The astronomy community breathed a huge sigh of relief earlier this week when the Space Telescope Science Institute announced the Hubble Space Telescope’s major computer issues had been fixed. In a grueling month of recovery work, every expert – even retired Hubble engineers and scientists — was brought in for consultation. Their ultimate success is a tribute to the legacy of problem-solving and innovation NASA has been famous for over the years. And now, the telescope is back doing what it was built to do, taking incredible pictures of the cosmos and sending them down to Earth.
Here are the first images since the long-distance repair, two pictures of galaxies. One shows a galaxy with unusual extended spiral arms, and the other is the first high-resolution view of an intriguing pair of colliding galaxies.
Continue reading “Here are the First New Pictures From the Fully Operational Hubble”
On the anniversary of the first Moon landing, Blue Origin became the second commercial space company in just nine days to send people just past the edge of space. During the seemingly flawless 10 minute and 10 second flight, the four passengers on board the New Shepard rocket whooped with glee and exhilaration. The crew included Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark, and the oldest and youngest people to ever fly to space.
Wally Funk, an 82-year-old pioneering female aviator and member of the so-called “Mercury 13” women astronaut-hopefuls made the flight, along with Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old Dutch physics student.
Continue reading “Blue Origin Successfully Launches the Oldest and Youngest Person to Ever go to Space (oh, and Jeff Bezos too)”
Summertime means it’s time to play ball! But what would it be like to play ball on various locations across our Solar System? Planetary scientist Dr. James O’Donoghue has put together a fun animation of how quickly an object falls on to the surfaces of places like the Sun, Earth, Ceres, Jupiter, the Moon, and Pluto.
Continue reading “Fantastic Visualization Shows What Would Happen if you Dropped a Ball Across the Solar System”
Even though the Cassini mission at Saturn ended nearly four years ago, data from the spacecraft still keeps scientists busy. And the latest research using Cassini’s wealth of data might be the most enticing yet.
Researchers say they’ve detected methane in the plumes of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus. The process for how the methane is produced is not known at this time, but the study suggests that the surprisingly large amount of methane found are likely coming from activity at hydrothermal vents present on Enceladus’s interior seafloor. These vents could be very similar those found in Earth’s oceans, where microorganisms live, feed on the energy from the vents and produce methane in a process called methanogenesis.
Continue reading “Cassini Saw Methane in Enceladus’ Plumes. Scientists Don’t Know How it Could be There Without Life”
Planetary scientists estimate that each year, about 500 meteorites survive the fiery trip through Earth’s atmosphere and fall to our planet’s surface. Most are quite small, and less than 2% of them are ever recovered. While the majority of rocks from space may not be recoverable due to ending up in oceans or remote, inaccessible areas, other meteorite falls are just not witnessed or known about.
But new technology has upped the number known falls in recent years. Doppler radar has detected meteorite falls, as well as all-sky camera networks specifically on the lookout for meteors. Additionally, increased use of dashcams and security cameras have allowed for more serendipitous sightings and data on fireballs and potential meteorite falls.
A team of researchers is now taking advantage of additional technology advances by testing out drones and machine learning for automated searches for small meteorites. The drones are programmed to fly a grid search pattern in a projected ‘strewn field’ for a recent meteorite fall, taking systematic pictures of the ground over a large survey area. Artificial intelligence is then used to search through the pictures to identify potential meteorites.
Continue reading “Researchers Have Taught a Drone to Recognize and Hunt Down Meteorites Autonomously”
Remember the stunning video of the Perseverance rover landing on Mars? The Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) has now released similar video footage from its Zhurong rover, including the sounds recorded as it plummeted through the Martian atmosphere on its way to landing in Utopia Planitia. The CNSA also released sounds of the rover driving off the landing platform.
Continue reading “China Releases Sound and Video of its Rover Landing”
New images from orbit and from Mars’ surface show the Zhurong rover on the move. China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) released new pictures and video this week, and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has followed the rover’s movements from above.
The image above shows wheel tracks left behind by the Zhurong rover.
Continue reading “New Photos and Video Shows China’s Zhurong Rover on the Move”
There will be all sorts of risks for any future colonists on Mars, such as extreme weather and temperatures, radiation, and the human physiological problems associated with living in with decreased gravity. But another issue means colonists on Mars will have to be on a constant lookout above their heads.
Continue reading “This is why Martian Colonists are Going to Wish They had an Atmosphere Above Them”
Since the Juno spacecraft has been in orbit around Jupiter for nearly five years — since July 4, 2016 — you may have forgotten about that time back in 2013 Juno flew past Earth. The spacecraft needed a little extra boost to reach Jupiter, so it used Earth for a gravity assist. Image editor Kevin Gill reminded us of that flyby with some stunning newly processed images of Earth, taken by the JunoCam, the “citizen science” camera on board. Pale blue dot indeed!
Continue reading “Juno Captured This Image of Earth on its Way Out to Jupiter Back in 2013”
The Chinese Tianwen-1 lander and Zhurong rover are being watched, both from Mars’ orbit and from the surface! The Chinese Space Agency today released a series of photos, including a family portrait of the rover and lander taken by a wireless remote camera. And just look at that cute rover face!
Continue reading “China’s Mars Rover, Seen From Orbit … and From the Surface!”