15 Different Ideas for Rovers That Could Explore Venus

NASA and many other space agencies around the world are eager to get back to Venus. And this time around, they want to send missions that can explore the surface for more than a few hours! To this end, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Glenn Research Center (GRC) are investigating “steampunk” concepts and special electronic systems that will allow rovers to work in Venus’ hellish environment.

In February of 2020, NASA also launched a public competition through HeroX to seak ideas for rovers that would be capable of surviving the extreme conditions on Venus’ surface – the “Exploring Hell Challenge“. After months of consideration for all the worthy submissions they received, NASA recently announced that it in addition to three winning concepts, they have selected two additional finalists and ten honorable mentions!

Continue reading “15 Different Ideas for Rovers That Could Explore Venus”

1 in 10 Red Giants are Covered in Spots, and They Rotate Surprisingly Quickly

Sunspots are common on our Sun. These darker patches are cooler than their surroundings, and they’re caused by spikes in magnetic flux that inhibit convection. Without convection, those areas cool and darken.

Lots of other stars have sunspots, too. But Red Giants (RGs) don’t. Or so astronomers thought.

A new study shows that some RGs do have spots, and that they rotate faster than thought.

Continue reading “1 in 10 Red Giants are Covered in Spots, and They Rotate Surprisingly Quickly”

Astronomers Have Mapped Out an Enormous Structure in the Universe Called the South Pole Wall

Galaxies aren’t spread evenly throughout space. They exist in groups, clusters, and superclusters. Our own Milky Way galaxy exists in an impossibly vast structure called the Laniakea supercluster. Laniakea was defined in 2014, and it contains over 100,000 galaxies.

Now a team of astronomers have discovered another immense feature beyond Laniakea, called the South Pole Wall.

Continue reading “Astronomers Have Mapped Out an Enormous Structure in the Universe Called the South Pole Wall”

Parker Solar Probe Gives a Unique Perspective on Comet NEOWISE

Comet watchers have enjoying the newly-discovered NEOWISE comet since it was first spotted in March 2020. Now that it’s visible with the naked eye, in dark sky conditions, all kinds of Earthly observers are checking the visitor out.

But NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has another view of the comet, one denied to Earth-bound observers.

Continue reading “Parker Solar Probe Gives a Unique Perspective on Comet NEOWISE”

New Zealand just got its first International Dark Sky Park

As light pollution around the world increases, we are losing our access to the night sky. Thankfully, dark sky preserves and parks do exactly what their names suggest – preserve the night sky as our ancestors knew it. And recently, the Wai-iti Recreational Reserve and Tunnicliff Forest has been accredited, offering stargazers in New Zealand unprecedented views of the heavens above.

Continue reading “New Zealand just got its first International Dark Sky Park”

A Giant Galaxy Seen Lighting Up the Universe Shortly After the Big Bang

About 370,000 years after the Big Bang, the Universe experienced a period that cosmologists refer to as the “Cosmic Dark Ages.” During this period, the Universe was obscured by pervasive neutral gas that obscured all visible light, making it invisible to astronomers. As the first stars and galaxies formed over the next few hundred millions of years, the radiation they emitted ionized this plasma, making the Universe transparent.

One of the biggest cosmological mysteries right now is when “cosmic reionization” began. To find out, astronomers have been looking deeper into the cosmos (and farther back in time) to spot the first visible galaxies. Thanks to new research by a team of astronomers from University College London (UCL), a luminous galaxy has been observed that was reionizing the intergalactic medium 13 billion years ago.

Continue reading “A Giant Galaxy Seen Lighting Up the Universe Shortly After the Big Bang”

Languages Will Change Significantly on Interstellar Flights

It’s a captivating idea: build an interstellar ark, fill it with people, flora, and fauna of every kind, and set your course for a distant star! The concept is not only science fiction gold, its been the subject of many scientific studies and proposals. By building a ship that can accommodate multiple generations of human beings (aka. a Generation Ship), humans could colonize the known Universe.

But of course, there are downsides to this imaginative proposal. During such a long voyage, multiple generations of people will be born and raised inside a closed environment. This could lead to all kinds of biological issues or mutations that we simply can’t foresee. But according to a new study by a team of linguistics professors, there’s something else that will be subject to mutation during such a voyage – language itself!

Continue reading “Languages Will Change Significantly on Interstellar Flights”

What Telescope Will Be Needed to See the First Stars in the Universe? The Ultimately Large Telescope

The oldest stars in the Universe are cloaked in darkness. Their redshift is so high, we can only wonder about them. The James Webb Space Telescope will be our most effective telescope for observing the very early Universe, and should observe out to z = 15. But even it has limitations.

To observe the Universe’s very first stars, we need a bigger telescope. The Ultimately Large Telescope.

Continue reading “What Telescope Will Be Needed to See the First Stars in the Universe? The Ultimately Large Telescope”