Since 2012, NASA’s Curiosity rover has been exploring the Gale Crater for clues about Mars’ past and possible evidence that it once supported life. For the past year, this search has centered on the lower levels of Mount Sharp, a transitional zone between a clay-rich region and one filled with sulfates (a type of mineral salt). These regions can offer insight into Mars’ warm, watery past, but the transition zone between them is also of scientific value. In short, the study of this region may provide a record of the major climatic shift that took place billions of years ago on Mars.
For example, this region has unique geological features that include clay minerals that appear as flaky layers of sedimentary rock. One in particular, “The Prow,” was recently imaged by Curiosity and had the mission science teams buzzing. These features formed when water still flowed into the Gale Crater, depositing sediment at the base of Mount Sharp. Higher on the mountain, the hill was likely covered in wind-swept dunes that hardened into rock over time. In between them is where the flaky layers formed, possibly as a result of small ponds or streams that wove them among the dunes.
Continue reading “Amazing Flaky Martian Rocks Were Formed in a Stream or a Small Pond”
Its solar panels are caked with dust and the batteries are running out of juice, but NASA’s InSight Mars lander continues to soldier forth collecting more science about the Red Planet until its very last beep. To conserve energy, InSight was projected to shut down its seismometer—its last operational science instrument—by the end of June, hoping to survive on its remaining power until December. The seismometer has been the key instrument designed to measure marsquakes, which it has been recording since it touched down on Mars in 2018, and recently recorded a 5.0-magnitude quake, the biggest yet.
Continue reading “Despite its draining power, NASA’s InSight Mars lander is determined to squeeze as much science as it can until the very last moment”
There are few things in this world that brings feelings of awe and wonder more than a rocket launch. Watching a literal tower of steel slowly lift off from the ground with unspeakable power reminds us of what humanity can achieve despite our flaws, disagreements, and differences, and for the briefest of moments these magnificent spectacles are capable of bringing us all together regardless of race, creed, and religion.
Continue reading “More Rocket Launches Could Damage the Ozone Layer”
NASA says it’s finished with having to do full-scale dress rehearsals for the first liftoff of its moon-bound Space Launch System rocket. But it’s not finished with having to make fixes.
“At this point we’ve determined that we’ve successfully completed the evaluations and the work that we intended to complete for the dress rehearsal,” Thomas Whitmeyer, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for common exploration systems development, told reporters today.
NASA’s assessment came after a dress rehearsal that reached its climax on June 20 with the loading of the 322-foot-tall rocket’s supercooled propellant tanks. The rehearsal, which followed some less-than-fully-successful trial runs in April, marked a milestone for launch preparations because it was the first time that the team at Kennedy Space Center in Florida had fully loaded all of the tanks and proceeded into the terminal launch countdown.
Continue reading “NASA Says It’s Satisfied With Rehearsal for SLS Moon Rocket Launch”
Remember Mechazilla, that tall launch tower at the SpaceX Starbase in Texas that will stack Starships and “catch” spent Super Heavy boosters? SpaceX began constructing an identical launch tower at Cape Canaveral in Florida, where Starships will also be launching from soon. This tower is taking shape alongside SpaceX’s Launch Complex-39A (LC-39A) facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Once complete, the launch tower will stand about 146 meters (~480 ft) in height, making it the second-tallest space-related structure on the East Coast, second to NASA’s massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).
Continue reading “SpaceX is now Constructing the Starship Launch Tower at Cape Canaveral”
The Orion Nebula is a well-known feature in the night sky and is visible in small backyard telescopes. Orion is a busy place. The region is known for active star formation and other phenomena. It’s one of the most scrutinized features in the sky, and astronomers have observed all kinds of activity there: planets forming in protoplanetary disks, stars beginning their lives of fusion inside collapsing molecular clouds, and the photoevaporative power of massive hot stars as they carve out openings in clouds of interstellar gas.
But supernova explosions are leaving their mark on the Orion Nebula too. New research says supernovae explosions in recent astronomical history are responsible for a mysterious feature first formally identified in the night sky at the end of the 19th century. It’s called Barnard’s Loop, and it’s a gigantic loop of hot gas as large as 300 light-years across.
Continue reading “Recent Supernovae Produced Giant Cavities in the Orion Nebula”
Neutron stars are dense remnants of large stars. They are the collapsed cores of stars formed during a supernova explosion. While we know generally how they form, we are still learning how they evolve, particularly when they are young. But that’s starting to change thanks to large sky surveys, which have allowed astronomers to observe a neutron star that could be little more than a decade old.
Continue reading “Astronomers Find a Brand new Pulsar That's Probably Less Than 14 Years old”
BepiColombo’s stunning close pass by Mercury on Thursday provides a prelude of what’s to come.
Welcome (briefly) to Mercury, with a planetary flyby hinting at more to come. The joint European Space Agency/Japanese Aerospace Agency’s BepiColombo spacecraft treated us to just that on Thursday, June 23rd, passing just 200 kilometers from the surface of the innermost world at 9:44 Universal Time (UT). During that brief encounter, BepiColombo got a brief glimpse of its final destination.
Continue reading “BepiColombo’s Second Mercury Flyby”
Tea is useful for all kinds of things, including caffeinating plenty of writers worldwide. There are also many varieties of it, some of which advocates claim to have superpowers regarding the health benefits they grant. Kombucha is one of those – originally thought to have originated in China, it has become adopted worldwide in no small part because of innumerable, dubious “health benefits” of the drink. But now, scientists did find one potential health benefit, at least to bacteria – eating kombucha culture would help them survive on Mars.
Continue reading “If Bacteria Drink Kombucha, They Stand a Better Chance of Survival on Mars”
It looks like South Korea just joined the most exclusive club on the planet! With the launch of its Korea Satellite Launch Vehicle II (KSLV-II aka. the “Nuri” rocket) on June 21st, the country became the latest nation to demonstrate its ability to build and launch its own rockets to space. This was the Nuri’s second launch attempt, which took place eight months after the first attempt failed to deliver a test satellite to orbit back. This time, the rocket managed to reach space and deliver a payload of satellites, making South Korea the eleventh nation to launch from its soil and the seventh to launch commercial satellites.
Continue reading “South Korea is now a Space-Faring Nation With the Orbital Launch of Their Homegrown Nuri Rocket”