‘I’m Truly Happy’: Japanese Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa Heads for Space Station

Soyuz launch

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has begun his first space adventure — an 11-day visit to the International Space Station that could serve as the warmup for a round-the-moon trip to come.

Maezawa, production assistant Yozo Hirano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin rode a Soyuz capsule from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, with launch coming at 0738 GMT December 8 (12:38 p.m. local time, 2:38 a.m. EST). The trip to the station was due to take just six hours, or four orbits around the planet.

“I feel excited like an elementary student waiting for a school trip,” the 46-year-old entrepreneur and art collector said at a pre-launch news conference. “I want to see the Earth from space, float in zero gravity, and see how I will change through this experience. I was blessed with this opportunity, and I’m truly happy I can go.”

Video of the launch was streamed via NASA TV, Roscosmos’ YouTube channel — and Maezawa’s YouTube channel, which featured excited commentary from observers in a Tokyo studio.

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The Gamow Explorer Would be a new Gamma-ray Observatory to Search for the First Stars in the Universe… as They Explode

Gamma rays are useful for more than just turning unassuming scientists into green-skinned behemoths.  They can also shine a light on the deaths of some of the earliest stars in the universe.  More accurately, they are some of the light caused by the deaths of the earliest stars in the universe.  Now, a team of scientists led by Nicholas White of George Washington University, and formerly of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, has proposed an observatory mission that would scan the sky for evidence of Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and use them to understand the early universe.

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Rocket Lab Shows off its new Reusable Neutron Rocket, due for Launch in 2024

On December 2nd, 2021, the commercial space company Rocket Lab unveiled the detailed architecture of their Neutron rocket for the first time. In a live-streamed event, the company showcased all the new elements that will make this “megaconstellation” launcher a serious contender in the coming years. These include updated details about the rocket’s design, materials, propulsion, and reusability architecture.

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Asteroid Apophis’ 2029 Flyby Will Provide a Bonanza of Asteroid Science

If NASA and other space agencies don’t want us to freak out about asteroids colliding with Earth, why do they give them names like Apophis? It sounds apocalyptic.

Apophis was the ancient Egyptian god of Chaos. He was an evil serpent that dwelled in endless darkness, the enemy of light and truth. So when they informed us that an asteroid named Apophis was due for a close encounter with Earth in 2029, people were understandably anxious. After all, Earth’s previous dominant inhabitants were evicted by an asteroid.

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Maybe “Boson Clouds” Could Explain Dark Matter

The nature of dark matter continues to perplex astronomers. As the search for dark matter particles continues to turn up nothing, it’s tempting to throw out the dark matter model altogether, but indirect evidence for the stuff continues to be strong. So what is it? One team has an idea, and they’ve published the results of their first search.

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Did the Earth’s Water Come From the Sun?

Where did Earth’s water come from? Comets may have brought some of it. Asteroids may have brought some. Icy planetesimals may have played a role by crashing into the young Earth and depositing their water. Hydrogen from inside the Earth may have contributed, too. Another hypothesis states the collision that formed the Moon gave Earth its water.

There’s evidence to back up all of these hypotheses.

But new research suggests that the Sun and its Solar Wind may have helped delivered some water, too.

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Messier 95 – the NGC 3351 Barred Spiral Galaxy

Welcome back to Messier Monday! Today, we continue in our tribute to our dear friend, Tammy Plotner, by looking at the barred spiral galaxy known as Messier 95!

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 Messier 95 (aka. NGC 3351), a barred spiral galaxy located about 33 million light-years away. Measuring over 80,000 light-years, or 24.58 kiloparsecs (kpc) in diameter, this galaxy is one of several that fall into the M96 Group, located in the constellation Leo. This Group consists of between 8 and 24 galaxies in total and three Messier Objects: M95, M96, and M105.

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‘Don’t Look Up’ shines a satirical spotlight on the campaign to counter cosmic threats

Scene from "Don't Look Up" with Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio

The science adviser for “Don’t Look Up,” a star-studded comedy about a killer comet, has some serious advice for dodging a threat from the skies: Take the title of the movie, and do the exact opposite.

“The sensible thing to do about this particular problem is … just go look up and see if it’s out there,” said Amy Mainzer, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. “And do a thorough enough job of it that we have a reasonable chance of spotting something that’s large enough to cause appreciable damage, well before it could make its way here.”

The roughly 5-mile-wide comet that’s heading for Earth in “Don’t Look Up,” with only about six and a half months of advance warning, is totally fictional. Nevertheless, the movie is a teachable moment for the science surrounding asteroids, comets and planetary defense. And Mainzer said the stars of the show, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, were unusually eager students.

“These actors wanted to know everything,” she said. “I would say they’re approaching some pretty solid knowledge of just how do we find asteroids and comets, and what do we do about them.”

Mainzer discusses what’s going on with the search for potentially threatening near-Earth objects, as well as her experience as a science adviser for “Don’t Look Up,” in the latest episode of the Fiction Science podcast, coming to you from the place where science and technology intersect with fiction and popular culture.

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Colliding Gases at the Heart of the Running Man Nebula

Behold, the Herbig-Haro object known as HH45, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST)! These objects are a rarely seen type of nebula made up of luminous clouds of dust and gas. These occur when newborn stars form within a nebula and eject hot gas, colliding with the surrounding gas and dust. The result is bright shock waves that look like mounded, luminous clouds in space!

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