Tag: space

Astronomers Have Found A New Crop Of Moons Around Jupiter, And One Of Them Is A Weirdo

Ten more moons have been confirmed to orbit around Jupiter, bringing the planet’s total known satellite count to 79.

That’s the highest number of moons of any planet in the Solar System. And these newly discovered space rocks are giving astronomers insight as to why the Jupiter system looks like it does today.

Astronomers at Carnegie Institution for Science first found these moons in March 2017, along with two others that were already confirmed in June of last year.

The team initially found all 12 moons using the Blanco 4-meter telescope in Chile, though finding these objects wasn’t their main goal.

Instead, they were searching for incredibly distant small objects — or even planets — that might be lurking in our Solar System beyond Pluto.

But as they searched for these fringe space rocks, they decided to take a peek at what might be lurking around Jupiter at the same time.




Now, the moons they found have been observed multiple times, and their exact orbits have been submitted for approval from the International Astronomical Union, which officially recognizes celestial bodies.

These moons are all pretty tiny, ranging between less than a mile and nearly two miles wide. And they break down into three different types. Two orbit closer to Jupiter, moving in the same direction that the planet spins.

Farther out from those, about 15.5 million miles from the planet, there are nine that revolve in the opposite direction, moving against Jupiter’s rotation.

But in this same distant region, one strange moon that astronomers are calling Valetudo is moving with Jupiter’s spin, like the two inner moons.

That means it’s going in the opposite direction of all the other moons in the same area. “It’s basically driving down the highway in the wrong direction,” Scott Sheppard, an astronomer at Carnegie who led the discovery team said.

That’s a very unstable situation. Head-on collisions are likely to happen in that situation.

Valetudo isn’t the only moon of Jupiter that acts this way. Another moon called Carpo also orbits far out from Jupiter, moving in the opposite direction of many other moons in the area.

The small dot between the yellow lines in these photographs is the newly discovered moon Valetudo.

However, Valetudo orbits much farther away than Carpo, and it may actually be the smallest moon Jupiter has.

Now with this discovery, astronomers think it’s good evidence that moon-on-moon collisions have happened in Jupiter’s past, and these are responsible for the lunar landscape around the planet today.

Valetudo, at just 1 kilometer across, is probably the last remnant of a much larger moon that’s been ground down into dust over time,” says Sheppard.

Finding moons around Jupiter can be tough. As the biggest planet in our Solar System, it has a very large area of influence, so there’s a lot of space where moons could potentially be.

It’s difficult to search that area in a timely manner with a telescope. “It’s like looking through a straw, and you’re just covering as many points around Jupiter as you can looking for these things,” says Sheppard.

And since Jupiter is so large, it reflects a whole lot of light. That means there can be a lot of glare when searching for super faint moons around the planet.

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NASA Is Planning To Make Water And Oxygen On The Moon And Mars By 2020

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins works with a Nitrogen/Oxygen Recharge System tank aboard the International Space Station.

NASA is forging ahead with plans to make water, oxygen, and hydrogen on the surface of the Moon and Mars.

If we ever want to colonize other planets, it is vital that we find a way of extracting these vital gases and liquids from moons and planets, rather than transporting them from Earth.

The current plan is to land a rover on the Moon in 2018 that will try to extract hydrogen, water, and oxygen — and then hopefully, Curiosity’s successor will try to convert the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into oxygen in 2020 when it lands on Mars.

In 2018, NASA hopes to put a rover on the Moon that will carry the RESOLVE (Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen & Lunar Volatile Extraction) science payload.

RESOLVE will contain the various tools necessary to carry out in-situ resource utilization (ISRU).




Basically, RESOLVE will sift through the Moon’s regolith (loose surface soil) and heat them up, looking for traces of hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be combined to make water.

There is also some evidence that there’s water ice on the surface of the Moon — RESOLVE will find out for certain by heating the soil and seeing of water vapor emerges.

A similar payload would be attached to Curiosity’s successor, which is currently being specced out by NASA and will hopefully launch in 2020.

This second IRSU experiment will probably suck in carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere, filter out the dust, and then process the CO2 into oxygen.

If either tech demonstration works as planned, future missions might include large-scale ISRU devices that are capable of producing significant amounts of hydrogen, oxygen, and water on the Moon or Mars.

