Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU) are finding new uses for the laser-based technology that sharpens telescope imagery – called adaptive optics – and it just might help mitigate the world’s growing space debris problem. Purpose-built lasers could give derelict satellites a slight ‘push’ of photons, imparting just enough energy to change the debris’s orbit and prevent an impending collision.Continue reading “Ground-Based Lasers Could Push Space Debris off Collision-Course Orbits”
Using nuclear devices to deflect or disrupt an asteroid. Sounds a bit crazy, no? Maybe a little too Hollywood? And yet, detonating nukes in space may be necessary someday for the sake of planetary defense. In order for this method to be effective, scientists need to work out all the particulars in advance. That means knowing how much force will be necessary depending on the mass and trajectory of the asteroid.
Recently, a research collaboration between Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) investigated how the energy output of a nuclear detonation could affect the path of an asteroid. This consisted of modeling different nuclear reactions (fission or fusion) to determine the neutron energy generated, which could potentially pave the way for a new type of asteroid redirect mission (ARM).Continue reading “If you Want to Move an Asteroid, you Need the Right Kind of Nuclear Explosion”
We now know the universe is filled with planets. By one estimate, there are more than 20 billion Earth-like worlds in our galaxy alone. But how many of them are likely to have life? And how would we know if they do? Unless they happen to send us a very clear message directly, the most likely way we’ll discover exoplanet life is by looking at their atmospheres.Continue reading “Finding Oxygen on an Alien World Doesn't Always Mean There's Life There”
The effects of ancient asteroid impacts on Earth are still evident from the variety of impact craters across our planet. And from the Chelyabinsk event back in 2013, where an asteroid exploded in the air above a Russian town, we know how devastating an “airburst” event can be.
Now, researchers in Antarctica have discovered evidence of a strange intermediate-type event – a combination of an impact and an airburst. The event was so devastating, its effects are still apparent even though it took place 430,000 years ago.Continue reading “100-meter Asteroid Created a Strange Impact Event in Antarctica 430,000 Years Ago”
A new study turns modern ‘deep learning’ techniques on Galileo’s early sketches of the Sun.
It’s a fascinating thought to consider.
What exactly did the Sun look like, centuries ago? What would we see, if astronomers back in the time of Kepler and Galileo had modern technology monitoring the Sun across the electromagnetic spectrum, available to them?Continue reading “Galileo Sunspot Sketches Versus Modern ‘Deep Learning’ AI”
Whenever I wipe the dust off my coffee table or catch a glimpse of dust motes floating in sunlight, my spacey mind always wonders, is any of that cosmic dust?
It just might be. But the amount of space dust that lands on our planet every year might surprise you.Continue reading “Earth Gains 5,200 Tons of Dust From Space Every Year”
Ever since it landed in the Jezero Crater on Feb. 18th, 2021, the Perseverance rover has been prepping its scientific instruments to begin searching for signs of past life on the Red Planet. These include spectrometers that will scan Martian rocks for organics and minerals that form in the presence of water and a caching system that will store samples of Martian soil and rock for retrieval by a future mission.
These telltale indicators could be signs of past life, which would most likely take the form of fossilized microbes. In the near future, a similar instrument could be used to search for present-day extraterrestrial life. It’s known as the Wireline Analysis Tool for the Subsurface Observation of Northern ice sheets (WATSON), and could be used to find evidence of life inside “ocean worlds” like Europa, Enceladus, and Titan.Continue reading “The Same Technology Could Search for Microbes in Mars Rocks or Under the ice on Europa”
Space missions often have to go where the sun don’t shine. Or at least where it shines very faintly. That is particularly important if the mission draws its power from the sun. Luckily, engineers have a way of dealing with that problem – just make really really big solar panels. That is exactly what they did for Lucy, a mission to visit the Trojan asteroids around Jupiter. Those sails have now been tested on the ground, and they are magnificent.Continue reading “Trojan Mission Lucy Tested its Solar Panels for the First Time. Those Things are Huge”
In 1915, Einstein put the finishing touches on his Theory of General Relativity (GR), a revolutionary new hypothesis that described gravity as a geometric property of space and time. This theory remains the accepted description of gravitation in modern physics and predicts that massive objects (like galaxies and galaxy clusters) bend the very fabric of spacetime.
As result, massive objects (like galaxies and galaxy clusters) can act as a lens that will deflect and magnify light coming from more distant objects. This effect is known as “gravitational lensing,” and can result in all kinds of visual phenomena – not the least of which is known as an “Einstein Cross.” Using data from the ESA’s Gaia Observatory, a team of researchers announced the discovery of 12 new Einstein Crosses.Continue reading “Gaia Finds 12 Examples of Einstein Crosses; Galaxies Being Gravitationally Lensed so we see Them Repeated 4 Times”
We tend to image planets as spheres. Held together by gravity, the material of a planet compresses and shifts until gravity and pressure reach a balance point known as hydrostatic equilibrium. Hydrostatic equilibrium is one of the defining characteristics of a planet. If a planet were stationary and of uniform density, then at equilibrium, it would be a perfect sphere. But planets rotate, and so even the largest planets aren’t a perfect sphere.Continue reading “Brown Dwarfs can Spin so Fast They Almost Tear Themselves Apart”