Back in November 2018, NASA announced that the Mars 2020 rover would land in the Jezero Crater. Jezero Crater is a geologically diverse area, with an alluvial fan of sediment deposited by an incoming river. That sediment may contain preserved ancient organic molecules, and the deposit is clearly visible in satellite images of the Crater.
But the crater holds something else that has scientists intrigued, something that doesn’t show up so clearly in visible light images: a “bathtub ring” of carbonates, which scientists think could hold fossils.
Continue reading “Mars 2020 Rover is Going to a Place on Mars That’s Perfect for Preserving Fossils”
Do you wonder how astronomers find all those exoplanets orbiting stars in distant solar systems?
Mostly they use the transit method. When a planet travels in between its star and an observer, the light from the star dims. That’s called a transit. If astronomers watch a planet transit its star a few times, they can confirm its orbital period. They can also start to understand other things about the planet, like its mass and density.
The planet Mercury just transited the Sun, giving us all an up close look at transits.
Continue reading “Satellites Watched Mercury’s Transit From Space, Confirming That Yes, the Sun Has At Least One Planet”
Only two of humanity’s spacecraft have left the Solar System: NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Voyager 1 left the heliosphere behind in 2012, while Voyager 2 did the same on Nov. 5th, 2018. Now Voyager 2 has been in interstellar space for one year, and five new papers are presenting the scientific results from that one year.
Continue reading “What Voyager 2 Learned After Spending a Year in Interstellar Space”
Astronomers working with TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) data have found a planet where it shouldn’t be: in the space recently filled by its host star when it was a red giant.
Continue reading “It Seems Impossible, But Somehow This Planet Survived its Star’s Red Giant Phase”
NASA’s New Horizons mission taught us a lot about Pluto, the ice dwarf planet. But the spacecraft sped past Pluto so quickly, we only got high-resolution images of one side of the planet, the so-called “encounter side.” New Horizons gave us a big leap in understanding, but in a way, it asked more questions than it answered.
The next step is clearly an orbiter, and now NASA is starting to seriously consider one.
Continue reading “NASA is Now Considering a Pluto Orbiter Mission”
Indulge your inner man-child (or woman-child) with these LEGO versions of the Blue Origin Blue Moon lunar lander, New Glenn rocket, and launch tower. This new design is currently gathering supporters on the LEGO Ideas website. If it gets enough supporters, LEGO will review it and possibly build it.
Continue reading “Return to the Moon with Blue Origin’s Rockets and Lunar Lander Made Out of LEGO”
The Moon landings were a huge undertaking. In order to prepare, NASA had to think of every detail, right down to machines for the astronauts to train on. And those machines are an interesting part of space history all on their own.
Continue reading “This is the Machine Astronauts Trained on to Land on the Moon”
Though it looks like it to us, Jupiter’s clouds do no form a flat surface. Some of its clouds rise up above the surrounding cloud tops. The two bright spots in the right center of this image are much higher than the surrounding clouds.
Continue reading “Clouds On Jupiter Rising Up Above the Surrounding Atmosphere”
Dark Energy is the mysterious force driving the expansion of the Universe. We don’t know what dark energy is, even though it makes up about 68% of the Universe. And the expansion is accelerating, which only adds to the mystery.
A new instrument called the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) will study dark energy. It’s doing so with 5,000 new robotic “eyes.”
Continue reading “New Telescope Instrument Will Watch the Sky with 5,000 Eyes”
The X-37B, the US Air Force’s experimental, Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) has come back down to Earth after 780 days. It landed at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Oct. 27, 2019, at 3:51 a.m. after breaking its own record for time in space. The X-37B has now spent 2,865 total days in orbit.
The question is, what’s it doing up there?
Continue reading “X-37B Lands After 780 Days in Orbit Doing ???”