space

Starship

Say what you will, but the man has panache, and a keen sense of the moment. https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1178014342031298561

This is the just-assembled Starship Mk1 Prototype, which will make its first test flight (to 20 km) next month. It's intended to be a reusable spacecraft that will go to the moon and Mars.

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Posted on Facebook and Twitter.

The Most Habitable (But Probably Not) Exoplanet Yet

Two teams of astronomers independently reported water vapor around K2-18b, an exoplanet 100 light years away. It's the first time water vapor has been detected in the atmosphere of an exoplanet that is not a gas giant: https://www.wired.com/story/scientists-find-water-vapor-on-the-most-habitable-exoplanet-yet/

“The planet, known by the catchy name K2-18b, is 110 light years away and orbits a red dwarf star about half the size of the sun. The planet is twice the size of Earth, eight times as massive, and orbits its host star once every 33 days.

“This is the only planet outside the solar system that has the correct temperature to support water and has an atmosphere that has water in it, making this planet the best candidate for habitability that we know right now,” says Angelos Tsiaras, an astronomer at University College London and the lead author of the study published today in Nature Astronomy.”

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Originally posted on Twitter.

The Shadow of Io

During a recent perijove pass, Juno caught an absolutely incredible image of Io's shadow cast upon Jupiter.😲😍

Unless it's actually millions of monoliths devouring Jupiter's atmosphere. Which is, frankly, equally as likely.

Hi-res quality: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinmgill/48745739051/
Source and credit: https://twitter.com/kevinmgill/status/1173741101515079680

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Originally posted on Facebook.

Space Is Hard, Once Again

For the second time this year, a lunar lander has experienced an error and crashed in the final meters of its descent to the surface.

SPACE IS HARD, guys. I know I make it look easy in my books (as well as cool, fun and exciting 😋), but it's hard. And it's going to continue being hard for a while yet.

https://www.theverge.com/2019/9/6/20853462/india-chandrayaan-2-lunar-landing-moon-vikram-crash-communication-failure

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Originally posted on Facebook.

Parker Skims the Sun

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is currently making its third of 24 dives through the sun’s corona this week: https://www.space.com/parker-solar-probe-third-sun-flyby.html. Every loop sends the spacecraft deeper into the corona, increasing the risk to the craft but also the reward in the form of bucketloads of scientific data.

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Building a Wormhole

Half tongue-in-cheek and heavy on the "theoretical," this is nonetheless an entertaining, accessible and tantalizing piece on how we maybe-just-maybe-might-one-day be able to create a traversable wormhole.

Of course, I'm still holding out for negative mass being a real thing, and definitely white holes as well. But cosmic strings would be good, too.

https://www.space.com/building-a-wormhole-with-cosmic-strings.html

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Originally posted on Facebook.

Spitzer's Sweet 16

"NASA launched its Spitzer Space Telescope into orbit around the Sun on Aug. 25, 2003. Since then, the observatory has been lifting the veil on the wonders of the cosmos, from our own solar system to faraway galaxies, using infrared light.

Managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Spitzer enabled scientists to confirm the presence of seven rocky, Earth-size planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. The telescope has also provided weather maps of hot, gaseous exoplanets and revealed a hidden ring around Saturn. It has illuminated hidden collections of dust in a wide variety of locations, including cosmic nebulas (clouds of gas and dust in space), where young stars form, and swirling galaxies. Spitzer has additionally investigated some of the universe's oldest galaxies and stared at the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Spitzer's primary mission lasted five-and-a-half years and ended when it ran out of the liquid helium coolant necessary to operate two of its three instruments. But its passive-cooling design has allowed part of its third instrument to continue operating for more than 10 additional years. The mission is scheduled to end on Jan. 30, 2020.

In honor of Spitzer's Sweet 16 in space, here are 16 amazing images from the mission.": http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/news/2195-ssc2019-15-Sixteen-Images-for-Spitzer-s-Sweet-16

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Originally posted on Facebook and Twitter.

