Weekly Space Hangout: Feb 20, 2019 – Dr. Emily Holt talks Archaeology and Ancient Astronomy

Hosts:
Fraser Cain (universetoday.com / @fcain)
Dr. Paul M. Sutter (pmsutter.com / @PaulMattSutter)
Dr. Kimberly Cartier (KimberlyCartier.org / @AstroKimCartier )
Dr. Morgan Rehnberg (MorganRehnberg.com / @MorganRehnberg & ChartYourWorld.org)

Dr. Emily Holt is an Environmental Archaeologist and Anthropologist who is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Miami University of Ohio. Emily’s research focuses on human-environment dynamics in the Nuragic Culture of Bronze Age Sardinia. She directs the Pran’e Siddi Landscape Project (PSLP), an archaeological survey in south-central Sardinia, which is examining the long-term changes in settlement patterns, water use, and the socio-cultural interpretation of natural resources.

Emily is also the president of the non-profit organization Public Scholar Outreach whose mission is to support, produce, promote, and disseminate high-quality public scholarship, especially public scholarship that is peer-reviewed and public scholarship with relevance to contemporary issues. PSO’s primary initiative is to establish Dirt & Words: an online, open access channel of peer-reviewed public scholarship about the human past.

Today, Emily and Fraser will be discussing how ancient cultures understood astronomy, a topic she recently discussed with Paul Sutter on his Space Radio broadcast.

You can follow Emily on Twitter: @Emily_M_Holt

To learn more about her ongoing research, be sure to visit her website ERRANT: letters from an itinerant archaeologist here: https://errant.live/

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This Star Has Been Going Nova Every Year, for Millions of Years

A nova star is like a vampire that siphons gas from its binary partner. As it does so, the gas is compressed and heated, and eventually it explodes. The remnant gas shell from that explosion expands outward and is lit up by the stars at the center of it all. Most of these novae explode about once every 10 years.

But now astrophysicists have discovered one remnant so large that the star that created it must have been erupting yearly for millions of years.

Continue reading “This Star Has Been Going Nova Every Year, for Millions of Years”

Messier 78 – the NGC 2068 Reflection Nebula

Welcome back to Messier Monday! Today, we continue in our tribute to our dear friend, Tammy Plotner, by looking at Cetus A, the bright reflection nebula known as Messier 78!

During the 18th century, famed French astronomer Charles Messier noticed the presence of several “nebulous objects”  while surveying the night sky. Originally mistaking these objects for comets, he began to catalog them so that others would not make the same mistake. Today, the resulting list (known as the Messier Catalog) includes over 100 objects and is one of the most influential catalogs of Deep Space Objects.

Continue reading “Messier 78 – the NGC 2068 Reflection Nebula”

British Satellite Tests its Space Junk Harpoon

Last summer, a new type of debris-hunting satellite was released from the International Space Station (ISS). It’s known as the RemoveDebris spacecraft, a technology-demonstrator developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd and the Surrey Space Center. The purpose of this satellite is to test whether satellites equipped with targeting software, a debris net and a harpoon are effective at combating space debris.

For the past few months, this spacecraft has been conducting a series of Active Debris Removal (ADR) exercises. About a week ago, according to a recent statement, the RemoveDebris satellite tested out its harpoon for the first time. As you can see from the video, the satellite successfully demonstrated its harpoon system and verified its ability to secure space debris and keep it from flying away.

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Land Heavier Payloads on Mars. Aim for the Ground and Then Pull up at the Last Moment

In the coming decades, a number of missions are planned for Mars, which include proposals to send astronauts there for the first time. This presents numerous logistical and technical challenges, ranging from the sheer distance to the need for increased protection against radiation. At the same time, there is also the difficulty of landing on the Red Planet, or what is referred to as the “Mars Curse“.

To complicate matters more, the size and mass of future missions (especially crewed spacecraft) will be beyond the capacity of current entry, descent, and landing (EDL) technology. To address this, a team of aerospace scientists released a study that shows how a trade-off between lower-altitude braking thrust and flight-path angle could allow for heavy missions to safely land on Mars.

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Mars One, the Plan to Make a Reality Show on Mars, is Bankrupt

An artist's illustration of a Mars settlement. Image: Bryan Versteeg/MarsOne

In 2012, Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp launched the world’s first private and crowdsourced-effort to create a permanent outpost on Mars. Known as Mars One, this organization was the focus of a lot of press since it’s inception, some of it good, most of it bad. While there were many who called the organization’s plan a “suicide mission” or a “scam”, others invested their time, energy, and expertise to help make it happen.

In addition, thousands of volunteers signed on for the adventure, willing to risk life and limb to become part of the first one-way trip to the Red Planet. Unfortunately, we may never get to know if Bas Lansdorp’s plan for colonizing Mars was feasible or even sincere. According to a recent declaration by a Swiss Court, Mars One Ventures (the for-profit arm of Mars One) is now bankrupt.

Continue reading “Mars One, the Plan to Make a Reality Show on Mars, is Bankrupt”