Missing Mass? Not on our Watch—Dr. Paul Sutter Explains Dark Matter

Do you have a few minutes to spare and a thirst for knowledge about one of the greater mysteries of the Universe? Then head on over to ArsTechnica and check out the new series they’re releasing titled Edge of Knowledge, starring none other than Dr. Paul Sutter. In what promises to be an enlightening journey, Dr. Sutter will guide viewers through an eight-episode miniseries that explores the mysteries of the cosmos, such as black holes, the future of climate change, the origins of life, and (for their premiere episode) Dark Matter!

As far as astrophysicists and cosmologists are concerned, Dark Matter is one of the most enduring, frustrating, and confusing mysteries ever! Then, one must wonder why scientists are working so tirelessly to track it down? The short answer is: the most widely accepted theories of the Universe don’t make sense without out. The long answer is… it’s both complicated and long! Luckily, Dr. Sutter manages to sum it all up in less than 15 minutes. As an accomplished physicist, he also explains why it is so important that we track Dark Matter down!

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Webb Has Arrived Successfully at L2

It’s really happening. The James Webb Space Telescope has successfully reached its orbital destination in space, 1.5 million km (1 million miles) from Earth. A final 5-minute thruster firing on January 24, 2022 put JWST in its halo orbit at the Sun-Earth Lagrange 2 (L2) point. The formal commissioning process can now begin.

“We’re excited to announce today that Webb is officially on station at its L2 orbit, capping off a remarkable 30 days,” said Webb’s commissioning manager Keith Parrish in a January 24 news conference. “It’s an incredible achievement by our team.”

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A Private Mission to Scan the Cloud Tops of Venus for Evidence of Life

The search for life on Venus has a fascinating history. Carl Sagan famously and sarcastically said there were obviously dinosaurs there since a thick haze we couldn’t see through covered the surface. More recently, evidence has pointed to a more nuanced idea of how life might exist on our sister planet. A recent announcement of phosphine in the Venusian atmosphere caused quite a stir in the research community and numerous denials from other research groups. But science moves on, and now some of the researchers involved in the phosphine finding have come up with a series of small missions that will help settle the question more thoroughly – by directly sampling Venus’ atmosphere for the first time in almost 40 years.

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13 Rovers Recently Competed to Scour the (Simulated) Moon to Harvest Resources

Challenges are one way to encourage innovation. They’ve been leveraged by numerous space and non-space research organizations in the last decade, with varying degrees of success. The European Space Agency (ESA) is now getting in on the action, with a challenge to prospect the moon for vital resources that will make a sustainable presence there possible. Recently thirteen teams from all over the continent (and Canada) competed in a gloomy hall in the Erasmus Innovation Centre in the Netherlands.

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It’s Been Constantly Raining Meteors on Mars for 600 Million Years. Earth too.

New research shows that Mars has faced a constant rain of meteors during the last 600 million years. This finding contradicts previous research showing that the impact rate has varied, with prominent activity spikes. Why would anyone care how often meteors rained down on Mars, a planet that’s been dead for billions of years?

Because whatever Mars was subjected to, Earth was also likely subjected to.

Who wouldn’t want to know our planet’s history?

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ESA’s ARIEL Mission Will Study the Atmospheres of More Than 1,000 Exoplanets

We found our first exoplanets orbiting a pulsar in 1992. Since then, we’ve discovered many thousands more. Those were the first steps in identifying other worlds that could harbour life.

Now planetary scientists want to take the next step: studying exoplanet atmospheres.

The ESA’s ARIEL mission will be a powerful tool.

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Remembering NASA Engineer Jerry Woodfill, the Inspiration Behind “13 Things That Saved Apollo 13”

Jerry Woodfill, an engineer who worked diligently behind the scenes during NASA’s Apollo program, has passed away at age 79. Jerry was still employed by the Johnson Space Center (JSC) at the time of his death, working there for over 57 years. Most notably, Jerry worked as the lead engineer behind the Caution and Warning System on the Apollo spacecraft, which alerted astronauts to issues such as Apollo 11’s computer problems during the first Moon landing, and the explosion of Apollo 13’s oxygen tanks.

While continuing his work as an engineer at JSC, Jerry’s infectious enthusiasm for spaceflight led him to also be part of NASA’s public and educational outreach, where he spearheaded programs for children, teachers and adults about science and space flight. He routinely gave over 40 lectures a year, both in person and online to listeners around the world. His unique sense of humor and sometimes unabashed showmanship could hold even the shortest of young attention spans. Jerry usually had his audiences either in stitches or fully captivated by his stories.  

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Extreme Tidal Forces Have Deformed an Exoplanet

Among the thousands of known exoplanets, there are some that are very odd. Take, for example, the exoplanet known as WASP-103b. It’s a large planet with a mass about 1.5 times that of Jupiter, but 103b is so close to its star it makes a complete orbit every 22 hours. At this proximity, many astronomers wonder if the world is on the edge of being ripped apart by tidal forces. But a new study shows us that something much more interesting is going on.

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Astronomers Might Have Detected the Background Gravitational Waves of the Universe

In February 2016, Gravitational Waves (GWs) were detected for the first time in history. This discovery confirmed a prediction made by Albert Einstein over a century ago and triggered a revolution in astronomy. Since then, dozens of GW events have been detected from various sources, ranging from black hole mergers, neutron star mergers, or a combination thereof. As the instruments used for GW astronomy become more sophisticated, the ability to detect more events (and learn more from them) will only increase.

For instance, an international team of astronomers recently detected a series of low-frequency gravitational waves using the International Pulsar Timing Array (IPTA). These waves, they determined, could be the early signs of a background gravitational wave signal (BGWS) caused by pairs of supermassive black holes. The existence of this background is something that astrophysicists have theorized since GWs were first detected, making this a potentially ground-breaking discovery!

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A Worldwide Search for Dark Matter Fails to Turn up a Signal for This Mysterious Particle

Axions are a popular candidate in the search for dark matter. There have been previous searches for these hypothetical particles, all of which have come up with nothing. But recently the results of a new search for dark matter axions have been published…and has also found nothing. Still, the study is interesting because of the nature and scale of the search.

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