This would probably be the most important advance since we first landed on the Moon in the ’60s. Basically, as it stands, space travel needs lots of hydrogen and oxygen and water.

Water has the unfortunate characteristic of being both heavy and incompressible, meaning it’s very difficult and expensive to lift large amounts of it into space (gravity can be really annoying sometimes).

Likewise, unless we come up with some other way of powering our spacecraft, it’s infeasible to carry the rocket fuel that we’d need for exploration from Earth.

In short, if we want to colonize space, we really, really need some kind of base outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, preferably on the Moon — but Mars would be good, too.

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Astronomers Might Have Finally Detected Where Mysterious, Extra-Galactic Neutrinos Are Coming From

Just over three years ago, physicists working in Antarctica announced they’d detected the first evidence of mysterious subatomic particles, known as neutrinos, coming from outside our galaxy.

It was a huge moment for astrophysics, but since then, no one’s quite been able to figure out where those particles are coming from, and what’s sending them hurtling our way.

Until now, that is – a team of astronomers has just identified the possible source of one these extragalactic visitors, and it appears that it started its journey to us nearly 10 billion years ago, when a massive explosion erupted in a galaxy far, far away.

Let’s step back for a second here though and explain why this is a big deal. Neutrinos are arguably the weirdest of the fundamental subatomic particles.

They don’t have any mass, they’re incredibly fast, and they’re pretty much invisible, because they hardly ever interact with matter.




Like tiny ghosts, billions of neutrinos per second are constantly flowing through us, and we never even know about it.

In order to detect them, researchers have step up extravagant labs, like the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole, where they wait patiently to capture glimpses of neutrinos streaking through the planet, and measure how energetic they are, to try to work out where they came from.

Usually that source is radioactive decay here on Earth or inside the Sun, or maybe from the black hole at the centre of our galaxy.

But in 2013, the IceCube researchers announced they’d detected a couple of neutrinos so unimaginably energetic, they knew they must have come from outside our galaxy.

These neutrinos were named ‘Bert’ and ‘Ernie‘ (seriously) and they were the first evidence of extragalactic neutrinos.

Their discovery was followed by the detection of a couple of dozen more, slightly less energetic, extragalactic neutrinos over the coming months.

Then at the end of 2012, they spotted ‘Big Bird‘.

At the time it was the most energetic neutrino ever detected, with energy exceeding 2 quadrillion electron volts – that’s more than a million million times greater than the energy of a dental X-ray.

Not bad for a massless ghost particle.

Since then, teams across the world have been working to figure out where the hell this anomaly had come from. And now we might finally have a suspect.

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Meteor, Comet Or Asteroid? How To Tell Them Apart.

Here’s how to tell a meteor from an asteroid from a comet.

Meteoroid: A small rocky or metal object, usually between the size of a grain of sand or a boulder, that orbits the sun. It originates from a comet or asteroid.

Meteor: A meteoroid that enters the earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes. Also called a “shooting star.”




Meteorite: A meteor that hits earth without burning up in the atmosphere.

Meteor shower: A collection of meteors visible when earth passes through a trail of debris left by a comet.

Asteroid: An object larger than a meteoroid that orbits the sun and is made of rock or metal. Historically, objects larger than 10 meters across have been called asteroids; smaller than that they’ve been called meteoroids.

Comet: A body of ice, rock and dust that can be several miles in diameter and orbits the sun. Debris from comets is the source of many meteoroids.

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Exoplanet Kepler-186f: Earth-Size World Could Support Oceans And Life (Infographic)

Astronomers have discovered a planet about the size of Earth, orbiting its star in the zone where oceans of liquid water would be possible.

A study of the newly-found planet indicates it could have an Earth-like atmosphere and water at its surface. The planet Kepler-186f is the fifth planet of the star Kepler-186, 490 light-years away.




The planet has 1.11 times the Earth’s mass. Its radius is 1.1 times that of Earth. Kepler-186f orbits at 32.5 million miles (52.4 million kilometers) from its parent star. Its year is 130 Earth days.

The planet orbits Kepler-186, an M-type dwarf star less than half as massive as the sun.

