Category: Space

The center of the Milky Way twinkles in radiation — this could explain how supermassive black holes behave


The center of the Milky Way twinkles in microwave radiation, seen in new data obtained by astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. This study could help explain the behavior of supermassive black holes found throughout the Cosmos. Supermassive black holes reside in the central core of every major galaxy. The one at the center of our own galaxy is called Sagittarius (Sgr) A* (usually pronounced SAJ a star). Sagittarius A* has the mass of four million suns. Astronomers have seen flaring of radiation from this supermassive black hole before, but never in the detail recorded in this new…

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Here’s why you should care about SpaceX’s crewed rocket launch


On May 27, two American astronauts, Robert L. Behnken and Douglas G. Hurley, are planning to launch from the Kennedy Space Center on a mission to the International Space Station. If successful, this will mark the first time in nine years that American astronauts will launch into space from American soil. What’s even more remarkable is they will not be launched by NASA but by a private company, SpaceX. Human spaceflight is incredibly difficult and expensive; the rockets must be reliable and the vehicle must be built with expensive life support systems and a certain level of redundancy. To date,…

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How to watch SpaceX’s rocket launch for its first crewed mission


Tomorrow, SpaceX will be launching its Falcon 9 rocket with two NASA astronauts onboard — the private company’s first crewed mission ever. Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are making a trip to the International Space Station (ISS), and will stay there from 6 to 16 weeks.  The launch is set to take place on May 27 4:33 PM ET/ 10:33 PM CET / 2.30 AM IST (May 28). You can watch live streams of the event though plenty of ways. SpaceX and NASA will both stream the event on their websites. [Read: Emissions have dropped 17% — but it doesn’t mean we’re…

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Space is full of junk because private companies keep launching satellites


Since the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, the lower orbit around the Earth has become an increasingly congested environment with more than 2,200 satellite launches to date. Those satellites – along with launch vehicle components and debris from mechanical disintegration, collisions, and explosions – now fill this region with a “fog” of space debris. And it’s getting busier. In the last few weeks, SpaceX has launched 60 new satellites as part of its Starlink program. This brings the total to currently around 400 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit as part of a program that aims to bring cheap,…

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Comet SWAN is coming — and it’ll be visible without a telescope


A new comet is coming our way — Comet SWAN. Will it be a sight to remember, or will it dash our dreams, like Comet ATLAS? Night skies in late May and early June may be graced by the sight of a magnificent swan. But, this is no bird — it is a visitor from the distant reaches of the Solar System. C/2020 F8 (SWAN) (or Comet SWAN) is, just now, starting to be visible to viewers under dark skies without the use of binoculars or a telescope. Oddly, this icy remnant from the outer solar system was discovered by…

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Why nuclear-powered rockets could be the answer to safer space exploration


With dreams of Mars on the minds of both NASA and Elon Musk, long-distance crewed missions through space are coming. But you might be surprised to learn that modern rockets don’t go all that much faster than the rockets of the past. There are a lot of reasons that a faster spaceship is a better one, and nuclear-powered rockets are a way to do this. They offer many benefits over traditional fuel-burning rockets or modern solar-powered electric rockets, but there have been only eight U.S. space launches carrying nuclear reactors in the last 40 years. However, last year the laws…

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Parts of Mars are too salty for Earth’s microorganisms to survive


Microorganisms from Earth traveling to Mars aboard spacecraft would struggle to survive in pockets of salty brine on the Red Planet, a new study suggests. This could be good news for the exploration of Mars, as these conditions would make it less likely the planet may be contaminated by microbes from Earth, hitching a ride on landers touching down on the alien surface. Planetary protection from microbes from Earth has been a goal of NASA and other space agencies since the earliest days of space exploration. “Such regions would be of concern for planetary protection policies owing to the potential…

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Should the moon be privatized? The US says yes


Private industries have helped drop the cost of launching rockets, satellites and other equipment into space to historic lows. That has boosted interest in developing space – both for mining raw materials such as silicon for solar panels and oxygen for rocket fuel, as well as potentially relocating polluting industries off the Earth. But the rules are not clear about who would profit if, for instance, a U.S. company like SpaceX colonized Mars or established a Moon base. At the moment, no company – or nation – is yet ready to claim or take advantage of private property in space.…

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Rhythmic pulsations of the delta Scuti stars reveal their secrets, study says


A team of astronomers, including researchers from the University of Birmingham, UK, and the University of Sydney, Australia, have unlocked the secrets of a large class of young pulsating stars — delta Scuti stars — by carefully listening to their natural resonances. The team’s findings are reported in the journal Nature. Whilst the measurement of pulsations — the basis of astroseismology allowing astronomers to test models of stellar evolution, have been extremely successful on a range of different classes of stars, delta Scuti stars present seemingly random pulsations. This has made it extremely difficult for scientists to interpret the pulsations and…

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Scientists are working together to understand the most powerful storms on Jupiter


Storms on Jupiter are among the most powerful squalls seen anywhere in the Solar System. Now, a new study brings together the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Juno spacecraft in an effort to understand these behemoth tempests. Thunderheads on Jupiter can reach 65 kilometers (40 miles) tall, five times as large as their cousins on Earth. Lightning from these storms erupt with three times as much power as the most massive superbolts seen on our own world. Like familiar lightning here at home, lightning on Jupiter produces both visible light and radio waves. Once every…

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