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Live from Virtual Balticon! Cosmic ring of fire discovered; Virgin Orbit set to launch cubesat into orbit; BTS at the Daily Space
Live from Virtual Balticon! Cosmic ring of fire discovered; Virgin Orbit set to launch cubesat into orbit; BTS at the Daily Spacemore_vert
2020-05-26T05:22:20+00:00
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Live from Virtual Balticon! Cosmic ring of fire discovered; Virgin Orbit set to launch cubesat into orbit; BTS at the Daily Space 2020-05-26T05:22:20+00:00close

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This is a very special episode of the Daily Space coming to you LIVE from Balticon right here on the internet. During any other year, we’d be in Baltimore Maryland but this year the entire con has gone virtual.

Today isn’t just special because we’re coming to you from Balticon; it’s also special because today, Virgin Orbit is launching its first cubesat at any time between now and 4 hours from now.

And as always… we have the news. So, this episode is going to be jam-packed with more than normal for even us.

As part of today’s episode, we’ve been asked by the good humans at Balticon to let you all in behind the scenes of our little show. Joining me in just a few minutes are just some of our team members:

Beth Johnson on the Social Media,

Ally Pelphrey on Audio and Video Engineering

And not appearing today are Nancy Graziano, our Community Manager, and Annie Wilson, host of Rocket Wednesdays and keeper of the space toilet statistics.

We are also helped by a myriad of volunteers.

Before we bring them on however, let’s do what our audience on Twitch.tv/CosmoQuest is waiting for - Let’s get to the news!

Today, we have just one science story, and it has one terribly large hole poked through the center of it; a literal hole scientists are having fun explaining. This artist’s rendition shows you what appears to be a messy ring of star formation with nothing in the center. The actual tiny blob of light observed with Hubble and Keck lacked the pixels to make this appear pretty and only shows what is happening in a single filter. Named R5519, this object is located 11 billion light-years away, and we’re seeing how it appeared just a few billion years after the Big Bang. As keeps coming up in a case of science on repeat, no one expected there to be a lot of fully formed, major spiral galaxies already existing at that point in the universe’s history, but here we are, again, looking at something that can only be explained by rapid galaxy formation.

The global team studying this object, which was led by Tiantian Yuan, believes they’ve found the carnage of a galaxy collision, where one system punched a hole through the disk of another system. These kinds of collisions are exceedingly rare but have been seen before in the current universe, where galaxies are often found in groups and clusters, and there are more fully formed galaxies than we believed existed in the early universe. Despite all the news in the past week about fully formed galaxies being found by 2 billion years after the Big Bang, we’re still going to stick with - there were fewer then, and galaxies were still actively forming.

Despite the spread-out nature of these early galaxies, and their smaller numbers, R5519 makes it clear that when a galaxy really wants to punch something, it will find a way, and some galaxy definitely found a way to punch all the way through R5519. This event left a dark empty void in this Milky Way galaxy-sized system, and triggered massive amounts of star formation; the ring that the team sees is undergoing 50 times the rate of star formation of our own galaxy!

This work is published today in the journal Nature Astronomy. In this paper, they go on to argue that this discovery may imply that these kinds of collisions may have been more common in the early universe. As personal commentary, I’d like to say, I’m not sure we can say that yet. What this discovery tells us is there is a ring galaxy where they happened to be looking, and given all the remarkable things that we have reported on in the past few weeks, I think it’s time to reset our expectations of what was happening in the first few billion years of the universe because clearly, no one was expecting this or any of the other remarkable stories of massive galaxies that have been coming out in the past 3 weeks.

From distant galaxies, we now turn to local launches. Today, Virgin Orbit is going to attempt to launch a cubesat on its LauncherOne rocket from the belly of a modified 747. This Richard Branson-owned company is a sister to Virgin Galactic, and like its sibling, this company looks to avoid the hold-ups in access to space that can happen at spaceports like Kennedy when multiple companies can’t readily have their rockets sitting all lined up at once, ready to launch. Instead of waiting for the range to clear, this aircraft just needs a runway and open skies. The way this works is the 747 takes off, climbs to a high altitude, and then drops a 2 stage rocket that can carry up to 500 kg of cargo to low earth orbit. Since they’re launching from an airplane, they are open to all kinds of orbits, ranging from 0-120deg, meaning their only real limitation is they need some of the Earth’s rotation to not be working against them as they try to get to orbital speeds.

There is no live stream of this launch, but we are monitoring Twitter and will let you know what happens when we know.

And finally, I’m not going to say I’m bringing on our guests. Instead, I’m going to say I’m tearing back the curtain to introduce you to just some of the amazing people responsible for making this daily news show happen.

Learn More

Astronomers see ‘cosmic ring of fire’, 11 billion years ago

Virgin Orbit’s first orbital test flight cut short after rocket released from carrier aircraft

Virtual Balticon 54: The Maryland Regional Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention

Credits

Written and Hosted by Pamela Gay
Audio and Video Editing by Ally Pelphrey
Content Editing by Beth Johnson
Intro and Outro music by Kevin MacLeod, https://incompetech.com/music/


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Twinkling heart of the Milky Way spotted; New type of asteroid discovered; Bennu is about to be sampled
Twinkling heart of the Milky Way spotted; New type of asteroid discovered; Bennu is about to be sampledmore_vert
2020-05-22T18:39:13+00:00
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Twinkling heart of the Milky Way spotted; New type of asteroid discovered; Bennu is about to be sampled 2020-05-22T18:39:13+00:00close

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Yes folks, I said Friday! And this is no normal Friday; it is the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Any other year I’d be on my way to a Science Fiction convention, and this year I kind of am. The long-running Balticon convention has gone entirely virtual and entirely free. I’ll be tuning in to watch and even giving a couple of presentations. If you are looking for a way to spend your weekend, this may be your answer. Catch it all on Balticon.org.

A lot of podcasts take the summer off and start heading into hiatus around now. We aren’t going to do that to you. We’re here for the duration. That said, we need to do some spring cleaning of our websites, and next week we will only be running a show on Monday. We will be back in a week, with a lot of science to catch up on.

Today’s news isn’t a lot, but it ends with something to look forward to.

Our first story has us looking inward toward the center of the Milky Way galaxy. In 2017, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) stared toward our system's heart of darkness, Sag A*, a 4 million solar mass black hole. There they found a flicker of light, hanging on, in a mind-breaking orbit. Some small radio emitter has been found orbiting at just 0.2 AU from Sag A*. This is half the size of Mercury’s orbit!

According to team member Tomoharu Oka, “This emission could be related with some exotic phenomena occurring at the very vicinity of the supermassive black hole.” Whatever it is, the emitter is giving us yet one more test of relativity. As the light source orbits Sag A*, relativity says we should see the emission greatly amplified when its motion is moving toward us. It is this amplification they believe is being seen.

This bit of emission probably isn’t anything out of the norm - it is just newly noticed. It is perfectly normal for hotspots to exist in disks of material like the disk around Sag A*. What makes this so cool is that we found it. This is one heck of a challenging observation and analysis, and my hat is off to the team behind this work.

This rapidly orbiting object could be part of what is making the Event Horizon Telescope images so hard to process. Oka goes on to remind us of a problem we’ve all faced in our own photography: “the faster the movement is, the more difficult it is to take a photo of the object.” In this case, we have radio emissions flying across a radio image taken over many hours. I personally can only hope that careful analysis of the time-series images will allow the streaks of emission to be carefully removed.

A lot of people think that astronomy is as simple as taking nice images, looking at them, and then getting good science. The reality is that a whole lot of work goes into processing images to figure out where the science is hiding.

The ATLAS team, for instance, goes to all kinds of measures to find and study comets and asteroids. To find things, they will take image after image of the same field, process them to get the sky levels identical, despite changing moonlight and other factors, and then subtract images from one another so the stars disappear while moving objects pop out to be seen. They will then combine images so that stars appear to streak while moving objects appear as single points that can be more easily seen. These processes are what found the recently self-destructed Comet ATLAS. It is also the process that found asteroid 2019 LD2, an object that refuses to behave as an asteroid should.

Found out near Jupiter last June and classified as a Trojan asteroid, 2019 LD2 grew itself a tiny tail as volatile materials got heated by the sun and pushed away by the solar wind. This tail was confirmed last July, and its development was followed until geometry took this active asteroid out of our view and hid it behind the Sun. Now visible again, the team has once again confirmed that this is an asteroid with a tiny tail, and it has been active for roughly a year. While periodic activity has been observed in other objects, such as the rock-throwing Bennu, this long a period of activity hasn’t been seen before. It is unclear why LD2 is so active, but, to quote the press release, “Maybe Jupiter captured it only recently from a more distant orbit where surface ice could still survive. Maybe it recently suffered a landslide or an impact from another asteroid, exposing ice that used to be buried under layers of protective rock. New observations to find out are being acquired and evaluated.”

The universe is full of surprises, and each new set of observations makes it clear that space is full of things our human minds can’t come up with on their own. This need to see what is out there is part of why we robotically explore, and our team is really looking forward to one piece of exploration that is scheduled for this fall. We are super pleased to share that the OSIRIS-REx mission is now scheduled to collect materials from the surface of the asteroid Bennu on October 20, and the material will be collected from the Nightingale site. When this happens, we will bring it to you live, right here on Twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX.

But for now, this is all we have for today.

Learn More

ALMA Spots Twinkling Heart of Milky Way

UH ATLAS telescope discovers first-of-its-kind asteroid

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Ready for Touchdown on Asteroid Bennu

Credits

Written and Hosted by Pamela Gay
Audio and Video Editing by Ally Pelphrey
Content Editing by Beth Johnson
Intro and Outro music by Kevin MacLeod, https://incompetech.com/music/


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Galaxy mergers trigger black hole growth; massive galaxy found in early universe; planet birth in AB Aurigae
Galaxy mergers trigger black hole growth; massive galaxy found in early universe; planet birth in AB Aurigaemore_vert
2020-05-21T19:22:04+00:00
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Galaxy mergers trigger black hole growth; massive galaxy found in early universe; planet birth in AB Aurigae 2020-05-21T19:22:04+00:00close

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Today's news starts with one of those stories that make it clear, the kids are ok.

Last summer, undergraduate Rebecca Minsley traveled to the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Institute for Astrophysics to take part in a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates program. Commonly just called an REU, these internships are a right of passage for the majority of future researchers. I was an REU student at Kitt Peak’s National Radio Astronomy Observatory, and I have had my own summer students on related programs when I was at Harvard many years ago.

Normally, students do their best on a 10-week project, and the expectation is that some small science will be completed that might lead to a publication or a software release. Well, for Rebecca Minsley, the science she worked on was less of an incremental improvement in understanding and more of a revolution in understanding. Her work, under mentor Dr. Andreea Petric, looked at myriad images of merging galaxies and sought to understand how supermassive black holes grow by looking at the gas dynamics. According to the press release, “Minsley studied the shapes of 630 galaxies using images from the Pan-STARRS survey. She classified the galaxies into mergers, early mergers, and non-mergers. And then compared the shapes to the light output of the same galaxies at longer mid-infrared wavelengths, where she could study the properties of the interstellar medium.”

The result? They found that galaxy merger shocks heat gas in galaxies, and this heating prevents the formation of stars, allowing the gas to flow into the supermassive black hole, triggering black hole growth in step with the galaxies growing through the merger. This is the first step in developing the clean solution that astronomers have been looking for, but it is a first step that requires finding someone with 10 weeks to analyze 630 images, someone who was careful, smart, and cheaper than a Ph.D. This student fit the bill, and I can’t wait to see what she does in the future.

Our next two stories may trigger a sense of deja vu. We’re at this weird place in astronomy where lots of teams using lots of telescopes are discovering the same things while looking at different objects, and due to the sometimes amusing timing of press releases, we’re seeing these results getting premiered with equal fanfare from each institution. It’s the scientific equivalent of two networks premiering almost identical shows in their fall lineup; only with science, it’s more reinforcing the facts rather than dividing the audience.

In our first story of science on repeat, a week after talking about a survey of galaxies formed in the early universe that rotates, we are getting a new press release announcing that the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array has discovered a particularly massive galaxy in the early universe. DLA0817g is the most distant galaxy found to be rotating. Its light started the journey to our telescopes just 1.5 billion years after the universe formed, and to get a massive galaxy fully formed this early in the universe would require this particular system to grow through the accumulation of massive amounts of cold gas that collapse en masse into this system.

In astronomy, we sometimes talk about how galaxies form either through a bottom-up or a top-down approach, where either a myriad of small galaxies come together through mergers to form giant systems -- this is what we talked about last week -- or a singular mass of gas collapses into a giant galaxy in one turbulent event. This week’s big, rotating, early-forming galaxy is of the singular collapse variety. Sometimes, there are lots of ways to get to the same outcome, and it’s not “either/or” but instead “and” when it comes to ways to make galaxies grow.

In our final story of the day, we have an echo of Tuesday’s story of planet formation as seen with Keck. Today, we have news from the Very Large Telescope about AB Aurigae, a young variable star 520 light-years away. When observed in the infrared, a spiral in the disk of gas and dust in this system indicates the presence of a forming planet at a Neptune-like distance from the star. This multiple-instruments finding multiple ways to find planets at different stages in their formation is going to allow us to build a complete understanding of planet formation… eventually. These are early days, with each new world getting a shiny new press release to announce its imaging. It’s only after this becomes a normal thing to image that we’ll begin to have enough data to really understand what’s going on.

Learn More

UH REU student helps reveal how galaxies and black holes grow together

ALMA Discovers Massive Rotating Disk in Early Universe

Very Large Telescope Sees Signs of Planet Birth

Credits

Written and Hosted by Pamela Gay
Audio and Video Editing by Ally Pelphrey
Content Editing by Beth Johnson
Intro and Outro music by Kevin MacLeod, https://incompetech.com/music/


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Rocket Roundup for May 20, 2020
Rocket Roundup for May 20, 2020more_vert
2020-05-21T06:49:35+00:00
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A Kuaye-joe Kuaizhou 1A rocket launched two Xingyun-2 satellites from Jiǔquán Satellite Launch Center on May 12, 2020 at 1:16 AM (UTC).

This was the 9th Kuaye-joe Kuaizhou 1A flight, launched from a transporter erector launcher, or TEL. To give a better idea of the rocket’s size, it’s smaller than Falcon 1 but bigger than Electron.

The rocket utilized 3 solid stages and 1 liquid stage of fuel; the solid fuel type is still unknown, but the liquid fuel is most likely the pretty but deadly nitrogen tetroxide and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine.

CASIC dedicated this particular launch to health care workers in Wuhan -- where the rockets are manufactured and where the novel coronavirus appeared -- for their tireless efforts.

Gathering information about this rocket was a linguistic adventure for our team, who rely on less than perfect machine-translated Chinese. Fun fact: the Chinese words for rocket and satellite translate as “arrow” and “star”.

The Kuaye-joe Kuaizhou 1A’s payload was a pair of Xingyun-2 satellites built by sing-you Xingyun Satellite Co.

These low-earth orbit satellites weigh 93 kilograms -- that’s about 47 two-liter soda bottles -- and are prototypes for a future 80-satellite constellation for Internet of Things, such as: communicating with sensors for polar and marine environmental monitoring, “geological disaster” monitoring, weather data collection for forecasting, and communication with cargo vessels for shipping and container tracking.

They will test long-distance satellite-to-satellite communications independent of ground stations, meaning satellites can directly communicate with each other. While this technology already exists, it is the first time China has built such a system.

At 9:14am Eastern (13:14 UTC) on Sunday, May 17th, the US Air Force’s reusable Orbital Test Vehicle, more commonly known as the X-37B space plane, was launched into orbit on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from SLC 41 at Cape Canaveral, marking the start of the sixth flight since 2010.

The U.S. military and ULA dedicated the launch to coronavirus first responders, front-line workers, and victims of the disease.

Amateur satellite trackers have calculated that the orbit appears to be about 200 miles (~350 km) in altitude at an inclination of about 44 degrees.

As you can imagine, there’s not too much information available about the OTV-6 mission. But, it is known that besides the classified military objectives, the space plane was upgraded to support additional scientific experiments, and FalconSAT-8, a 136 kg technology demonstration satellite roughly the size of a washing machine.

Two of the experiments are being flown for NASA. One is studying the effect of ambient space radiation on seeds, while the other is a sample plate evaluating how various materials react to the conditions of space.

One of the military experiments that belongs to the Naval Research Laboratory will be converting solar power into microwave energy that will be transmitted to Earth.

The X-37B is a reusable space vehicle designed to deploy small satellites, host experiments and “pursue other classified objectives”. It generates electricity using solar panels and can glide to land on a runway at the end of a mission autonomously. The Air Force owns two of the vehicles, both of which were built by Boeing.

The previous five OTV missions add up to just under 8 years in orbit, with the last mission having a duration of 780 days.

The first test of the Chinese next-generation crewed spacecraft returned to Earth and finished its mission on May 8th, after spending two days and nineteen hours in orbit.