Because the star is cooler than the sun, the planet receives solar energy less intense than that received by Mars in our solar system, despite the fact that Kepler-186f orbits much closer to its star.

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Hayabusa 2 Spacecraft Cozies Up To Gemstone-Shaped Asteroid

Asteroids come in all shapes and sizes. We’ve seen a die and a skull and now we can add a gemstone to the list.

JAXA, Japan’s space agency, posted images of the asteroid Ryugu as seen by its fast-approaching Hayabusa 2 spacecraft.

Hayabusa 2 is the sequel to Japan’s original Hayabusa asteroid mission, which returned to Earth in 2010 after touching down on an asteroid named Itokawa.

The probe successfully gathered sample particles from the asteroid and brought them back to Earth. The current mission will also try to gather and return samples from Ryugu.




JAXA’s asteroid hunter launched in late 2014 and has since traveled about 2 billion miles (3.2 billion kilometers). It is now sending back our best-ever looks at the distant space object.

A photograph from June 24 shows the asteroid’s rough surface and diamond-like shape.

JAXA describes the shape as being similar to the mineral flourite, which is known as the “firefly stone” in Japanese. The space agency also suggests it looks a bit like an abacus bead.

The asteroid’s angular shape poses some challenges to Hayabasu 2’s plan to place a lander and three miniature rovers on its surface.

There is a peak in the vicinity of the equator and a number of large craters, which makes the selection of the landing points both interesting and difficult,” says JAXA.

Hayabusa2 will hang out at Ryugu for over a year and eventually return to Earth near the end of 2020.

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US Space Startup Rocket Lab Sets New Date For First Commercial Launch

US spaceflight startup Rocket Lab has scheduled new dates for its first commercial rocket launch — a mission dubbed “It’s Business Time.”

The company plans to launch its small rocket, the Electron, sometime between June 23rd and July 6th.

The rocket will take off from Rocket Lab’s New Zealand launchpad and carry five small satellites to orbit for customers, kicking off a busy year of commercial operations for the launch provider.

Rocket Lab originally hoped to do this mission back in April, but the company had to postpone after it noticed some strange behavior with the rocket.

After propping up the Electron on the launchpad and filling it with fuel, the engineering team found that a critical motor responsible for controlling the pumps inside the engines was acting funny.

So Rocket Lab decided to stand down to figure out what was causing the issue. “It’s been a really tough one to determine the root cause,” Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck tells The Verge. “It wasn’t particularly obvious.




After a few months, Beck says the company has it figured out and made a few changes to the vehicle to ensure that motor works properly.

During the stand down, Rocket Lab decided to add a couple more satellites to the manifest for It’s Business Time.

Originally this mission was only going to send up two small Lemur-2 satellites made by Spire Global, as well as another probe made by Tyvak Nano-Satellite Systems.

Now, it’ll also include a research satellite built by students and a special test satellite that will demonstrate a flat, reflective sail.

The tech will help the probe get dragged down to Earth faster, helping clear satellites from space when they’re done with their missions.

This will be the third launch of Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle. The company pulled off two successful test launches — one in May of last year and one in January — before deciding to move to commercial flights.

During the first test launch, the rocket made it to space, but it didn’t reach orbit due to a glitch in communications equipment on the ground.

The second test, however, did achieve orbit and deposited three satellites as well as a disco-ball-like sphere made by Beck himself.

Originally, Rocket Lab had planned to do a third test flight, but it decided that it had gathered enough data with its two tests to start business operations.

Once this commercial flight gets off the ground, Beck maintains that Rocket Lab has a full couple of years ahead.

There’s no space available in 2018, and we’re putting more flights on in 2019 to allow for more space,” says Beck.

The next flight after It’s Business Time will be one for NASA, sending up 11 standardized small satellites called CubeSats.

Rocket Lab’s goal is to be a dedicated launcher of small satellites. That’s why its primary rocket isn’t very big.

The Electron stands at just 55 feet tall and is capable of putting between 330 and 500 pounds of cargo into low Earth orbit.

In comparison, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is 230 feet tall and can put 50,000 pounds into the same orbit.

Rocket Lab’s idea is to capitalize on the small satellite revolution, in which manufacturers are making spacecraft smaller and faster than ever before.

