Scientific American 13 Feb 2018, 11:45 UTC Last fall an unexpected out-of-towner blazed a faint but memorable trail through the solar system. ‘Oumuamua, as it came to be called, had dive-bombed the sun from parts unknown, and was witnessed whizzing past Earth on an orbital path that would take it back out to interstellar space. That offered astronomers a brief, first-ever chance to study an object from another star. As a singular event, ‘Oumuamua was gratifyingly weird: likely made of rock or metal, reddish in color, not gassy like a comet and stretched into an extremely elongated shape. On the off chance that the visitor was a probe with artificial origins, scientists with the Breakthrough Listen project and the SETI Institute even checked to see whether it was broadcasting radio waves. (It wasn’t.) Soon the speeding object had slipped beyond the reach of even our best telescopes.
EarthSky Blog 13 Feb 2018, 11:07 UTC Full moon from UC Boulder.Reflectors placed on the moon during manned moon missions have let earthly astronomers accurately measure the moon’s distance. That’s how we know that – today – the moon’s distance from Earth is increasing at a rate of about about 1.6 inches (4 cm) per year. What we haven’t known with any accuracy is how fast the moon was retreating long ago. Now researchers have announced results of new dynamic model – a computer simulation over time – based on the current size of the moon’s equatorial bulge. The model sets parameters on how fast or slowly the moon was receding from Earth, billions of years ago. It has implications for what the Earth, moon and other solar system bodies were like early in the history of our solar system. The study was published online on February 2, 2018 in the American Geophysical Union’s peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Letters. Theoretical geophysicist Chuan Qin, formerly of University of Colorado, Boulder (UC Boulder), now at Harvard, led the study.The Earth and other planets in our solar system are thought to have formed from a cloud of dust and gas orbiting the young sun, four-and-a-half billion years ago. The most ...
The Road to Endeavour 13 Feb 2018, 08:42 UTC The latest images to come back from Opportunity are from Sol 4997. Now, I’m rubbish at maths but even I can work out that that means she is now just three days from reaching a HUGE milestone – her 5000th sol on Mars. Sol 5000. Sol FIVE THOUSAND. Of a mission we hoped would last 90 days.NASA had better make a bloody big deal about this amazing achievement. There had better be special press releases, tributes all over social media, the works. If they don’t pay Oppportunity, her designers, drivers and engineers the proper respect they all deserve it will be a huge insult to the mission and all the people who have worked so hard on it over the years.I guess we’ll see… In the meantime, Opportunity – unconcerned with milestones or anniversaries herself – continues to quietly explore Perseverance Valley on the inner slope of Endeavour Crater. Here are my latest processed images… Three days to go… Sol 5000 is on the horizon…
New Scientist 13 Feb 2018, 07:00 UTC THESE intricate solar panels will help unlock the deepest secrets of Mars. They were opened in a test facility at Lockheed Martin’s Space division in Colorado as part of a check of NASA’s InSight lander. The craft is due to blast off on its journey to the surface of the Red Planet in May.
Astro Bob 12 Feb 2018, 23:46 UTC Larger telescopes will be able to keep track of the speeding Tesla Roadster as it continues along its solar orbit, but for small and amateur telescopes, the time is fast approaching when the car will become too faint to photograph. That’s why Italian astrophysicist Gianluca Masi is holding a “Goodbye, Tesla Roadster” event on Wednesday — Valentines Day — starting at 6:15 a.m. Central Time (12:15 UT) at his Virtual Telescope Project website, where he’ll be live streaming images of the car Just click and watch.
Cosmic Diary 12 Feb 2018, 17:54 UTC This is the upwind edge of a dune field (825×625 m, 0.51×0.39 mi). Winds blow down a cliff (offscreen) from the lower right, blowing sand toward the upper left. Elongated dunes have formed parallel to the resultant wind direction, only avalanching into slip faces once enough sand has piled up (there are two slip faces at the upper left). The tan/black mottling shows where tan dust has settled or been removed from the dark sand by recent winds. Large grains are heavier and harder for the wind to move, so they form into ripples (with a 10 m or 33 ft spacing) that trail behind the dunes – ripples like these are common on the upwind edge of dune fields on both Earth and Mars.
Sky and Telescope 12 Feb 2018, 17:19 UTC As the world knows, the New Horizons spacecraft spectacularly achieved its primary mission — to explore Pluto and its moons — in July 2015 (S&T: Oct. 2016, p. 14). But all along NASA managers had counted on visiting another object farther out in the Kuiper Belt. At launch in 2006, there was no known body it could reach, yet astronomers had sound statistical arguments for why they would find such an object during the decade-long trip to Pluto.
SPACE.com 12 Feb 2018, 12:18 UTC We all know that supernovas, the titanic explosions caused by the death of a massive star or the catastrophic nuclear ignition of a white dwarf, are some of the most fantastic fireworks nature has to offer.