January 31, 2021, will mark 50 years since the launch of Apollo 14. This historic mission was the first to broadcast a color television signal from the surface of the Moon and marked the heroic return to space of America’s first astronaut, Alan Shepard, who famously hit two golf balls off of the lunar regolith. While the significance of Apollo 14 and the Apollo program, in general, can’t be overstated, Shepard spent a mere two days on the lunar surface. The record for the longest human presence on the Moon, held by Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, is just over three days. All of the Apollo astronauts were exposed to high levels of radiation on the surface of the Moon but with such relatively short stays, the risk was considered to be acceptable.Continue reading “You’ll Experience 200 Times More Radiation Standing on the Moon than Standing on the Earth”
It looks like Russia is thumbing its nose at international cooperation on the Moon. They’ve refused to sign the Artemis Accords, which are a set of rules governing Lunar exploration. NASA and seven other countries have signed on already, with more to come.Continue reading “NASA and Seven Countries Sign the Artemis Accords for the Exploration of the Moon. Russia Declined to Participate”
Starting in late 2019, Betelgeuse began drawing a lot of attention after it mysteriously started dimming, only to brighten again a few months later. For a variable star like Betelgeuse, periodic dimming and brightening are normal, but the extent of its fluctuation led to all sorts of theories as to what might be causing it. Similar to Tabby’s Star in 2015, astronomers offered up the usual suspects (minus the alien megastructure theory!)
Whereas some thought that the dimming was a prelude to the star becoming a Type II supernova, others suggested that dust clouds, enormous sunspots, or ejected clouds of gas were the culprit. In any case, the “Great Dimming of Betelgeuse” has motivated an international team of astronomers to propose that a “Betelgeuse Scope” be created that cant monitor the star constantly.Continue reading “What’s Happening with Betelgeuse? Astronomers Propose a Specialized Telescope to Watch the Star Every Night”
The dwarf galaxy known as Dragonfly 44 caused a stir recently: apparently it had way, way more dark matter than any other galaxy. Since this couldn’t be explained by our models of galaxy formation, it seemed like an oddball. But a new analysis reveals that Dragonfly 44 has much less dark matter than previously thought. In short: it’s totally normal.Continue reading “The galaxy with 99.99% dark matter isn’t so mysterious any more”
In four years, NASA plans to return astronauts to the Moon as part of Project Artemis. To ensure the success of this endeavor, as well as the creation of a program of sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade, NASA has partnered with multiple entities in the commercial space sector. Recently, they announced that contracts will be awarded to 14 additional companies to develop a range of proposed technologies.
These proposals are part of NASA’s fifth competitive Tipping Point solicitation, one of many private-public partnership programs overseen by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). For this latest solicitation, Tipping Point is awarding contracts with a combined value of over $370 million for technology demonstrations that will facilitate future lunar missions and commercial space capabilities.Continue reading “NASA Announces 14 New “Tipping Point” Technologies for its Lunar Exploration”
Unless Einstein is wrong, a black hole is defined by three properties: mass, spin, and electric charge. The charge of a black hole should be nearly zero since the matter captured by a black hole is electrically neutral. The mass of a black hole determines the size of its event horizon, and can be measured in several ways, from the brightness of the material around it to the orbital motion of nearby stars. The spin of a black hole is much more difficult to study.Continue reading “We actually don’t know how fast the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole is spinning but there might be a way to find out”
A new study found that warmer ocean temperatures driven by climate change have caused Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to lose more than half of its corals since 1995. The researchers say virtually all coral populations along the Great Barrier Reef have declined due to repeated “bleaching events” in the past 25 years. They said the devastation of the coral will continue unless action is taken to mitigate the causes of a warming climate.Continue reading “Great Barrier Reef Has Lost Half of its Coral Over the Last 25 Years”
Fusion power is the technology that is thirty years away, and always will be – according to skeptics at least. Despite its difficult transition into a reliable power source, the nuclear reactions that power the sun have a wide variety of uses in other fields. The most obvious is in weapons, where hydrogen bombs are to this day the most powerful weapons we have ever produced. But there’s another use case that is much less destructive and could prove much more interesting – space drives.Continue reading “Impatient? A Spacecraft Could Get to Titan in Only 2 Years Using a Direct Fusion Drive”
It’s been a long road for InSight’s Mole. InSight landed on Mars almost two years ago, in November 2018. While the lander’s other instruments are working fine and returning scientific data, the Mole has been struggling to hammer its way into the surface of the planet.
After much hard work and a lot of patience, the Mole has finally succeeded in burying itself all the way into the Marian regolith.
But the drama hasn’t concluded yet.Continue reading “InSight’s ‘Mole’ is Now Completely buried!”
There are instances other than pandemics when it is necessary to work remotely. Spacecraft operators are forced to do most of their work remotely while their charges travel throughout the solar system. Sometimes those travels take place a little closer to home. Engineers at DLR, Germany’s space agency, recently got to take the concept of remote working to a whole new level when they operated a rover in a whole different country almost 700 kilometers away while working remotely from their primary office.Continue reading “Operating a Rover in Real-time From a Distance”