The primary mission of this launch was to test several aspects of the new spacecraft. China National Space Agency announced that the unnamed craft has passed all checks for its autonomous flight control and landing system, a new engine with non-toxic fuel, a Chinese-made ceramic heat-proof coating, the parachute and the airbag deployment.

Photos of craft show a scorched exterior with several missing panels. In an interview with China Youth Daily, chief designer Wang Ping explained that the appearance is nominal. The missing panels were designed to separate from the craft to reveal the parachute and airbag mechanisms. The discoloration is from the protective white outer coating vaporizing off due to the heat and friction encountered during reentry.

The biggest differences between this craft and current Chinese spacecraft is the size and how far it can travel. The current Chinese craft is only capable of carrying three-person crews to low Earth orbit for space stations and don’t have the capabilities needed for lunar missions. The new craft is larger and will be able to carry up to seven taikonauts for a space station mission. With a bit of rearrangement of the cabin, up to 500 kilograms of cargo and be transported with three taikonauts on either space station or lunar missions.

To wrap things up, here’s a running tally of a few spaceflight statistics for the current year:

Toilets burned up: 2

Total new satellites in orbit: 408 (includes those launched from other in-orbit craft, such as the ISS)

Total satellites from launches: 392

Total 2020 launch attempts: 33 (including 4 failures)

I keep track of orbital launches by where they launched from. Here’s that breakdown:

USA: 11
China: 10
Kazakhstan: 4
French Guiana: 2
Russia: 2
Iran: 2
New Zealand: 1
Japan: 1

Your useless space fact for the week is that “Venus comprises 41% by mass of the inner Solar System compared to 50% for Earth and only 5% for Mars.” That’s literally a quote from the paper What is the Oxygen Isotope Composition of Venus? The Scientific Case for Sample Return from Earth’s “Sister” Planet authored by Richard C Greenwood and Mahesh Anand published earlier this month in Space Science Reviews

And that rounds out our show for today.

Learn More

Kuaizhou Rocket and Xingyun Satellite "Combine" for the First Time

Upgraded X-37B spaceplane rockets into orbit aboard Atlas 5 launcher

China's new generation of crewed spaceship test ship successfully returned

Credits

Host: Annie Wilson
Writers: Annie Wilson, Dave Ballard, Gordon Dewis
Audio and Video Editing: Ally Pelphrey
Content Editing by Beth Johnson
Executive Producer: Pamela Gay
Intro and Outro music by Kevin MacLeod, https://incompetech.com/music/


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Gamma ray bursts in hypernovae; newborn giant exoplanets confirmed; Guest Dr Jian-Yang Li and interstellar comet 2I/Borisov
Gamma ray bursts in hypernovae; newborn giant exoplanets confirmed; Guest Dr Jian-Yang Li and interstellar comet 2I/Borisovmore_vert
2020-05-19T22:11:08+00:00
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Gamma ray bursts in hypernovae; newborn giant exoplanets confirmed; Guest Dr Jian-Yang Li and interstellar comet 2I/Borisov 2020-05-19T22:11:08+00:00close

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Today we are going to be joined by guest Dr. Jian-Yang Li to discuss the chemistry of comet 2I/Borisov. Dr. Li is a Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute who focuses his research on minor planets - the comets, asteroids, and objects in-between - that are scattered through our solar system. In recent months, Li’s research has turned to the interstellar comet Borisov.

Before we catch-up on that comet, let’s catch up on the news.

Our headlines start with a bang, or rather a burst. It was realized at the turn of the century that long-duration gamma ray bursts are tied to some massive star explosions. What exactly caused some stars to end their lives as normal supernovae and what caused some to have these associated GRBs and die as hypernovae have been a bit of a mystery, however, and researchers have looked for single-star solutions, such as stellar rotation, that could differ from one star to another.

New research from the International Center for Relativistic Astrophysics Network finds that sometimes even stars need a little help from a friend. Using computational models, they’ve found they can reproduce what is observed if they start from a massive carbon-oxygen burning star and a neutron star companion. When the massive star exhausts its fuel, it collapses into a new neutron star and jettisons a shell of material. The shell of material hitting the companion neutron star can actually be enough to collapse it into a black hole. Material streaming around this newly formed black hole or a souped-up now-larger neutron star can generate a massive magnetic field that in turn generates transitory jets we see as gamma ray bursts.

Let me put that another way - the star that goes supernova as it becomes a new neutron star is not the source of the GRB. Rather a companion star that takes friendly fire is the actual source, and the light curves we see are the combination of the normal supernova explosion and the sudden turn-on of a jet from the companion object’s new magnetic field that fades as the material is used up and pushed away. This new research is published in a trio of papers in The Astrophysical Journal.

This is the kind of science that changes our understanding of an event at a very fundamental level and shows that the solutions to problems large and even hypernova-sized sometimes require fantastical amounts of creativity.

From new computer models, we now turn to new observations. In early images using the new infrared pyramid wavefront sensor for adaptive optics (AO) correction, Keck Observatory showed what appeared to be planets orbiting the star PDS 70. It was initially unclear if this was real or an artifact in the images. Now it has been confirmed that this system is one that is the right combo of size, nearness, and brightness to allow us to distinguish the individual planets. These worlds are massive and still forming. According to team scientist Jason Wang, “Planet embryos form from a disk of dust and gas surrounding a newborn star. This circumstellar material accretes onto the protoplanet, creating a kind of smokescreen that makes it difficult to differentiate the dusty, gaseous disk from the developing planet in an image.” This smokescreen is both a boon and a curse - it points to where the planets are while screening them away, but careful imagery and data reduction allowed the background disk’s light to be removed to reveal the planets. This amazing work is just the start of what this new instrument will be able to do, and we look forward to seeing what will be learned as we image forming planet after forming planet throughout the nearby galaxy.

And that concludes our news for today, but that’s not all we have. In just a moment, you will hear a pre-recorded interview with Dr Jian-yang Li in which we discuss his observations of interstellar comet 2I/Borisov.

Learn More

Binary-Driven Hypernova Model Gains Observational Support

Astronomers Confirm Existence Of Two Giant Newborn Planets In PDS 70 System

The dark and cold origins of interstellar visitor 2I/Borisov

Credits

Written and Hosted by Pamela Gay
Audio and Video Editing by Ally Pelphrey
Content Editing by Beth Johnson
Intro and Outro music by Kevin MacLeod, https://incompetech.com/music/


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New gravitational lens candidates; Mud flows on Mars; TRAPPIST-1 planets aligned with star’s rotation
New gravitational lens candidates; Mud flows on Mars; TRAPPIST-1 planets aligned with star’s rotationmore_vert
2020-05-18T20:58:46+00:00
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Welcome to our Monday morning news bag. Not going to lie, part of my morning was spent hitting refresh ten gazillion times as I waited for some really slimy news to come out of embargo. Honestly, while there isn’t a lot of news, the news we have doesn’t disappoint.

But, I’m going to work my way toward that slime and make you wait the same way I did.

Our first story of the day is one of astronomers using gravity as a telescope; non-pointable telescopes, but telescopes nonetheless. While light has no mass, it has energy, and that good ol’ E=mc^2 means that energy and mass are the same as far as gravity is concerned. As light passes by massive objects, its path gets bent. We can see this - like you and I can test this for ourselves! - during solar eclipses, when the light from distant stars that are located near the Sun’s edge in the sky appear shifted even closer to the edge. Lenses can shift light around too, and if a lens or a mass is big enough, it can focus light into a brighter object than we might otherwise see.

With gravity, light that would otherwise fly toward some other part of the universe can be bent in our direction, allowing us to see more light than normal. The resulting bright, and often distorted, images are called gravitational lenses. The distortion comes from the fact that the masses causing the lensing are often lumpy galactic clusters, and just like a lumpy lense would create a funhouse image, a lumpy mass will create a distorted image.

Since they were first predicted more than 100 years ago, folks have been combing the skies, looking for light from the most distant objects to appear as distortions near galaxy clusters. The most famous example may be Abell 370, which has a myriad of lensed objects warping through deep images of this system. Unfortunately, since the first one was found in 1979, very few have been located… until now. The Dark Energy Survey has been systematically mapping the sky at a resolution and depth combination that has never before been achieved in a survey. By depth we mean, how faint can be seen. In their newest paper, this collaboration has announced the discovery of 335 strong lensing candidates - distant objects that are massively distorted as their light is magnified. While each distorted blob will need follow-up observations to confirm they are truly distant and how the images do or don’t relate to each other, this discovery tells us there are up to 335 new objects whose light has been traveling toward us since early in the universe’s history and that we can use to study galaxy and star formation in the first days of the universe. That’s not all. The reason the Dark Energy Survey is investing so much time and energy into finding lensed objects is that sometimes the alignments of mass and light allow the same distant object to be lensed into multi-images, just like multiple mirrors can allow you to see the same thing repeated multiple times. Since the light path for each version of the same object is slightly different, we can use geometry and a few other tricks to figure out the difference in each path’s lengths to directly measure the changing size of the universe. This technique gives us another way to determine if Dark Energy is real, and if it is, how it has changed (or not) over the course of time. This work appears in the Astrophysical Journal Letters and was led by Xiaosheng Huang.

This is just a start. The instrument they used, the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, or DESI, isn’t fully up to operational speed yet, and when it is, these 335 new objects will hopefully turn out to be the tip of an iceberg that crushes the problem of Dark Energy.

While our first story was good news and light, our second story takes us into the Mud on Mars. While the Red planet is currently a dry desert world, this hasn’t always been the case. In new work in the journal Nature Geoscience, a team led by Petr Broz describes how Mars may once have had Mud Volcanoes, which essentially spewed liquid mud that would have settled into distinctive geologic features. This is a “here is how it would have happened” paper, that looks at how mud would have frozen as soon as it hit the air, and looks at the odd thermodynamics of the “lava tunnels” of mud that would have formed. This story gets points for creating in real life the mud monsters of my childhood imagination. These things haven’t been found yet - yet.

But in a more detailed summary of the paper that we got TEN MINUTES before we went on air, collaborators share images of active mud volcanoes on Earth and what could be a now dormant mud volcano on mars. They speculate that tens of thousands of the conical hills seen on Mars are the result of mud volcanoes. Now, this is all very JUST GOT PUBLISHED 2 hours before showtime, so rather than cover this in detail today, we’re going to work to get someone from this research team to come on as a guest sometime next week.

In other news, we’d like to share that the TRAPPIST-1 system of seven planets has been found to be behaving in completely normal ways. While it had been thought from early measurements that the planets’ orbits were all kinds of out-of-alignment, a further study by folks at the NAOJ using the Subaru Telescope found that this solar system, like ours, has all the planets neatly orbiting in a disk. This work appears in the Astrophysical Journal Letters and was led by Teruyuki Hirano. This is a nice friendly confirmation that sometimes science acts exactly the way you expect. While this mystery has been erased, this system, and its potentially habitable worlds, still offers many questions we will be pursuing for years to come.

Finally, we’d like to note that, while astronomy science is slowing down during these plague times, it's not entirely because we are all focusing on other issues like taking care of children and loved ones. Some folks, with extra resources, are also doing what they can to support those in health science. Here at PSI, we’re turning our 3D printers over to printing face shields and ear protectors. Over at the UW Madison’s IceCube, they are dedicating computer cycles to people trying to understand how proteins in the SARS-CoV-2 virus fold to form its distinctive corona shape. All across science, these kinds of research teams helping healthcare workers and researchers examples are happening. We’d love your help to find more of these stories to celebrate during one or hopefully more future Community coffee streams on Twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. These streams run most Mondays through Fridays at 10:30am Eastern / 7:30am Pacific, which is 3:30pm London Time.

And that rounds out this episode.

Learn More

Seeing the Universe Through New Lenses

Mars: where mud flows like lava

TRAPPIST-1 Planetary Orbits not Misaligned

UW–Madison astrophysicists donate computing resources to aid COVID-19 research

Credits

Written and Hosted by Pamela Gay
Audio Editing by Ally Pelphrey
Content Editing by Beth Johnson
Video Editing by Tim Hawkins
Intro and Outro music by Kevin MacLeod, https://incompetech.com/music/


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Comments (2)
user avatar
User #8576703 - 19 May 20 07:19
Wrong link to audio file - it plays May 13 version instead of May 18 (same for May 15 post). Although on the Daily Space web page all links are correct.
user avatar
CosmoQuestX - 19 May 20 21:04
Thanks, Pavel! It should be the correct link now.
Regular rhythms among pulsating stars; Watery plumes from Europa; and Hidden clues in Pluto’s haze
Regular rhythms among pulsating stars; Watery plumes from Europa; and Hidden clues in Pluto’s hazemore_vert
2020-05-14T21:44:39+00:00
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Today we will be joined by PSI’s own Dr. Cathy Johnson, one of the researchers in a recent study of Mars’ Magnetic Field. Using Mars Maven data, they found indications that Mars had a magnetic field as recently as 3.7 billion years ago. Dr. Johnson’s work addresses a myriad of global datasets that allow her to probe the internal structure of other worlds while living here on Earth.

Before we get to the interview, however, let’s take a look at the news.

Today’s top story looks at an area of astronomy that rarely makes headlines: pulsating variable stars. As some of you may know, I started my research career looking first at TT Tauris in radio and then moved back to optical astronomy with Cepheids and RR Lyraes. In grad school, I switched to extra-galactic astronomy because I was told that pulsating variables were essentially a solved problem, and there just wouldn’t be funding or jobs doing the research I most enjoyed. Here’s the thing: stars have long been under-appreciated and labeled solved by folks that study things that look more complicated on the outside - folks who often fail to realize just how complex stars can be on the inside. As more and more researchers have to look at stars to find planets, the messiness of stars is starting to get more attention, and I am so here for it.

Variable stars come in lots of kinds. Some flare up randomly. Some darken suddenly. Pulsating variable stars are stars that have just the right in-balance of gravity, temperature, and energy generation that as light pushes outward it sometimes gets stolen by the stars’ outer atmosphere. Unable to escape, thanks to effects like ionization and changes in opacity, the photons increase in pressure until they can push the star into becoming a bigger star… this changes the temperature and the behavior of the outer star, making it possible for photons to fly free again. … which cools the star which subsequently collapses. We see this effect as stars visibly changing in brightness and color, and for many stars, these changes can be seen without a telescope or binoculars. All you need is your eye and clear darkish skies.

One of the favorite targets of backyard astronomers is Delta Scuti stars. These young stars have chaotic looking brightness changes that reflect rapid rotation and pulsations we haven’t been able to understand….. At least until now.

Astronomers using the TESS and Kepler exoplanet observatories along with ground-based telescopes have found that there are two different classes of Delta Scuti stars that can be sorted. One set of stars behaves in insensible ways, with the entire surface of the star moving in concert. The other set is harder to imagine - different parts of the star actually pulsate out of phase with each other, with different quadrants alternatingly going in and out. This is ridiculously hard to sort when stars are rotating rapidly. The amount we see is a function of which quadrants are pulsed bright and which are facing us, and the facing us is changing.

But, one team, led by Tim Bedding, has just published a paper in the journal Nature that shows that ridiculously hard is not the same as impossible. They have sorted solutions, and just like the harmonics of a horn tell us the shape of the horn, and seismic waves through the earth tell us the structure of our planet, these asteroseismic waves tell us the shapes inside the stars.

These new findings are already allowing researchers to use these pulsating young objects to determine the age of their surroundings, including measuring the age of a stream of stars orbiting our Milky Way.

Pressures of all kinds affect the periodic effects we see in our sky. Stars pulsate, galaxies echo, and even small moons can erupt when their internal pressure gets too great. We know from clear images of the moon Enceladus, taken by the Cassini mission, that this tidally tortured moon erupts organic-rich geysers into space.

The question has been, do we have inarguable evidence to prove the same is happening at Jupiter’s moon Europa. There have been hints in Hubble images, and data from Galileo that can be interpreted as eruptions but… nothing definite. And we still don’t have anything I’d label definitive, but we do have one more computer model saying, yeah, there must be geysers. Looking at data from Galileo's Energetic Particles Detector from the spacecraft during the same time period when other instruments detected behavior consistent with a geyser, a new team led by Hans Huybrighs found fewer photons then expected, and the only way they can explain this with their models is if they include a geyser. These teams are in many ways trying to say, “Yes there is a Geyser,” by looking at a shadow in the data. So far, nothing else fits the gap we’re seeing. When it someday makes its way toward Jupiter, the Europa Clipper will be able to provide a final answer on geysers or not. Until then, Juno doesn’t have the right setup, so we’re left with local detectors or data, and models to try and figure out what is going on. This work appears in Geophysical Research Letters.

The distances to these interesting worlds can be hugely frustrating, and the brief time that spacecraft spend getting us data is never long enough. At Jupiter, Galileo gave us years and gigabytes of information. At Pluto… New Horizons had moments. But sometimes moments are enough to get just the right info to start something awesome.

