Meteorites Hold Early Atmospheres From Across the Solar System

Since they were formed in the early solar system, many meteorites offer an unadulterated view into what that solar system was made out of, or what happened to it as we reported before.  Recently a team of researchers led by Maggie Thompson at University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) took a look at the chemical composition of three different chondritic meteorites, which have largely been untouched since before the planets were formed.  Their composition was different than current models predicted, and could lead to a better understanding of early planetary atmospheres.

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NASA Picks SpaceX to Land Astronauts on the Moon!

As part of the Artemis program, NASA is gearing up to send the “first woman and next man” to the Moon by 2024. Central to this is the development of the Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V that took the Apollo astronauts to the Moon, and the Orion spacecraft. But after these elements transport astronauts to Lunar orbit, they will need a lander to take them to and from the surface.

For this reason, NASA contracted a number of commercial partners to develop a Human Landing System (HLS). After much consideration, NASA announced on Friday, April 16th, that they had selected SpaceX to continue developing their concept for a lunar lander. When American astronauts return to the Moon for the first time in fifty-two years, it will be a modified version of the Starship that will bring them there.

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This Is a Collapsed Pit on Mars, Not a Pimple

Mars has been in the news a lot lately, and for good reason. With the historic landing of the Perseverance Rover earlier in the year, and the successful flight of Ingenuity, the first-ever aircraft to fly in another atmosphere, earlier this morning (April 19, 2021), there’s no shortage of exciting stories of technical brilliance from the human-built wonders exploring the red planet. High above the plucky helicopter, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) surveys the Martian landscape on a grand scale. A brain-bending image released by High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), a powerful camera aboard MRO, shows a sunken pit in the planet’s polar region. From the high-altitude perspective of the orbiter, it’s easy for the mind to warp the concave depression into a convex, acne-esque Martian polar zit!

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“You Wouldn’t Believe What I Just Saw:” Ingenuity Helicopter Flies Successfully on Mars

NASA pulled off a Wright Brothers moment on Mars early today by successfully flying the tiny Ingenuity helicopter for approximately 40 seconds.

“We can now say that human beings have flown a rotorcraft on another planet,” said MiMi Aung, Ingenuity’s lead engineer, speaking to her colleagues gathered at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California to execute and monitor the flight.

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How Does Water go From Interstellar Clouds to Habitable Worlds?

Water moves.  On Earth, it moves in the form of rivers, rain, or ocean swells.  In space, its movements are more subtle but no less more important, and so far we understand very little about that process.  Luckily, we had a tool to help us try to understand it better – the Hershel Space Observatory.  Though it has been out of commission for over 8 years, a team of scientists have now compiled all a review of all of the papers using Hershel data to track water from its birth in interstellar clouds to its eventual resting place on planets. There are still some gaps, but it’s a worthy step towards a better understanding.

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Fermilab’s Muon g-2 Experiment Finally Gives Particle Physicists a Hint of What Lies Beyond the Standard Model

Since the long-awaited detection of the Higgs Boson in 2012, particle physicists have been probing deeper into the subatomic realm in the hope of investigating beyond the Standard Model of Particle Physics. In so doing, they hope to confirm the existence of previously unknown particles and the existence of exotic physics, as well as learning more about how the Universe began.

At the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (aka. Fermilab), researchers have been conducting the Muon g-2 experiment, which recently announced the results of their first run. Thanks to the unprecedented precision of their instruments, the Fermilab team found that muons in their experiment did not behave in a way that is consistent with the Standard Model, resolving a discrepancy that has existed for decades.

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SpaceX has Given up Trying to Catch Rocket Fairings. Fishing Them out of the Ocean is Fine

If there is one driving force in the commercial space industry it is economics.  The whole concept of reusable booster rocket emphasizes the importance of getting launch costs down.  SpaceX, the company leading the charge in trying to bring launch costs down, doesn’t just recover booster rockets however.  It also recovers the rocket fairings that hold the payload during launch.  SpaceX’s original plan was to capture the fairings as they fell back to Earth using specially equipped ships with nets to catch them before they landed in the ocean.  Now, however, the company has transitioned to simply fishing fairings out of the ocean after they splash down, and that seems to be working just fine.

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When Stars Get Too Close to Each Other, They Cast Out Interstellar Comets and Asteroids

In October 2017, humanity caught its first-ever glimpse of an interstellar object – a visitor from beyond our solar system – passing nearby the Sun. We named it Oumuamua, and its unusual properties fascinated and confounded astronomers. Less than two years later, amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov found a second interstellar object: a comet-like body that began to disintegrate as it passed within 2 AU of the Sun (1 AU equals the distance from Earth to the Sun). Where do these interstellar objects come from? How common are they? With a sample size of just two, it’s difficult to make any generalizations just yet. On the other hand, given what we know about star formation, we can begin to make some inferences about the likely origins of these objects, and what we are likely to see of them in the future.

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You Thought Black Hole Event Horizons Looked Strange. Check out Binary Black Hole Event Horizons

One of the strangest predictions of general relativity is that gravity can deflect the path of light. The effect was first observed by Arthur Eddington in 1919. While the bending effect of the Sun is small, near a black hole light deflection can be significant. So significant that you need a powerful supercomputer to calculate how light will behave.

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