Images are Starting to Come in of the New Interstellar Comet

On August 30th, amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov spotted a comet of extrasolar origin passing through our Solar System. This is the second time in as many years that an interstellar object has been observed (the last being ‘Oumuamua 2.0 in 2017). Thanks to the Gemini Observatory, we now have pictures of this comet, making it the first object of its kind to be successfully imaged in multiple colors!

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Oumuamua 2.0? It Looks Like There’s a New Interstellar Object Passing Through the Solar System

In 2017, astronomers and the world were surprised to learn that an interstellar object (named ‘Oumuamua) passed by Earth on its way to the outer Solar System. After multiple surveys were conducted, scientists were left scratching their heads as to what this object was – which speculation ranging from it being a comet or an asteroid to comet fragment or even an extra-terrestrial solar sail!

But one of the greatest takeaways from that event was the discovery that such objects pass through our Solar System on a regular basis (and some stay). And as it turns out, astronomers with NASA, the ESA, and the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) announced the detection of what could be a second interstellar object! Could this be ‘Oumuamua 2.0? And if so, what mysteries might it present?

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India has Located the Vikram Lander, But it’s Still not Communicating With Home

On Sunday (Sept. 8th), the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced that they had located Vikram, the lander element of their Chandrayaan-2 mission. The search began almost immediately after the space agency lost contact with the robotic spacecraft, which occurred moments before it set down on the lunar surface (on Friday, Sept. 6th).

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Entrepreneurs and Engineers Come Together to Design a Peaceful Lunar Settlement

An illustration of a Moon base that could be built using 3D printing and ISRU, In-Situ Resource Utilization. Credit: RegoLight, visualisation: Liquifer Systems Group, 2018

With all the plans for sending robotic missions to the Moon in the coming years, and NASA’s plan to send the first astronauts of the post-Apollo Era there, one thing is clear: We are going back to the Moon! But unlike the Apollo Era, we intend to do more than mount “footprints and flags” missions this time. This time, we intend to create the infrastructure that would allow for a long-term, sustainable human presence on the Moon.

This is the vision behind the Open Lunar Foundation, a San Fransisco-based nonprofit organization made up of tech industry executives and engineers (some of whom worked for NASA) that is dedicated to the creation of an international lunar settlement. Intrinsic to this vision is the reliance on private enterprise and the development of open-source technology that would humanity to establish a permanent presence on the Moon.

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Gravitational Wave Detectors Might be Able to Detect Dark Matter Particles Colliding With Their Mirrors

The field of astronomy has been revolutionized thanks to the first-ever detection of gravitational waves (GWs). Since the initial detection was made in February of 2016 by scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), multiple events have been detected. These have provided insight into a phenomenon that was predicted over a century ago by Albert Einstein.

As it turns out, the infrastructure that is used to detect GWs could also help crack another astronomical mystery: Dark Matter! According to a new study by a team of Japanese researchers, laser interferometers could be used to look for Weakly-Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs), a major candidate particle in the hunt for Dark Matter.

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Chandrayaan 2 Mission Loses Contact With Vikram Lander During Descent

Reflecting its growth as a global power, India has achieved some impressive progress in space lately. In the past decade, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has sent robotic spacecraft into orbit, to the Moon, and also to Mars. And today, they made their first attempt at a soft lunar landing by sending the Vikram lander towards the surface of the Moon.

This move would have made India the fourth nation in the world to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface. The landing sequence went as planned until the lander reached an altitude of 2.1 km (1.3 mi) above the surface. Unfortunately, communications with the lander was lost at that point and it is unclear whether the lander crashed. At the moment, the ISRO is analyzing data collected by the orbiter to determine what happened.

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Europe and US are Going to Try and Deflect an Asteroid

Next week, asteroid researchers and spacecraft engineers from all around the world will gather in Rome to discuss the latest in asteroid defense. The three-day International AIDA Workshop, which will run from Sept. 11th to 13th, will focus on the development of the joint NASA-ESA Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission.

The purpose of this two-spacecraft system is to deflect the orbit of one of the bodies that make up the binary asteroid Didymos, which orbits between Earth and Mars. While one spacecraft will collide with a binary Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA), the other will observe the impact and survey the crash site in order to gather as much data as possible about this method of asteroid defense.

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It Hasn’t Rained on Mars for a Long Time, but These Sand Dunes Look Like Raindrops, and They’re Filled with Chemicals Made in Water

Mars is well-known for being a dry and arid place, where dusty red sand dunes are prevalent and water exists almost entirely in the form of ice and permafrost. An upside to this, however, is the fact that these conditions are the reason why Mars’ many surface features are so well preserved. And as missions like the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have shown, this allows for some pretty interesting finds.

Consider the picture recently taken by Curiosity’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument while orbiting above the Copernicus Crater on Mars. This image showed raindrop-like features that are actually signs of sand dunes that are rich in olivine. These same types of dunes exist on Earth but are very rare since this mineral weathers quickly and turns to clay in wet environments.

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The Spaceline: an Elevator From the Earth to the Moon –

Humanity’s future may lie in space, but getting out there is a very big challenge. In short, launching payloads into space from the bottom of Earth’s gravity well is quite expensive, regardless of whether or not reusable rockets are involved. And while some have suggested that building a Space Elevator would be a long-term solution to this problem, this concept is also very expensive and presents all kinds of engineering hurdles.

As an alternative, a pair of astronomy graduate students from the US and UK recommend an inspired alternative known as the Spaceline. This concept would consist of anchoring a high-tensile strength caple to the Moon that would extend deep within Earth’s gravity well. This would allow the free movement of people and materials between the Earth and Moon at a fraction of the cost.

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Elon Musks Says that his Next Starship Could be Twice as Big

The past week has been pretty eventful for SpaceX. On Tuesday (Aug. 27th) at 05:00 PM local time (03:00 PST; 06:00 EST), the company conducted its second free-flight test of the Starship Hopper, which saw the test vehicle successfully ascend to 150 m (~500 ft) above the ground and then land in a different spot. This test brings SpaceX one step closer to orbital tests with their full-scale prototypes of the Starship.

But it was what came shortly after this successful test that has people buzzing right now. On Twitter, as Musk was sharing drone footage of the test, he mused about how big SpaceX’s next super-heavy launch system would be. According to Musk, the next-generation system (Starship 2.0, if you will) will be twice as large as the vehicle that is poised to send humans and cargo to the Moon and to Mars.

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