China’s Chang’e-5 robotic moon lander is due to spend only two days collecting samples of lunar rock and soil before it sends its shipment on its way back to Earth, but it’s making the most of the time.
Just hours after landing on December 1st, the probe started using its robotic scoop and drill to dig up material at Mons Rümker, a lava dome in a region called Oceanus Procellarum, or the Ocean of Storms.
It’s also been sending back pictures and video, including this stunning view of the final minutes before touchdown. Watch how the camera tips straight down to focus on the target spot for the lander:
Continue reading “Take a Look at What China’s Chang’e-5 Probe Is Seeing (and Doing) on the Moon”
In this decade and the next, humanity is poised to go to space like never before. National space agencies will be sending astronauts back to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era, private launch services will spearhead the commercialization of Low Earth Orbit (LEO), missions to the outer Solar System will search for evidence of extraterrestrial life, and crewed missions to Mars are on the horizon.
In preparation for this, a considerable amount of research is being done aboard the International Space Station (ISS) to determine how extended periods of time in space can affect living beings on the genetic level. In a recent experiment, a team of researchers from the University of Exeter conducted an analysis of worms on the ISS and noted “subtle changes” in their genetic makeup.
Continue reading “Spacefaring Worms Show How Gravity Affects Genes”
Here on Earth, geologists seek out deep channels into Earth’s rock, carved over the ages by flowing water. The exposed rock walls are like a visual timeline of a region’s geological history. On Mars, the surface water is long gone. But it flowed long enough to expose layers of rock just like here on Earth.
One of those water-exposed areas on Mars is Mawrth Vallis, an outflow channel that feeds into the Chryse Basin.
Continue reading “This is Mawrth Vallis on Mars, and it’s Positively Bursting with Evidence of Past Water Action on Mars”
It’s often said that we haven’t yet detected dark matter particles. That isn’t quite true. We haven’t detected the particles that comprise cold dark matter, but we have detected neutrinos. Neutrinos have mass and don’t interact strongly with light, so they are a form of dark matter. While they don’t solve the mystery of dark matter, they do play a role in the shape and evolution of our universe.
Continue reading “Neutrinos Have Played a Huge Role in the Evolution of the Universe”
SpaceX has really hit its stride lately! Throughout the Summer of 2020 and well into the Fall, the company has experienced a string of successes with the construction and testing of its Starship prototypes. This has included multiple cryogenic load tests, static fire tests, test tank pressure tests, and even two 150 m (~500 ft) hop tests. And now, it looks like SpaceX could be making its first high-altitude flight test as early as tomorrow!
This test will see the first Starship prototype with three Raptor engines (SN8) fly to an altitude of 15 km (9.3 mi) before returning home safely. The engineering teams will be using this test to validate the Starship maneuvering fins as well, conducting a “belly-flop” maneuver that will see how the spacecraft’s aerodynamic surfaces allow it to make controlled landings on bodies that have an atmosphere.
Consumption and disintegration.
Next time you want to be the life of the party—if you’re hanging out with cool nerds that is—just drop that phrase into the conversation. And when they look at you quizzically, just say that’s the eventual fate of the Solar System.
Then adjust your cravat and take another sip of your absinthe.
Continue reading “In the Far Future, Stellar Flybys Will Completely Dismantle the Solar System”
Planetary system formation is a process that involves astounding and complex forces. Humans have only just started trying to understand what goes on in this extraordinarily important phase of the development of new worlds. As such, we are continuing to make new discoveries and come up with better models that better fit the observations that our instruments are able to collect.
The most recent of those improved models was announced by a research team at the University of Warwick. A paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters explores possible reasons for why there is a lack of spiral structures in newly formed protoplanetary discs. Their answer is a simple one: massive planets that form on the outside of the disc might be disrupting the spiral formation.
Continue reading “Spiral-shaped Planetary Disks Should Be More Common. Giant Planets Might Be Disrupting Their Formation”
All hands have to be on deck if the world is going to tackle degradation, and one of the biggest emitters is also one of the least well known – international shipping. A 2018 study estimated that pollution emitted from cargo ships resulted in 400,000 annual premature deaths from lung cancer and heart disease. Many of those deaths resulted from the sulfur dioxide the ships were belching into the air. Since the beginning of the year, sulfur dioxide has been capped at .5% of emissions, compared to 3.5% previously. While the long term benefits of that emissions cap will take some time to appear, there’s another pollutant that could potentially be tackled in the near future: nitrogen dioxide.
Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is one of the emissions from diesel engines, and has been strictly capped in the automotive market for a number of years. While the shipping industry so far has escaped regulation, there is a strong possibility that restrictions may be coming in the near future. Regulations in themselves are great, but they are useless if not enforced, and the open ocean is a notoriously difficult place to enforce them. That difficult task might have just gotten easier, as scientists at the European Space Agency realized they can use satellite data they are already collecting to track the nitrogen dioxide emissions of individual ships on the open ocean.
Continue reading “Satellites can see the pollution trails from individual ships”
Early this morning, the 900-ton instrument platform suspended above the Arecibo Observatory collapsed and crashed down on the iconic telescope’s giant dish. The collapse occurred at about 7:55 a.m. local time, officially ending any possible hopes of refurbishing the famous observatory in Puerto Rico.
Images of the collapse and subsequent damage started appearing on social media this morning; the National Science Foundation then confirmed via tweet that indeed the observatory had collapsed. They also said no injuries were reported.
Continue reading “The Arecibo Observatory Platform Has Collapsed”
For the third time in seven years, a Chinese robotic spacecraft has landed on the Moon — but now things will get really interesting: If the Chang’e-5 mission succeeds, the probe will deliver fresh samples from the Moon to Earth for the first time in 44 years.
Chang’e-5’s paired lander and ascent vehicle touched down in a lunar region known as Oceanus Procellarium, near Mons Rümker, at 1513 UTC (11:13 p.m. Beijing time) December 1st. The landing came eight days after the 9-ton spacecraft was launched from Wenchang Space Launch Center, and three days after the craft settled into lunar orbit.
Continue reading “China’s Chang’e-5 Probe Lands on the Moon and Gets Set to Bring Back Fresh Samples”