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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If There are Water Plumes on Europa, Here’s how Europa Clipper Will Study Them

NASA’s Europa Clipper is one of the most anticipated missions of the coming decade, in large part because its target, the large Jovian moon Europa, is considered one of the most likely places in our solar system that extraterrestrial life might exist. If Europa is harboring alien microbes, however, they’re likely to be buried deep beneath the moon’s thick icy crust in a vast subsurface ocean. Unlocking the secrets of this water world isn’t going to be easy, but the Clipper team has a plan to make the most of the opportunity they have: If you can’t get to the ocean, let the ocean come to you.

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Alan Shepard’s Daughter Will be Flying on the Next New Shepard Flight

Jeff Bezos has hit a particular stride lately with Blue Origin, the commercial space company he founded in 2000 in the hopes of “building a road to space.” For the sake of fostering interest in the space tourism industry, testing their reusable launch vehicle, and growing his company’s brand, he’s conducting recurring launches with the New Shepard featuring high-profile clientele. At the same time, he aims to make each new launch a record-setting event.

On Nov. 23rd, Blue Origin announced the names of the six people who would fly aboard the New Shepard launch vehicle on its nineteenth flight (NS-19), scheduled for Dec. 9th. Among them is Laura Shepard Churchley, the eldest daughter of astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American astronaut to go to space, the fifth man to walk on the Moon, and for whom the New Shepard launch vehicle is named.

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NASA Plans to Retire the Space Station in 2030 and Replace it with Commercially Owned “Destinations” in Low Earth Orbit

While it may seem like the International Space Station is just now fully hitting its stride as far as scientific output and the ability for crew rotations from several different spacecraft, the ISS has been operating with astronauts on board for over 21 years. Knowing the modules and entire physical structure cannot endure the long-term effects of the harsh space environment forever, NASA’s Office of the Inspector General has issued a new report outlining the agency’s plans to keep the space station in orbit until 2030, and to replace it with one or more commercial space stations.

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An Upcoming Asteroid Mission Will be Able to Peer 100 Meters Under the Surface

Engineers only get one shot at making a spacecraft work as intended.  Or at least they only get one shot in space.  In the preparation leading up to that final, climactic moment, there are typically thousands of hours of tests run on numerous systems and subsystems.  If all goes well, it bodes well for the mission’s overall success, but if problems arise, it’s much easier to address them on the ground than while a spacecraft is already orbiting.  A model of a new spacecraft known as Juventas just completed a significant testing milestone – passing testing in a room known as an anechoic chamber.  

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Our Guide to the Only Total Solar Eclipse of 2021

During this weekend’s total solar eclipse, the shadow of the Moon graces the Earth one last time for the year.

Saturday’s total solar eclipse literally spans the ends of the Earth.

The final eclipse for 2021 and the only total solar eclipse of the year occurs on Saturday, December 4th, as the Moon’s shadow sweeps across a remote segment of the Antarctic continent.

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