NASA’s Kepler spacecraft ended its observations in October 2018 after nine and a half years, a solid six years beyond its planned duration. It discovered 2,711 confirmed exoplanets and another 2,056 exoplanet candidates as of August 2022.
Now, astronomers at MIT and the University of Wisconsin uncovered three more exoplanets in the data from Kepler’s final days of observations. They needed the help of dedicated amateurs to do it.
Imagine being curled up inside a 90 cm (36 inch) fabric sphere with a small window and a small air tank while dangling from the Canadarm. As your tiny sphere shifts, you’d see Earth out your tiny window, then the Space Shuttle, damaged by some accident or other that caused you to need rescuing, then Earth again. Panic would set in pretty quickly.
But that’s where Space Shuttle astronauts in an emergency could’ve found themselves if NASA’s Personal Rescue Enclosure (PRE) had been put into practice.
The habitable zone is the region around a star where planets can maintain liquid water on their surface. It’s axiomatic that planets with liquid water are the best places to look for life, and astronomers focus their search on that zone. As far as we can tell, no water equals no life.
But new research suggests another delineation in solar systems that could influence habitability: The Soot Line.
NASA makes successful rover missions seem mundane. Spirit and Opportunity were wildly successful, and Curiosity and Perseverance would both be considered successes even if they stopped working today. But complex missions don’t succeed without rigorous testing.
The ESA takes that lesson to heart, and when it comes to their Mars rover, they’ve built a ‘rover playground’ to test it in.
In the early days of spaceflight, just getting a satellite into Earth’s orbit was an accomplishment. In our era, landing rovers on other planets and bringing samples home from asteroids is the cutting edge. But the next frontier is rapidly approaching, when astronauts will stay for long periods of time on the Moon and hopefully Mars.
But before we can send people to those dangerous environments, the Artemis partner space agencies have to know how to keep them safe. An important part of that is simulating the conditions on the Moon and Mars.
Most black holes are stellar mass black holes. They’re created when a star several times more massive than our Sun reaches the end and collapses in on itself. There are also supermassive black holes (SMBH,) the behemoths at the center of galaxies that can boast billions of times more mass than the Sun.
Jupiter’s moon Io is the most volcanic world in the Solar System, with over 400 volcanoes. Some of them eject plumes as high as 500 km (300 mi) above the surface. Its surface is almost entirely shaped by all this volcanic activity, with large regions covered by silicates, sulphur, and sulphur dioxide brought up from the moon’s interior. The intense volcanic activity has created over 100 mountains, and some of them are taller than Mt. Everest.
Io is unique in the Solar System, and the Juno orbiter’s JunoCam captured some new images of Io’s abundant volcanic activity.
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope served the astronomy community well for 16 years. From its launch in 2003 to the end of its operations in January 2020, its infrared observations fuelled scientific discoveries too numerous to list.
Infrared telescopes need to be kept cool to operate, and eventually, it ran out of coolant. But that wasn’t the end of the mission; it kept operating in ‘warm’ mode, where observations were limited. Its mission only ended when it drifted too far away from Earth to communicate effectively.
Now the US Space Force thinks they can reboot the telescope.
When Oumuamua travelled through our Solar System back in 2017, people around the world paid attention. It was the first Interstellar Object (ISO) astronomers had ever identified. Then in August 2019, Comet 2I Borisov travelled through our Solar System, becoming the second ISO to cruise through for a visit. Together, the visiting ISOs generated a wave of inquiry and speculation.
There’s bound to be more ISOs than just those two, and a new study says our Solar System has probably captured some of these interstellar visitors, though they don’t stay for long.
Comets are instantly recognizable by their tails of gas and dust. Most comets originate in the far, frozen reaches of our Solar System, and only visit the inner Solar System occasionally. But some are in the Main Asteroid Belt, mixed in with the debris left over after the Solar System formed.
Astronomers just found water vapour coming from one of them.