NASA is Finally Sending a Lunar Lander to the Moon’s far Side

The far side of the moon has been getting more popular than a Pink Floyd album lately.  A variety of missions are planned to visit the previously overlooked side opposite Earth.  Recently NASA announced a few more, including two landers which will measure properties of the Moon’s interior.  

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Astrobiologists Detect a Signature of Life Remotely. Don’t get too Excited, Though, it was With a Helicopter Here on Earth

Chirality is a word normally found in biological textbooks that will occasionally pop up in the astronomy community, usually when discussing potential biosignatures.  Typically the term is explained by analogy with left and right hands – how the molecules are curved in one specific way or another, similarly to how human hands are formed either as left or right.  These two curvatures of the molecules are mirror images of each other, but not exactly the same.  Until recently, detection of chirality has focused on in situ measurements, such as those on Mars where molecules can be sampled directly.  Now, however, a team led by Drs. Lucas Patty and Jonas Kühn at the University of Bern, has managed to detect chirality remotely using some impressive new technology.

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Teeny Tiny Space Telescope has Taken Thousands of Pictures of Both Earth and Space

A new nanosat has been quietly snapping over 4500 pictures of the Earth and the sky after its launch on May 15th.  Rocketed into orbit on a Falcon 9, the nanosat, known as GEOStare2, actually contains two different telescopes – one focuses on a wide field of view while the other has a much narrower field of view but much higher resolution.  Together they aim to provide data on Earth, the stars, and the network of satellites in between.

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Space Telescopes Could Provide Next-Level Images of Black Hole Event Horizons

Back in 2019, the world was treated to the first ever image of a black hole, which was originally captured in 2017.  The feat was widely heralded as a leap forward for astrophysics, supporting Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.  Now a team led by the Radboud University proposes sending instruments into space to estimate black hole parameters more accurately by an order of magnitude.  The newest paper, led by Dr. Volodymyr Kudriashov, translates science goals into technical requirements and focuses on the instrumentation needed for the Event Horizon Imager, as the mission is called.

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Astronomers saw the Same Supernova Three Times Thanks to Gravitational Lensing. And in Twenty Years They Think They’ll see it one More Time

It is hard for humans to wrap their heads around the fact that there are galaxies so far away that the light coming from them can be warped in a way that they actually experience a type of time delay.  But that is exactly what is happening with extreme forms of gravitational lensing, such as those that give us the beautiful images of Einstein rings.  In fact, the time dilation around some of these galaxies can be so extreme that the light from a single event, such as a supernova, can actually show up on Earth at dramatically different times.  That is exactly what a team led by Dr. Steven Rodney at the University of South Carolina and Dr. Gabriel Brammer of the University of Copenhagen has found. Except three copies of this supernova have already appeared – and the team thinks it will show up again one more time, 20 years from now.

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Apollo 17 Astronauts Brought Home Samples From the Oldest Impact Crater on the Moon

Internal geological processes on the moon are almost non-existent.  However, when it gets smacked by a space rock, its surface can change dramatically.  Debris from that impact can also travel over large distances, transplanting material from one impact site hundreds of kilometers away, where it can remain untouched in its inert environment for billions of years.  

So when Apollo 17 astronauts took regolith samples at their landing site near Serenitatis Basin, they collected not only rocks from the basin itself, but from other impacts that had happened billions of years ago.  Differentiating material that actually formed part of the Basin from material that landed their after an impact has proven difficult.

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Rare Triple Galaxy Merger With at Least Two Supermassive Black Holes

One of the best things about that universe is that there is so much to it.  If you look hard enough, you can most likely find any combination of astronomical events happening.  Not long ago we reported on research that found 7 separate instances of three galaxies colliding with one another.  Now, a team led by Jonathan Williams of the University of Maryland has found another triple galaxy merging cluster, but this one might potentially have two active supermassive black holes, allowing astronomers to peer into the system dynamics of two of the universe’s most extreme objects running into one another.

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Iridescent Clouds on Mars Seen by Curiosity

Laying on a grassy field staring at the cloud formations in the sky and coming up with harebrained ideas about their shapes is a common feature in childhood summers – at least as they’re portrayed in media.  Someday that image might translate to a child laying on a sandy or rocky outcropping, looking up at the sky seeing iridescent, shimmering clouds in the sky.  The biggest differences would be that the child would be looking through a visor, and those clouds would be on Mars.  And Curiosity recently released some stunning images of what they might look like.

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