Astronomy and Geophysics is Rife With Bullying and Harassment

It’s a common reassurance made by adults to teens and adolescents who constantly face the threat of violence, cyberbullying, and ostracism: “It gets better.” Once you graduate, once you grow up and join the workforce, all the mistreatment and abuse will cease and people will appreciate you for who you are. All the hard work and perseverance you’ve shown over these many years will finally pay off.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and even the STEM fields are not immune. This was the conclusion reached by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) based on a recent survey of 650 astronomers and geophysicists. What they found was that in 44% of cases, respondends reported bullying and harassment in the workplace during the precedeing year, which was disproportionately high for women and minorities.

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Two Spacecraft are Flying Past Venus, Just 33 Hours Apart

When Longfellow wrote about “ships passing in the night” back in 1863, he probably wasn’t thinking about satellites passing near Venus.  He probably also wouldn’t have considered 575,000 km separation as “passing”, but on the scale of interplanetary exploration, it might as well be.  And passing is exactly what two satellites will be doing near Venus in the next few days – performing two flybys of the planet within 33 hours of each other.

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Astronomers Find a Huge Planet Orbiting its Star at 6,000 Times the Earth-Sun Distance

Tracking exoplanets is hard – especially when that exoplanet is so far away from its parent star that the normally used “transit” method of watching it dim the light of the star itself is ineffectual.  But it really helps if the planet is huge, and has its own infrared glow, no matter how far away from its star it might be.  At least those properties allowed a team of scientists from the University of Hawai’i to track a particular exoplanet called (and we’re not kidding) Coconuts-2b.

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Scientists Figure out how the Asteroid Belt Attacked the Dinosaurs

How do you track an asteroid that hit the Earth over 60 million years ago?  By using a combination of geology and computer simulations, at least according to a team of scientists from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).  Those methods might have let them solve a long-standing mystery of both archeology and astronomy – where did the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs come from?

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NASA is Going Ahead With a Hopping Lander to Explore the Lunar Surface

Methods of movement for robotic explorers of other worlds have been as varied as the worlds themselves. Some missions have been simple landers, some rovers, and now there’s even been a helicopter flight on Mars.  But there is an unexplored hybrid mode of movement that will soon be coming to a Moon near you – hopping.  NASA just granted an additional $41.6 million to support development of a hopping lunar lander that will explore the inside of craters that are permanently in shadow.

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Two Bizarre red Asteroids Somehow Migrated From the Kuiper Belt all the way to the Main Asteroid Belt

If asked to pick what color asteroids in the asteroid belt would be, red is likely not one that would come to mind for most people.  But that is exactly the color of two new asteroids found by Hasegawa Sunao of JAXA and an international team of researchers.  The catch is the objects don’t appear to be from the asteroid belt at all, but are most likely Trans-Neptunian objects that were somehow transported into what is commonly thought of as the asteroid belt. How exactly they got there is still up for debate.

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NASA Chooses Falcon Heavy Over SLS to Launch Europa Clipper, Saving About $2 Billion

The bureaucracy of government control is slowly fading away in space exploration, at least in the US.  A series of delays, cost overruns, and imposed requirements have finally started taking its toll on the Space Launch System (SLS), the next generation NASA rocket system.  Now, the space agency has finally conceded a point to the commercial launch industry.  It has elected to use Space X’s Falcon Heavy to launch one of its upcoming flagship missions – Europa Clipper.

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A Black Hole Emitted a Flare Away From us, but its Intense Gravity Redirected the Blast Back in our Direction

In 1916, Albert Einstein put the finishing touches on his Theory of General Relativity, a journey that began in 1905 with his attempts to reconcile Newton’s own theories of gravitation with the laws of electromagnetism. Once complete, Einstein’s theory provided a unified description of gravity as a geometric property of the cosmos, where massive objects alter the curvature of spacetime, affecting everything around them.

What’s more, Einstein’s field equations predicted the existence of black holes, objects so massive that even light cannot escape their surfaces. GR also predicts that black holes will bend light in their vicinity, an effect that can be used by astronomers to observe more distant objects. Relying on this technique, an international team of scientists made an unprecedented feat by observing light caused by an X-ray flare that took place behind a black hole.

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Lightweight Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic Fuel Tanks Pass a Critical Test, and Could Knock a lot of Weight off a Rocket’s dry Mass

Material science is still the unsung hero of space exploration.  Rockets are flashier, and control systems more precise, but they are useless without materials that withstand the immense temperatures of forces required to get people and things off the planet.  Now a team from MT Aerospace, working on a grant from ESA, has developed a new type of material that will be immensely useful in one of the most important parts of any rocket engine – the fuel tanks.

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