to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is over, astronomers are continuing to look through all the images returned to Earth. Most recently, amateur astronomer Jacint Roger discovered a chunk of ice in orbit around the comet. It's about 4 meters across, and now ESA is studying this new "Churymoon".

Milky Way

Traces of One of the Oldest Stars in the Universe Found Inside Another Star

The first stars that formed in the Universe are hard to find. They were made of almost pure hydrogen and helium, lived short lives and then detonated as supernovae. And now astronomers have discovered the remnants of one of these early stars polluting the atmosphere of a younger star.



A Bunch of New Names for Pluto's Surface Features Were Just Approved

From a single flyby of Pluto, New Horizons has sent back an enormous number of pictures and scientific data about the surface of the dwarf planet. And this means more places that need names. The International Astronomical Union just approved 14 places named after scientists, explorers and inventors from different time periods. 

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday


This is the Andromeda Galaxy, aka M31, located about 2.5 million light-years away. It's headed in our direction, and will start to merge with the Milky Way in the next few billion years. This photograph was captured by @JonStewartShow

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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