NASA is Building an Electrodynamic Shield to Deal with all that Dust on the Moon and Mars

Astronaut on the Moon

Exploration of the Moon or other dusty environments comes with challenges. The lunar surface is covered in material known as regolith and its a jaggy, glassy material. It can cause wear and tear on equipment and can pose a health risk to astronauts too. Astronauts travelling to Mars would experience dust saucing to everything, including solar panels leading to decrease in power. To combat the problems created by dust, NASA is working on an innovative electrodynamic dust shield to remove dust and protect surfaces from solar panels to space suits. 

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Here are the Next Three Total Solar Eclipses Coming Up

Credit: NASA/Keegan Barber

Millions of people took a trip over to the US or Mexico to try and catch a glimpse of the 2024 total solar eclipse. Whether you took the trip or not, if you have since been bitten by the eclipse bug then there are three upcoming eclipses over the next couple of years. August 2026 sees an eclipse passing from Greenland, Iceland and Spain, 2027 sees an eclipse over North Africa and in 2028 Australia all be the place to be. With loads of possibilities for all locations, it’s time to get planning. 

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Finally, an Explanation for the Moon’s Radically Different Hemispheres

Schematic illustration with a gravity gradient map (blue hexagonal pattern) of the lunar nearside and a cross-section showing two ilmenite-bearing cumulate downwellings from lunar mantle overturn.

Pink Floyd was wrong, there is no dark side to the Moon. There is however, a far side. The tidal effects between the Earth and Moon have caused this captured or synchronous rotation. The two sides display very different geographical features; the near side with mare and ancient volcanic flows while the far side displaying craters within craters. New research suggests the Moon has turned itself inside out with heavy elements like titanium returning to the surface. It’s now thought that a giant impact on the far side pushed titanium to the surface, creating a thinner more active near side. 

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WISPR Team Images Turbulence within Solar Transients for the First Time

Visible light observations of a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) acquired by the Wide Field Imager for Solar Probe (WISPR) telescopes

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has been in studying the Sun for the last six years. In 2021 it was hit directly by a coronal mass ejection when it was a mere 10 million kilometres from the solar surface. Luckily it was gathering data and images enabling scientists to piece together an amazing video. The interactions between the solar wind and the coronal mass ejection were measured giving an unprecedented view of the solar corona. 

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A Neutron Star Merged with a Surprisingly Light Black Hole

Artwork of a neutron star–black hole merger. Credit: Carl Knox, OzGrav-Swinburne University.

Galactic collisions, meteor impacts and even stellar mergers are not uncommon events. neutron stars colliding with black holes however are a little more rare, in fact, until now, we have never observed one. The fourth LIGO-Virgo-KAGRA observing detected gravitational waves from a collision between a black hole and neutron star 650 million light years away. The black hole was tiny though with a mass between 2.5 to 4.5 times that of the Sun. 

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Testing a Probe that Could Drill into an Ice World

SLUSH prototype probe set up over an ice tower. Bottom left: Top view of 1.4 m borehole created by the SLUSH prototype probe. Middle: Dolphin Probe being tested inside an ice tower. Right: Salmon Probe being tested on top of Devon Island Ice Cap.

I remember reading about an audacious mission to endeavour to drill through the surface ice of Europa, drop in a submersible and explore the depths below. Now that concept may be taking a step closer to reality with researchers working on technology to do just that. Worlds like Europa are high on the list for exploration due to their potential to harbour life. If technology like the SLUSH probe (Search for Life Using Submersible Head) work then we are well on the way to realising that dream. 

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What Could We Build With Lunar Regolith?

A close-up view of astronaut Buzz Aldrin's bootprint in the lunar soil, photographed with the 70mm lunar surface camera during Apollo 11's sojourn on the moon. Image by NASA

It has often been likened to talcum powder. The ultra fine lunar surface material known as the regolith is crushed volcanic rock. For visitors to the surface of the Moon it can be a health hazard, causing wear and tear on astronauts and their equipment, but it has potential. The fine material may be suitable for building roads, landing pads and shelters. Researchers are now working to analyse its suitability for a number of different applications.

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Want to Start a Farm on Mars? This Rover Will Find Out if it’s Possible

AgroMars Rover

Travelling to Mars has its own challenges. The distance alone makes the journey something of a mission in itself. Arrive though, and the handwork has only just begun. Living and surviving on Mars will be perhaps humans biggest challenge yet.  It would be impossible to take everything along with you to survive so instead, it would be imperative to ‘live off the land’ and produce as much locally as possible. A new rover called AgroMars will be equipped with a number of agriculture related experiments to study the make up of the soil to assess its suitability for growing food. 

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Which Animal Has Seen the Most Total Solar Eclipses?

An image of an Atlantic Horseshoe Crab, Limulus polyphemus, wearing proper eye protection for viewing the Sun before a Total Solar Eclipse.

In a paper published on the 1st April, author Mark Popinchalk reported upon a fascinating piece of research focussing on which animal has seen the most solar eclipses! It turns out that, whilst us humans have seen our fair share we are nowhere near the top of the list.  According to Popinchalk, the horseshoe crabs have seen a staggering 138 trillion solar eclipses across the entire species. We are hot on their heels but it won’t be until about 10 million years that we catch up!

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It Takes a Supercomputer to Properly Simulate a Neutron Star’s Surface

Neutron stars, the remains of massive stars that have imploded and gone supernova at the end of their life, can still create massive flares. These incredible bursts of energy release X-rays that propagate through space. It is a complex process to simulate but astronomers have turned to a supercomputer to help. Modelling the twisting magnetic fields, the interaction with gas and dust, the surface of flaring neutron stars has been revealed in incredible 3D.

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