New Horizons looked back at Pluto after its flyby and discovered the backlit planet haloed by illuminated haze. Sadly, that image set was New Horizon’s only chance to explore this phenomenon. Now, earthbound observers have taken to the sky with the SOFIA airborne observatory to study this haze with infrared and visible light detectors. While they can’t get stunning imagery, they can study Pluto in special moments when Pluto passes in front of a star, and its atmosphere gets backlit. This has added to New Horizons' data and given us data over time. Predictions had been that Pluto’s atmosphere would collapse out as Pluto moved farther from the Sun, but the rate at which that is happening wasn’t matching pre-New Horizon models. With the new data and continued observations from SOFIA, they’ve proven that the particles in Pluto’s atmosphere are extremely small and able to stay lofted longer, allowing the haze to linger. This new work was led by Michael Person and appears in the journal Icarus.

Unfortunately, we can’t linger on Pluto. In just a moment…I’ll be joined by Dr. Catherine Johnson to talk Mars, Magnetic Fields, and pursuit of the understanding of the red planet's evolution. This interview was recorded earlier today live on Twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX.

Learn More

NASA’s TESS Enables Breakthrough Study of Perplexing Stellar Pulsations

Jupiter’s moon Europa: New evidence of watery plumes

SOFIA Finds Hidden Clues in Pluto's Haze

Credits

Written and Hosted by Pamela Gay
Audio Editing by Ally Pelphrey
Content Editing by Beth Johnson
Video Editing by Tim Hawkins
Intro and Outro music by Kevin MacLeod, https://incompetech.com/music/


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Impacts shock Cubic Zirconia on the Moon; Mars will Kill Earth Life; & Black Hole Jet Warps Galactic Bridge
Impacts shock Cubic Zirconia on the Moon; Mars will Kill Earth Life; & Black Hole Jet Warps Galactic Bridgemore_vert
2020-05-13T03:39:48+00:00
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A couple of quick notes from Dr. Pamela

We're going to be taking next Mon-Wed-Fri off streaming the Daily Space while we take time to do some needed maintenance behind the scenes. There will still be stuff going on, and when I can, I'll share it all with you! On Tuesday we'll have a normal episode with guest Jian-Yang Li to talk about Comet Borisov, and Catherine Johnson will join us on Thursday to talk about Mars' Magnetic Field.

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Transcript

As we enter day quitzillillion of sheltering in place, today seems like a good day to discuss death and destruction. Our universe is, after all, trying to kill us, and some days that seems more apparent than others.

Take the moon for instance. This nice big rock in the sky is thought to have been formed when a Mars-sized object hit a trying-to-become-Earth object. This messy collision led to a splash of a lot of the lighter density materials and the merger of the higher density cores. Our system, with Earth's thin crust and large core and our oddly low-density moon, is the result. Born out of destruction, the Moon has experienced 4.5 billion years of battering as asteroids, comets, and all manner of objects great and small have continually collided with its surface.

These impacts haven’t just shaped the cratered surface of the moon, they have also impacted what minerals have formed. In new work from the Royal Ontario Museum, planetary scientists have found evidence of cubic zirconia embedded in a moon rock. This mineral is often used as an alternative to diamonds in jewelry and is formed in hot dense environments that exist either in labs or in the melting outer layers of worlds being impacted. Since jewelry makers aren’t on the moon making these gems, well… we know something horrible happened in the past.

This particular rock was picked up during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 and was protected for future study. It was hoped that as technology advanced, we’d gain new abilities to learn from these precious rocks. In setting aside these rocks, NASA acknowledged we might not be going back to those places anytime soon, although I’d like to believe they assumed we’d be going back to other places to get other rocks. Today, we do, at least, have better technology. This work, published in a new paper in the journal Nature Astronomy, describes how a team used modern microscopes to scan the minerals. Now, earlier I said they found evidence of cubic zirconia. What they actually found are baddeleyite crystals that formed 4.3 billion years ago from the decay of cubic zirconia that formed in the heat - the 2300 deg C heat of an impact. While we can see craters and get a sense of the forces needed to excavate these large hollows on the moon, these microscopic minerals give us precise temperature limits - it was 2300 deg C or hotter. These rock melting temperatures would have driven the mixing of inner and outer layers of the lunar crust, producing the complex array of rocks we see today.

One of the reasons we study the moon is so we can get a better understanding of what happened on our own Earth. The mineral record here is much more confusing due to plate tectonics, weather and other effects like volcanoes. As described by lead author Lee White, “Rocks on Earth are constantly being recycled, but the Moon doesn't exhibit plate tectonics or volcanism, allowing older rocks to be preserved. By studying the Moon, we can better understand the earliest history of our planet. If large, super-heated impacts were creating rocks on the Moon, the same process was probably happening here on Earth".

So yeah - our world was beat up, too. We’re just better at hiding our scars with a layer of vegetation and erasing them through weather which, after all, can be seen as a form of exfoliation.

These collisions in the early solar system are responsible for carrying rock and other materials between worlds. We’ve known this for a long time, and it has been speculated that maybe life could be carried between worlds, too, spreading life through a process called panspermia. As we send robot after robot to places like Mars, concerns have arisen that we may be forcing the issue, and our world’s life could contaminate the fragile ecosystem of the Red Planet. In a new paper also appearing in Nature Astronomy, Edgard Rivera-Valentín and company look at the Mars water cycle to determine just how big a problem contamination by earth life could be. According to study co-author Dr. Alejamdro Soto, “Our team looked at specific regions on Mars -- areas where liquid water temperature and accessibility limits could possibly allow known terrestrial organisms to replicate -- to understand if they could be habitable. We used Martian climate information from both atmospheric models and spacecraft measurements. We developed a model to predict where, when and for how long brines are stable on the surface and shallow subsurface of Mars.”

With this model complete, they could then look for the places and times that sufficient moisture exists at or near the surface of Mars to allow extreme life from earth to live. The result was sure… life could exist… but it would die rather quickly. Roughly 40% of Mars’ surface is thought to have liquid water seasonally, but the livable portion of that season is really short … it makes up just 2% of the Martian year. And the conditions aren’t continuous - the liquid exists for up to 6 hours at a time out of the nearly 25-hour long martian day! The team interprets this as meaning that we don’t need to worry about contaminating the Martian surface with Earth life while exploring because Mars is fully capable of killing our bugs for us.

As we all learned in Jurassic Park - which admittedly is fiction but still offers some good life lessons - life has a habit of finding a way… but Earth life will face one hell of a challenge finding its way on the Martian Surface.

Planets and moons aren’t the only places we see documented destruction in our Universe. In today’s final story, we have new images from the Chandra X-Ray observatory of galaxy clusters that have tried to pass through one another and, in the process, have only torn themselves apart. Roughly four million years ago, two systems of hundreds to thousands of galaxies collided. Since both these systems were mostly empty space, the bulk of the stars and other dense objects passed through each other without experiencing too large an effect, but the intergalactic gas in these systems collided, and gravitational tidal effects rearranged both systems. The resulting carnage glows brightly in X-Ray, where the hot gas in the cores of the two systems shines brightest. A bridge of heated gas connects the cores. This system is collectively called Abell 2394, and while it was discovered decades ago, this research uncovered one surprising new detail. On the outskirts of the smaller of the two sub-clusters, a particularly active galaxy has a particularly active supermassive black hole with jets that are so powerful they are reshaping the bridge of material between the systems. This work is described in a new paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society that was led by Viral Parekh, and it follows the active galaxy from the X-Ray out to the radio, where it is possible to resolve massive radio lobes pushing out and colliding with the hot X-Ray gas, showing once again that to understand a system, you need to study it in detail using the entirety of the electromagnetic spectrum. In this case, they found one supermassive black hole able to drive the formation of jets that shape a 6 trillion Solar mass bridge of material.

The moral of the news is: something small can have one hell of an impact on the mighty. From asteroid impacts shaping the moon to cold killing life on Mars to one SMBH warping a massive galaxy cluster… it’s destruction all the way down. So be careful out there, and remember the Universe is trying to kill you.

And that’s all I’ve got.

Learn More

New evidence shows giant meteorite impacts formed parts of the moon's crust

Salty Liquids on Mars – Present, but not habitable?

Abell 2384: Bending the Bridge Between Two Galaxy Clusters

Credits

Written and Hosted by Pamela Gay
Audio Editing by Pamela Gay, Ally Pelphrey, and Beth Johnson
Video Editing by Tim Hawkins
Intro and Outro music by Kevin MacLeod, https://incompetech.com/music/


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User #8558629 - 13 May 20 12:58
Nicely done, and thank you for all the hard work behind the scenes!
X-Shaped Radio Galaxies; All-Color Jupiter; & Comet SWAN Shines
X-Shaped Radio Galaxies; All-Color Jupiter; & Comet SWAN Shinesmore_vert
2020-05-09T00:26:34+00:00
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A couple of quick notes from Dr. Pamela

We're going to be taking next Mon-Wed-Fri off streaming the Daily Space while we take time to do some needed maintenance behind the scenes. There will still be stuff going on, and when I can, I'll share it all with you! On Tuesday we'll have a normal episode with guest Jian-Yang Li to talk about Comet Borisov, and Catherine Johnson will join us on Thursday to talk about Mars' Magnetic Field.

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Transcript

Somehow another week has passed, and even in these plague times, there are certain constants. Astronomy Cast is still here and we’ll be airing a new episode later today. Spring still means allergy season, so we can all expect a few sniffles in our future. And of course, with a new rover prepping to make its way to Mars, I can expect multiple news items in my inbox assuring me NASA’s Perseverance Rover is still preparing to launch. Honestly, it’s starting to feel like this mission is a bit desperate. You ok, Perseverance? We’ll still love you, even if COVID causes delays. Really, it’s ok.

We’re also continuing to see truly amazing science and imagery coming out of MeerKAT, South Africa’s premier radio array. In a new paper accepted for publication in the MNRAS, a team led by William Cotton looks at X-shaped radio galaxies and identifies a possible cause for their shape.

Looked at in lower res images, these weird objects simply looked like an X in the sky, and folks trying to explain them in the past have reached for ideas like twin SMBHs, each with their own radio jets, being tangled in the core of a merging system. In that situation, 4 distinct jets - 2 per SMBH - would be emerging from the system.

New, exquisitely detailed images from MeerKAT, however, make it clear that, at least in the case of PKS 2014-55, this is a single galaxy with 2 jets that are being twisted by fate, or at least by galactic rotation. These images appear to show that material previously ejected from the galaxy is now falling back, and as it falls back, it is getting pushed off to the side. Imagine if a spinning record had a tiny fountain in its center. If the material from that fountain tried to fall back onto the disk, it would get shunted horizontally. In the case of this X-shaped Galaxy, the fountain is many times bigger than the spinning disk, but the final result is the same, the infalling material gets spun off to the side.

As a reminder, the incredible science MeerKAT is doing is only a precursor to what will be possible with the future SKA. MeerKAT is a technology testbed. If this is what is possible with MeerKAT, I can’t wait to see what details we will get from the future, much bigger, SKA.

The evolution of telescopes allows us to get ever more detailed images of objects near and far, and sometimes it is the most familiar objects that hide the most amazing surprises. From 2016 to 2019, a suite of telescopes on and off this world all trained their detectors at Jupiter. A new publication in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series reveals the amazing features they documented. This work was led by UC-Berkeley’s Michael Wong, and used the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii in combination with the Hubble Space Telescope, to image Jupiter from the UV to the IR. These images allow planetary scientists to peer deep into the clouds, spying details in storms that are otherwise lost in Jupiter's beige bands. These images are now being used to provide context to the smaller, but higher-resolution, images being acquired by the Juno mission. While the science coming out of this is cool - it’s allowing new meteorological models of lightning storms and more to be made - what has me really excited is the release of these images to the public. All of us can explore these images through the STScI archive. The specific links will be posted on DailySpace.org.

Our last story of the day is one that makes this Friday feel a bit like groundhog day. Alongside the steady stream of daily Perseverance updates, we’re also seeing a continuing stream of comets appearing and disappointing. Comet SWAN was our latest great hope for a naked eye comet. Lost in the northern hemisphere twilight, this morning object has been stunning southern hemisphere observers, and it was hoped that as it gets closer and brighter, we here in the north would also get to share the show. Now, it appears, SWAN has undergone an outburst not too different from ATLAS’s, and that it too may have shed some of its materials or started to disintegrate. We don’t know the details yet, but observers are reporting that Swan is fading in brightness. It’s still visible in telescopes - for now - but it likely will linger around 6th magnitude, where it will be lost in the twilight.

While SWAN looks to disappoint, another comet, NEOWISE C/2020 F3, is gaining attention. Now at magnitude 11, this object already has a coma 5’ across. Located in Lepus and headed toward Orion, this object may reach magnitude 3 o 2.5 in mid-July has its motion carries it into the Northern hemisphere constellations of Lynx and Ursa Major.

Learn More

MeerKAT looks at an X-Shaped Radio Galaxy

All-Color Jupiter

Comet SWAN

Credits

Written and Hosted by Pamela Gay
Audio Editing by Pamela Gay
Video Editing by Tim Hawkins
Intro and Outro music by Kevin MacLeod, https://incompetech.com/music/




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SpaceX get’s their rocket test on; Artemis update; & Guest Dr Jim Richardson talks crater erosion
SpaceX get’s their rocket test on; Artemis update; & Guest Dr Jim Richardson talks crater erosionmore_vert
2020-05-08T00:37:35+00:00
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SpaceX get’s their rocket test on; Artemis update; & Guest Dr Jim Richardson talks crater erosion 2020-05-08T00:37:35+00:00close

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The News

Today is one heck of a slow news day, but what it lacks in diversity it makes up for in lift. Our first story is one related to rockets that evaded yesterday’s Rocket Roundup. On Tuesday night, SpaceX’s SN4 test version of its Starship was finally able to successfully sustain the pressures of being filled with fuel, and from there it went on to survive the firing of its single Raptor engine. Starship will be the top most stage of a new launch system that will dwarf even the Falcon Heavy and SLS’s planned Block 2 Cargo rocket and will have a mighty 150t of lift and stand 150m tall.

SpaceX has conveniently placed their rockets to be beautifully imaged by folks with a telephoto lens working off the property. One of the best people doing this is BocoChicoGal. In her video of the test firing, SN4 can be seen slowly getting covered in frost, and then steam and mist rise up from beneath the prototype as a sound suppression system is engaged. Moments later, the engine kicked in, adding light and billowing steam and possibly stirring up dust to fill the Texas night.

A much smaller version of the starship - the skyhopper, has previously done jump tests, and now SpaceX is working to scale up their systems. They have plans to one day use this rocket to take people to Mars.

Until this week, Starship was a personal project for SpaceX - something the company was designing as they pursue a corporate goal of putting humans on Mars in large numbers. That all changed in a small way last week as NASA announced which companies will receive funding to develop vehicles capable of returning humans to the moon in the next couple of years. SpaceX is one of three teams selected to receive initial development funds. The other two teams are Blue Origin, billionaire Jeff Bezos’s company, and Dynetics. If you haven’t heard of Dynetics before, you aren’t alone. This group is a subsidiary of Leidos and also gets lost among its collaborators, like Boeing, who are working to deliver the Space Launch Systems. In addition to working on Artemis, Dynetics is also contracted to deliver the SLS Core and Upper stages, as well as the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle.

For these companies to succeed, they’re going to need to do a number of test launches in the next 24 months, all in the lead up to putting, according to NASA, a crew of all women on the moon by the end of 2024. Given the current delays in SLS, Blue Origin’s lack of a human-certified vehicle, and SpaceX’s randomness when it comes to timelines, I’m not sure anyone is confident in this timeline, but whenever humans do return to the Moon, we’ll bring to you right here on the Daily Space.

Interview Guest Information

Today we are going to be joined by PSI senior scientist Dr Jim Richardson. Last week we discussed his recent research highlighting how shaking and tiny impacts slowly erase the surfaces of even tiny worlds like the Asteroid Eros. This is work that affects the science we like to do here on CosmoQuest, when we are actively mapping craters and other features on planets, moons, and asteroids. Since this is work that is near and dear to our hearts, we’ve invited him on to take a deeper dive into crater erosion.

Learn More about other stories

SpaceX SN4 Engine Test

Artemis selections

Credits

Hosted and written by Pamela Gay
Audio Engineered by Pamela L. Gay
Video Engineered by Tim Hawkins
Executive Produced by Pamela L. Gay




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Hidden black holes, Mars Magnetic field, banded brown dwarfs, & special guest Andreas Faisst
Hidden black holes, Mars Magnetic field, banded brown dwarfs, & special guest Andreas Faisstmore_vert
2020-05-06T12:01:01+00:00
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Hidden black holes, Mars Magnetic field, banded brown dwarfs, & special guest Andreas Faisst 2020-05-06T12:01:01+00:00close

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Transcript

Today we are going to be joined by CalTech scientist Andreas Faisst, who is the US lead principal investigator for ALPINE, a 70-hour program using ALMA to study the early universe. We recently discussed his team’s latest paper on the formation of spiral galaxies in the early universe, and today he will be joining us to provide a deeper dive into the cool new science.

