Space

Mysterious light flashes on the Moon have been baffling researchers for decades

Astronomers have been excited by the Moon for eons, a level that has grown considerably as technological advancements gave humanity access to its surface, and helped researchers make observations from afar. And though there have been several notable lunar-related discoveries since man first walked on the Moon in 1969, there is still one phenomenon that has perplexed researchers for decades. Mysterious, random flashes of light coming from the Moon’s surface. Known as “transient lunar phenomena,” these mysterious, bizarre flashes of light can occur randomly, sometimes several times a week. Often times, they last for just a few minutes but have also been known to last for hours. There have been a number of explanations over the years, from meteors to moonquakes to UFOs, but none have ever been proven. A new telescope in Spain, though, may provide the answer. The lunar telescope, built by Hakan Kayal’s team at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany, will be pointed at the lunar surface for 24 hours a day and take videos and pictures if both of its cameras register a luminous phenomenon. “The so-called transient lunar phenomena have been known since the 1950s, but they have not been sufficiently systematically and long-term observed,” said Kayal, a professor of space technology at the university, in a statement. Observations of the transient lunar phenomena go back even further, to 1787, according to CNET. The news outlet also noted that Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins told NASA in 1969 about the strange occurrence. “There is an area that is considerably more illuminated than the surrounding area,” Collins told NASA mission control on July 15, 1969, one day prior to the landing on the Moon. “It just has — seems to have a slight amount of fluorescence to it. A crater can be seen, and the area around the crater is quite bright.” The telescope will be in a private observatory in Spain, which Kayal said was chosen over Germany because it offers “simply better weather conditions for observing the Moon.” Kayal also said observations from the remote-controlled telescope will be compared with those from the European Space Agency. “If the same thing was seen there, the event can be considered confirmed,” he added. The astronomer also said that interest in the bizarre lunar flashes is high due to renewed interest in the Moon, thanks to a new “space race” from private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, as well as advancements from domestic and foreign governments, including China. “Anyone who wants to build a lunar base at some point must of course be familiar with the local conditions,” Kayal said in the release. In January, China landed its Chang’e 4 lunar explorer on the far side of the Moon, becoming the first country to ever land on the side facing away from Earth. More recently, Blue Origin, led by Jeff Bezos, announced plans to send its Blue Moon lander to the celestial satellite. “It’s time to go back to the Moon,” Bezos said in a press conference last month. “This time to stay.”

Fascinating!!   🙂

‘Spaceplane’ that flies 25 times faster than the speed of sound passes crucial test

A ‘spaceplane’ that flies 25 times faster than the speed of sound has successfully passed a crucial testing milestone. The hypersonic plane is so fast it could jet from London to New York in less than 60 minutes and transport you from the UK to Australia in four hours. Oxford-based Reaction Engines has been working with the European Space Agency and the UK Space Agency, along with BAE Systems, to make the powerful aircraft. Reaction Engines has recently been testing a ‘pre-cooler’ for the plane, which is technology that would allow it to travel faster than ever before. The pre-cooler is critical in the plane’s development because it is required to stop the engine from melting by lowering the temperature of compressed air in the engine from more than 1,000°C to room temperature in one-twentieth of a second. Thousands of tubes inside the pre-cooler, which are thinner than human hair, contain liquid helium that can cool the air as it rushes past them. Until now, heat has been a limiting factor for how fast aircraft can travel, including Concorde which traveled at two times the speed of sound. This technology could now be combined with the spaceplane’s experimental engine, referred to as Sabre. Sabre is intended to be much lighter than a conventional rocket engine because it would carry less fuel-oxidant. It is being designed to draw oxygen into the engine to use for combustion from take off until it reaches just over 4,000 mph. After this point, the engine would need to burn liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen from on-board fuel tanks. The spaceplane would need to continue using this process until it reached 25 times the speed of sound to enter space. The company ultimately aims to create a reusable vehicle that has the fuel efficiency of a jet engine with the power of a rocket. Plans for the hypersonic plane don’t just include getting people around the world in a fraction of the time but also taking people or cargo into Space and back for just a fraction of the current cost.

