Success! OSIRIS-REx Touches Asteroid Bennu to Collect Samples

Out in the asteroid belt, 207 million miles (334 million km) from Earth, a little spacecraft briefly touched down on the surface of Asteroid Bennu today, attempting to collect samples of dust and rocks.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) spent about 10 seconds on the ancient asteroid to collect samples, slated to come back to Earth in 2023.  While mission scientists and engineers need to confirm that samples from the asteroid were collected, preliminary data show that every step of the procedure went as planned.

Continue reading “Success! OSIRIS-REx Touches Asteroid Bennu to Collect Samples”

Wow, Betelgeuse Might Be 25% Closer than Previously Believed

In the last year, Betelgeuse has experienced two episodes of dimming. Normally, it’s one of the ten brightest stars in the sky, and astrophysicists and astronomers got busy trying to understand what was happening with the red supergiant. Different research came up with some possible answers: Enormous starspots, a build-up of dust, pre-supernova convulsions.

Now a new study is introducing another wrinkle into our understanding of Betelgeuse. The authors say that Betelgeuse is both smaller and closer than previously thought.

Continue reading “Wow, Betelgeuse Might Be 25% Closer than Previously Believed”

Watch “Live” as NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Nabs an Asteroid Sample

Today’s the day! The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is going to reach out and boop asteroid Bennu! You can watch the broadcast here as the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission attempts to collect a sample of an asteroid on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 6:12 pm EDT (5:12 pm CDT, 3:12 PDT).

Continue reading “Watch “Live” as NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Nabs an Asteroid Sample”

You’ll Experience 200 Times More Radiation Standing on the Moon than Standing on the Earth

January 31, 2021, will mark 50 years since the launch of Apollo 14. This historic mission was the first to broadcast a color television signal from the surface of the Moon and marked the heroic return to space of America’s first astronaut, Alan Shepard, who famously hit two golf balls off of the lunar regolith. While the significance of Apollo 14 and the Apollo program, in general, can’t be overstated, Shepard spent a mere two days on the lunar surface. The record for the longest human presence on the Moon, held by Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, is just over three days. All of the Apollo astronauts were exposed to high levels of radiation on the surface of the Moon but with such relatively short stays, the risk was considered to be acceptable.

Continue reading “You’ll Experience 200 Times More Radiation Standing on the Moon than Standing on the Earth”

NASA and Seven Countries Sign the Artemis Accords for the Exploration of the Moon. Russia Declined to Participate

It looks like Russia is thumbing its nose at international cooperation on the Moon. They’ve refused to sign the Artemis Accords, which are a set of rules governing Lunar exploration. NASA and seven other countries have signed on already, with more to come.

Continue reading “NASA and Seven Countries Sign the Artemis Accords for the Exploration of the Moon. Russia Declined to Participate”

What’s Happening with Betelgeuse? Astronomers Propose a Specialized Telescope to Watch the Star Every Night

Starting in late 2019, Betelgeuse began drawing a lot of attention after it mysteriously started dimming, only to brighten again a few months later. For a variable star like Betelgeuse, periodic dimming and brightening are normal, but the extent of its fluctuation led to all sorts of theories as to what might be causing it. Similar to Tabby’s Star in 2015, astronomers offered up the usual suspects (minus the alien megastructure theory!)

Whereas some thought that the dimming was a prelude to the star becoming a Type II supernova, others suggested that dust clouds, enormous sunspots, or ejected clouds of gas were the culprit. In any case, the “Great Dimming of Betelgeuse” has motivated an international team of astronomers to propose that a “Betelgeuse Scope” be created that cant monitor the star constantly.

Continue reading “What’s Happening with Betelgeuse? Astronomers Propose a Specialized Telescope to Watch the Star Every Night”

The galaxy with 99.99% dark matter isn’t so mysterious any more

The dwarf galaxy known as Dragonfly 44 caused a stir recently: apparently it had way, way more dark matter than any other galaxy. Since this couldn’t be explained by our models of galaxy formation, it seemed like an oddball. But a new analysis reveals that Dragonfly 44 has much less dark matter than previously thought. In short: it’s totally normal.

Continue reading “The galaxy with 99.99% dark matter isn’t so mysterious any more”

NASA Announces 14 New “Tipping Point” Technologies for its Lunar Exploration

In four years, NASA plans to return astronauts to the Moon as part of Project Artemis. To ensure the success of this endeavor, as well as the creation of a program of sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade, NASA has partnered with multiple entities in the commercial space sector. Recently, they announced that contracts will be awarded to 14 additional companies to develop a range of proposed technologies.

These proposals are part of NASA’s fifth competitive Tipping Point solicitation, one of many private-public partnership programs overseen by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). For this latest solicitation, Tipping Point is awarding contracts with a combined value of over $370 million for technology demonstrations that will facilitate future lunar missions and commercial space capabilities.

Continue reading “NASA Announces 14 New “Tipping Point” Technologies for its Lunar Exploration”

We actually don’t know how fast the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole is spinning but there might be a way to find out

Unless Einstein is wrong, a black hole is defined by three properties: mass, spin, and electric charge. The charge of a black hole should be nearly zero since the matter captured by a black hole is electrically neutral. The mass of a black hole determines the size of its event horizon, and can be measured in several ways, from the brightness of the material around it to the orbital motion of nearby stars. The spin of a black hole is much more difficult to study.

Continue reading “We actually don’t know how fast the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole is spinning but there might be a way to find out”