On 'Impossible' White Dwarfs

"Astronomers Have Spotted An 'Impossible' White Dwarf": https://www.iflscience.com/space/astronomers-have-spotted-an-impossible-white-dwarf/

Of course it isn't impossible - either our scientific understanding or our scientific measurement tools, or both, aren't yet sophisticated enough to understand the object. But it's extremely cool that I included an oddity almost exactly like this in Starshine 😎:

"The Siyane hovered 1.5 megameters above the white dwarf. Deep red in color (despite the name), it pulsed at a leisurely period of thirty-six seconds. Seven different ways of measurement told her it radiated a temperature of 910 K.
“That’s not possible.”
“And that’s the fourth time you’ve said so.”
She shot him a glare. “It’s the fourth time it’s been true. The coolest white dwarf ever measured is 2440 K, and it is a helluva lot closer to the center of the damn universe than this is. A temperature so low means it’s almost as old as the Big Bang—and that is impossible.”
“Excellent.” He shrugged. “So…we go back home and win the Nobel Prize in Astrophysics?”"

Thanks to Mark Buxton for pointing me to the story!

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Originally posted on Facebook.

Supernova Cannon Expels Pulsar J0002

What could shoot out a neutron star like a cannon ball? A supernova. About 10,000 years ago, the supernova that created the nebular remnant CTB 1 not only destroyed a massive star but blasted its newly formed neutron star core -- a pulsar -- out into the Milky Way Galaxy.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190813.html

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Cosmic Flow of the Universe

Master “plan” of the universe revealed in new galaxy maps. In the renderings, our Milky Way galaxy is a tiny speck in the midst of other galaxies and colossal voids.

It’s a compelling reminder - however big I go in my books, the scope is still just a tiny speck of dust compared to the entire universe.

https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/master-plan-universe-revealed-new-galaxy-maps-ncna1040936

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Originally posted on Twitter and Facebook.

The Great Red Spot

This new Hubble Space Telescope view of Jupiter, taken on June 27, 2019, reveals the giant planet's trademark Great Red Spot, and a more intense color palette in the clouds swirling in Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere than seen in previous years. The colors, and their changes, provide important clues to ongoing processes in Jupiter's atmosphere. More info: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2019/hubble-new-portrait-of-jupiter

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Newsflash: The Milky Way Is Not Flat

"The galaxy is not flat, researchers show in new 3D model of the Milky Way": https://techcrunch.com/2019/08/01/the-galaxy-is-not-flat-researchers-show-in-new-3d-model-of-the-milky-way/

Yay for sensationalistic headlines. 😏 No, no one was asserting the Milky Way is "flat" flat; there's no "Flat Galaxy Society" out there posting YouTube videos where they make their case (at least, I don't THINK there is).

The question, rather, was whether the Milky Way was essentially a pancake. Unfortunately, we can't "see" the Milky Way the way we can other galaxies, because we're IN it, and it's going to be a little while before wen can send a probe out at superluminal speeds to snap a pic from beyond the galaxy's edge.

So scientists used Cepheid variable stars to map out a fairly direct series of measurements of the shape of the galaxy. And it turns out, it's shaped like a sombrero that got warped. Possibly because someone sat on it, or stuffed it in the overhead bin of a plane, or left it out in the blazing summer heat for several days.

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Originally posted on Facebook. (The comments to this post have been fantastic.)

LightSale 2 Unfurls

LightSail 2 Unfurls, Takes Next Step Toward Space Travel by Solar Sail: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/23/science/lightsail-solar-sail.html. The Planetary Society crowd-funded and deployed LightSail 2 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, aiming to further demonstrate the potential of the technology for space propulsion.

“The ability to sail across the cosmos, powered by the energy of the sun, is finally becoming a reality.

Engineers in California pressed a button on Tuesday that unfurled the sails on a satellite that can be steered around Earth, advancing long held hopes for an inexhaustible form of spaceflight and expanding the possibilities for navigating the voids between worlds.”

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Originally posted on Twitter.

New Lease on Life for the Voyagers

Voyagers 1 and 2 have the distinction of being in space for 42 years and still operating. And even though they’re 18 billion km (11 billion miles) from the Sun, they’re still valuable scientifically. But they’re running out of energy, and NASA has been working on how to stretch their remaining power for as long as possible.

https://www.universetoday.com/142802/nasa-has-figured-out-how-to-extend-the-lives-of-the-voyagers-even-longer/

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Originally posted on Twitter.