Scientific American 13 Jun 2018, 12:00 UTC Much has been written about the Anthropocene—a proposed new division of geologic time in which humans are a dominant force for planetary change: When did it begin? How might it unfold? And can we, the supposed masters of Earth, actually use our powers to make our planet a better place? Understandably, most of the Anthropocene’s literature to date both in the popular press and peer-reviewed publications has been decidedly Earth-centric. But in a recent series of papers and a new book, Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth, the astrophysicist Adam Frank argues the Anthropocene’s origins and implications are best understood in the context of astrobiology, the study of life in the universe. The climate change and other environmental effects associated with humankind’s global ascendance, he says, are likely to be universal phenomena manifest for any and every technological civilization that emerges somewhere in the cosmos. Which means the most crucial insights governing the Anthropocene may come less from studying the ground beneath our feet and more from turning our gaze to the heavens.
Geekwire 13 Jun 2018, 05:18 UTC NASA’s Opportunity rover on Mars has lost touch with its handlers back on Earth, probably due to a low-power condition brought on by a chokingly thick dust storm. The storm is covering an area of 14 million square miles, or a quarter of the Red Planet, NASA said today in a mission update. The solar-powered rover has been in operation for nearly 15 years — but if its batteries dip below 24 volts of electrical charge, it’s programmed to put nearly all its systems into sleep mode and wait until the batteries are sufficiently charged up. NASA’s other active Mars rover, Curiosity, is better able to cope with the darkening storm because its power comes from a plutonium-fueled generator. Mission managers are scheduled to discuss Opportunity’s prospects during a teleconference at 1:30 p.m. ET (10:30 a.m. PT) Wednesday.
NASA Space Station Blog 12 Jun 2018, 16:53 UTC NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are set to go on their third spacewalk together this year on Thursday at the International Space Station. Their new Expedition 56 crewmates Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Alexander Gerst are training today to support the two spacewalkers.
The Planetary Society Blog 12 Jun 2018, 15:23 UTC As Hayabusa2 coasts toward Ryugu, a second asteroid sample return mission is nearing its own rendezvous. NASA's OSIRIS-REx will get the first sight of its target Bennu in August and go into orbit in December. It's a bit early to post about what to expect, but Hayabusa2's impending arrival is making a lot of people (including me) ask "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" about OSIRIS-REx.
Astrobiology Magazine 12 Jun 2018, 14:15 UTC The effects of solar wind bombardment are in some cases much more drastic than previously thought.
Sky and Telescope 11 Jun 2018, 15:56 UTC Astronomers have been struggling to explain the orbits of 30 or so bodies at the outer rims of the solar system, called “detached objects.” These worlds are smaller than Pluto and travel in elliptical trajectories around the Sun. Sedna is one of the most well-known detached objects: a reddish world found in 2003, it’s one-third the size of the Moon and has an orbital period of 11,400 years — the longest of any object known in the solar system. At closest approach it passes 76 times farther away than the distance between the Sun and Earth. At its farthest, it goes more than 900 times that distance.
Scientific American 11 Jun 2018, 15:00 UTC When astronomers first peered at the cosmos in microwave light, they knew they had stumbled on a window into the universe’s earliest moments. After all, the cosmic microwave background—that hazy afterglow of the big bang released when the universe was a mere 380,000 years old—has allowed scientists to answer fundamental questions about where we came from. But microwave light has also raised an intriguing mystery closer to home. In 1996 astronomers noticed an inexplicable excess of microwaves emanating from our own galaxy. For over 20 years, this so-called anomalous microwave emission has remained an enigma—until today. A new study published in Nature Astronomy suggests spinning nano-diamonds might be the culprit.