Spacecraft Gyroscopes And Reaction Wheels. You Can Never Have Enough

On January 8, 2019, the Wide Field Camera 3 on the Hubble Space Telescope suspended operations due to a hardware problem. Image Credit: NASA/STScI.

It’s amazing to think there are telescopes up in space, right now, directing their gaze at distant objects for hours, days and even weeks. Providing a point of view so stable and accurate that we can learn details about galaxies, exoplanets and more.

And then, when the time is up, the spacecraft can shift its gaze in another direction. All without the use of fuel.

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One Year, Almost 1,000 Planetary Candidates. An Update On TESS

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Telescope launched back in April, 2018. After a few months of testing, it was ready to begin mapping the southern sky, searching for planets orbiting stars relatively nearby.

We’re just over a year into the mission now, and on July 18th, TESS has shifted its attention to the Northern Hemisphere, continuing the hunt for planets in the northern skies.

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What Are Light Echoes? Using Reflections Of Light To See Even Further Back In Time

Star V838 Monocerotis

When we look outward into space, we’re looking backwards in time. That’s because light moves, at the speed of light. It takes time for the light to reach us.

But it gets even stranger than that. Light can be absorbed, reflected, and re-emitted by gas and dust, giving us a second look.

They’re called light echoes, and allow astronomers another way to understand the Universe around us.

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How Habitable is Titan? NASA is Sending the Titan Dragonfly Helicopter to Find Out

There are few places in the Solar System which are as fascinating as Saturn’s moon Titan. It’s a world with a thicker atmosphere than Earth. Where it’s so cold that it rains ammonia, forming lakes, rivers and seas. Where water ice forms mountains. 

Like Europa and Encleadus, Titan could have an interior ocean of liquid water too, a place where there might be life.

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Planetary Society Deploys LightSail 2’s Solar Sail. What Does The Future Hold For Solar Sails?

Photo of LightSail 2's sail deployment. Credit: The Planetary Society

Where you can travel in space depends on how much propellant you’ve got on board your rocket and how efficiently you can use it. But there’s a source of free propellant right here in the Solar System – the Sun – which is streaming out photons in all directions. You just need to catch them.

And right now, the Planetary Society’s new LightSail 2 spacecraft is testing out just how well it’ll work.

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Searching For The Red Edge: How The Earth’s Forests Are Telling The Aliens Where We Live

Examples of Earth at various eras: Illustration by Wendy Kenigsberg/Cornell Brand Communications

People are always worried that alien civilizations will detect the transmissions from our old radio shows and television broadcasts, and send in the invasion fleet. But the reality is that life itself has been broadcasting the existence of life on Earth for 500 million years. 

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Interview with Dennis E. Taylor, Author of the Bobiverse Trilogy

This week I had a fantastic opportunity to interview one of my favorite authors, Dennis E. Taylor, the author of We Are Legion (We Are Bob), and the rest of the Bobiverse Trilogy.

We had a great conversation about the challenges in writing science fiction during a time when science has come so far, what writing routines he does to stay productive, and of course, when will there be more Bobiverse books.

Dennis’ newest book is called Outland, and it’s the first part in a two-part series about a group of students trying to prevent the destruction from the Yellowstone supervolcano eruption.

You can listen to the book on Audible.