Before we do that, however, let’s take a look at the news.

In our top news story of the day, we learn that black holes may be closer than we thought. Quite by accident, a team of double star observers has found a black hole just 1000 light-years from earth. While studying two stars that can readily be seen in dark skies with the unaided eye, the team found their motions required a third object - an invisible object - an object that doesn’t appear at all and matches what we’d expect from a black hole. One of the two stars in this system appears to orbit an unseen companion every 40 days, while the outer star orbits both these objects. This study was led by Thomas Rivinius, and he used the ESO 2.2m telescope at La Silla in Chile. This apparent black hole is well-behaved; it isn’t cannibalizing its companions, it isn’t flaring in X-Ray, it isn’t doing anything other than hanging out and using its 8-solar mass worth of gravity to move around its companions.

In a way, this was a lucky find. This team’s careful photometry was spread out over time and was initially designed to measure the much slower motions of the outer star in the system. While this did let them catch all the needed position measurements to sort all 3 orbits, other systems haven’t been so polite. The team now thinks that noise in several other double star systems may be consistent with the double stars actually being 3 objects.

Back when I was in college, a guest speaker said that when we look at the stars, 4 out of every 3 stars is a binary. For those of you not catching the joke, this was referring to how so many things we look at initially appear as individual stars, but turn out to be binary stars with enough observing. Think you have 3 stars in your binocular view? Well, grab a telescope and you may discover those 3 stars are 5, with 2 sets of 2. Today, there is a lot of debate on exactly how many stars are binaries, but it looks like those arguments are going to get more complex as we have to also ask, which systems are hiding dark objects? Project lead author Thomas Rivinius puts it this way: “There must be hundreds of millions of black holes out there, but we know about only very few. Knowing what to look for should put us in a better position to find them,” says Rivinius. Co-author Baade adds that finding a black hole in a triple system so close by indicates that we are seeing just “the tip of an exciting iceberg.”

From a distant triple system, we now turn to the 4th rock from the Sun. In a new paper in the journal Science Advances, a team led by Anna Mittelholz has used data from the MAVEN spacecraft to determine when Mars had a magnetic field. The verdict is: 4.5-3.7 billion years ago, a compass would have helped you get around the red planet. To get a magnetic field, a world needs to have a liquid mantle capable of moving charged particles in a dynamo. Or, put differently, things happen that we don’t really understand and have named a dynamo, and a magnetic field is generated. Really - we don’t totally understand the generation of magnetic fields in planets, but we know that a liquid material is required. When that magnetic field is in place, any rocks that form with the correct magnetically sensitive materials will align their minerals along that magnetic field, essentially recording its presence and orientation. Using MAVEN data, the team was able to measure a magnetic field coming from the Lucus Planum lava flow on Mars that is believed to have formed 3.7 billion years ago. This is the youngest fossilized magnetic field to be found, and regions created 3.9 billion years ago show no evidence of that martian dynamo indicating we’re narrowing in on the shutoff time.

This work is published today, and we haven’t had a chance to fully read the paper yet, but one cool thing not mentioned in the press release is this magnetic field would have coincided with the same period of time when Mars had water and an atmosphere, and it would have helped make Mars an even more habitable place than we already knew it was. Now more than ever, I’m eager to go fossil hunting on Mars.

Our final story of the day takes us scientifically to a place between stars and planets; this is the land of Brown Dwarfs. These failed stars form like stars, but just don’t have enough mass to maintain nuclear reactions that burn regular hydrogen, and instead only have a fitful burning of tritium and deuterium early in their lives. With masses 13-80x that of Jupiter, these objects are physically the size of a gas giant, and new observations from a team at CalTech find that these objects may also have a banding pattern not too different from what we see in gas giants. While studying Luhman 16A, a brown dwarf in a close binary just 6.5ly away, team scientists saw fluctuations in brightness consistent with the presence of clouds. The initial observations were done with the Spitzer space telescope and looked at this object in the infrared. New observations with the ESO VLT in Chile looked at the starlight’s polarization and found that it is consistent with the clouds being in smooth bands instead of it being patchy large clouds. They can’t tell how many bands there may be, that is left for the artist, but this does tell us that these failed stars have weather like planets. According to co-author of this study, Julien Girard of STScI, “these storms can rain things like silicates or ammonia. It's pretty awful weather, actually.”

This work appears in the Astrophysical Journal and is led by Maxwell Millar-Blanchaer, who points out, “This is the first time [polarimetry has] really been exploited to understand cloud properties outside of the solar system." Here is to hoping more of this kind of big science can be done with the ever-growing number of big telescopes being built around the world. When this happens, we’ll bring it to you right here on the Daily Space.

Learn More

Hidden Black Holes

Ancient Mars Magnetic Field

Banded Brown Dwarfs

  • Press release from CalTech
  • “Detection of Polarization Due to Cloud Bands in the Nearby Luhman 16 Brown Dwarf Binary,” Maxwell Millar-Blanchaer et al., 2020 May 5, Astrophysical Journal

Guest Dr Andreas Faisst

Credits

Written and produced by Pamela Gay
Intro and Outro music by Kevin MacLeod, https://incompetech.com/music/


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The Allan Hills Meteorite ALH84001; Asteroid 1998 OR2’s 6 million km miss; & Comet Atlas’s Exquisite Death
The Allan Hills Meteorite ALH84001; Asteroid 1998 OR2’s 6 million km miss; & Comet Atlas’s Exquisite Deathmore_vert
2020-04-30T19:17:43+00:00
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The Allan Hills Meteorite ALH84001; Asteroid 1998 OR2’s 6 million km miss; & Comet Atlas’s Exquisite Death 2020-04-30T19:17:43+00:00close

Not every day is equal. Some days are rockier than others. Take today for example, we have three stories that involve rocks, ice, and other stuff that can really wreck your day. Join us as we discuss the Allan Hills Meteorite ALH84001, Asteroid 1998 OR2’s 6 million km miss; & Comet Atlas’s exquisite death.

(podcast link)

Links

The Allan Hills Meteorite ALH84001

Asteroid 1998 OR2’s 6 million km miss

Comet Atlas’s Exquisite Death

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Thursday, April 30, 2020. I am your host Dr. Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain.

Not everyday is equal. Some days are rockier than others. Take today for example, we have three stories that involve rocks, ice, and other stuff that can really wreck your day.

In our first story, we have news from Japan. The Earth-Life Science Institute at the Tokyo Institute of Technology has announced the discovery of organic compounds containing nitrogen in a Martian meteorite. This alien rock was ejected from Mars, most likely during a massive impact about 15 million years ago, and traveled to Earth, where it was picked up by researchers in Antarctica in 1984.

<figure>Figure 1. A rock fragment of Martian meteorite ALH 84001 (left). An enlarged area (right) shows the orange-coloured carbonate grains on the host orthopyroxene rock. CREDIT: Koike et al. (2020) Nature Communications.</figure>

This particular rock was already famous. Dubbed the Allan Hills Meteorite, or just “That Mars Meteorite”, this rock, ALH84001, was at the heart of 1996 claims that nanobacteria had been found in a Martian meteorite. These claims were based on the shape of mineral structures in the rock that resemble formations of extremophiles on Earth; however many researchers have tried to debunk these claims, both by explaining that what is being seen in scanning electron microscope images could be a mistake in sample preparation, and by finding other ways to create these sample shapes.

This new research on the same rock doesn’t just look at the mineral shapes, and it makes no claims about finding lifeforms. Instead, it looks at the chemical composition of the rock. They have found orange-colored carbonate grains that are consistent with minerals forming in organic-rich water. This Orthopyroxene rock could have formed 4 billion years ago on Mars in an aquatic surrounding – the kind of surroundings where life could have either formed or thrived. After Mars dried out, this rock would have sat in an increasingly inhospitable landscape until an impact sent it on its interplanetary journey.

The folks at the Earth-Life Science Institute were fully aware of the earlier controversy and wanted their own work to be above board. As described in the press release, to make sure they avoided contamination, “the team developed new techniques to prepare the samples with. For example, they used silver tape in an ELSI clean lab to pluck off the tiny carbonate grains, which are about the width of a human hair, from the host meteorite. The team then prepared these grains further to remove possible surface contaminants with a scanning electron microscope-focused ion beam instrument at JAXA. They also used a technique called Nitrogen K-edge micro X-ray Absorption Near Edge Structure (µ-XANES) spectroscopy, which allowed them to detect nitrogen present in very small amounts, and to determine what chemical form that nitrogen was in. Control samples from nearby igneous minerals gave no detectable nitrogen, showing the organic molecules were only in the carbonate.”

Now, the presence of nitrogen containing organic compounds doesn’t mean Mars had life. It means that Mars had conditions consistent with life as we know it here on Earth. What this rock means is that we need to develop the technology to go fossil hunting on Mars, because the odds are becoming ever more in our favor that we just might find something etched in Mars’ now-dead surface.

<figure>This GIF, composed of observations by the Virtual Telescope Project, shows asteroid 1998 OR2 (the central dot) as it traversed the constellation Hydra five days before its closest approach to Earth. It was about 4.4 million miles (7.08 million kilometers) away from Earth at the time. CREDIT: Dr. Gianluca Masi (Virtual Telescope Project)</figure>

The impact that sent the Allan Hills Mars Meteorite to Earth was a lucky strike for us. It didn’t hit our world – so good. It also sent us some of our only samples of the Red Planet – so good for science! These kinds of strikes were exceedingly common in the early universe, but have become less common as our solar system has used up some of its asteroid ammunition. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to be on the lookout for incoming asteroids, however. In fact, yesterday morning a 2 km wide asteroid, 1998 OR2 flew past us at 19,461 miles per hour at a distance of 6.2 million kilometers. This distance meant it was close enough for scientists to get cool data, but also more than 15 times farther away than the moon, and thus not a danger. While we aren’t seeing a bunch of cool images yet, I for one look forward to the new science that will come from this fairly large miss.

<figure>The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has provided astronomers with the sharpest view yet of the breakup of Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS). The telescope resolved roughly 30 fragments of the fragile comet on 20 April and 25 pieces on 23 April. CREDIT: NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (UCLA), Quanzhi Ye (University of Maryland)</figure>

Asteroids aren’t the only things tearing through our solar system, and periodically careening into worlds. We also have comets to contend with, but when it comes to comets, our Sun and it’s light and gravity do their best to destroy these nemeses, even when we don’t want them too. Recently, we were all looking forward to seeing Comet Atlas fly past earth as an easily visible object. Before that could happen, however, it fell to pieces. But hey, it fell to pieces in style, and the Hubble Space Telescope is taking amazing images of its demise. In images that are only a few days apart, the fragments can be seen moving and varying in brightness. Team scientist David Jewitt has noted “Their appearance changes substantially between the two days, so much so that it’s quite difficult to connect the dots. I don’t know whether this is because the individual pieces are flashing on and off as they reflect sunlight, acting like twinkling lights on a Christmas tree, or because different fragments appear on different days.” While I remain disappointed that 2020 keeps taking away our comets, I am enjoying the remarkable imagery we’re getting of this one’s exquisite death.

And that rounds out our show for today.

<———————>

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Rocket Roundup for April 29, 2020
Rocket Roundup for April 29, 2020more_vert
2020-04-29T18:55:00+00:00
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Rocket Roundup for April 29, 2020 2020-04-29T18:55:00+00:00close

Iran launched their first military satellite Noor-1, SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink satellites and Roscosmos launched the Progress MS-14 resupply mission.

(podcast link)

Links

Iran launched their first military satellite Noor-1

  • Noor-1 (Rocketlaunch.Live)
  • Noor (Gunter’s Space Page)
  • Qased (Gunter’s Space Page)

SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink satellites

Roscosmos launched the Progress MS-14 resupply mission

Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Daily Space for today Wednesday, April 29, 2020. I am your host Annie Wilson and I AM BACK! Most Mondays through Fridays, our team will be here putting science in your brain.

Usually Wednesdays are for Rocket Roundup, and it’s been yet another week without launches.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

<figure></figure>

Iran launched their first military satellite on April 22nd at 03:59 AM UTC. Noor-1 was launched into orbit by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps on the first flight of a Qased rocket.

<figure>LaunchStuff@LaunchStuffHigher resolution version of the maiden launch of Qased SLV

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2020/04/22/623613/Iran-IRGC-Military-Satellite…
1015:32 AM - Apr 22, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy41 people are talking about this</figure><figure>Jonathan McDowell✔@planet4589New data on Noor-1 (h/t @fab_hinz): Ground station in Tabriz picked up signal from Noor-1 at end of first orbit. 10 contacts so far. Working on stabilizing sat (my guess: gravity boom?) and expect to switch on cameras in 10 days. Mission is imaging recon. https://twitter.com/fab_hinz/status/1253378774428614662…
Fabian Hinz@fab_hinzInteresting info in this interview with IRGC Space Commander Jafar-Abadihttps://www.tasnimnews.com/fa/news/1399/02/04/2250004/%D8%B3%D8%B1%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AC%D8%B9%D9%81%D8%B1%D8%A2%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AF%DB%8C-%D8%A7%D9%88%D9%84%DB%8C%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%88%D8%B1%DB%8C%D8%AA-%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%87%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%87-%D9%86%D9%88%D8%B1-%D8%B4%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A7%DB%8C%DB%8C-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%AA-%D8%B3%D9%86%D8%B3%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%87%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%88%D8%B1%DB%8C%D8%AA%DB%8C-%D9%86%D9%88%D8%B1-%D8%AA%D8%A7-10-%D8%B1%D9%88%D8%B2-%D8%A2%DB%8C%D9%86%D8%AF%D9%87-%D9%81%D8%B9%D8%A7%D9%84-%D9%85%DB%8C-%D8%B4%D9%88%D9%86%D8%AF…411:46 PM - Apr 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacySee Jonathan McDowell's other Tweets</figure><figure>LaunchStuff@LaunchStuffInitially stated as 2 stage vehicle, the Qased SLV is now described as 3 stage solid/liquidhttps://twitter.com/mshaltouki/status/1252839448875683840…
Mohammad Shaltouki@mshaltouki مهم// بر خلاف خبر اولیه منتشر شده؛ ماهواره بر قاصد از نوع سه مرحله‌ای به صورت سوخت ترکیبی جامد و مایع است. https://twitter.com/mshaltouki/status/1252825281955368963…82:04 AM - Apr 22, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacySee LaunchStuff's other Tweets</figure><figure>CREDIT: Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, via Associated Press</figure>

Before I get into the details of this launch, I’d like to take a moment to remind you that we don’t discuss politics in depth. I’m going to state a few facts about the political climate and then move on from it.

Iranian launches are fairly rare with only a handful occurring each year. Due to current sanctions by the United States, the US State Department condemns these launches and essentially states that Iran is furthering development on their ballistic missile program under the guise of peaceful aerospace applications.

With that out of the way, on to the good stuff.

Because this was a military mission from Iran, not a lot of details are known about the satellite or the launcher.

Here’s what we do know: Noor-1 is a six unit cube-sat that probably weighs between six and ten kilograms, was built entirely in Iran of Iranian components, and is in low earth orbit. The launcher is thought to be a modified missile which uses both liquid and solid fuel and was launched from a transporter-erector-launcher, a specialized vehicle used for transporting and launching missiles.

<figure>A Qased launch vehicle launched the Noor satellite from Iran, on 22 April 2020. CREDIT: Ministry of Defence, Islamic Republic of Iran (YouTube)</figure><figure></figure>

Next up, SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink satellites on April 22 at 7:30 PM UTC onboard a Falcon 9 rocket that took off from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center.

<figure>CREDIT: SpaceX webcast</figure>

This was the seventh Starlink launch which brings the number of operational and healthy Starlinks up to about 396 out of the total 420 satellites launched.

This launch was the fourth flight of core B1051. The first stage and both fairing halves were successfully recovered.

The next Starlink launch is currently scheduled for May 7th from SLC-40.

<figure>Starlink Mission launch. CREDIT: SpaceX YouTube</figure><figure></figure>

Finally, Roscosmos launched the Progress MS-14 resupply mission on April 25 at 01:51 AM UTC from Baikonur.

<figure>CREDIT: Screen Capture from Roscosmos stream</figure>

Progress MS-14 reached the space station after a quick flight of only three hours and twenty minutes (just 2 orbits of the ISS). The craft docked automatically at the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module, part of the ISS’ Russian segment.

Onboard was two and a half tons of cargo, which consisted of food, water, oxygen, fuel, and equipment. Among the cargo delivered were fresh oranges and grapefruit for the crew.