Very cool!!    🙂

US military wants $300M to start testing satellite-mounted lasers and ‘particle beams’

The U.S. military is looking to develop and test more weapons it can blast into space to fire at targets on the surface of the earth. According to Defense One, the first plan on the agenda is a space laser that could be used to blow up enemy missiles “coming off the launch pad”. A study to see if this is feasible should wrap up within six months, but only takes up $15m of the total budget. Much of the rest of the cash is going to a project to develop space-based “particle beam” weapons. While lasers fire high-energy light at targets, particle beam weapons would accelerate a stream of subatomic particles to ludicrously high speeds and direct them at the target. While each particle only has a tiny mass, enough of them moving fast enough would be able to impart a serious amount of energy in a very short space of time. The U.S. first tested particle beam weapons in the late 1980s to some success, but the designs for a functional weapon were huge, with some reportedly over 70 feet long. “We now believe we can get it down to a package that we can put on as part of a payload to be placed on orbit,” according to a senior U.S. military official quoted by Defense One. The idea is that such weapons could be used to take out missiles very shortly after they launch, when they’re blasting up from their launch pads into the atmosphere. The current plan has such weapons being ready for testing in 2023. Some worry that if the U.S. developed and deployed these sorts of weapons it would push the likes of Russia and China into developing both missiles that would be resistant to the technology and weapons to take down the satellite weapons. The development of those new weapons result in “greatly increasing the threat to U.S. assets in space,” according to Kingston Reif, of the Arms Control Association. No country currently has any official space-based weapons, but plenty have been theorized. China has upgraded its space technology recently, with U.S. analysts suggesting they already have laser-based weapons capable of crippling American defenses.

SpaceX Crew Dragon docks at International Space Station

A space capsule with a life-size test dummy named Ripley reached the International Space Station early Sunday in a test flight commissioned by SpaceX. The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon flight docked at the space station around 27 hours after liftoff from NASA’S Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The flight is designed to demonstrate the possibility for ferrying astronauts in commercial aircraft. “The @SpaceX Crew Dragon is attached to the @Space_Station! It’s a first for a commercially built & operated spacecraft designed for crew! #LaunchAmerica,” NASA tweeted. “To be frank, I’m a little emotionally exhausted,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk told reporters barely an hour after liftoff. “We have to dock to the station. We have to come back, but so far it’s worked … we’ve passed the riskiest items.” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called it “a big night for the United States of America.” The success of the launch drew a Twitter message from President Trump. “We’ve got NASA ‘rocking’ again,” the president wrote. “Great activity and success. Congrats to SPACEX and all!” “We’re on the precipice of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil again for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011,” said Bridenstine, who got a special tour of the launch pad on the eve of launch, by Musk. NASA has provided private companies like SpaceX and Boeing $8 billion to build and operate capsules to transport astronauts to and from the space station. Russian aircraft are the ones to ferry astronauts to the station. The only way astronauts can get to space are via Russian rockets, yet the cost of using them has steeply risen over the years. NASA currently pays $82 million per seat.” The dummy Ripley – named after the lead character in the “Alien” film series – was strapped in a seat inside the capsule, which can accommodate as many as seven astronauts. A small toy resembling Earth was left to float around. The flight is also packed with around 450 pounds of supplies. SpaceX already has made 16 trips to the space station using cargo Dragons. The white Crew Dragon is slightly bigger — 27 feet tip to tip — and considerably fancier and safer. Musk said the redesigned capsule has “hardly a part in common” with its predecessor.

