Space News 29 Jul 2019, 00:33 UTC While neither NASA nor the European Space Agency has yet to give formal approval, or funding, for missions to return samples from Mars, both agencies are taking steps to refine plans for what those missions will be.
Astronomy Now 28 Jul 2019, 16:08 UTC Now less than one year from launch, NASA’s Mars 2020 rover continues to take shape at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. In these three images, cameras captured the rover’s robot arm and instrument turret moving from the fully deployed to stowed position; a look inside the electronic heart of the rover where a myriad of wires and other systems are woven together in a complex assembly; and the spacecraft’s generator housing where a nuclear power pack will be installed at the launch pad.
Astronaut.com 28 Jul 2019, 12:33 UTC Scientists found the world, which they’ve dubbed LTT 1445Ab, in data gathered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). LTT 1445Ab orbits just one of the three stars, all of which are red dwarfs in the latter half of their lives, and the system is about 22.5 light-years away from Earth.
Centauri Dreams 26 Jul 2019, 18:02 UTC If it seemed amazing to me that 50 years had gone by since Apollo 11, it surprises me as well to realize that, on a much shorter scale, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has been at work for a full year. In a recent news release, NASA is calling this “the most comprehensive planet-hunting expedition ever undertaken,” presumably a nod to the mission’s broad sky coverage as opposed to the sharply confined field of view of the Kepler mission.
SPACE.com 26 Jul 2019, 16:01 UTC Almost every galaxy in our universe appears to have a giant black hole in its center, including our own Milky Way. The Event Horizon Telescope recently snapped a pic of the one inside of the Virgo Galaxy at a distance of 55 million light-years away. So that’s nice. And once you get over this surprising fact, another one emerges. There's a very peculiar relationship between the mass of the black hole at the center of a galaxy and the properties of the galactic host itself. For example, the bigger the galaxy, the bigger the black hole. But there are a few strange exceptions to this general trend, and astronomers studying these oddities may reveal a crucial link between the evolution of black holes and galaxies.
Starts With a Bang! 26 Jul 2019, 14:01 UTC Even from our perspective in 2019, 50 years later, humanity’s achievements from July, 1969, still mark the pinnacle of crewed spaceflight. For the first time in history, human beings successfully landed on the surface of another world. After a 380,000 km journey, the crew set foot on the Moon, walked upon it, installed scientific instruments, took samples, and then departed for Earth. Three days after leaving the Moon, on July 24, 1969, they splashed down in Earth’s oceans, successfully completing their return trip. But during Apollo 11’s return to Earth, a serious anomaly occurred: one that went undetected until after the crew returned to Earth. Uncovered by Nancy Atkinson in her new book, Eight Years to the Moon, this anomaly could have led to a disastrous ending for astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins. Here’s the story you’ve never heard.
Starts With a Bang! 25 Jul 2019, 14:01 UTC Ever since 2006, when the International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially defined the term planet — introducing the term ‘dwarf planet’ to classify Pluto, Eris, Ceres and others — the scientific community has been split in two. Only you have enough mass to pull yourself into a spheroid, orbit the Sun and no other body, and can clear your orbit within Solar System timescales, can you be classified as a planet. On the one hand are astronomers, mostly planetary astronomers, who largely like the IAU’s definition, but want to extend it to more general cases, including exoplanetary systems. On the other hand are planetary scientists and planetary geologists, who look at intrinsic properties only, and argue that if you can pull yourself into a spheroidal shape, you deserve to be a planet. But to an astrophysicist, both definitions are insufficient. Here’s why.