<figure></figure>

To wrap things up, here’s a running tally of a few spaceflight statistics for the current year:

  • Toilets burned up: 2
  • Total new satellites in orbit: 405 (includes those launched from other in-orbit craft, such as the ISS)
  • Total satellites from launches: 391
  • Total 2020 launch attempts: 30 (including 4 failures)

I keep track of orbital launches by where they launched from. Here’s that breakdown:

  • USA: 10
  • China: 8
  • Kazakhstan: 4
  • French Guiana: 2
  • Russia: 2
  • Iran: 2
  • New Zealand: 1
  • Japan: 1

Your useless space fact for the week comes to us from Dr Patrick Durrell, who reminds us that Mars is the only planet populated entirely by robots.

And that rounds out our show for today.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by myself and edited by Gordon Dewis. The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. Our fearless leader is Dr. Pamela Gay.

This has been a production of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)(3) non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at patreon.com/cosmoquestx


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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Iran launched their first military satellite Noor-1, SpaceX launched another 60 Starlink satellites and Roscosmos launched the Progress MS-14 resupply mission. "Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/"

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Atmospheric tidal waves maintain Venus’ super-rotation, NASA’s Swift mission tallied water from interstellar Comet Borisov, and interview with Patrick Peplowski about MESSENGER at Venus
Atmospheric tidal waves maintain Venus’ super-rotation, NASA’s Swift mission tallied water from interstellar Comet Borisov, and interview with Patrick Peplowski about MESSENGER at Venusmore_vert
2020-04-28T20:28:30+00:00
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Atmospheric tidal waves maintain Venus’ super-rotation, NASA’s Swift mission tallied water from interstellar Comet Borisov, and interview with Patrick Peplowski about MESSENGER at Venus 2020-04-28T20:28:30+00:00close

Images from the Akatsuki spacecraft unveil what keeps Venus’s atmosphere rotating much faster than the planet itself, for the first time,NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatorytracked water loss from an interstellar comet as it approached and rounded the Sun, and then we have an interview with Patrick Peplowski about what they’ve learned about MESSENGER visiting Venus.

(podcast link)

Links

Akatsuki spacecraft unveils what keeps Venus’s atmosphere rotating much faster than the planet itself

For the first time,NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatorytracked water loss from an interstellar comet as it approached and rounded the Sun

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Tuesday, April 28, 2020. I am your host Dr. Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain.

Today’s space news is trying to be a good role model for all of us; it is sticking close to home. After taking a quick tour of news from Venus, Comet Borisov and Comet Swan, we will be joined by Dr Patrick Peplowski, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Advanced Physics Lab, who was part of the team who determined how to use MESSENGER data to study the nitrogen of Venus’ atmosphere.

<figure>Images from the Akatsuki spacecraft unveil what keeps Venus’s atmosphere rotating much faster than the planet itself. CREDIT: NASA/JPL</figure>

While unrelated to Peplowski’s work, our first story starts at Venus. This world is currently orbited by a Japanese mission called Akatsuki. Also called the Venus Climate Orbiter, this space probe is studying how the different layers of Venus’ opaque clouds are structured and flowing.

One of odder mysteries of this world is how it ended up with clouds that flow rapidly around a world whose day is longer than its year. For every single Venusian day, the wind cycles 60 times. To be fair, the Venusian day is 243 Earth days long, but this rapid wind circulation is still inexplicably fast. Or at least it was inexplicable. We may start to have a beginning of understanding.

<figure>The proposed system that maintains the super-rotation (yellow) of Venus’ atmosphere. The thermal tide (red) towards the equatorial top enforces the westward super-rotation. CREDIT: Planet-C project team</figure>

Takeshi Horinouchi of Hokkaido University, developed a new method to track clouds and wind velocities. Winds are generally driven by pressure and temperature variations, as air flows from high pressure to low pressure regions. On Venus, the temperature structure is particularly complex because there is a gradual temperature gradient from the cool poles to the hot equator. There is also a dramatic gradient between the day and night sides of the planet. These variations drive to massive atmospheric cells that from pole to equator that are complimented by a massive equatorial flow. This super rotating circulation pushes the clouds in what is poetically referred to as a tidal wave of cloud.

While Venus isn’t tidally locked to the Sun, its slow rotation is a good approximation, and the work being done to understand Venus’ atmosphere will aid in our modeling of what happens on those alien worlds. This work is published in new research published in Science magazine.

From Venus, we now turn to Comet 2I/Borisov. This interstellar asteroid has been a target of opportunity for pretty much anything that could point at his sublimating form. As we discussed last week, the chemistry of Borisov isn’t identical to what we generally have here in our Solar System, with carbon monoxide appearing in greater amounts than expected. Now, new observations from the Swift mission find that Borisov is 10 times more active than the standard comet. With a total surface roughly twice the size of Central Park, it was able to shed 8 gallons of water per second at its peak output. As it approached the Sun, this water spray dropped in volume, most likely due to surface erosion, rotational changes, and the fragmentation that was eventually observed by Hubble. While still within the observed range of possible comet behaviors, Borisov doesn’t neatly match any category of comet we’ve seen before. This is consistent with it having a different formation history, with colder temperatures and still to be understood other variations. As we’ve said before, we need to see more interstellar asteroids to understand what is, at the galaxy level, the oddity and the average for comets.

<figure>Comet C/2020 F8 SWAN, Taken byGerald Rhemannon April 27, 2020 at Farm Tivoli, Namibia CREDIT: Gerald Rhemann</figure>

While we don’t have any new interstellar comets at the moment, we do have a nice bright regular comet to fill the gap left when Comet Atlas fell apart. Comet Swan was found in data by SOHO’s Solar Wind ANistropies by amatuer astronomer Michael Mattiazzo. This small comet Is on an odd orbit that is tilted 111 degrees relative to the ecliptic plane. This icy body is now bright enough to see in binoculars, and might possibly become an object bright enough to see with the unaided eye. On May 12, this object will pass near Earth on its way in toward its closest approach to the Sun on May 27. This isn’t an ideal geometry, but it does mean there is a good chance Swan won’t fall apart before it gets close to us. For now, all we can do is wait and see … and hope.. Maybe 2020 will give us one bright comet while it systematically takes everything else away.

And that rounds out our news, but don’t go anywhere. We’re going to bring on our guest, Dr Patrick Peplowski, so we can talk about Venus’s mysterious atmosphere’s unusual nitrogen behavior.

<———————>

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Star survives close call with a black hole, researchers use ‘hot Jupiter’ data to mine exoplanet chemistry, and Dr. David Grinspoon talks his “Funky Science Story Hour”
Star survives close call with a black hole, researchers use ‘hot Jupiter’ data to mine exoplanet chemistry, and Dr. David Grinspoon talks his “Funky Science Story Hour”more_vert
2020-04-27T19:59:50+00:00
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Star survives close call with a black hole, researchers use ‘hot Jupiter’ data to mine exoplanet chemistry, and Dr. David Grinspoon talks his “Funky Science Story Hour” 2020-04-27T19:59:50+00:00close

A star that had a brush with a giant black hole and lived to tell the tale through exclamations of X-rays, Cornell astronomers have improved a model to gauge the temperatures of exoplanets, and Dr. David Grinspoon talks his “Funky Science Story Hour” on Facebook Live.

(podcast link)

Links

Cornell astronomers have improved a mathematical model to accurately gauge the temperatures of planets from solar systems hundreds of light-years away

A star that had a brush with a giant black hole and lived to tell the tale through exclamations of X-rays

Dr. David Grinspoon talks his “Funky Science Story Hour”

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Monday, April 27, 2020. I am your host Dr. Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain.

Welcome to Monday. While this is generally the most hated day of the week, we are going to try to keep things light with Dr Funky Spoons, our PSI colleague David Grinspoon who is filling our plague times with science and laughter using FB Live. His Doctor Funky Spoon Funky Science Story Hours on Wednesdays are keeping it sciency for the kids, and he’s going to come on to talk about this cool program, and his other science and science communications activities. Before we bring on David, however, we’re going to take a look at the news.

Today we have a tale of two objects torn asunder, but not destroyed by the objects they orbit. In one case we have planets blasted by stars, and in another, we have a star shredded by a supermassive black hole.

<figure>Atmospheric gases recede from a “hot Jupiter,” which is a Jupiter-size, egg-shaped planet that orbits close to its own sun, in this artistic rendering. Cornell astronomers have developed a new mathematical model for determining temperatures on different parts of exoplanets, rather than averaging a planet’s temperature. CREDIT: Matthew Fondeur/Cornell University</figure>

Let’s start with “Hot Jupiters.” When you see something unexpected happen once, it can be seen as an outlier. When you see it 3 or 4 times, it indicates you may need to update your definition of unexpected. When the unexpected seems to be the norm… it’s time to rethink things. In recent years, scientists the world over have been working to directly determine the temperatures of exoplanets, and over and over, these alien worlds have appeared cooler than expected. This seems to indicate that planets must be holding onto heat differently from what was expected. Now, researchers at Cornell University have published a paper in the Astrophysical Journal Letters that uses updated models to try and get simulations to better match reality. In this work, led by Nikole Lewis, they reviewed more than 4100 detected exoplanets, looking for temperature measurements, and working to understand what they actually mean. One of the big issues is that we can’t generally disentangle the temperatures of the near and far side of these worlds – we often end up with an averaged measurement of the day and night time sides of the planet. This averaging can distort our understanding, and gives us a lower measurement than may be representative of the planet.

“Hot Jupiters” are worlds snuggled so close to their host stars that they orbit in just a few days, have one side permanently locked to face their star, and are blasted with so much energy that their day side can get distorted – bloating up, making the world look a bit like an egg, with the fat end facing the star.

When we look at these planets we can’t see their 3D shape, and if we try and transform from what we measure in the 2D sky to that 3D reality with the wrong assumptions, we’ll end up with temperatures that are 1000’s of degrees off. New models from Cornell look for specific key molecules in the planets’ atmospheres, and these molecules can more precisely indicate temperatures through both their existence, and their excitation levels.

These aren’t models we can easily use today – we just don’t generally have the telescopes and spectrographs needed to resolve molecules in most of these world’s atmospheres. But we can start… and when that next generation of space telescopes and massive earth-based scopes are built, we will be ready to more accurately understand their 3D temperature variations.

Getting too close to your host can be dangerous, no matter who or what you are. From planets too close to their host star, we now turn to a star getting too close to its host supermassive black hole.

<figure>CREDIT: X-ray: NASA/CXO/CSIC-INTA/G.Miniutti et al.; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss;
Press Image, Caption, and Videos</figure>

New X-Ray data from NASA’s Chandra and ESA’s XMM Newton X-Ray telescopes indicate a star in the galaxy GSN 069 got a bit too close, and is getting bites taken out every 9 hours or so, as it flies around this not entirely large supermassive black hole. At 400,000 Solar Masses, this system allows this star to get close enough to get bites removed without actually getting completely destroyed. In models by Andrew King of the University of Leicester, an everyday giant star wandered too close to the supermassive black hole for whatever reason, and had its atmosphere gravitationally torn away. Left behind is a white dwarf, a star that crams roughly a sun’s worth of material into a moon-sized volume of space. While the pull of gravity at the surface of this star is huge, it’s not enough to prevent the supermassive black hole from taking bites. Once per orbit, the star gets within 15 event horizon radii of the supermassive black hole. This occurs like clockwork every 9 hours. At this stage, it’s unclear how this system may be evolving, but with a thrice daily bite being taken, I’m hoping we’ll be able to see this star’s behaviors evolve over human lifetimes.

But for now, we just have to wait and see.

And that concludes our news for this low news day. But this doesn’t conclude our episode. I was able to interview Dr David Grinspoon live on twitch.tv and we’re now going to bring you that pre-recorded interview. As often happens, there were some technical glitches without live broadcast. Our guest’s audio starts low, but does improve a few minutes in. This week, we will be working to resolve these issues by updating our software configurations. For now though, let’s talk science with Dr. Funky Spoons.

<———————>

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Daily Space 04/27/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. A star that had a brush with a giant black hole and lived to tell the tale through exclamations of X-rays, Cornell astronomers have improved a model to gauge the temperatures of exoplanets, and Dr. David Grinspoon talks his “Funky Science Story Hour” on Facebook Live. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Yale’s EXPRES looks to the skies of a scorching, distant planet, a new model explains the unique characteristics of Arrokoth, interstellar asteroids found hiding in plain sight, and new comprehensive geologic map of the moon released
Yale’s EXPRES looks to the skies of a scorching, distant planet, a new model explains the unique characteristics of Arrokoth, interstellar asteroids found hiding in plain sight, and new comprehensive geologic map of the moon releasedmore_vert
2020-04-24T19:48:14+00:00
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Yale’s EXPRES looks to the skies of a scorching, distant planet, a new model explains the unique characteristics of Arrokoth, interstellar asteroids found hiding in plain sight, and new comprehensive geologic map of the moon released 2020-04-24T19:48:14+00:00close

Yale’s Extreme PREcision Spectrometer (EXPRES) is giving a closer look at the atmosphere of a distant planet, a model developed at the Faculty of Physics at the Technion, in collaboration with German scientists at Tübingen, explains the unique properties of Arrokoth – the most distant object ever imaged in the solar system, a new study has identified the first known permanent population of asteroids originating from outside our Solar System, and for the first time,theentirelunar surfacehas beencompletelymappedanduniformlyclassifiedby scientistsfromthe USGS Astrogeology Science Center.

(podcast link)

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Yale technology is giving astronomers a closer look at the atmosphere of a distant planet where it’s so hot the air contains vaporized metals

A model developed at the Technion explains the unique characteristics of “the Snowman,” known formally as Arrokoth

A new study has identified the first known permanent population of asteroids originating from outside our Solar System.

For the first time,theentirelunar surfacehas beencompletelymappedanduniformlyclassifiedby scientistsfromthe USGS Astrogeology Science Center, in collaboration with NASA and the Lunar Planetary Institute

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Friday, April 24, 2020. I am your host Dr. Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain.

Here on Earth, we often take our climate for granted. We complain when it’s too hot. We complain when it’s too cold. We get grouchy when winter lasts too long, and we get concerned for our fruit trees when spring comes too early. Humans are picky, and we don’t always know just how lucky we’ve got it.

<figure>The planet MASCARA-2 b, a Jupiter-like gas giant roughly 2.68 quadrillion miles from Earth. CREDIT: Sam Cabot.</figure>

For instance, take a look at the planet Kelt 20-b, a hot Jupiter located 450 ly away and orbiting a hot A type star. This world orbits every 3.5 days at a distance just 5% the Earth’s distance from the sun. This charbroiled planet was recently studied by Yale’s Extreme PREcision Spectrometer (EXPRES), and scientists were able to study the planet’s atmosphere as it went from beside its host star to directly in front. KELT-20’s light passed through its planet’s atmosphere, some of that light was absorbed out, and the exact colors of those dark bands of absorption tell us what chemicals are present. Thanks to the light gathering power and resolution of the 4.3 m Lowell Discovery that was used, they could actually see gaseous iron, magnesium, and chromium. They also noted differences between the dawn and dusk sides of the world. These differences will allow collaboration scientists to create atmospheric circulation models. These are still early days for both this discovery and this instrument, which are described in a new publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics that was led by Jens Hoeijmakers.

<figure>This composite image of the primordial contact binary Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 was compiled from data obtained by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft as it flew by the object on Jan. 1, 2019. CREDIT: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Roman Tkachenko.</figure>

As computers get more powerful, astronomers and planetary scientists are piece by piece trying to take this amazing wealth of data we have and build a coherent understanding of how all the crazy things we find could come into being. One of the more recent points of struggle has been the Kuiper Belt object Arrokoth. This bilobate object had to form through a slow motion collision, and while we have been able to wave our hands and say “These are the requirements.” This is like tasting a meal and being able to taste all the ingredients. It’s a start, but throwing all those ingredients into a bowl and staring at them won’t make you a meal. There is the “how did this happen” that is also needed. Now, a group of computational modelers from the Technion Society have published in Nature results on a model that looks at the two lobes of Arrokoth as separate bodies orbiting the Sun. Including the Sun makes this a 3 body problem that has to be numerically stepped through, analyzing how all the forces play out over time. This careful approach allowed them to see how the two objects could gravitationally catch each other and tumble in a circular path around a gravitational center of their 2 masses while orbiting the Sun. This isn’t stable, and over time, the orbit would evolve, going elliptical, and then spiraling the object in to gently merge. It is a beautiful numerical dance, and I’m sad to report they didn’t share a video of their model. Nonetheless, we now know in numbers how Arrokoth could come to be.

