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”
Auroras come in many shapes and sizes. Jupiter is well known for its spectacular complement of bright polar lights, which also have the distinction of appearing in the X-ray band. These auroras are also extreme power sources, emitting almost a gigawatt of energy in a few minutes. But what exactly causes them has been a mystery for the last 40 years. Now, a team used data from a combination of satellites to identify what is causing these powerful emissions. The answer appears to be charged ions surfing on a kind of wave.
Continue reading “Ions Surf Through Jupiter’s Magnetic Field, Triggering its Auroras”
Visualizations shape how we perceive space exploration. Whether it’s the Pale Blue Dot, the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, Earthrise, or any other myriad images captured as part of this great endeavor, they all help inspire the next generation of explorers. Now, with advances in image capture and processing technology, we can finally start to take the next step in those visualizations – video. Ingenuity was recently captured on video during its first flight a few months ago. And this week, NASA released a breathtaking video of Juno’s view of Jupiter and Ganymede, one of its moons, as it flew past the gas giant.
Continue reading “This is the View From Juno During its Flyby of Ganymede and Jupiter”
Early this morning, from their Launch Site One facility in West Texas, Blue Origin made history as it conducted the first crewed flight of its New Shepard launch vehicle. The crew consisted of four commercial astronauts: Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, his brother Mark Bezos, aerospace pioneer Wally Funk, and 18-year old student from The Netherlands Oliver Daemon.
Continue reading “What’s Next for Blue Origin After Today’s Successful Flight?”
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)”
Update: Hubble took its first picture since it went into safe mode on June 13th! More info here.
On Sunday, June 13th, the Hubble Space Telescope gave the astronomical community a fright when its payload computer suddenly stopped working. This prompted the main computer to put the telescope and its scientific instruments into safe mode. What followed was many tense weeks as the operations team for the HST tried to figure out what the source of the problem was and come up with a strategy for turning Hubble back on.
On Friday, July 17th, after more than a month of checking, re-checking, and attempted restarts, the operations team for Hubble identified the root of the problem and restored power to the telescope’s hardware and all of its instruments. Science operations can now resume, and the pioneering space telescope that gave us over thirty years of dedicated astronomy, cosmology, and astrophysics, still has some life in her!
Continue reading “Good News! NASA Announces that they have Fixed Hubble!”
Ever since the announcement last September that astronomers found evidence of phosphine in the clouds of Venus, the planet has been getting a lot of attention. It’s not surprising. Phosphine is a potential biosignature: On Earth, it is produced by microbial life. Might a similar biological process be taking place in the skies of our sister planet? It’s a tantalizing prospect, and is definitely worth examining closely, but it’s too early to be sure. Microbes aren’t the only way to get phosphine. A new paper published on July 12th in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science suggests that volcanism might instead be to blame for the strange chemistry in the Venusian cloud tops.
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We know of four fundamental forces of nature, with no signs of a fifth. But dark matter and dark energy make up over 90% of all the contents of the universe. So the question remains: could there be a fifth force hiding in the “dark sector” of our universe?
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As of 2020, there were over 19,000 pieces of individually tracked space junk in orbit above the Earth. Of those, a mere 2,200 were operational satellites. As more and more satellites go up, the risk of collisions increases. And what are governments doing to stop it? Basically, nothing.
Continue reading “We Need to Fix Space Junk Before It’s Too Late”
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”