Voyager 1 Doesn’t Know Where it is, Generating Random-Looking Telemetry Data

Old computer systems have a lot of wacky ways to fail. Computers that are constantly blasted by radiation have even more wacky ways to fail. Combine those two attributes, and eventually, you’re bound to have something happen. It certainly seems to have with Voyager 1. The space probe, which has been in active service for NASA for almost 45 years, is sending back telemetry data that doesn’t make any sense. 

Continue reading “Voyager 1 Doesn’t Know Where it is, Generating Random-Looking Telemetry Data”

The Building Blocks for Supermassive Black Holes are Found in Dwarf Galaxies

We all know that a humongous black hole exists at the center of our galaxy. It’s called Sagittarius A* (Sgr A* for short) and it has the mass of 4 million suns. We’ve got to see a radio image of it a few weeks back, showing its accretion disk. So, we know it’s there. Astronomers can chart its actions as it gobbles up matter occasionally and they can see how it affects nearby stars. What astronomers are still trying to understand is how Sgr A* formed.

Continue reading “The Building Blocks for Supermassive Black Holes are Found in Dwarf Galaxies”

“Wind-Ruffled Waves, Foam and Wave Shadows, Above Natural Blue Seawater.” This is how we’ll Spot Exoplanets With Oceans

Artist's depiction of a waterworld. A new study suggests that Earth is in a minority when it comes to planets, and that most habitable planets may be greater than 90% ocean. Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)

Our planet’s oceans generate tell-tale light signatures when sunlight reflects off them. Exoplanets with significant ocean coverage may do the same. Can we use the Earth’s reflectance signatures to identify other Earth-like worlds with large oceans?

We should be able to, eventually.

Continue reading ““Wind-Ruffled Waves, Foam and Wave Shadows, Above Natural Blue Seawater.” This is how we’ll Spot Exoplanets With Oceans”

Solar Orbiter’s Pictures of the Sun are Every Bit as Dramatic as You Were Hoping

On March 26th, the ESA’s Solar Orbiter made its closest approach to the Sun so far. It ventured inside Mercury’s orbit and was about one-third the distance from Earth to the Sun. It was hot but worth it.

The Solar Orbiter’s primary mission is to understand the connection between the Sun and its heliosphere, and new images from the close approach are helping build that understanding.

Continue reading “Solar Orbiter’s Pictures of the Sun are Every Bit as Dramatic as You Were Hoping”

Update on the Potential May 31st tau Herculid Meteor Storm

Perseid

If skies are clear, be sure to watch for a potential tau Herculid meteor outburst early next Tuesday morning.

With a little cosmic luck, we could potentially be in for a meteor storm of epic proportions this coming Monday night/Tuesday morning. We recently wrote about the possibility for an outburst from the tau Herculids on the night of May 30th/May 31st. As we’re now just under a week out from the shower, let’s look at the prospective for the shower, what went down during meteor storms of yore, and more.

Continue reading “Update on the Potential May 31st tau Herculid Meteor Storm”

The Moon’s Ancient Volcanoes Could Have Created Ice Sheets Dozens of Meters Thick

Everyone loves looking at the Moon, especially through a telescope. To see those dark and light patches scattered across its surface brings about a sense of awe and wonder to anyone who looks up at the night sky. While our Moon might be geologically dead today, it was much more active billions of years ago when it first formed as hot lava blanketed hundreds of thousands of square kilometers of the Moon’s surface in hot lava. These lava flows are responsible for the dark patches we see when we look at the Moon, which are called mare, translated as “seas”, and are remnants of a far more active past.

In a recent study published in The Planetary Science Journal, research from University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) suggests that volcanoes active billions of years ago may have left another lasting impact on the lunar surface: sheets of ice that dot the Moon’s poles and, in some places, could measure dozens or even hundreds of meters (or feet) thick.

Continue reading “The Moon’s Ancient Volcanoes Could Have Created Ice Sheets Dozens of Meters Thick”

Spacesuits are Leaking Water and NASA is Holding off any Spacewalks Until They can Solve the Problem

NASA’s spacesuits are getting old. The extra-vehicular mobility units – EMUs for short – were designed and built for spacewalks outside NASA’s space shuttles, which flew for the last time in 2011. Nowadays, the EMUs are an integral part of maintaining and upgrading the International Space Station (ISS) exterior, providing the crew with the ability to live and work in the vacuum of space for extended periods of time (spacewalks regularly last from 6 to 8 hours). However, at the end of the most recent spacewalk on March 23, NASA astronaut Kayla Barron discovered water in the helmet of German astronaut Matthias Maurer while she helped him remove the suit.

Continue reading “Spacesuits are Leaking Water and NASA is Holding off any Spacewalks Until They can Solve the Problem”

Starliner Launches Successfully, but Two of its Thrusters Failed

Last week, Boeing’s next-generation CST-100 Starliner took off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral, reached orbit, and docked with the International Space Station (ISS). Designated Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), this uncrewed test flight successfully validated the reusable space capsule for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). This program, a public-private partnership between NASA and commercial launch providers (SpaceX and Boeing), aims to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective payload and crew transportation to the ISS from American soil.

The mission came with its share of hiccups, which consisted of two of the spacecraft’s thrusters shutting off prematurely during orbital maneuvers. Nevertheless, this successful test flight was a welcome relief after three years of delays, checks, and corrective actions that followed the first failed attempt (OFT-1). After six days of being docked with the ISS, the spacecraft is scheduled to undock tomorrow autonomously (Wednesday, May 25th) and land at the White Sands Space Harbor at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico.

Continue reading “Starliner Launches Successfully, but Two of its Thrusters Failed”

NASA is Building a Mission That Will Refuel and Repair Satellites in Orbit

NASA is planning a mission to demonstrate the ability to repair and upgrade satellites in Earth orbit. The mission, called OSAM-1 (On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing-1), will send a robotic spacecraft equipped with robotic arms and all the tools and equipment needed to fix, refuel or extend satellites’ lifespans, even if those satellites were not designed to be serviced on orbit.

Continue reading “NASA is Building a Mission That Will Refuel and Repair Satellites in Orbit”

The “Doorway on Mars” is More Like a Dog Door

Mars Curiosity rover took a panorama of this rock cliff during its trip across Mount Sharp on Mars. Circled is the location of a so-called "doorway on Mars." Courtesy NASA/JPL/Mars Curiosity team.
Mars Curiosity rover took a panorama of this rock cliff during its trip across Mount Sharp on Mars. Circled is the location of a so-called “doorway on Mars.” Courtesy NASA/JPL/Mars Curiosity team.

Remember all the fuss about the “doorway on Mars” from just last week? Well, this week, NASA issued some more information about the rock mound where the Curiosity rover snapped a pic showing a fracture hole in the rock. It looks like a door, but it’s not.

Continue reading “The “Doorway on Mars” is More Like a Dog Door”