<figure>The distribution and classification of thetrans-Neptunian Objects.CREDIT: Generated by a program written by Eurocommuter.</figure>

This kind of “take the constraints and model the how” approach is getting used in lots of different places. One of my favorite new results comes from a team lead by Fathi Namouni at the Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur. In this case, rather than modelling a single object, this team modeled a group of objects and asked how they got there. In our outer solar system, we regularly see things in weird orbits, and when we see weird orbits that are somewhat similar, we give that class of objects in those orbits a name. One of these groups is the Centaurs, objects in orbits haphazardly scattered around the orbits of Saturn, Uranus, and inside Neptune’s orbit. Some of these objects are Icy Kuiper Belt and maybe Oort cloud objects that can have been flung in through three body interactions, and will eventually become short period comets. Others are rocky and harder to sort since our solar system’s rocky objects formed in the inner bits of the solar system. Well, it gets a lot easier to explain them if we look outside our system. A new paper in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society describes how at least 19 of these asteroids are of interstellar origins. Quite likely, these rocky bodies were purloined from nearby stars when our solar system was still forming, and they’ve been with us ever since. Once again we’re reminded, we are a mix of locally grown and imported worlds. Our solar system has a border – the Voyagers found it and pushed through it – and anything that wants to, can cross that border and visit us at any time.

<figure>Orthographic projections of the “Unified Geologic Map of the Moon” showing the geology of the Moon’s near side (left) and far side (right) with shaded topography from the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA). This geologic map is a synthesis of six Apollo-era regional geologic maps, updated based on data from recent satellite missions. It will serve as a reference for lunar science and future human missions to the Moon.CREDIT: NASA/GSFC/USGS.</figure>

Alright, one last news item for the day. The USGS, which maps everything, not just Earth, has released a glorious new map of the moon that details out all the geologic features on the moon in colors that make no sense without a key. In this image, which you can see on DailySpace.org, it is possible to clearly see lava covered regions on the near side, and the wild splatter patterns of craters everywhere. There are features in this that I want to know more about, specifically a wild splatter all along the edge of the moon on the far side, but that doesn’t quite come around to the nearside. I’m going to try and bring on a guest to talk about what this coherent map of the moons geology can tell us. But, that’s for another day.

For, this rounds out today’s Daily Space.

<———————>

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Daily Space 04/24/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Yale's Extreme PREcision Spectrometer (EXPRES) is giving a closer look at the atmosphere of a distant planet, a model developed at the Faculty of Physics at the Technion, in collaboration with German scientists at Tübingen, explains the unique properties of Arrokoth – the most distant object ever imaged in the solar system, a new study has identified the first known permanent population of asteroids originating from outside our Solar System, and for the first time, the entire lunar surface has been completely mapped and uniformly classified by scientists from the USGS Astrogeology Science Center. "Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/"

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A signal like none before, hungry galaxies grow fat on the flesh of their neighbors, and rotating galaxies galore
A signal like none before, hungry galaxies grow fat on the flesh of their neighbors, and rotating galaxies galoremore_vert
2020-04-23T19:51:33+00:00
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A signal like none before, hungry galaxies grow fat on the flesh of their neighbors, and rotating galaxies galore 2020-04-23T19:51:33+00:00close

<figure>Binary black hole merger where the two black holes have distinctly different masses of about 8 and 30 times that of our Sun. CREDIT: N. Fischer, H. Pfeiffer, A. Buonanno (Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics), Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes project</figure><figure>Distribution of dark matter density overlayed with the gas density. This image cleanly shows the gas channels connecting the central galaxy with its neighbours. CREDIT: Gupta et al/ASTRO 3D/ IllustrisTNG collaboration.</figure><figure>A collage of 21 galaxies imaged by the ALPINE survey. The images are based on light emitted by singly ionized carbon, or C+. These data show the variety of different galaxy structures already in place less than 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang (our universe is 13.8 billion years old). Some of the images actually contain merging galaxies; for example, the object in the top row, second from left, is actually three galaxies that are merging. Other galaxies appear to be more smoothly ordered and may be spirals; a clear example is in the second row, first galaxy from the left. Our Milky Way galaxy is shown to scale to help visualize the small sizes of these infant galaxies. CREDIT: Michele Ginolfi (ALPINE collaboration); ALMA(ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)</figure>

LIGO and Virgo detectors catch first gravitational wave from binary black hole merger with unequal masses, modeling shows big galaxies get bigger by merging with smaller ones, and new results from ALPINE reveal what appear to be spiral galaxies in the infant universe.

(podcast link)

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A signal like none before

Modeling shows big galaxies get bigger by merging with smaller ones

New results from ALPINE reveal what appear to be spiral galaxies in the infant universe

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Thursday, April 23, 2020. I am your host Dr. Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain.

Even though things here on earth are slowing to a punctuated shelter-in-place, the universe just keeps doing its thing, spewing out events at its regular and random cadence. While most observatories on the ground have shut down, their observations from their most recent runs are still being processed. This means that while there will be some future dead time when no results are coming our way, we haven’t hit that point yet because there is a lag between when observations are made and when they are analyzed and published. This lag means that while the LIGO gravitational wave detectors are currently shut down, we have a cool new result about a GW that was detected last year: GW190412. Just a year after it’s detection, a new paper posted on arxiv.org describes how an 8 Solar Mass and 30 solar mass pair of black holes merged into a new and greater black hole. Until now, the majority of LIGO’s BH-BH detections have been similarly sized black holes merging with a characteristic "Woooop" which increases in pitch without a lot of harmonics. With these asymmetric masses, the waves have overtones, more like how one string on a guitar will create overtones over a sympathetically resonating guitar cavity. Different shaped cavities, or in this case different sized distortions in space-time, resonate differently, and we can see these resonances in the LIGO detections. This kind of asymmetric observation isn’t unexpected: Black holes should come in a variety of sizes. This is just the first time we’ve seen this, and firsts are good, because they confirm the universe works the way we expect. In this case, the huge difference in mass between the two black holes indicates this may be a multi-generational merger, with the 30 solar mass black hole originating through the merger of other smaller black holes. This is, after all, the story of our universe - smaller things forever merging into larger and larger objects. GW190412 is just 1 of 56 events in the most recent observing run performed by LIGO. We all look forward to seeing what is lurking in those other 55 events. Some will likely turn out to be something here on Earth jiggling the system, but others… well… we’re just going to have to wait for those publications to see.

As we build better detectors and more powerful telescopes, we’re getting confirmation of many of our theories on how the universe evolved from a soup of H, He, and trace elements to being the “full of galaxies full of stars surrounded by planets” universe we experience. The rate at which things form is one of the things we have constantly underestimated, and new research is showing us once again how much the universe outperformed our imaginations in how rapidly it formed galaxies. New observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array have shown how 118 galaxies are spiraling and merging in the early universe, roughly 1 to 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang. These systems are detected in ionized carbon, which shines bright in the colors easily detected by ALMA. When these submillimeter images are combined with Data from Keck, Hubble, and Spitzer, astronomers can piece together the galaxy masses, and how coherently these systems are rotating, and where mergers are taking place. They found that at this early age of the cosmos, 15% of the galaxies were already well ordered and smoothly rotating like spiral galaxies. While the data isn’t good enough to see structures like spiral arms, it is remarkable to see what we do see. This work was done by the ALPINE collaboration led out of CalTech and is published in the Astrophysical Journal supplement series.

From their formations in the early universe and through to today, these galaxies will continue to grow through mergers and by acquiring gas and dust from the intergalactic medium. In a new paper in the Astrophysical Journal, scientists led by Anshu Gupta try to understand this process using a combination of observations and computer models that add in the invisible effects of dark matter. By look at motions within massive galaxies that had already formed just a few billion years after the Big Bang, they were able to determine that the majority of stars had probably been cannibalized from systems that got too close and got eaten up. Since these systems had their own peculiar motions, the resulting galaxies are observed to have disorganized stellar motions. In what is one of my favorite quotes in a press release, Kim-Vy Tran, a co-author of this work, explains, “The surviving galaxies have grown fat and disorderly through incorporating smaller ones. I think of it as big galaxies having a constant case of the cosmic munchies.”

And really there is nothing I can say that is better than that.

<--------------------->

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Daily Space 04/23/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. LIGO and Virgo detectors catch first gravitational wave from binary black hole merger with unequal masses, modelling shows big galaxies get bigger by merging with smaller ones, and new results from ALPINE reveal what appear to be spiral galaxies in the infant universe. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Rocket Roundup for April 22, 2020
Rocket Roundup for April 22, 2020more_vert
2020-04-22T20:54:59+00:00
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Rocket Roundup for April 22, 2020 2020-04-22T20:54:59+00:00close

Roscosmos recovers Expedition 62 crew, Intelsat 901 gets a tuneup from MEV-1, and ISS captured a Starlink train above the southern lights

(podcast link)

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Roscosmos returns astronauts to earth from ISS amid quarantine conditions

Intelsat 901 has returned to service following the successful docking with the first Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1)

ISS captured a Starlink train above the southern lights

Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Daily Space for today Wednesday, April 15, 2020. I am your host Annie Wilson and I AM BACK! Most Mondays through Fridays, our team will be here putting science in your brain.

Usually Wednesdays are for Rocket Roundup, and it’s been yet another week without launches.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

<figure></figure>

On April 17th at 5:16 AM UTC, Jessica Meir, Oleg Skripochka, and Andrew Morgan landed near Jezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

<figure>Andrew Morgan being extracted from Soyuz. CREDIT: ROSCOSMOS</figure>

From there, they were literally pulled out of the capsule and placed in reclining chairs to help them adjust to the increased gravity on Earth. This is also a chance for flight surgeons and medical teams to take the returning spacefarer’s vitals -- checking things like blood pressure, pulse and temperature.

<figure>Jessica Meir on phone. CREDIT: ROSCOSMOS</figure>

The steppes of Kazakhstan are notorious for a complete lack of all things civilized other than rockets. There are no cell phone towers. So instead of a cell phone, crew members use an Intelsat satellite phone to call loved ones.

<figure>Crew inside the Soyuz before being extracted. CREDIT: ROSCOSMOS</figure>

The seated astronauts and cosmonaut are then carried to their all terrain vehicles for the relatively short ride to the nearby waiting helicopters. Each crew member and their team is then loaded into individual helicopters for the two and a half hour flight to Baikonur. This is when they finally have a chance to change out of the bulky landing suits. Upon landing in Baikonur, American astronauts Meir and Morgan flew to Houston while Russian cosmonaut Skripochka flew to Moscow.

Speaking of Intelsat, they recently announced that IS-901 is once again fully operational thanks to a little help from MEV-1.

Regular listeners may recall that we talked about MEV-1 on Daily Space about a month ago when the satellites made contact on February 25th. Basically, MEV-1 is designed to attach itself to a satellite that is out of propellant and act as its motors to keep it in the correct orientation. This means that a satellite that has run out of propellant but is otherwise healthy can have its useful life extended for up to five years before moving the satellite out to a graveyard orbit.

IS-901 was declared operational on April 2nd, 2020.Date of announcement: Intelsat, Northrop Grumman Press releases: 17 APR 2020 - “Intelsat (NYSE: I) today announced that Intelsat 901 has returned to service following the successful docking with the first Mission Extension Vehicle (MEV-1) from Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) and the company’s wholly-owned subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC, on February 25 – the first time that two commercial spacecraft docked in geostationary orbit.”

“Our partnership with Intelsat was critical to delivering this innovative satellite technology into operation,” said Tom Wilson, vice president, Northrop Grumman Space Systems and president, SpaceLogistics, LLC. “This historic event, highlighted by the first in-orbit rendezvous and docking of two commercial satellites and the subsequent repositioning of the two-spacecraft stack, demonstrates the business value that MEV offers to customers. Now that MEV-1 has successfully delivered on its mission to place the Intelsat 901 satellite back into operational service, we will continue to pioneer the future of on-orbit servicing through our multi-year technology road map leading to additional services such as inspection, assembly and repair.”

<figure>IS-901, as seen against the backdrop of Planet Earth from the perspective of the MEV-1 spacecraft as it performed docking operations in late February. CREDIT: Northrop-Grumman / Intelsat</figure>

The mission didn’t quite go off without a hitch -- there were several attempts before docking was successful. Contributing to the difficulty of the operation was the fact that at the time IS-901 was built, on orbit servicing was barely a hypothetical concept reserved for specially constructed systems like the Hubble Space Telescope. Servicing anything beyond low Earth orbit was considered extremely futuristic.

But patience and perseverance paid off, according to a statement by Jean-Luc Froeliger, Intelsat’s Vice President for space systems engineering and operations.

“It proves that in-orbit servicing is real. This was a project that took years in planning. We had identified [Intelsat 901] three years ago and decided it’s healthy but it’s going to run out of fuel in early 2020. And so rather than having to discard the satellite and retire it, we teamed up with Northrop Grumman to do this in-orbit servicing mission.”

Currently IS-901 is scheduled to remain in service for at least the next five years, after which the plan is to retire the commsat back into a graveyard orbit. That will allow the MEV-1 to perform the same 5 year mission on up to two other geostationary (GEO) spacecraft before its fuel & planned service life are expended. However, if there are no follow-on missions for MEV-1 at that time and if IS-901 is still healthy (meaning instruments on board are in good working order), Intelsat may choose to lease the extension vehicle’s services for up to ten more years.

Because of the success of MEV-1, Intelsat has made a few adjustments to its plans regarding MEV-2. Rather than moving IS 10-02 to a graveyard orbit before rendezvous, Intelsat has decided that IS 10-02 will remain in active service when MEV-2 docks with the aging satellite. MEV-2 has already finished construction and was originally scheduled to be launched sometime this year, but launch has been postponed due to delays related to the ongoing pandemic.

<figure>Starlink "train" photographed from the International Space Station.
CREDIT: NASA/Dr Marco Langbroek</figure>

For our last story of the day: Starlink. Love it or hate it, Starlink is a thing. To the dismay of many astronomers and the delight of satellite spotters, the satellite trains can be spotted from many places here on Earth. And now, they can be seen from space.

On April 13th, a camera onboard the ISS captured a Starlink train above the southern lights. The train was first noticed by Twitter user Riccardo Rossi (@RikyUnreal). Huub Eggen (@phi48) contacted Dutch satellite tracker Dr Marco Langbroek, who then assigned probable identities to the objects. Dr Langbroek said that this train is from the Starlink 4 launch that occurred on February 17 of this year.

<figure></figure>

To wrap things up, here’s a running tally of a few spaceflight statistics for the current year:

  • Toilets burned up: 2
  • Total new satellites in orbit: 345 (includes those launched from other in-orbit craft, such as the ISS)
  • Total satellites from launches: 331

I keep track of orbital launches by where they launched from. Here’s that breakdown:

Total 2020 successful launches: 23 (+ 4 failures so far)

  • Total attempts by country:
  • USA: 9
  • China: 8
  • Kazakhstan: 3
  • French Guiana: 2
  • Russia: 2
  • New Zealand: 1
  • Japan: 1
  • Iran: 1

Your useless space fact for the week comes to us from Patrick Doyle, "Venus is the only planet in our solar system where the sun rises in the west and sets in the east."

And that rounds out our show for today.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written and edited by Dave Ballard, Gordon Dewis and myself. The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. Our fearless leader is Dr. Pamela Gay.

This has been a production of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)(3) non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at patreon.com/cosmoquestx


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Daily Space 04/22/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Roscosmos recovers Expedition 62 crew, Intelsat 901 gets a tuneup from MEV-1, and ISS captured a Starlink train above the southern lights. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Hubble Observes Aftermath of Massive Collision,  New research may help solve the question of how our atmosphere was formed, and MESSENGER data demonstrates Venus’ atmosphere isn’t uniformly mixed
Hubble Observes Aftermath of Massive Collision, New research may help solve the question of how our atmosphere was formed, and MESSENGER data demonstrates Venus’ atmosphere isn’t uniformly mixed more_vert
2020-04-21T19:10:46+00:00
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Hubble Observes Aftermath of Massive Collision, New research may help solve the question of how our atmosphere was formed, and MESSENGER data demonstrates Venus’ atmosphere isn’t uniformly mixed 2020-04-21T19:10:46+00:00close

Hubble Observes Aftermath of Massive Collision, offering insight into the nature of exoplanet Fomalhaut b, new research may help solve the question of whether our atmosphere was formed by gases naturally emitted by the Earth’s interior or was added later, and data collected byMESSENGERabove Venus’ surface, demonstrates the planet’s atmosphere isn’t uniformly mixed.

(podcast link)

Links

Hubble Observes Aftermath of Massive Collision

New research may help solve the question of whether our atmosphere was formed by gases naturally emitted by the Earth’s interior or was added later

Data collected byMESSENGERabove Venus’ surface, demonstrates the planet’s atmosphere isn’t uniformly mixed.

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. I am your host Dr. Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain.

Today’s news is a bit gassy. We’re not quite sure how this happened. While I knew a whole lot of science focused on the parts of the universe that aren’t solid or plasma, I hadn’t expected the solid stuff to become gassy stuff.

