Planetary Society’s Light Sail 2 is Set to Launch on a Falcon Heavy Rocket Next Month

The Planetary Society is going to launch their LightSail 2 CubeSat next month. LightSail 2 is a test mission designed to study the feasibility of using sunlight for propulsion. The small satellite will use the pressure of sunlight on its solar sails to propel its way to a higher orbit.

Continue reading “Planetary Society’s Light Sail 2 is Set to Launch on a Falcon Heavy Rocket Next Month”

Interview with Dennis E. Taylor, Author of the Bobiverse Trilogy

This week I had a fantastic opportunity to interview one of my favorite authors, Dennis E. Taylor, the author of We Are Legion (We Are Bob), and the rest of the Bobiverse Trilogy.

We had a great conversation about the challenges in writing science fiction during a time when science has come so far, what writing routines he does to stay productive, and of course, when will there be more Bobiverse books.

Dennis’ newest book is called Outland, and it’s the first part in a two-part series about a group of students trying to prevent the destruction from the Yellowstone supervolcano eruption.

You can listen to the book on Audible.

Chang’e-4 Lander and its Rover Have Turned up new Mysteries on the Moon’s far side. The Moon’s Mantle Blasted Onto the Surface?

On January 3rd, 2019, the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) successfully landed their Chang’e-4 mission on the far side of the Moon. This mission represents a major milestone for China, being the fourth lander-rover mission to be sent to the Moon, and the first mission in history to land on the “dark side of the Moon”. And what it manages to uncover there is sure to excite and inspire scientists for many years to come.

For example, the mission’s Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2) rover made an impressive find that may confirm a theory about lunar impacts. After collecting spectral data from the moon’s largest crater (the South Pole-Aitken Basin) the Chang’e-4 mission team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) concluded that the impact that created the Basin turned up material from deep within the Moon’s mantle. This finding could offer new insight into how the Moon evolved over the course of billions of years.

Continue reading “Chang’e-4 Lander and its Rover Have Turned up new Mysteries on the Moon’s far side. The Moon’s Mantle Blasted Onto the Surface?”

Mars Odyssey Reveals Phobos Using THEMIS

Phobos THEMIS

Welcome to the moons of Mars, as you’ve never seen them.

NASA’s aging 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter recently snapped some unique views of the twin moons Phobos and Deimos, in an effort to better understand their texture and surface composition. The images are courtesy of the spacecraft’s THEMIS (the Thermal Emission Imaging System) heat sensitive instrument, and show the thermal gradient across the surface of the moons in color. Odyssey has been studying the moons of Mars since September 2017. The recent images of Phobos taken on April 24, 2019 are especially intriguing, as they occurred during full illumination phase.

Continue reading “Mars Odyssey Reveals Phobos Using THEMIS”

Messier 86 – the NGC 4406 Elliptical Galaxy

Welcome back to Messier Monday! Today, we continue in our tribute to our dear friend, Tammy Plotner, by looking at the elliptical (lenticular) galaxy known as Messier 86!

During the 18th century, famed French astronomer Charles Messier noticed the presence of several “nebulous objects”  while surveying the night sky. Originally mistaking these objects for comets, he began to catalog them so that others would not make the same mistake. Today, the resulting list (known as the Messier Catalog) includes over 100 objects and is one of the most influential catalogs of Deep Space Objects.

One of these objects is the elliptical (lenticular) galaxy known as Messier 86. Located in the southern constellation Virgo, roughly 52 million light years from Earth, this galaxy is another member of the Virgo Cluster – the closest large galaxy cluster to the Milky Way. Because of its distance and proximity to other bright galaxies, this galaxy can only be seen with a telescope, or as a faint patch with binoculars when viewing conditions are sufficient.

Continue reading “Messier 86 – the NGC 4406 Elliptical Galaxy”

Most of the Solar System Should be a Protected Wilderness. One-Eighth Left for Mining and Resource Exploitation

There is no doubt that our world is in the midst of a climate crisis. Between increasing levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, rising temperatures and sea levels, ocean acidification, species extinctions, waste production, diminishing supplies of fresh water, drought, severe weather, and all of the resulting fallout, the “Anthropocene” is not shaping up too well.

It is little wonder then why luminaries like Stephen Hawking, Buzz Aldrin, and Elon Musk believe that we must look off-world to ensure our survival. However, there are those who caution that in so doing, humans will simply shift our burdens onto new locations. Addressing this possibility, two distinguished researchers recently published a paper where they suggest that we should set aside “wilderness” spaces” in our Solar System today.

Continue reading “Most of the Solar System Should be a Protected Wilderness. One-Eighth Left for Mining and Resource Exploitation”

Can You Spot a Planetary Nebula from a Few Blurry Pixels? Astronomers Can – Here’s How

A planetary nebula is one of the most beautiful objects in the universe. Formed from the decaying remnants of a mid-sized star like a sun, no two are alike. Cosmically ephemeral, they last for only about 10,000 years – a blink of a cosmic eye. And yet they are vitally important, as their processed elements spread and intermingle with the interstellar medium in preparation for forming a new generation of stars. So studying them is important for understanding stellar evolution. But unlike their stellar brethren, since no two are alike, it’s hard to efficiently pick them out of astronomical deep-sky surveys. Thankfully, a research team has recently developed a method for doing just that, and their work could open up the door to fully understanding the great circle of stellar life.

Continue reading “Can You Spot a Planetary Nebula from a Few Blurry Pixels? Astronomers Can – Here’s How”

Advanced Civilizations Could be Communicating with Neutrino Beams. Transmitted by Clouds of Satellites Around Neutron Stars or Black Holes

In 1960, famed theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson made a radical proposal. In a paper titled “Search for Artificial Stellar Sources of Infrared Radiation” he suggested that advanced extra-terrestrial intelligences (ETIs) could be found by looking for signs of artificial structures so large, they encompassed entire star systems (aka. megastructures). Since then, many scientists have come up with their own ideas for possible megastructures.

Like Dyson’s proposed Sphere, these ideas were suggested as a way of giving scientists engaged in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) something to look for. Adding to this fascinating field, Dr. Albert Jackson of the Houston-based technology company Triton Systems recently released a study where he proposed how an advanced ETI could use rely on a neutron star or black hole to focus neutrino beams to create a beacon.

Continue reading “Advanced Civilizations Could be Communicating with Neutrino Beams. Transmitted by Clouds of Satellites Around Neutron Stars or Black Holes”

Small, Tough Planets can Survive the Death of Their Star

Sad fact of the Universe is that all stars will die, eventually. And when they do, what happens to their babies? Usually, the prognosis for the planets around a dying star is not good, but a new study says some might in fact survive.

A group of astronomers have taken a closer look at what happens when stars, like our Sun for instance, become white dwarfs late in their lives. As it turns out, denser planets like Earth might survive the event. But, only if they’re the right distance away.

Continue reading “Small, Tough Planets can Survive the Death of Their Star”