Friday, October 11, 2019

🚀 Crew Dragon in 2020, 20 New Moons for Saturn!, Dried Mud on Mars, Milky Way Explosion, and More...


Musk, Bridenstine

SpaceX and Bridenstine Say Crew Dragon Will Fly in 2020

It's been years since the United States has had the ability to launch its own astronauts to the International Space Station, and this has been a thorn in NASA's side. Boeing and SpaceX are working on their own solutions, but there have been various setbacks, including SpaceX's Crew Dragon exploding during a test

The relationship between SpaceX and NASA was made more tense by a tweet from Jim Bridenstine, throwing shade on SpaceX the night before the presentation of Starship Mk 1 prototype in Boca Chica, Texas. 

This week, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine held a joint press conference and answered questions about the state of Crew Dragon. At this point, it looks like Crew Dragon will carry astronauts to space in the first quarter of 2020.

Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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Space scopes

What Comes After LUVOIR? Three Extreme Ideas For Space Telescopes

While we're all waiting for James Webb to launch - which it will - the Extremely Large Telescope to be constructed, and LUVOIR to get approved. 

(Please get approved, please get approved.)

We're going to need a way to pass the time. So let's have our imaginations take flight, out into the Universe, and consider some of the most incredible ideas suggested for telescopes.

Unless you've been crawling through scientific journals like me, I guarantee you've never heard of any of them. But when I'm done, you're going to want to fund all of them. 

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Astronomers Find Cyanide Gas in Interstellar Object 2I/Borisov, but Don't Panic Like it's 1910

Interstellar comet 2I/Borisov is starting to get some serious study from the world's astronomers, and a recent observation found cyanide gas. This is common in comets and helps give them their green glow in photographs. And if you know your history, astronomers caused a stir back in 1910 when they found cyanide gas in Halley's Comet, creating a worldwide panic.

Electric plane

NASA is Working on Electric Airplanes

Air travel is one of the many contributors to carbon emissions, so it makes sense to try and electrify it as much as possible. But battery technology just hasn't reached the same level of energy density as jet fuel. NASA is working on new technologies and techniques that could reduce the weight of aircraft, and provide more power for flying vehicles.

Saturn moons

Astronomers Find 20 - Yes 20 - New Moons for Saturn

It's been a big week for Saturn fans, with the announcement of 20 new moons for the Ringed Planet. This brings the total number to 82, beating out the previous record held by Jupiter with 79 moons. Of course, these new moons are tiny, just a few kilometers across, but they do orbit Saturn, way out beyond the rings. And the best part? You can help name them.

Volcanic eruption

Volcano Eruption, Seen From Space

One of the advantages of being an astronaut is that you get to appreciate dramatic volcanic eruptions from the comfort and safety of space. This is the Raikoke volcano that erupted on June 22, 2019. It was seen overhead by astronauts onboard the International Space Station and they captured this incredible photograph.


Dried mud

Curiosity Finds A Region of Ancient Dried Mud. It Could Have Been an Oasis Billions of Year Ago

Once again, NASA's Curiosity Rover has found evidence that there was life on the surface of Mars for a long time. In this case, it's a region of dried mud that has been turned into rock. The composition of the mud shows that it went through dry and wet periods for many cycles. We see similar features here on Earth where there are rainy seasons followed by months of hot, dry weather.


Moon dust

This is What Moondust Looks Like When You Remove All the Oxygen. A Pile of Metal

When we finally set up some kind of permanent habitat on the Moon, we're going to need building materials, and it turns out, everything on the surface of the Moon is a building material, once you strip away the oxygen. Scientists have developed a new method of extracting the oxygen out of lunar regolith, and this process leaves behind a handy pile of metal that can go into smelters.


Lava Flows on Venus Suggest That the Planet Was Never Warm and Wet

A couple of weeks ago, we presented a study proposing that Venus was warm and wet for billions of years. Well, this is science, so there are going to be competing points of view. This time, it's possible that lava flows started early and continuously resurfaced the planet, never giving it a chance to become warm and wet. It was always a hellscape, from its early formation until now. Which is the right answer? We'll need to gather more data to find out.


Millions of Years Ago, the Center of the Milky Way Exploded

Around 3.5 million years ago, when our ancient ancestors were learning to walk upright, the center of the Milky Way exploded, releasing more energy than the rest of the galaxy combined. It was caused by a huge amount of material falling into the supermassive black hole at the heart of the galaxy. This released a huge amount of radiation known as a Seyfert flare.


They've Got Spacesuits that Fit Now. Christina Koch and Jessica Meir Will Spacewalk on October 21st

Earlier this year NASA had to cancel an all-female spacewalk because there weren't enough medium-sized spacesuits onboard the International Space Station. That's been fixed, and now Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will head outside the station on October 21st to install new lithium-ion batteries. 

Solar Flare

Power Grids and Satellites Are More at Risk from Extreme Solar Storms Than We Thought

Solar astronomers used to think that powerful solar storms, like the 1859 Carrington Event, only happen every 500 years or so. But now it looks like they happen much more often, posing a big risk to our interconnected power systems. Like every few decades more often. Scientists looked through newspapers from across the world for the last couple of centuries and found many examples of powerful solar storms causing bright auroras in the sky. 


Magnetars are so Powerful Because They're the Result of a Merger Between Two Stars

Magnetars are some of the most extreme objects in the Universe, with a magnetic field that could tear you apart at an atomic level. But astronomers have been puzzled by what could cause a neutron star to get such an extreme magnetic field. A new theory proposes that they happen when two massive stars merge, and then this combined object detonates as a supernova.

Mars rovers

Are We Ready for the Discovery of Alien Life?

People always ask me what I think will happen if we ever discover evidence of alien life. Will there be a mass panic? Actually, scientists have announced the discovery of alien life many times (and each time it was false), and each time the response has been mostly, meh. SETI Institute's Seth Shostak gives his perspective. 

Other Interesting Space Stuff

Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday

This is the Heart Nebula (IC 1805) captured by @astroforum. If the colors look familiar, that's because he used the Hubble palette, capturing the light from excited sulfur, oxygen and hydrogen atoms.

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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