<figure>Hubble imaged a vast ring of icy debris encircling the star Fomalhaut. Shown on the right are computer simulations of the expanding and fading cloud. The cloud of very fine dust particles is estimated to stretch more than 200 million miles across. CREDIT: NASA, ESA, A. Gáspár and G. Rieke/UArizona</figure>

As described in no less than 3 press releases and 1 conference proceeding, the planet we thought we’d found around the star Fomalhaut has gone away, dissipating into a cloud of gas and dust. First discovered in 2004, the not-still-a-planet Fomalhaut b was directly imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope as a small, coherent, planet looking thing. It was observed repeatedly, and continued to shine bright in 2006, but starting in 2008, this world seemed to be expanding – and expansion is not something we expect of our planets. By the 2014 observations, this world was gone.

The observing team believes that shortly before its discovery images were taken in 2004, this world had a bad collision. According to the spacetelescope.org press release, this object always looked a little bit off. Here is how they describe it, “The object was unusually bright in visible light, but did not have any detectable infrared heat signature. Astronomers proposed that the added brightness came from a huge shell or ring of dust encircling the object that may have been collision-related.” While the object labeled “planet” could be explained with a certain amount of hand-waving, what was harder to explain was its path – which wasn’t an elliptical orbit so much as a trajectory of escape.

Now… several years of observing later, scientists have realized it wasn’t so much a cloud around a planet as just a cloud. While it may have been vaguely planet-sized to begin with, over time this cloud has expanded to be about the size of the Earth’s orbit, and at this point, the light it reflects is so spread out that it isn’t detectable even to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Remarkably, the objects that collided to create this debris cloud didn’t have to be that big. The star it orbited, Fomalhaut, is about 25 light years away and surrounded by a vast ring of icy debris. It’s believed the colliding objects may have been icy bodies about 200km across. The ices would have largely gone to gas from the energy of the collision, transforming two solid worlds into a cloud of expanding gas and dust on an escape path out of its solar system.

<figure>The Yellowstone Caldera was one of the sites from which scientists collected samples.
CREDIT: Peter Barry/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute</figure>

The way so many elements like to go to gas when heated the slightest bit is a bit problematic. Our own Earth has an atmosphere made of these kinds of materials – Nitrogen, Carbon Dioxide, Oxygen – And we know that early on in our planet’s history, our world was so hot that all these elements should have gone away. Over the years, we’ve figured out how oxygen and carbon dioxide probably came back to Earth on comets and asteroids . Nitrogen had two origins – dredged up or collided into Earth – but sorting which option has proven hard. In this new work, led by Edward Young, scientists collected gases from volcanoes,very carefully, and looked at the compositions. They found that the gases coming out of volcanoes were consistent with atmospheric gases and it appears that nitrogen was brought back to Earth and then added into the planet so that it could come back out later. Essentially, our world is a giant nitrogen recycler.

So – that nitrogen that makes up 78% of the gas we breathe is nitrogen from impactors not nitrogen from the primordial Earth.

<figure>Nitrogen concentration through Venus’ atmosphere. New analysis of MESSENGER data shows an uptick in nitrogen concentration around Venus’ upper cloud deck roughly 30 miles (50 kilometers) up, upending a long-held idea that nitrogen is distributed equally throughout. The red line is a trend line fitted to data from multiple missions, including MESSENGER’s data, which was collected between 35 and 65 miles (60 and 100 km) high.
CREDIT: Johns Hopkins APL</figure>

Understanding the interplay of gases in our atmosphere is hard, even here on Earth where we can measure pretty much anything we want. For world’s like Mars, we at least have rovers in multiple places to sample the air around them. With worlds like Venus – well, Venus likes to destroy things, so most of what we know has come from passing spacecraft, and even those are very rare. One way we can essentially get free data is to study Venus with spacecraft on their way to other worlds or to the Sun. One such mission was the MESSENGER mission, which visited Mercury several years ago. On its way there it used Venus’s gravity to adjust its orbit, and during a June 2007 flyby it tested its instruments by studying the great beige world of death. As reported in the journal Nature Astronomy, they discovered that the nitrogen concentration in Venus’s atmosphere increased with altitude. Prior to this measurement, it had been assumed that the nitrogen was constant with altitude. This means we’re going to have to rethink chemical models of the atmosphere and how those deadly molecules that define Venus’s cloud cover may change as a function of altitude. This discovery is going into justifying the need for different proposed spacecraft both here in the US and in Russia.

What is particularly frustrating about this discovery is no one wanted to fund using MESSENGER’s test data for science. While the data was taken in 2007, it was only possible for team members to get time to do this research recently due to happenstance. Actual proposals were denied. This is a reminder that often people can’t work on projects as volunteers, and science funding is super limited and even the best data can’t always be processed due simply to a lack of money. We’re glad that this team found a way, and we applaud their determination.

And this rounds out our show for today.

<———————>

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science, volunteer for various projects, and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Hubble Observes Aftermath of Massive Collision, offering insight into the nature of exoplanet Fomalhaut b, new research may help solve the question of whether our atmosphere was formed by gases naturally emitted by the Earth’s interior or was added later, and data collected by MESSENGER above Venus’ surface, demonstrates the planet’s atmosphere isn’t uniformly mixed. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Crew Dragon to be crewed May 27, impacts on asteroids make regolith, Comet Borisov lends insights, and the California Nebula gloriously ends Spitzer Mission
Crew Dragon to be crewed May 27, impacts on asteroids make regolith, Comet Borisov lends insights, and the California Nebula gloriously ends Spitzer Missionmore_vert
2020-04-20T19:05:23+00:00
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Crew Dragon to be crewed May 27, impacts on asteroids make regolith, Comet Borisov lends insights, and the California Nebula gloriously ends Spitzer Mission 2020-04-20T19:05:23+00:00close


The first flight ofNASAastronauts from U.S. soil in nearly nine years finally has a launch date: May 27.The impact of small bodies hitting an asteroid pulverizes its surface, making new regolith, while seismic shaking produced by the impact causes older regolith to move downhill and fill already existing craters. Studies of a comet from beyond our Solar System have yielded insights into how other star systems may have formed, and the California Nebula is the final mosaic image taken by Spitzer.

(podcast link)

Links

May 27th mission will launch astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station on aSpaceXCrew Dragon spacecraft

Impact cratering both produces new regolith and causes seismic events that can degrade and erase small craters on the surface of asteroids

Studies of a comet from beyond our Solar System have yielded insights into how other star systems may have formed

The California Nebula is the final mosaic image taken by Spitzer

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Monday, April 20, 2020.

Welcome to the Daily Space, I am your host, Dr Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain. Most Mondays through Fridays either I or my co-host Annie Wilson will be here, bringing you a quick run down of all that is new in space and astronomy.

<figure>NASA astronauts Bob Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley rehearse their Demo-2 test flight on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceflight ahead of a May 27, 2020 launch to the International Space Station. CREDIT: NASA</figure>

Welcome to Monday! The timing of our show means we sometimes miss breaking news in the moment that it is happening, and we want to start today’s episode with a story you may have already heard: On Friday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein announced that NASA will be launching astronauts to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon on May 27. With the current pandemic, this means there is zero chance any of us here at CosmoQuest will be there to bring this to you live, but we will be following along at a safe distance. To use Bridenstine’s oft used phrase, NASA will one again launch American astronauts from American rockets from American soil.” Or, as we like to think of it – Oh – cool, a new rocket will launch from a launch site we can drive to! As always, space is everyone’s and Musk is a South African, who like many foreign born people throughout the aerospace agency, has come to live in the US because this is a good place to build and launch rockets. Go little rocket, go.

<figure>A shaded-relief map of a surface cratering simulation of near-Earth asteroid 433 Eros, color-coded according to surface elevation (blue = -125 meters, pink = +125 meters). The surface is shown after 400 million years of exposure to the Main Asteroid Belt, where Eros spent most of its lifetime. CREDIT: James Richardson</figure>

In other news, coming to you from right here at PSI, scientists have discovered that the same effects that weather the moon also affect objects as small as the asteroid 433 Eros. In a new paper appearing in the journal Icarus, a team lead by James Richardson has found that the steady impact of small objects onto Eros have a way of erasing other craters over time. This happens in two ways. Easiest to understand is the way small impacts simply batter down the surface, crumbling rocks to regolith and eroding sharp edged craters like rain on an unbaked adobe wall. Additionally, these impacts cause seismic tremors, and like tapping on the edge of a cup filled with flour will level the flour, tapping on an asteroid will level the regolith. This packs a one 2 punch that both effects the things being collided with and distant features that are simply getting shaken, and not stirred.

<figure>Comet 2I/Borisov. CREDIT: NASA, ESA, K. Meech (University of Hawaii), D. Jewitt (UCLA)</figure>

Objects colliding a breaking apart is apparently the way of things in our Solar System. From Eros’s impacts we now switch gears to look at the crumbling comet 2I/Borisov. As it passes near our Sun, this interstellar invader has been forming a tail and coma of material that is released as volatiles – all those ices rearing to become gas – sublimate away. On December 15-16, when Borisov was still one object, astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter Array to look at the chemical composition of Borisov. These results are now available in the journal Nature, and they show an unusually large amount of carbon monoxide gas and normal amounts of Hydrogen Cyanide. This implies that this comet, which originated in another solar system, must have formed someplace significantly colder than where our solar system’s comets come from.

While it’s not possible to speculate too scientifically about the origins of Borisov, this kind of a composition is consistent with Borisov coming from a solar system with an extremely extended disk, such as those currently being found by ALMA around low mass stars not too different from our sun. Until we find more interstellar comets, we can’t know what is more typical of the universe, comets like those produced in our Solar System, or high CO comets like Borisov. For now, we are going to enjoy Borisov’s shattered departure, and keep looking for more icy alien visitors.

<figure>NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope took this image of the California Nebula on Jan. 25, 2020, five days before the spacecraft was decommissioned. The red and blue bands on either side of the image represent two different wavelengths of light; the gray area shows both wavelengths. CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech</figure>

In our final story, we just have a pretty picture. At the beginning of February we shared with you that the Spitzer mission had been decommissioned on Jan 30. We also promised that science would still be coming from the mission’s data for years and decades to come. Today the good folks at JPL have released Spitzer’s final mosaic image. This image, of the California nebulae, reveals a beautiful spiral galaxy otherwise hidden by the light of the nebulae. It is only in the dust penetrating longer infrared wavelengths that Spitzer observed that we can see through the dust to the galaxy behind. You can check out this image on our website, the DailySpace.org.

<———————>

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science, volunteer for various projects, and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. The first flight of NASA astronauts from U.S. soil in nearly nine years finally has a launch date: May 27. The impact of small bodies hitting an asteroid pulverizes its surface, making new regolith, while seismic shaking produced by the impact causes older regolith to move downhill and fill already existing craters. Studies of a comet from beyond our Solar System have yielded insights into how other star systems may have formed. The California Nebula is the final mosaic image taken by Spitzer. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Cheops will bring many exciting discoveries, researchers at University of Geneva discover a six-planets system, and interview with Emily Levesque about Betelgeuse
Cheops will bring many exciting discoveries, researchers at University of Geneva discover a six-planets system, and interview with Emily Levesque about Betelgeusemore_vert
2020-04-17T19:19:38+00:00
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Cheops will bring many exciting discoveries, researchers at University of Geneva discover a six-planets system, and interview with Emily Levesque about Betelgeuse 2020-04-17T19:19:38+00:00close

Cheops, ESA’s new exoplanet mission, will commence routine science operations by the end of April, an international team lead by researchers of the University of Geneva has discovered a six-planets system, May 27th mission will launch astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station on aSpaceXCrew Dragon spacecraft, and Pamela talks Betelgeuse with astronomer Emily Levesque.

(podcast link)

Links

Cheops, ESA’s new exoplanet mission, has many exciting discoveries to come

An international team lead by researchers of the University of Geneva has discovered a six-planets system

Interview with Dr. Emily Levesque from University of Washington about Betelgeuse

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Tuesday, April 14, 2020.

Welcome to the Daily Space, I am your host, Dr. Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain. Most Mondays through Fridays either I or my co-host Annie Wilson will be here, bringing you a quick rundown of all that is new in space and astronomy.

It is Friday. I don’t know about any of you, but last night while trying to complete my timesheet, I determined Tuesday was about 10 years ago. My brain is full and ready to sleep in tomorrow, and the news was conveniently easy on the mind to help us through. Not only that, but after the news, we’re going to be joined by Dr Emily Levesques, an assistant professor at the University of Washington. She will be discussing her latest research into what may or may not have caused Betelgeuse to get so captivatingly dim in December and January.

<figure>An image of the star known as HD 88111, taken by ESA's Cheops exoplanet watcher during its in-orbit commissioning in early 2020.CREDIT: ESA/Airbus/CHEOPS Mission Consortium</figure>

Astronomers study stars in lots of weird ways, and one of the most surprising ways to even other astronomers is by using defocused images. Yes, folks, those of us who have tried to get the best possible measurements of star brightnesses in non-crowded fields will actually unfocus the starlight so it spreads out over more pixels. I’ve done this with RR Lyae variable stars using wide-field cameras, Adam Reiss has done this with the Hubble Space Telescope and Cepheid variables… and now the CHEOPS mission does it with everything it looks at as it searches the sky for planets orbiting stars. A few weeks ago, we showed you this early commissioning image of a star without planers. Today, we are happy to share that CHEOPS has observed the star HD 92296 - a star known to be orbited by the planet Kelt-11b - and have observed the transit with a new level of resolution that will allow us to more accurately measure the size of planets and to see smaller worlds than we have been previously been able to see.

<figure>In this graphic, the Sun is shown as a comparison, along with the diameter of Earth and Jupiter (calculated from the mean volumetric radius). CREDIT: ESA/Airbus/CHEOPS Mission Consortium</figure>

Cheops uses the planetary transit method to see where planets are located - this is the same technique used by Kepler and many other telescopes. As a planet passes in front of its home star, it blocks more and more of the star's light until it is completely in front of the star. The time the planet takes to go from just taking a tiny bite out of its star’s light to being fully in front of the star’s disk will vary based on how big the star is and how far it is from its Star. By being able to accurately measure the light curve going from nothing by Star, to Star with a planet in front, we will be able to better understand what factors go into planets being dense little super-Earths, versus bloated out ice giants…. And it will do a lot of other things.. But that is the research I’m most anxious to see.

While Cheops is still in the check out phase, everything is looking good, and the mission team hopes to transition into routine science operations at the end of the month. It is my hope that the next time I mention the mission, it will be to bring you news of fabulous advances in our understanding of known worlds and discoveries of new worlds.

In every scientist’s life, there are discoveries that radically change how we view our universe. I still don’t know what the biggest discovery of my life will be, but I’m hoping that when I’m an old and crotchety scientist I’ll be joking about that 30-year mistake of thinking the universe was Dark Energy dominated, and taking joy in a lifetime of seeing our understanding of solar systems grow and grow as we find the orbiting alien stars and as we explore our local worlds with an ever-expanding fleet of robot collaborators.

We have gone from the discovery of planets being 1 exciting world at a time to instead being small flocks of worlds found on a regular basis.

<figure>In the planetary system HD 158259, all pairs of subsequent planets are close to the 3:2 resonance : the inner one completes about three orbits as the outer completes two.CREDIT: UNIGE/NASA</figure>

Using the ground-based SOPHIE spectrograph, astronomers from the Universite de Geneve have studied a 6 planet system orbiting the star HD 158259. Spectroscopes see planets by looking at how they tug around their host star with gravity. This system includes 1 super-Earth and 5 mini Neptunes, tightly packed together around a fairly average star. Now, finding systems like this is no longer entirely newsworthy, but this system caught scientists' attention with its rhythm and jazz. The world’s in this system are almost precisely in a 3:2 ratio. The innermost planet goes around 3 times for when the next outer world goes around twice, and that world goes around 3 times for within the 3rd planet goes around twice. This continuing pattern of 3:2 isn’t perfect. It plays more like a middle school drum section than a perfectly synced professional gig. Still… it’s kind of cool… and I got to say it is partnered with one of the worst best intentions graphics of the year. In a graphic meant to show a 2 to 3 resonance, they show the planets as notes, but it isn’t really spaced right… you’ve just got to see it for yourself. It is so “just not quite right” it is fabulous. We have the graphic over on DailySpace.org

And that rounds out today’s news. Now, don’t go anywhere! In just a moment we will be joined by Dr. Emily Levesque, who will be discussing Betelgeuse with us.

