Curiosity Rover is Climbing Through Dramatic Striped Terrain on Mars

HiRISE spots Curiosity driving toward upper Gediz Vallis. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
HiRISE spots Curiosity driving toward upper Gediz Vallis. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Just about every day we here on Earth get a breathtaking picture of Mars’s terrain sent back by a rover. But, the view from space can be pretty amazing, too. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) just sent back a thought-provoking picture of Curiosity as it makes its way up a steep ridge on Mount Sharp.

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A Giant Gamma-Ray Bubble is a Source of Extreme Cosmic Rays

An artist's depiction of a gamma-ray burst's relativistic jet full of very-high-energy photons breaking out of a collapsing star. Credit: DESY, Science Communication Lab

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are one of the most powerful phenomena in the Universe and something that astronomers have been studying furiously to learn more about their origins. In recent years, astronomers have set new records for the most powerful GRB ever observed – this includes GRB 190114C, observed by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2019, and GRB 221009A, detected by the Gemini South telescope in 2022. The same is true for high-energy cosmic rays that originate from within the Milky Way, whose origins are still not fully understood.

In a recent study, members of China’s Large High Altitude Air Shower Observatory (LHAASO) Collaboration discovered a massive gamma-ray burst (designated GRB 221009A) in the Cygnus star-forming region that was more powerful than 10 peta-electronvolts (PeV, 1PeV=1015eV), over ten times the average. In addition to being the brightest GRB studied to date, the team was able to precisely measure the energy spectrum of the burst, making this the first time astronomers have traced cosmic rays with this energy level back to their source.

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New Study Addresses how Lunar Missions will Kick up Moondust.

Buzz Aldrin (left) and his Aldrin’s bootprint in the lunar regolith (right). Credit: NASA

Before the end of this decade, NASA plans to return astronauts to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era. But this time, through the Artemis Program, it won’t be a “footprints and flags” affair. With other space agencies and commercial partners, the long-term aim is to create the infrastructure that will allow for a “sustained program of lunar exploration and development.” If all goes according to plan, multiple space agencies will have established bases around the South Pole-Aitken Basin, which will pave the way for lunar industries and tourism.

For humans to live, work, and conduct various activities on the Moon, strategies are needed to deal with all the hazards – not the least of which is lunar regolith (or “moondust”). As the Apollo astronauts learned, moondust is jagged, sticks to everything, and can cause significant wear on astronaut suits, equipment, vehicles, and health. In a new study by a team of Texas A&M engineers, regolith also poses a collision hazard when kicked up by rocket plumes. Given the many spacecraft and landers that will be delivering crews and cargo to the Moon in the near future, this is one hazard that merits close attention!

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How Warm Are the Oceans on the Icy Moons? The Ice Thickness Provides a Clue.

Jupiter's moon Ganymede is the largest moon in the Solar System and may have an ocean sandwiched between two layers of ice. But how warm is that ocean? Image Credit: By National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8070396

Scientists are discovering that more and more Solar System objects have warm oceans under icy shells. The moons Enceladus and Europa are the two most well-known, and others like Ganymede and Callisto probably have them too. Even the dwarf planet Ceres might have an ocean. But can any of them support life? That partly depends on the water temperature, which strongly influences the chemistry.

We’re likely to visit Europa in the coming years and find out for ourselves how warm its ocean is. Others on the list we may never visit. But we may not have to.

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NASA Tests the New Starship Docking System

SpaceX and NASA recently performed full-scale qualification testing of the docking system that will connect SpaceX’s Starship Human Landing System (HLS) with Orion and later Gateway in lunar orbit during future crewed Artemis missions. Based on the flight-proven Dragon 2 active docking system, the Starship HLS docking system will be able to act as an active or passive system during docking. Image Credit: SpaceX

The Apollo Program delivered 12 American astronauts to the surface of the Moon. But that program ended in 1972, and since then, no human beings have visited. But Artemis will change that. And instead of just visiting the Moon, Artemis’ aim is to establish a longer-term presence on the Moon. That requires more complexity than Apollo did. Astronauts will need to transfer between vehicles.

All of that activity requires a reliable spacecraft docking system.

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China Has Built a Huge Space Simulation Chamber

China's first "ground space station," the home-grown Space Environment Simulation and Research Infrastructure, passed its acceptance review on Tuesday in Harbin, the capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang province. [File photo/Xinhua]

Well it certainly caught my attention when I saw the headlines  “China’s first Space Environment Simulator” sounds like something right out of an adventure holiday. Whilst you can’t buy tickets to ‘have a go’ it’s actually for China to test spacecraft before launching them into the harsh environments of space. It allows researchers to simulate nine environmental factors; vacuum, high and low temperature, charged particles, electromagnetic radiation, space dust, plasma, weak magnetic field, neutral gasses and microgravity – and it even looks futuristic too!

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The International Space Station’s Air Leaks are Increasing. No Danger to the Crew

International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Only the other week I had to fix my leaky tap. That was a nightmare.  I cannot begin to imagine how you deal with a leaky spacecraft! In August 2020 Russia announced that their Zvezda module had an air leak. An attempt was make to fix it but in November 2021 another leak was found. Earlier this week, Russia announced the segment is continuing to leak but the crew are in no danger. 

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Planetary Atmospheres: Why study them? What can they teach us about finding life beyond Earth?

Image of the faint, nitrogen atmosphere of the dwarf planet, Pluto, obtained by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. (Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Universe Today has surveyed the importance of studying impact craters, planetary surfaces, exoplanets, astrobiology, solar physics, and comets, and what these fantastic scientific fields can teach researchers and space fans regarding the search for life beyond Earth. Here, we will discuss how planetary atmospheres play a key role in better understanding our solar system and beyond, including why researchers study planetary atmospheres, the benefits and challenges, what planetary atmospheres can teach us about finding life beyond Earth, and how upcoming students can pursue studying planetary atmospheres. So, why is it so important to study planetary atmospheres?

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How Startups on Earth Could Blaze a Trail for Cities on Mars

Illustration: 3D-printed habitats on Mars
An artist's conception shows 3D-printed habitats in a Mars settlement. (Credit: Team SEArch+/Apis Cor via NASA)

If future explorers manage to set up communities on Mars, how will they pay their way? What’s likely to be the Red Planet’s primary export? Will it be Martian deuterium, sent back to Earth for fusion fuel? Raw materials harvested by Mars-based asteroid miners, as depicted in the “For All Mankind” TV series? Or will future Martians be totally dependent on earthly subsidies?

In a new book titled “The New World on Mars,” Robert Zubrin — the president of the Mars Society and a tireless advocate for space settlement — says Mars’ most valuable product will be inventions.

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This Planet-Forming Disk has More Water Than Earth’s Oceans

Astronomers have found water vapour in a disc around a young star exactly where planets may be forming. In this image, the new observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) show the water vapour in shades of blue. Image Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/S. Facchini et al.

Astronomers have detected a large amount of water vapour in the protoplanetary disk around a young star. There’s at least three times as much water among the dust as there is in all of Earth’s oceans combined. And it’s not spread throughout the disk; it’s concentrated in the inner disk region.

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