For decades, astronomers have said that one of the most optimal places to build large telescopes is on the surface of the Moon. The Moon has several advantages over Earth- and space-based telescopes that make it worth considering as a future home for giant observatories. A new paper lists all the advantages, including how telescopes on the lunar surface wouldn’t be blocked by an atmosphere or impacted by wind, and how the low gravity would allow gigantic structures to be built that could be upgraded over time by astronauts.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is just over 8.8 billion km away, exploring the Kuiper Belt. This icy belt surrounds the Sun but it seems to have a surprise up its sleeve. It was expected that New Horizons would be leaving the region by now but it seems that it has detected elevated levels of dust that are thought to be from micrometeorite impacts within the belt. It suggests perhaps that the Kuiper Belt may stretch further from the Sun than we thought!
Planet-forming disks are places of chaotic activity. Not only do planetesimals slam together to form larger worlds, but it now appears that the process involves the destructive recycling of water within a disk. That’s the conclusion from scientists studying JWST data from a planetary birth crèche called d203-506 in the Orion Nebula.
What are the atmospheric compositions of cold brown dwarf stars? This is what a recent study published in The Astronomical Journal hopes to address as an international team of researchers used NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to investigate the coldest known brown dwarf star, WISE J085510.83?071442.5 (WISE 0855). This study holds the potential to help astronomers better understand the compositions of brown dwarf stars, which are also known as “failed stars” since while they form like other stars, they fail to reach the necessary mass to produce nuclear fusion. So, what was the motivation behind using JWST to examine the coldest known brown dwarf star?
Life on our planet appeared early in Earth’s history. Surprisingly early, since in its early youth our planet didn’t have much of the chemical ingredients necessary for life to evolve. Since prebiotic chemicals such as sugars and amino acids are known to appear in asteroids and comets, one idea is that Earth was seeded with the building blocks of life by early cometary and asteroid impacts. While this likely played a role, a new study shows that cosmic dust also seeded young Earth, and it may have made all the difference.
The bad news is that Intuitive Machines’ Odysseus lander is tipped on its side after getting tripped up during its touchdown near the south pole of the moon. The good news? The plucky robotic spacecraft is nevertheless able to send back data.
Mission managers at the Houston-based company and at NASA, which is paying $118 million to support Odysseus’ space odyssey, are working on ways to maximize the scientific payback over the next nine or 10 days. “The vehicle is stable, near or at our intended landing site,” Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus said today during a post-landing briefing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “We do have communications with the lander … so that’s phenomenal to begin with.”
Just by surviving the descent a day earlier, Odysseus made it into the history books as the first commercial lander to arrive safely on the moon — and the first U.S.-built spacecraft to do so since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.
I can remember seeing images of SN1987A as it developed back in 1987. It was the explosion of a star, a supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Over the decades that followed, it was closely monitored in particular the expanding debris cloud. Predictions suggested there may be a neutron star or even a black hole at the core but the resolution of the telescopes was insufficient to pick anything up. Now we have the James Webb Space Telescope and using its more powerful technology, signs of a neutron star have been detected.
On Wednesday, February 21st, at 01:40 p.m. PST (04:40 p.m. EST), an interesting package returned to Earth from space. This was the capsule from the W-1 mission, an orbital platform manufactured by California-based Varda Space Industries, which landed at the Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR). Even more interesting was the payload, which consisted of antiviral drugs grown in the microgravity environment of Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The mission is part of the company’s goal to develop the infrastructure to make LEO more accessible to commercial industries.
The Sun is heading toward solar maximum (which is likely to be about a year away) and as it does, there will be more sunspots, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Over the last 24 hours there has been three, yes three X-class flares, the first peaking at X1.9, the second 1.7 and the final one a mighty 6.3. Flares of this magnitude caused radio blackouts, disruption to mobile phones and radio transmissions.
As stars in the Milky Way move through space, some of them have an unexpected effect on the Solar System. Over time, one comes closer to the Sun during its orbit in the galaxy. Some of them actually get within a light-year of our star and pass through the Oort Cloud. Such close flybys can affect the orbits of the outer planets and send cometary nuclei on a long inward rush to the Sun.