To that end, Rocket Lab also hopes to be able to get satellites into orbit as quickly as possible, eventually getting to a point where the company can launch every 72 hours.

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How Do Aliens Solve Climate Change?

The universe does many things. It makes galaxies, comets, black holes, neutron stars, and a whole mess more.

We’ve lately discovered that it makes a great deal of planets, but it’s not clear whether it regularly makes energy-hungry civilizations, nor is it clear whether such civilizations inevitably drive their planets into climate change.

There’s lots of hope riding on our talk about building a sustainable civilization on Earth. But how do we know that’s even possible? Does anyone across the cosmos ever make it?

Remarkably, science has now advanced to point where we can take a first step at answering this question.

I know this because my colleagues and I have just published a first study mapping out possible histories of alien planets, the civilizations they grow, and the climate change that follows.

Our team was made up of astronomers, an earth scientist, and an urban ecologist.




It was only half-jokingly that we thought of our study as a “theoretical archaeology of exo-civilizations.” “Exo-civilizations” are what people really mean when they talk about aliens.

Astronomers refer to the new worlds they’ve discovered as “exoplanets.”

They’re now gearing up to use the James Webb Space Telescope and other instruments to search for life by looking for signs of “exo-biospheres” on those exoplanets.

So if we have exoplanets and exo-biospheres, it’s time to switch out the snicker-inducing word “aliens” for the real focus of our concerns: exo-civilizations.

Of course, we have no direct evidence relating to any exo-civilizations or their histories. What we do have, however, are the laws of planets. Our robot emissaries have already visited most of the worlds in the solar system.

We’ve set up weather stations on Mars, watched the runaway greenhouse effect on Venus, and seen rain cascade across methane lakes on Titan.

From these worlds we learned the generic physics and chemistry that make up what’s called climate.

We can use these laws to predict the global response of any planet to something like an asteroid impact or perhaps the emergence of an energy-hungry industrial civilization.

Science fiction has given us enduring images of alien races. Not surprisingly, most of them look a lot like us but with different kinds of foreheads or ears, or a different number of fingers on their hands.

In developing our first cut at a science of exo-civilizations, my collaborators and I weren’t interested in what aliens might look like or what kind of sex they have.

To do our job we had to avoid the specifics of both their individual biology and their sociology because science provides us little to work with on those fronts. There was, however, one place where biology was up to the task.

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Trump’s Space Force Push Reopens Arguments About Military in Space

President Donald Trump’s call this week that to create a sixth branch of the U.S. military — which he called the “Space Force” — has reopened a wider debate about whether such a move is necessary to better manage military space activities.

While the idea of a separate, space-focused military branch is not new, Trump’s surprise announcement caused a buzz on social media and news outlets.

When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space,” Trump said in a speech before a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House Monday (June 18).

“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.” That’s a big statement.




Trump’s remarks follow decades of discussion on a separate space branch, including a recent 2017 attempt to create a new U.S. Space Corps.

At the time, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee drafted legislation for the new corps in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.

While the U.S. secretary of the Air Force was supposed to oversee this new branch, the U.S. Space Corps would have had its own seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Senior military officials did not universally approve the proposal, and it was ultimately withdrawn.

But some space experts say Trump’s announcement may at least spur more discussion about how to best manage space activities.

The United States has worried for many years about the security of its satellites and how to best protect them, said Barry Strauss, a military and naval historian who is a humanistic studies professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

But it’s hard to say how a Space Force would change things, because the U.S. Air Force already oversees the military’s space asset procurement budget with participation from the other military branches, pointed out Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

Also, there are concerns about how to protect satellites without breaking international treaties and, more pressingly, generating more space debris by firing offensive weapons at satellites.

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Gecko-Inspired Robot Has Grippers That Help Could Clean Up Space Debris

robot

In space, grabbing onto things is hard. A new robot that uses grippers inspired by gecko feet could solve that problem, helping clear up the mess of debris that orbits Earth.

The toaster-sized device can grip, hold onto and move around even large, smooth surfaces in microgravity, on both flat and curved objects.




To do this, it uses a “dry adhesive” material created by Hao Jiang at Stanford University in California and his colleagues.

In an environment where an accidental nudge can send something flying and space debris can be travelling faster than the speed of sound, agility is key.

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