Starships Will be Launching From These Oil Drilling Platforms Bought by SpaceX

Over the years, Elon Musk has been rather open about how he (and the company he founded) plan to make space more accessible and allow humanity to become an “interplanetary species.” A key element to this plan is the Starship and Super-Heavy launch system, which will allow for regular trips to the Moon as well as the eventual creation of the first human colony on Mars.

Another key part of Musk’s plan is the creation of spaceports at sea that will allow for greater flexibility with launches and landings. To that end, SpaceX recently acquired two former oil drilling rigs off the coast of Texas. These spaceports have been dubbed Phobos and Deimos (after Mars’ two satellites) and are currently undergoing modifications to conduct Starship launches in the near future.

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3-D Printing on the Moon. From Regolith to Paste to Useful Objects and Structures

In the academic literature, review papers are widespread, and can help ground discussion on a specific topic by bringing new researchers up to speed as well as allowing experienced hands to catch up on some topics they might have otherwise missed.  Anytime a new one on a topic of space exploration is published, it helps move understanding of the entire discipline forward, even if it might not directly contribute to furthering research itself.  With that in mind, it can also be interesting for laymen to read them as well, as they are an excellent way to be quickly brought up to speed on a certain topic.

So if you happen to be interested in lunar exploration, or additive manufacturing more generally, you might be interested in a new review paper from a team at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology.  It reviews the current state of the art in additive manufacturing (AM) technology and how it might be applied to building useful tools and structures on the lunar surface.

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Massive Binary Stars Huddle Up Surprisingly Quickly

Dancing is a favorite pastime of many couples.  Swinging around a dance floor, using the laws of physics to twirl at just the right moment, and hopefully not step on any toes, is an art unto itself.  The same laws of physics that govern couples on a dance floor also govern (to some extent) the much larger dance of stellar objects.  And recently astronomers have started to understand the intricacies of how binary stars dance with each other – turns out it’s not quite as simple as doing the tango.

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The Largest Sea On Titan Could Be Over 300 Meters Deep

The Earth’s oceans are notoriously unexplored, and stand as a monument to the difficult of exploring underwater.  But they aren’t the only unexplored seas in the solar system.  Titan’s vast collection of liquid methane lakes are another challenge facing future solar system explorers. 

A submarine mission to Saturn’s largest moon has long been under discussion.  More recently, scientists have discovered that if such a mission was ever launched, it would have plenty of room to operate, because Titan’s largest sea is likely more than 300 m (1000 ft) deep.

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You Can Actually See the Milky Way’s Wave When You Map Its Stars

Spiral galaxies are one of the most commonly known types of galaxy.  Most people think of them as large round disks, and know that our Milky Way is counted among their number.  What most people don’t realize is that many spiral galaxies have a type of warping effect that, when you look at them edge on, can make it seem like they are forming a wave.  Now scientists, led by Xinlun Chen at the University of Virginia, have studied millions of stars in the Milky Way and begun to develop a picture of a “wave” passing through our own galaxy.

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In Theory, Supermassive Black Holes Could get Even More Supermassive

Our universe contains some enormous black holes. The supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy has a mass of 4 million Suns, but it’s rather small as galactic black holes go. Many galactic black holes have a billion solar masses, and the most massive known black hole is estimated to have a mass of nearly 70 billion Suns. But just how big can a black hole get?

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The Universe in Formation. Hubble Sees 6 Examples of Merging Galaxies

Audio narration by the author is available above

10 billion years ago, galaxies of the Universe were ablaze with the light of newly forming stars. This epic phase of history is known as  “Cosmic Noon” – the height of all star creation. Galaxies like our Milky Way aren’t creating stars at nearly the rates they were in the ancient past. However, there is a time when galaxies in the present can explode with star formation – when they collide with each other. This recently published collage of merging galaxies by the Hubble HiPEEC survey (Hubble imaging Probe of Extreme Environments and Clusters) highlights six of these collisions which help us understand star formation in the early Universe.

Newly released collage of six galaxy mergers used in the HiPEEC survey.
Top Row Left to Right: NGC 3256, 1614, 4195 Bottom Row Left To Right: NGC 3690, 6052, 34
– Credit ESA/Hubble/NASA
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Virgin Orbit Successfully Launches a Batch of Satellites From an Airplane

On Sunday, January 17th, Virgin Orbit conducted the second launch test of its LauncherOne rocket, which the company will use to deploy small satellites to orbit in the coming years. The mission (Launch Demo 2) went smoothly and validated the company’s delivery system, which consists of the rocket air launching from a repurposed 747-400 (named Cosmic Girl).

It also involved the successful deployment of 10 CubeSats which were selected by NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) as part of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). The event began when Cosmic Girl took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port at approximately 10:50 A.M. PST (01:50 P.M. EST) and flew to a location about 80 km (50 mi) south of the Channel Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

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Only 31 Magnetars Have Ever Been Discovered. This one is Extra Strange. It’s Also a Pulsar

Some of the most stunningly powerful objects in the sky aren’t necessarily the prettiest to look at.  But their secrets can allow humanity to glimpse some of the more intricate details of the universe that are exposed in their extreme environs.  Any time we find one of these unique objects it’s a cause for celebration, and recently astronomers have found an extremely unique object that is both a magnetar and a pulsar, making it one of only 5 ever found.

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