Over 13 billion years ago, the first galaxies in the Universe formed. They were elliptical, with intermediate black holes (IMBHs) at their centers surrounded by a halo of stars, gas, and dust. Over time, these galaxies evolved by flattening out into disks with a large bulge in the middle. They were then drawn together by mutual gravitational attraction to form galaxy clusters, massive collections that comprise the large-scale cosmic structure. This force of attraction also led to mergers, where galaxies and their central black holes came together to create larger spiral galaxies with central supermassive black holes (SMBHs).
This process of mergers and assimilation (and their role in galactic evolution) is still a mystery to astronomers today since much of it took place during the early Universe, which is still very difficult to observe with existing telescopes. Using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the International Gemini Observatory, an international team of astronomers observed a lone distant galaxy that appears to have consumed all of its former companions. Their findings, which recently appeared in The Astrophysical Journal, suggest galaxies in the early Universe grew faster than previously thought.
The picture of the Moon in the banner might not look all that spectacular, but it is absolutely astounding from a technical perspective. What makes it so unique is that it was taken via a telescope using a completely flat lens. This type of lens, called a metalens, has been around for a while, but a team of researchers from Pennsylvania State University (PSU) recently made the largest one ever. At eight cm in diameter, it was large enough to use in an actual telescope – and produce the above picture of the Moon, however, blurred it might be.
“It is possible even with existing technology, if done in the most efficient ways. New methods are needed, but none goes beyond the range of present-day knowledge. The challenge is to bring the goal of space colonization into economic feasibility now, and the key is to treat the region beyond Earth not as a void but as a culture medium, rich in matter and energy. Then, in a time short enough to be useful, the exponential growth of colonies can reach the point at which the colonies can be of great benefit to the entire human race.”
-Gerard K. O’Neill, The Colonization of Space, 1974
During the 1960s and 70s, coinciding with the height of the Space Age, scientists pondered how human beings could one day live in space. Among the many benefits, the migration of humans and industry to other celestial bodies and orbiting habitats presented a possible solution to overpopulation and environmental degradation. As O’Neill suggested in his writings, the key was to make this migration an economically feasible venture. Given the renewed efforts to explore space that are now underway and the rise of commercial space (NewSpace), there is a growing sense that humanity’s migration to space is within reach – and even inevitable.
But to paraphrase famed British historian AJP Taylor, “nothing is inevitable until it happens.” In a new study, Cornell graduate researcher Morgan A. Irons and Norfolk Institute co-founder and executive director Lee G. Irons reviewed a century of scientific studies to develop the Pancosmorio (“World Limit”) theory. They concluded that specific life-sustaining conditions on Earth that are available nowhere else in the Solar System could be the very thing that inhibits our expansion into space. Without an Earth-like “self-restoring order, capacity, and organization,” they argue, space settlements would fail to be sustainable and collapse before long.
A world-famous 17th-century astronomer credited with discovering Saturn’s moon Titan may have needed glasses, according to a recent paper in the Royal Society Journal of the History of Science.
In an era when telescope technology was less than a century old, and evolving rapidly through trial-and-error iterations, Christiaan Huygens was known for producing lenses of unparalleled quality. However, the telescopes he built with those lenses consistently underperformed. The cause, AIP researcher Alex Pietrow suggests, may have been myopia, or nearsightedness, which was a common condition in the Huygens family, though his case must have been mild enough not to notice.
The origins of Earth’s water is a complicated mystery that scientists have been untangling for decades. Life is impossible without water, so the origin of Earth’s life-giving water is a foundational question. As the power of our telescopes grows, researchers have made meaningful headway on the question.
Previous research uncovered links between Earth’s water and the Solar System’s comets and icy planetesimals. But newer research follows the chain back even further in time to when the Sun itself had yet to form.
Seen from space, regions of Mars around the south pole have a bizarre, pitted “Swiss cheese” appearance. These formations come from alternating massive deposits of CO2 ice and water ice, similar to different layers of a cake. For decades, planetary scientists wondered how this formation was possible, as it was long believed that this layering would not be stable for long periods of time.
But in 2020, Peter Buhler, a Research Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, and a team of researchers figured out the dynamics of how the Swiss cheese-like terrain formed: it was due to changes in Mars’ axial tilt that caused changes in the atmospheric pressure, which alternately produced water and CO2 ice. However, they were only able to deduce the rate of CO2 and water deposits over millions of years, which is about ten times longer than Mars’ orbit cycles.
Now, in a follow up study, Buhler was able to model how the frozen carbon dioxide and water deposits grow and shrink over 100,000 year-long cycles of Mars’s polar tilt. The model allowed the researchers to determine how water and carbon dioxide have moved around on Mars over the past 510,000 years.
One of the last times we did an article about a technology that could remove lunar dust from clothing, we opened it with a famous meme line from Star Wars. That also means we should probably avoid subjecting everyone to it again here. Still, the fact that we’ve had an opportunity to use it more than twice recently proves that removing lunar dust is a problem that has attracted a lot of attention in recent years. Artemis, NASA’s program to go back to the Moon this decade, is the cause of a lot of that attention as there are plenty of problems still to overcome. Some of those might be solved by a technique developed by a team at Washington State University (WSU) that uses every child’s gas that allows them to pound nails in with bananas – liquid nitrogen.
Artemis astronauts are returning to the Moon, and they’ll be following in Apollo’s footsteps when they go. But things are different this time. Not only is technology far more advanced, but so is the way we think about technology and how we design it.
A new paper shows how two of modern technology’s offspring— virtual reality (VR) and user-centred design (UCD)—can be brought to bear on the Artemis Program.
For years, China has been dropping hints about its Long March 9 (CZ-9) rocket, a three-stage super-heavy variant of the Long March family. This launch vehicle will reportedly be capable of transporting up to 150,000 kg (165 tons) to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and 54,000 kg (59.5 tons) to a trans-lunar injection. On March 2nd, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) announced (via the Chinese social media platform Weixin) that it had finished building the first propellant tank for the CZ-9.
The news was accompanied by pictures that showed the finished tank and the many components that went into making it – and they are massive!