Very cool!!  Go SpaceX!!    🙂

Mars Opportunity rover is dead, NASA confirms

NASA has finally plugged the plug on its Mars Opportunity rover, which has been silent on the Red Planet’s surface for eight months. “I declare the Opportunity mission is complete,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate during a press conference on Wednesday. “I have to tell you, this is an emotional time,” he added. The rover reached Mars in 2004, but NASA lost contact with the vehicle last year following an epic dust storm that enveloped the red planet and prevented sunlight from reaching its surface. The last signal received from the $400 million solar-powered rover was on June 10, 2018. NASA made its last planned attempts to communicate with Opportunity late on Tuesday, but did not receive any response back. “I heard this morning that we had not heard back,” said Zurbuchen, explaining that the “beloved” rover remains silent. The missing vehicle was spotted three months later. On Sept. 20, the HiRISE high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured an image of the rover in Mars’ Perseverance Valley. However, scientists were still unable to talk to the vehicle. Opportunity landed on Mars on Jan. 24, 2004 PST, just three weeks after its identical twin, Spirit, reached the Red Planet’s surface. Both outlived and outperformed expectations, on opposite sides of Mars. The golf-cart-sized rovers were designed to operate as geologists for just three months, after bouncing onto our planetary neighbor inside cushioning airbags. They rocketed from Cape Canaveral a month apart in 2003. Spirit was pronounced dead in 2011 a year after it got stuck in sand and communication ceased. “This is a celebration of so many achievements,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, during Wednesday’s press conference at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Opportunity set records on the Red Planet. Rolling along until communication ceased last June, Opportunity roamed a record 28 miles around Mars and worked longer than any other lander. Its greatest achievement was discovering, along with Spirit, evidence that ancient Mars had water flowing on its surface and might have been capable of sustaining microbial life. Contact with Opportunity was lost during the fiercest Martian dust storm in decades. The storm was so intense that it darkened the sky for months, preventing sunlight from reaching the rover’s solar panels. The storm may have scrambled the rover’s internal clock, NASA explained on Wednesday, meaning that the rover would not know when to sleep, wake up, or receive commands. NASA has two other probes operating on Mars. The Curiosity rover, which reached the Red Planet in August 2012, has more than 12 miles on its odometer. NASA’s Insight Mars Lander reached the surface of the Red Planet in November 2018, ending a journey that lasted six months and more than 300 million miles. In November 2018, NASA announced that it has selected the location where its Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet. The rover is expected to land on Mars Feb. 18, 2021.

Harvard prof doesn’t back down from claims that alien spacecraft may be zipping past Jupiter orbit

A distinguished Harvard University professor is not backing down from his claims that a piece of extraterrestrial spacecraft technology may be flying past the orbit of Jupiter at this moment. Avi Loeb, one of the top astronomy professors in the world, boasting of decades of Ivy League professorships and hundreds of publicized works in respected astronomy publications, is remaining defiant that the space object – dubbed as “Oumuamua” – first noticed by Hawaiian astronomers in 2017 could be from another civilization. “Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that ‘Oumuamua is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment,” Loeb and his colleague Shmuel Bialy wrote in Astrophysical Journal Letters in November, according to the Washington Post. Since making the shock claim last year, many scientists have criticized Loeb for offering, in their view, the most sensationalist theory of what the object is. “Oumuamua is not an alien spaceship, and the authors of the paper insult honest scientific inquiry to even suggest it,” Ohio State University astrophysicist Paul M. Sutter wrote in a tweet. Other scientists are more diplomatic and haven’t publicly countered Loeb’s claims, only saying that the object is likely just some sort of rock, whether it’s a piece of an asteroid or a comet. But Loeb remains stubborn on this theory, and dismisses the claims that it’s a rock, noting that it’s moving too fast for an inert rock. He told the Post that the object is long yet no more than one millimeter thick, and that it’s so light that sunlight is moving the object out of the solar system. “Many people expected once there would be this publicity, I would back down,” Loeb says. “If someone shows me evidence to the contrary, I will immediately back down.” “It changes your perception on reality, just knowing that we’re not alone,” he continued.

Things that make you go, “hmmmm”   For more, click on the text above.      🙂

January’s ‘super blood Moon’ eclipse will be visible to millions: Where and how to watch the rare event

Millions of people across the world will witness a partially red-tinted night sky as a rare celestial event arrives this weekend: a “super wolf blood Moon” eclipse. North America hasn’t had a decent view of this special scene in at least three years and another total lunar eclipse — which occurs when the entire Moon enters Earth’s shadow — isn’t expected to happen again until 2021, NASA predicts. “There is a little less than one total lunar eclipse per year on average. A lunar eclipse can only happen during a full moon when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun,” Walter Freeman, an assistant teaching professor in the Physics Department at Syracuse University, said…

Very cool!!  For more, click on the text above.      🙂