Earthlike Worlds With Oceans and Continents Could be Orbiting red Dwarfs, Detectable by James Webb

“Go then, there are other worlds than these.” Or so Stephen King said in his famous Dark Tower series. As of yet, none of those worlds are known to be like Earth. But, according to some new simulations by researchers at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ), finding a genuinely Earth-like world might be in the cards by the decade’s end.

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Construction Begins on the World’s Largest Steerable Radio Telescope

Radio astronomy has been in flux lately. With the permanent loss of the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico, a new global power has taken center stage in humanity’s search for radio signals – China. Recently the Chinese announced the start of work on a new milestone telescope, which will eventually make it the biggest moveable one in the world.

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How Does NASA Plan to Keep Samples From Mars Safe From Contamination (and Contaminating) Earth?

NASA’s Mars Sample Return Mission is inching closer and closer. The overall mission architecture just hit a new milestone when Perseverance collected the first sample that will be sent back. But what happens once that sample actually gets here? NASA and its partner, ESA, are still working on that, but recently they released a fact sheet that covers what will happen during the first stage of that process – returning to the ground.

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NASA's Dragonfly Helicopter Will be Exploring This Region of Titan

Cassini radar image of the Selk Crater, the landing site for the upcoming Dragonfly mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell

In June 2027, NASA will launch the long-awaited Dragonfly mission toward Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. By 2034, the 450 kg (990-lbs) nuclear-powered quadcopter will touch down at its target landing site (the Selk crater region) and begin searching Titan’s surface and atmosphere to learn more about this curious satellite. In particular, the mission will investigate the moon’s prebiotic chemistry, active methane cycle, and organic environment. These goals underpin Dragonfly’s main objective, which is to search for possible signs of life (aka. “biosignatures”) on Titan.

For years, scientists have speculated if life could exist on Titan since it appears to possess all the necessary ingredients (though not for life as we know it). This curiosity has only deepened since the CassiniHuygens mission, which spent thirteen years exploring Saturn and its system of moons (from 2004 and 2017). Recently, a team of Cornell researchers combined and analyzed radar images taken by Cassini to determine the properties of the surface. The result is a detailed map of the Dragonfly‘s landing site, revealing a landscape of sand dunes and broken-up icy ground.

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Astronomers Simulate the Cat’s Eye Nebula in 3D

In a recent study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, an international team of researchers led by Stanford University have produced the first computer-generated 3D model of the Cat’s Eye Nebula, which unveiled a symmetric pair of rings that enclose the outer shell of the nebula. This study holds the potential for helping us better understanding the nebula’s makeup and how it formed, as the symmetric rings provides clues that they were formed from a precessing jet, which produces strong confirmation that a binary star exists at the nebula’s center.

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Will Titan finally answer, ‘Are we alone?’

We recently examined how and why Jupiter’s moon, Europa, could answer the longstanding question: Are we alone? While this small icy world gives plenty of reasons to believe why we could—and should—find life within its watery depths, it turns out our solar system is home to a myriad of places where we might find life. Much like how the Voyager missions gave us the first hints of an interior ocean swirling beneath Europa’s outer icy shell, it was only fitting that Voyager 1 also gave us the first hints of the potential for life on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, as well.

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China’s Zhurong Rover Looks Deep Underground and Sees Layers From Multiple Floods on Mars

Mars exploration has been ongoing for decades at this point, and some regions of the planet have become more interesting than others. Of particular interest is a basin known as Utopia Planitia. It was the site of the Viking-2 landing, one of the first-ever successful missions to Mars. From data collected during that mission, scientists developed a theory that the crater that formed Utopia might have been the site of an ancient ocean. New results from China’s Zhurong rover point to an even more exciting past – repeated flooding.

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Companies Will Have Five Years to Dispose of Their Dead Satellites

Kessler syndrome seems to be a growing fear for those interested in space exploration. The condition where numerous non-functional pieces of junk block access to orbit appears to be inching closer to reality, spurred on by weekly news reports of dozens of more satellites launching that will eventually become precisely that kind of obsolete space junk. But that won’t happen if the US’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has anything to do with it – a new rule the commission adopted will require companies to deorbit their unused satellites in less than five years after decommissioning.

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Mars Rocks Have the Right raw Ingredients to 3D Print Everything From Tools to Rocket Parts

3D printing will be an absolutely critical technology as space exploration starts to take off. Initially, it will be impossible to individually manufacture every tool needed to create and sustain infrastructure in space. The only option will be to build some of those tools in space itself, in no small part, because it could potentially take months or even years to get to any area where the tools are manufactured. So any tool that can be created in situ is the best option available for early space explorers. Using materials like Martian regolith to 3D print those tools has long been an area of ongoing research. Now a team from Washington State University has successfully printed some tools using simulated Martian regolith, and they seem to work – up to a point.

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