Friday, September 20, 2019

🚀 A Base on Phobos? Catching the Next Interstellar Comet, Artificial Gravity on SpaceX Starship? And More...



Yes, This is Actually the Shadow of Io Passing Across the Surface of Jupiter

Have you seen this picture? Were you wondering if it's fake? Well, it's real. It's a photograph of Jupiter captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft during its most recent flyby. Good timing! The mission watched this incredible shadow of Jupiter's volcanic moon Io as it slipped across the surface of the planet.

If you could stand on the surface of Jupiter (which you can't, please don't try), you'd see an eclipse as Io blocked the Sun from your vantage point.

The Juno data was processed by Kevin Gill, a NASA programmer who creates incredible visualizations from NASA data on the side. Check out more of his work on his Flickr channel.

Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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Phobos base

Want To Explore Mars? Send Humans To The Moons Of Mars First: Phobos And Deimos

Humans to Mars. That's the plan, right? The problem is that sending humans down to the surface of Mars is one of the most complicated and ambitious goals that we can attempt. It's a huge step to go from low Earth orbit, then lunar landings, and then all the way to Mars, a journey of hundreds of millions of kilometers and 2 years at the least.

But there are two places humans can go which are a stepping stone between Earth and Mars. Base camps that would let us gather our resources in relative safety before dropping down into that gravity well.

I'm talking about the moons of Mars: Phobos and Deimos.

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Interstellar comet

Images are Starting to Come in of the New Interstellar Comet

Remember Oumuamua? It looks like astronomers have found another interstellar object passing through the Solar System, and this time, we've got more notice. The object is called C/2019 Q4 Borisov, and it was discovered on August 30th by an amateur astronomer when it was out at the orbit of Neptune. Huge observatories around the world have been focusing on the object and will give us more details as it gets closer.

Interstellar object

But Could We Catch It?

We missed our chance with Oumuamua, but is there an opportunity to send a spacecraft out that could actually intercept C/2019 Q4 Borisov? Can you imagine what we could learn by studying an object that formed in another star system? It turns out that if we start today and work quickly, we could send a tiny probe on a fast enough trajectory that it could catch up with Comet Borisov as it speeds out of the Solar system again.

Tabby's Star

Is Tabby's Star Dimming Because of a Shredded Exomoon?

The mysterious Tabby's star, which dims and brightens unpredictably is continuing to puzzle astronomers. One new theory is that a planet orbiting the star has an icy exomoon that's getting shredded by tidal forces. The clouds of gas and dust surrounding the star are obscuring it from our point of view. Over the course of millions of years, the moon will be completely worn away and Tabby's star will shine steadily again for us.

Sand on Mars

Nothing Says Springtime on Mars Like Explosions of Sand


As winter turns to summer in the northern hemisphere of Mars, the thin layer of carbon dioxide that coats the polar sands warms up and starts to sublimates away into the atmosphere. Pockets of carbon dioxide explode, throwing clouds of dark sand onto the surface in a dramatic fashion. Can you imagine what it must look like to be down there when it's happening? It sure makes for a cool picture.



Real Artificial Gravity for SpaceX's Starship

When SpaceX's starship finally does take people to Mars, they're going to be spending hundreds of days in microgravity, an environment that we know is rough on the human body. The channel smallstars on YouTube made a video that proposes putting two Starships into a configuration that allows them to spin with a rigid truss connecting them. This would give the passengers artificial gravity to make the journey easier.


Saturn's rings

Saturn's Rings Might be Ancient After All

Are Saturn's rings brand new, formed from the destruction of a comet or icy moon, or are they ancient, formed with Saturn at the beginning of the Solar System. Planetary scientists thought they had the answer, thanks to Cassini data: the rings looked young and they're fading away. But new research indicates that they might be ancient after all, and just look new. The debate continues.

Particle detector

Physicists Don't Know the Mass of a Neutrino, But Now They Know it's No Larger Than 1 Electron Volt

Neutrinos are one of the most elusive particles in nature. They're produced in vast quantities during fusion reactions in stars, and fly off into space, passing through almost anything in their way. You've got countless neutrinos going through your body right now. How do you measure the mass of something so hard to detect? Physicists have been struggling to do this. They still don't know exactly how massive neutrinos are, but they've figured out an upper limit: 1 electron volt.

Neutron Star

The Most Massive Neutron Star has been Found. It's ALMOST the Most Massive Neutron Star That's Even Possible

Neutron stars are formed when stars with more mass than our Sun die in a supernova. They can range in mass up to just over twice the mass of the Sun. And now astronomers have found a neutron star with 2.17 solar masses, which means that it's right at that upper limit. Seriously, sneeze on this neutron star and you might collapse it into a black hole.

Rosetta mission

Rosetta Saw Dramatic Changes on 67P During Its Mission

During its two years at Comet 67P, ESA's Rosetta mission captured more than 76,000 high-resolution photos of its surface. Even though the comet is billions of years old, it still has activity on its surface. Look carefully at the center of this photo and you'll see a boulder that fell off a cliff and rolled down a hill. Who knows what other interesting details they'll find?


This Astrophotographer Makes the World Turn and the Sky Stand Still

It's hard to remember that we live on a spinning ball flying through space, and then you watch a timelapse video like this and you're instantly reminded. Eric Brummel created an amazing timelapse of the Milky Way, where he locked his camera on the sky, and let the Earth rotate beneath it. Absolutely stunning, definitely watch the full timelapse.


Io's Largest Volcano, Loki, Erupts Every 500 Days. Any Day Now, It'll Erupt Again

Jupiter's moon Io has over 400 active volcanoes across its surface, it's the most volcanically active place in the Solar System. And its largest volcano, Loki, erupts on a regular schedule every 540 days or so. And guess what? Loki is due to erupt again, any day now. If planetary scientists are right, that'll be a pretty impressive piece of scientific detective work, demonstrating the ability to predict volcanoes on other worlds.



A Distant Asteroid Collision Gave Earthly Biodiversity An Ancient Boost

Hundreds of millions of years ago, two asteroids smashed together in the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. The collision created a shower of dust that spread through the Solar System, eventually making its way to Earth and triggering an ice age on our planet. In fact, a third of all the meteorites that strike the Earth still come from that ancient impact.

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday

Rosette Nebula

Everyone knows I love the Rosette Nebula. And this is a fantastic capture of this enormous cloud of gas and dust by @apaletta_photo. It's located 5,000 light-years away from Earth and measures 130 light-years across. The hot young stars blast out radiation that causes the gas and dust to glow around them.

We have featured over 1,000 astrophotographers on our Instagram page, which has more than 187,000 followers. Want to do a takeover? Use the hashtag #universetoday and I'll check out your photos.

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