Universe Today 6 Feb 2020, 17:40 UTC A trio of space travelers returned to Earth this morning from the International Space Station, including NASA astronaut Christina Koch, who set a record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman, at 326 straight days. Also coming home was ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano, who has now spent a total of 367 days in space (in two missions), more days than any ESA astronaut in history.
Centauri Dreams 6 Feb 2020, 16:11 UTC The dataflow from New Horizons has been abundant enough that we are now drilling down to atmospheric models that may explain the dwarf planet’s topography. Mention topography on Pluto and the first thing that leaps to mind is Tombaugh Regio, and a new paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research Planets actually takes us into its role in the formation of regional weather patterns on the icy orb. For at the heart of Pluto’s weather appears to be the terrain often called Pluto’s ‘heart,’ from the distinctive shape it imposes upon the landscape.
Bad Astronomy 6 Feb 2020, 14:00 UTC Astronomers have found a very massive galaxy nearly clear across the Universe. It has something like 300 billion stars in it, so it's actually more stelliferous than even our own Milky Way. Because it's so far away we see it as it was when it was very young, which in turn means it made a lot of stars extremely quickly. That's unusual for a galaxy at that distance but not unprecedented.
New Scientist 6 Feb 2020, 11:30 UTC For years, astronomers have been searching for patterns in strange blasts of radio waves coming from space. These fast radio bursts (FRBs) had seemed totally random, but for the first time we have seen an FRB that turns off and on again at regular intervals. Now we just need to figure out why.
Astronomy Now 5 Feb 2020, 16:36 UTC On 4 January 1986, NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft snapped spectacular pictures of Uranus’ moon Miranda, one of the strangest bodies in the solar system. Three lightly cratered areas of ridges and valleys, known as coronae, are separated from presumably older, heavily cratered regions, giving the surface the appearance of “mismatched patches on a moth-eaten cloth,” according to a description on NASA’s Solar System Exploration website. Giant fault canyons plunge 12 times deeper than the Grand Canyon with sheer cliffs that almost defy imagination. Thanks to the moon’s low gravity, an astronaut stepping off the edge of the highest cliff would have a full 10 minutes to reconsider the wisdom of that final step before hitting the ground below.
Centauri Dreams 4 Feb 2020, 18:54 UTC When we consider pushing a sail to 20 percent of lightspeed, which is the target velocity for Breakthrough Starshot, it’s interesting to think about how laser propulsion differs from sunlight. After all, while constructing a huge laser array presents numerous challenges on Earth, we already have a star to work with, and sail technology that is beginning to be tested in space. Consider, too, that we have operational spacecraft like the Parker Solar Probe that are exploring regions close to the Sun, helping us learn more about heat shields, even as we plan missions like Solar Cruiser, whose sail would enable interesting non-Keplerian orbits near the Sun.
NASA Space Station Blog 4 Feb 2020, 16:43 UTC The crew aboard the International Space Station is preparing to split up while also getting ready for a U.S. space delivery. NASA astronaut Christina Koch is packing up and cleaning her crew quarters today ahead of her return to Earth early Thursday. She will board the Soyuz MS-13 crew ship on Wednesday about 9:30 p.m. EST with crewmates Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency).