Aquatic Rover Drives on the Underside of the Ice in Antarctica

Not all rovers are designed to roam around on the surface of other worlds like Mars. One rover, at least, is aquatic; a necessary development if we’re going to explore Enceladus, Europa, and the Solar System’s other watery worlds. This rover is called the Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration, or BRUIE.

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Hubble Observes the Most Powerful Gamma Ray Burst Ever Detected

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are one of the most energetic phenomena in the Universe, and also one of the least researched. These explosions of energy occur when a massive star goes supernova and emits twin beams of gamma rays that can be seen billions of light-years away. Because they are closely tied with the formation of black holes, scientists have been eager to study this rare occurrence in greater detail.

Unfortunately, few opportunities for this have occurred since GRBs are very short-lived (lasting for just seconds) and most have happened in distant galaxies. But thanks to the efforts using a suite of telescopes, astronomers were able to spot a GRB (designated GRB 190114C) back in January of 2019. Some of the radiation from this GRB was the highest energy ever observed, making this a milestone in the history of astronomy.

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Starship Mk 1 Blows its Top During Testing

SpaceX has been on a roll lately. With the completion of tethered and untethered flight tests with the Starship Hopper, SpaceX founder Elon Musk unveiled the newly-completed Starship Mk 1 prototype and announced that orbital test flights would commence in a few months. Meanwhile, the Starlink constellation got started with the launch of its first 60 satellites, followed by 60 more upgraded versions.

Unfortunately, there are always some speed bumps along the way. Yesterday, during a cryogenic loading test, the Starship Mk 1 experienced an explosion that sent its top bulkhead flying off and dispersing frozen vapor all over the launch area. However, SpaceX has indicated in an official statement that this setback was not unforeseen and won’t hamper the orbital flight test of the prototype for long.

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Astronomers Finally Find the Neutron Star Leftover from Supernova 1987A

Astronomers at Cardiff University have done something nobody else has been able to do. A team, led by Dr. Phil Cigan from Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, has found the neutron star remnant from the famous supernova SN 1987A. Their evidence ends a 30 year search for the object.

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How Do We Colonize Ceres?

Welcome back to our series on Colonizing the Solar System! Today, we take a look at the largest asteroid/planetoid in the Main Belt – Ceres!

Between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter lies the Solar System’s Main Asteroid Belt. Within this region, it is estimated that there are over 150 million objects that measure 100 meters (330 ft) or more in diameter. The largest of these is the dwarf planet Ceres (aka. 1 Ceres), the only body in the Main Belt that is large enough – 940 km (585 mi) in diameter – to have undergone hydrostatic equilibrium (become spherical).

Because of its important location and the amenities this dwarf planet itself possesses, there are those who have proposed that we establish a colony on Ceres (and even some who’ve explored the idea of terraforming it). This could serve as a base for asteroid mining ventures as well as an outpost of human civilization, one which could facilitate the expansion of humanity farther out into the Solar System.

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Scientists Search for Ancient Fossils in Australia, Practicing the Techniques They’ll Use on Mars

NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover is heading to Mars soon to look for fossils. The ESA/Roscosmos ExoMars rover is heading to Mars in the same time-frame to carry out its own investigations into Martian habitability. To meet their mission objectives, the scientists working the missions will need to look at a lot of rocks and uncover and understand the clues those rocks hold.

To help those scientists prepare for the daunting task of analyzing and understanding Martian rocks from 160 million km (100 million miles) away, they’ve gone on a field trip to Australia to study stromatolites.

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Weekly Space Hangout: November 20, 2019 – Kathryn Bywaters, Research Scientist at the SETI Insitute

Hosts: Fraser Cain (universetoday.com / @fcain)

Dr. Morgan Rehnberg (MorganRehnberg.com / @MorganRehnberg & ChartYourWorld.org)

Beth Johnson (@planetarypan)

Michael Rodruck (@michaelrodruck)

Tonight we are very excited to welcome Dr. Kathryn Bywaters, Research Scientist at the SETI Insitute where she is currently working on the development of life-detection instrumentation for future space exploration. Additionally, she is investigating the nutrient constraints microbes would have on Mars as well as performing experiments in Mars analog environments.

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ESA Astronaut Luca Parmitano will be Controlling a Rover From Space

Update: The Analog-1 experiment was a complete success! Astronaut Parmitano completed all the requirements within the specified time frame (one hour). This test is the first step in validating the teleoperation technology.

NASA has been rather up-front about its desire to send astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars in the coming years. They are joined by multiple space agencies (such as the ESA, Roscosmos, the CNSA and the IRSO) who also wish to conduct their first crewed missions beyond Earth. However, what is often overlooked is the role teleoperated missions will play in the near-future – where humans and robots explore hand-in-hand.

For example, the ESA has embarked upon a series of experiments collectively named Analog-1, where astronauts control robots from space. Yesterday (Nov. 18th), ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano took control of a robot in the Netherlands from the ISS. This experiment and others like it will help prepare astronauts for future missions that will involve the exploration of hazardous or inaccessible off-world environments.

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