The “Doorway on Mars” is More Like a Dog Door

Mars Curiosity rover took a panorama of this rock cliff during its trip across Mount Sharp on Mars. Circled is the location of a so-called "doorway on Mars." Courtesy NASA/JPL/Mars Curiosity team.
Mars Curiosity rover took a panorama of this rock cliff during its trip across Mount Sharp on Mars. Circled is the location of a so-called “doorway on Mars.” Courtesy NASA/JPL/Mars Curiosity team.

Remember all the fuss about the “doorway on Mars” from just last week? Well, this week, NASA issued some more information about the rock mound where the Curiosity rover snapped a pic showing a fracture hole in the rock. It looks like a door, but it’s not.

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Thanks to Gaia, Astronomers are Able to Map Out Nebulae in 3D

In this image of nebulae in the Orion Molecular Complex, the submillimetre-wavelength glow of dust clouds is overlaid on a view of the region in the more familiar visible light, from the Digitized Sky Survey 2. The large orange bar extended down to the lower left is the Orion A portion of the Complex. The large bright cloud in the upper right of the image is the well-known Orion Nebula, also called Messier 42.  (Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2.) Now astronomers have a new tool to understand nebulae like this one: 3D mapping using Gaia data.
In this 2D image of nebulae in the Orion Molecular Complex, the submillimetre-wavelength glow of dust clouds is overlaid on a visible-light view of the region. The large orange bar extended down to the lower left is the Orion A portion of the Complex. The large bright cloud in the upper right is the well-known Orion Nebula, also called Messier 42. (Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2.) Now astronomers have a new tool to understand nebulae like this one: 3D mapping using Gaia data.

Ever wonder what it would be like to fly through the Orion Nebula with all its newborn stars? Or buzz through the California Nebula? Of course, we’ve seen simulated “fly-throughs” of nebulae in sci-fi TV and movies and on planetarium domes. But, what if we had a warp-speed spaceship and could chart a path through the real thing? The first thing we’d need is accurate data about that region of space. That’s where a 3D model with precise distance measurements to stars and other objects would come in really handy.

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Forget About Mars, When Will Humans be Flying to Saturn?

It might be hard to fathom now, but the human exploration of the solar system isn’t going to stop at the Moon and Mars. Eventually, our descendants will spread throughout the solar system – for those interested in space exploration, the question is only of when rather than if. Answering that question is the focus of a new paper released on arXiv by a group of researchers from the US, China, and the Netherlands. Their approach is highly theoretical, but it is likely more accurate than previous estimates, and it gives a reasonable idea of when we could expect to see humans in the outer solar system. The latest they think we could reach the Saturnian system is 2153.

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The Closeby Habitable Exoplanet Survey (CHES) Could Detect Exoplanets Within a few Dozen Light-Years of Earth Using Astrometry

As of this article’s writing, NASA has indicated that 5,030 extrasolar planets have been confirmed in 3,772 systems, with another 8,974 candidates awaiting confirmation. With next-generation instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) coming online, the number and diversity of confirmed exoplanets are expected to grow exponentially. In particular, astronomers anticipate that the number of known terrestrial planets and Super-Earths will drastically increase.

In the coming years, the opportunities for exoplanet studies will increase considerably as thousands more are discovered using various methods. In a recent study, a team led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) described a new space-telescope concept known as the Closeby Habitable Exoplanet Survey (CHES). This proposed observatory will search for Earth-like planets in the habitable zones (HZs) of Sun-like stars within approximately 33 light-years (10 parsecs) using a method known as micro-arcsecond relative astrometry.

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Dust Storms on Mars Happen When the Planet Can’t Release its Heat Fast Enough

Mars is well-known for its seasonal dust storms, which can sometimes grow to encompass the entire planet. In June 2018, the dust storms became so severe that they obscured most of the planet’s surface, causing NASA to lose contact with Opportunity, which eventually proved fatal to the record-breaking rover. Understanding these storms and what causes them is critical to ensuring that solar-powered robotic missions continue to operate and future crewed missions can remain safe.

Specifically, scientists are looking for seasonal changes (i.e., changes in absorbed solar energy and temperature increases) that trigger dust storms and cause them to combine and grow. In a recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Houston, they could result from seasonal energy imbalances in the amount of solar energy absorbed and released by the planet. These findings could lead to a new understanding of the Red Planet’s climate and atmosphere.

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Spinlaunch Hurled a Test Rocket Into the air. See What it Looked Like From the Payload’s Point of View

Can watching a video give you motion sickness?  If so, a commercial launch company called SpinLaunch just released a video that is sure to. The video is from the first camera ever attached to one of the company’s test payloads, and boy is it spectacular, though it might indeed be nausea-inducing in some people.

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Is This the Future of the Milky Way?

The central region of the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 474. It's set against a backdrop of more distant galaxies. Will the Milky Way resemble this galaxy in the distant future? This image was taken using the Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys, and includes data from the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 3. (Courtesy NASA/STScI.)
The central region of the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 474. It’s set against a backdrop of more distant galaxies. Will the Milky Way resemble this galaxy in the distant future? This image was taken using the Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys, and includes data from the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 3. (Courtesy NASA/STScI.)

Take a good look at the latest image provided by the Hubble Space Telescope. It shows a huge elliptical galaxy called NGC 474 that lies about 100 million light-years away from us. At about two and a half times larger than our Milky Way Galaxy, it’s really a behemoth. Notice its strange structure—mostly featureless and nearly round, but with layered shells wrapped around the central core. Astronomers want to know what caused these shells. The answer might be in what this galaxy represents: a vision of the future Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy.

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Plants can grow in lunar regolith, but they’re not happy about it

NASA is sending astronauts back to the Moon by the end of this decade, and hope to send humans to Mars sometime in the 2030s. Growing food in space using in-situ resources is vital if astronauts are to survive on both the Moon and Mars for the long-term. Growing plants in space using Earth soil is nothing new, as this research is currently ongoing onboard the International Space Station (ISS). But recent research carried out on Earth has taken crucial steps in being able to grow food in space using extraterrestrial material that we took from the Moon over 50 years ago.

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The Lunar Eclipse, Seen From the International Space Station

If you were able to witness the lunar eclipse on May 15-16, 2022, the view of the dark red Moon was stunning. But what would such an eclipse look like from space?

Wonder no longer. ESA/Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti captured a series of photos of the lunar eclipse from her unique vantage point aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

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May 31st Could Be the Most Powerful Meteor Storm in Generations, or Nothing at All

Geminids

Be sure to watch the skies on the last morning of May, for a possible Tau Herculid meteor outburst.

If predictions hold true, we may be in for a rare meteor outburst from an obscure meteor shower on May 31st topping a thousand meteors per hour… or we may see nothing at all. Welcome to the wonderful world of meteor shower predictions and prognostications.

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