Starts With a Bang! 14 Dec 2020, 15:01 UTC All stars, even our Sun, will someday eventually die.
Bad Astronomy 14 Dec 2020, 14:00 UTC Some of the largest single structures in the galaxy are huge dark nebulae, clouds of gas and dust that are extremely cold in human terms and emit almost no visible light. These are called Giant Molecular Clouds — they're cold enough that atoms can stick together to form more complex molecules — and are so utterly dark that we tend to see them in silhouette against the star-filled Milky Way.
ABC 13 Dec 2020, 19:42 UTC A Chinese space capsule bringing back the first moon rocks in more than four decades has started its three-day return to Earth. The Chang'E 5 lunar probe, which had been orbiting the Moon for about a week, fired up four engines for about 22 minutes to move out of the Moon's orbit, the China National Space Administration said in a social media post.
Starts With a Bang! 11 Dec 2020, 15:01 UTC Every year, planet Earth completes one revolution around the Sun while spinning on its axis. On a year-to-year basis, our orbital changes are so minuscule that they’re practically imperceptible, as the duration of a single revolution (1 year) is tiny compared to how long the planet has been revolving around the Sun (~4.5 billion years). And yet, our knowledge of the Universe is vast enough and our modern instruments are sensitive enough that we not only know that Earth’s orbit slightly changes over time, but we can quantify and confidently state exactly what those changes will be. What does this mean for the speed of Earth around the Sun? That’s what Frank Wirtz wants to know, writing in to ask: “I read one of your articles that said that (for now) the Earth’s orbit is very slowly moving away from the Sun. Is an Earth orbit happening more quickly, or more slowly? Can you clarify for me?”
Physics World Blog 11 Dec 2020, 10:19 UTC Balloon-borne telescopes can observe a wealth of astrophysical phenomena that ground-based instruments cannot, but onerous cooling requirements limit how much equipment can be taken aloft. Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center found a way to minimize this problem by drastically reducing the weight of a telescope’s cooling system. The researchers have tested their approach on a mission called the Balloon-Borne Cryogenic Testbed (BOBCAT) and have a follow-up mission planned to study it further.Distant galaxies and star- and planet-forming clouds of gas and dust emit photons in the infrared region of the spectrum. Because the Earth’s atmosphere blocks most of this infrared radiation, these objects are hard to study from the ground. While space missions are the ideal option, they are extremely expensive. Balloons that carry telescopes way up into the stratosphere are a good alternative because they cost much less.Near absolute zero temperatures requiredThe mirrors of balloon-borne telescopes can be huge, measuring up to 3 to 5 m across – “the size of a living room”, says team leader Alan Kogut. This presents a challenge because the mirrors, like the rest of the telescope, need to be cooled to near absolute zero during the mission. If they aren’t, their ...
Centauri Dreams 10 Dec 2020, 20:08 UTC In the early summer of 2005, I found myself, thanks to the efforts of Greg Matloff and Princeton’s Ed Belbruno, in Princeton for a conference called New Trends in Astrodynamics and Applications II, which Dr. Belbruno had organized. I was to give a brief talk at the end of the session summarizing what was going on in the interstellar travel community. Two days of chill rain didn’t dampen my enthusiasm at seeing Greg and his wife, the artist C Bangs, as well as Belbruno himself, who had been a great help as I put together my Centauri Dreams book. And on the morning of the first day of the conference, I joined Greg, C and Claudio Maccone for breakfast at the Nassau Inn, Princeton’s lovely colonial era hostelry.
AmericaSpace 10 Dec 2020, 12:00 UTC At yesterday’s eighth meeting of the National Space Council, the wait finally came to an end, as Vice President Mike Pence and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine unveiled the names of a cadre of veteran and unflown astronauts who will form the “Artemis Team” to return humans to the Moon, perhaps as soon as 2024. Identifying them as “the heroes who will carry us to the Moon and beyond”, Mr. Pence also offered a clearly emotional Mr. Bridenstine a standing ovation for his work, ahead of the administrator’s plan to step down in the near future.
New Scientist 9 Dec 2020, 16:00 UTC Our galaxy has blown some bubbles. Astronomers have spotted a pair of enormous bubbles of plasma extending above and below the Milky Way and emitting X-rays, and they probably came from an extraordinary event in the galaxy’s centre.