<--------------------->

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science, volunteer for various projects, and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX.Cheops, ESA’s new exoplanet mission, will commence routine science operations by the end of April, an international team lead by researchers of the University of Geneva has discovered a six-planets system, and Pamela talks Betelgeuse with astronomer Emily Levesque. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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OSIRIS-REx spacecraft rehearses touching down on asteroid Bennu, deep sea vents could have kick-started life, and star orbiting the supermassive black hole moves as predicted by relativity, plus interview with astronomer Riley Connors
OSIRIS-REx spacecraft rehearses touching down on asteroid Bennu, deep sea vents could have kick-started life, and star orbiting the supermassive black hole moves as predicted by relativity, plus interview with astronomer Riley Connorsmore_vert
2020-04-16T19:56:22+00:00
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OSIRIS-REx spacecraft rehearses touching down on asteroid Bennu, deep sea vents could have kick-started life, and star orbiting the supermassive black hole moves as predicted by relativity, plus interview with astronomer Riley Connors 2020-04-16T19:56:22+00:00close

NASA’s first asteroid-sampling spacecraft is one step closer to touching down on asteroid Bennu. By mimicking rocky seafloor chimneys in the lab, scientists have produced new evidence that these features could have provided the right ingredients to kick-start life. A star orbiting the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way moves just as predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity. And we have an interview with astronomer Riley Connors, talking about his team’s research into black holes bending light that we can detect as reflections of accretion disks

(podcast link)

Links

NASA’s first asteroid-sampling spacecraft is one step closer to touching down on asteroid Bennu

Scientists have produced new evidence that deep sea vents could have provided the right ingredients to kick-start life

Star orbiting the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way moves just as predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity

Interview with astronomer Riley Connors, talking about his team’s research into black holes bending light that we can detect as reflections of accretion disks

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Thursday, April 16, 2020.

Welcome to the Daily Space, I am your host, Dr Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain. Most Mondays through Fridays either I or my co-host Annie Wilson will be here, bringing you a quick run down of all that is new in space and astronomy.

Today’s news is coming at us from all directions, as astronomers, planetary scientists, and astrobiologists all work to advance our exploration of the universe. As part of today’s news, we will be joined by astronomer Riley Connors who will be talking about his team’s research into black holes bending light that we can detect as reflections off accretion disks.

<figure>This artist’s concept shows the trajectory and configuration of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft during Checkpoint rehearsal, which was the first time the mission practiced the initial steps of collecting a sample from asteroid Bennu. CREDIT: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona</figure>

Our first story is one that is near and dear to us. The OSIRIS-REx mission has successfully completed a dress rehearsal of collecting a sample from the asteroid Bennu’s Nightingale crater. While they didn’t actually reach out and touch Bennu on this go around, the mission team did prove that the spacecraft can successfully deploy and retract its sample arm, and that it is capable of all the necessary orbital maneuvers to dive down to the surface and then return safely to a standard orbit. As part of the trial run, the mission team acquired amazing images of the asteroid’s surface that are key to verifying the space craft’s potential for successful sampling. They also took science data, including spectrometry to study the composition of rocks at this site.

During this rehearsal, the OSIRIS-REx mission travelled within 75 m or 246 ft of Bennu’s surface - this is the closest they've ever approached. For the next several months, the team will analyze all the data and telemetry from the mission as they prepare to make their first sample collection attempt on August 25. If everything goes as planned, OSIRIS-REx will return the sample home on September 24, 2023.

<figure>CREDIT:NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona</figure>

NASA and all international collaborators have plans in place to keep the sample sterile so that we humans can’t pollute it with our world's bugs, and so whatever it brings home - if anything - can’t get out to us.

While it’s highly unlikely a smashed up asteroid like Bennu could be home to any form of life, there are plenty of other places in our solar system that seem like just maybe life could be possible.

<figure>A seafloor vent called a "white smoker" spews mineral-rich water into the ocean and serves as an energy hub for living creatures. Some scientists think life on Earth may have begun around similar vents on the ocean floor billions of years ago. CREDIT: NOAA/C. German (WHOI)</figure>

To understand where to look for life, we need to understand how life came to be on our own planet. Over the years, folks have debated where on Earth life might have started, and one of today’s dominant ideas has life starting at hydrothermal vents. In new research published in the journal Astrobiology, researchers in JPL’s Icy Worlds team have worked to simulate the conditions that might have existed at hydrothermal vents on Earth when our solar system was young and life was just starting. This was part of the graduate work of Lauren White, who brought together hydrogen-rich water such as flows out vents, seawater enriched with CO2, and the same mixture of minerals that were present in these regions. This was all done in a high pressure system that could simulate the moderate temperatures and high-pressures expected to have existed … and at a scale sufficient for them to observe how fluids flowed and mixed. This was a large lab experiment, the likes of which had never previously been done. But when you’re trying to simulate the formation of the chemistry required for life… sometimes it’s go big or learn nothing.

And this term learned something.

They found that the natural pulsations, pressures, and flows of hydrothermal vents are capable of forming the organic molecules formate and methane. This is just a first step in this research, but as now Dr White states, "I think it's really significant that we showed that these reactions take place in the presence of those physical factors, like the pressure and the flow. We are still a long way from demonstrating that life could have formed in these environments. But if anyone ever wants to make that case, I think we'll need to have demonstrated the feasibility of every step of the process; we can't take anything for granted."

If life can start at hydrothermal vents, this means our list of possibly habitable works includes a myriad of icy moons in our own solar system, and more worlds then we dare count that are out there orbiting alien stars.

<figure>This simulation shows the orbits of stars very close to the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way. One of these stars, named S2, orbits every 16 years and is passing very close to the black hole in May 2018. This is a perfect laboratory to test gravitational physics and specifically Einstein's general theory of relativity.
CREDIT: ESO/L. Calçada/spaceengine.org</figure>

In our final story of the day, we have one more confirmation that the universe is well described by Einstein’s theory of relativity. For the past several decades, starting with Andrea Ghez, many astronomers have been using massive telescopes and special techniques to directly measure the orbits of stars around our galaxy's supermassive black hole. Now, a team using ESO’s VLT has revealed that one of these stars is orbiting in a pattern that resembles a spirograph rosette pattern, rather than the mostly repeating ellipse we see with other objects. To be fair, all orbits are rotating a bit through a process called Apsidal Precession, but most orbits don’t require us to make relativistic corrections to Newton’s basic equations of motion for us to match simulation to reality. For the star S2 near our SMBH, relativity, however, is totally required. With 27 years of data on its 16 year orbit, it’s possible to use 330 measurements to track how its orbit changes cycle after cycle…. And… it’s behaving exactly as Einstein would have expected. This is just a nice result of a pretty orbit, that took more than a generation of astronomers, and billions of dollars of instrumentation. When it comes to the universe, sometimes the things that seem the easiest - measuring a star orbit - can be ridiculously hard. But… it sure is worth it when everything comes together in the end.

<figure>Observations made with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) have revealed for the first time that a star orbiting the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way moves just as predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Its orbit is shaped like a rosette and not like an ellipse as predicted by Newton's theory of gravity. This effect, known as Schwarzschild precession, had never before been measured for a star around a supermassive black hole. This artist’s impression illustrates the precession of the star’s orbit, with the effect exaggerated for easier visualisation. CREDIT: ESO/L. Calçada</figure>

Studying the effects of relativity is one of those things that is often easier said than done. More than 100 years after his publications, we’re still working to observe in the universe everything Einstein predicted in his research. One of those predictions - that light can be bent to orbit black holes, was the research of today’s guest. In just a moment I will be joined by CalTech researcher Riley Connors. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be right back and we’re going to be talking X-Ray photons and reflection off accretion disks.

<--------------------->

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science, volunteer for various projects, and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. NASA’s first asteroid-sampling spacecraft is one step closer to touching down on asteroid Bennu. By mimicking rocky seafloor chimneys in the lab, scientists have produced new evidence that these features could have provided the right ingredients to kick-start life. A star orbiting the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way moves just as predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity. And we have an interview with astronomer Riley Connors, talking about his team’s research into black holes bending light that we can detect as reflections of accretion disks Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Rocket Roundup for April 15, 2020
Rocket Roundup for April 15, 2020more_vert
2020-04-15T18:48:05+00:00
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Rocket Roundup for April 15, 2020 2020-04-15T18:48:05+00:00close

Roscosmos launches new crew to ISS, and China launches the Indonesian satellite Nusantara Dua, but it fails to achieve orbit.

[powerpress]

Links

Roscosmos sends two cosmonauts and an astronaut to the ISS on expedition MS-16

Chinese Long March 3B rocket launches the Nusantara Dua satellite, but it fails to achieve orbit.

Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Daily Space for today Wednesday, April 15, 2020. I am your host Annie Wilson and I AM BACK! Most Mondays through Fridays, our team will be here putting science in your brain.

Usually Wednesdays are for Rocket Roundup, and it’s been yet another week without launches.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

<figure></figure>

A Roscosmos Soyuz-2 rocket launched the Soyuz MS-16 mission on Thursday, April 9th, 2020 at 08:05 UTC.

<figure>The prime Expedition 63 crewmembers pose for a portrait at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. From left are, NASA astronaut and Commander Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos cosmonauts and Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. CREDIT: NASA</figure>

Soyuz MS-16 transported three members of the Expedition 62 mission:

  • Commander Anatoli Ivanishin, RSA (third spaceflight)
  • Flight Engineer 1 Ivan Vagner, RSA (first spaceflight)
  • Flight Engineer 2 Christopher Cassidy, NASA (third spaceflight)

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the crew families and the media representatives couldn't watch the launch in Baikonur, and the usual pre-launch traditions dating since Yuri Gagarin were cancelled.

MS-16 docked at the Poisk zenith port at 14:13:18 UTC on April 9th, about six hours and twelve minutes after launch.

This brings the population of the ISS up to 6, but only until this Friday, when commander Oleg Skripochka, and NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and physician-astronaut Drew Morgan, who have been on the ISS since September 25th, 2019, return to Earth on Soyuz MS-15 touching down around 05:17 UTC.

<figure></figure>

Next up, that same day, at 11:46 UTC, a Chinese Long March 3B rocket launched the Nusantara Dua satellite.

<figure>CREDIT: Pasifik Satelit Nusantara.</figure>

Unfortunately, the Indonesian satellite did not make it to orbit. Adi Rahman Adiwoso, the managing director of Pasifik Satelit Nusantara, stated that one of the engines on the third stage failed to start so there wasn’t enough thrust to get the satellite into its transfer orbit. Instead, Nusantara Dua crashed into the ocean.

<figure>Pasifik Satelit Nusantara. CREDIT: Jakarta Globe</figure>

The satellite was insured and will eventually be replaced.

Unfortunately, this was a replacement for another aging Indonesian communications satellite. The old satellite is scheduled to be decommissioned by the end of July 2020 -- about three months from now. According to the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Johnny G. Plate, the Indonesian government is working with local satellite operators to ensure consumers do not experience an interruption of radio and television broadcasts.

<figure>Debris photo. CREDIT: a Weibo user, via @Launch Stuff on @Twitter</figure><figure></figure>

To wrap things up, here’s a running tally of a few spaceflight statistics for the current year:

  • Toilets burned up: 1
  • Total new satellites in orbit: 345 (includes those launched from other in-orbit craft, such as the ISS)
  • Total satellites from launches: 331

I keep track of orbital launches by where they launched from. Here’s that breakdown:

Total 2020 successful launches: 23 (+ 4 failures so far)

Total attempts by country:

  • USA: 9
  • China: 8
  • Kazakhstan: 3
  • French Guiana: 2
  • Russia: 2
  • New Zealand: 1
  • Japan: 1
  • Iran: 1

Your useless space fact for the week comes to us from kerbal01: you can fit ten thousand honey bees in the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble optical tube assembly (OTA) is 6.4m long and 2.7m wide, and a honey bee is about 15mm long.

This has been a production of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)(3) non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at patreon.com/cosmoquestx


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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Roscosmos launches new crew to ISS, and China launches the Indonesian satellite Nusantara Dua, but it fails to achieve orbit. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Researchers learn about the central spherical component in spiral galaxies, Comet Atlas has fragmented into pieces, and talking Mercury with Deborah Domingue Lorin and Jeffrey Kargel from PSI
Researchers learn about the central spherical component in spiral galaxies, Comet Atlas has fragmented into pieces, and talking Mercury with Deborah Domingue Lorin and Jeffrey Kargel from PSImore_vert
2020-04-14T19:05:08+00:00
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Researchers learn about the central spherical component in spiral galaxies, Comet Atlas has fragmented into pieces, and talking Mercury with Deborah Domingue Lorin and Jeffrey Kargel from PSI 2020-04-14T19:05:08+00:00close

<figure>Image of the spiral galaxy NGC 5468, 130 million light-years away. CREDIT: ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Riess et al.</figure><figure>C/2019 Y4 Atlas and its fragments (center, fuzzy), photographed on April 12, 2020.
CREDIT:The Virtual Telescope Project 2.0/Gianluca Masi</figure>

Researchers from Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço have obtained important results about the central spherical component (the bulge) in spiral galaxies like the Milky Way, shedding new light on our understanding of galactic evolution. C/2019 Y4 ATLAS was supposed to be the brightest comet to decorate the night sky in decades, but now it appears to have suffered a major collapse. Finally, we have guests Deborah Domingue Lorin and Jeffrey Kargel from PSI to talk Mercury.

(podcast link)

Links

Researchers have obtained important results about the central spherical component in spiral galaxies like the Milky Way

Comet Atlas has fragmented into pieces

Interview with Deborah Domingue Lorin and Jeffrey Kargel from Planetary Science Institute

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Tuesday, April 14, 2020.

Welcome to the Daily Space, I am your host, Dr Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain. Most Mondays through Fridays either I or my co-host Annie Wilson will be here, bringing you a quick run down of all that is new in space and astronomy.

Sometimes astronomy giveth, and sometimes it takes away. Today we have both, times two.

In our first story, the Instituto de Astrofisica e Ciencias de Espaco has announced that scientists using the Integral Field Spectroscopy have studied the central bulges of spiral galaxies to understand the factors that cause the bulges to grow. Over several years, they computationally chewed through approximately 500,000 spectra that covered all possible variations on “non-interacting spiral galaxies.” By looking at every combination of disk, bulge, and arms, they hoped to identify what physical characteristics are linked together. With this data, the team was able to measure, among other things, how stellar ages vary across the galactic bulge as a function of kind of galaxy

Like many things now being determined with data, these results run counter to what we would have expected a few years ago. Specifically, they found that in low mass galaxies, stars go from young to old as you move out from the center, while in high mass galaxies, stars run from old to young as you move out. Yes folks, the distribution of stars by age varies with mass. This happens even though the galaxies themselves appear to form in the same manner, through aggregation of smaller systems. These differences may be related to past active galactic nuclei (AGN) in these bulges that blasted out radiation and cleared the core while pushing material to outer areas.

Overall, they find the process of growing galaxy bulges is a slow and gradual process with bulges forming over 2 to 4 billion years, and an AGN defines a flipping point where the galactic core goes from densest in the core with star formation, to empty in the core due to light pressure.

This work should allow detailed models to be created that allow us to step through the process of bulge formation by looking at systems of every intermittent age and size. This is just cool and straight forward research that becomes complex in the computational power required to make this result possible. These results are reported in Astronomy and Astrophysics and was led by Iris Breda.

This is the case of the universe giveth. The first case at least. Now for the universe taking away.

We can confirm that Comet Atlas has totally fallen to pieces. In an Astronomer’s Telegram, astronomers Zhong-Yi Lin and collaborators report that in observations taken with the Lulin 40cm telescope, they see a nucleus and 2 additional fragments trailing 3400 and 5000 km from the core. She’s dead, Jim. No bright comet for us.

Now, those are our new news stories for today. In a moment, 2 special guests will be joining us to discuss results from 2 weeks ago. In a remarkable paper in the Journal Nature, they described how Mercury may have held onto the kinds of volatile gases required for life all the way up to 1.8 billion years ago. In the deep hollows of the chaotic Terrain, the broken landscape opposite the Caloris impact basin may - may - have once been capable of supporting life ever so briefly. If this is the case, relectics of prebiotic chemistry may be waiting to be discovered by future Mercurial Rovers… that no one is planning to build. Volatiles gave the potential for life, and the heat of the Sun baked that potential away.

We’re going to pause for a moment to bring on our guests. Don’t go anywhere, when we return, we’ll be joined by Drs. Deborah Domingue Lorin and Jeffrey Kargel of the Planetary Science Institute. As a reminder, the Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute. Stay tuned.

<--------------------->

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science, volunteer for various projects, and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org. Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Daily Space 04/14/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Researchers from Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço have obtained important results about the central spherical component (the bulge) in spiral galaxies like the Milky Way, shedding new light on our understanding of galactic evolution. C/2019 Y4 ATLAS was supposed to be the brightest comet to decorate the night sky in decades, but now it appears to have suffered a major collapse. Finally, we have guests Deborah Domingue Lorin and Jeffrey Kargel from PSI to talk Mercury. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Discovery of most massive supernova ever identified, explaining ‘Oumuamua’, and methane can form on icy dust particles in space
Discovery of most massive supernova ever identified, explaining ‘Oumuamua’, and methane can form on icy dust particles in spacemore_vert
2020-04-13T18:49:46+00:00
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Discovery of most massive supernova ever identified, explaining ‘Oumuamua’, and methane can form on icy dust particles in space 2020-04-13T18:49:46+00:00close

Harvard & Smithsonian today announced the discovery and study of the brightest, most energetic, and likely most massive supernova ever identified, scientists posit new theory possibly Explaining the mysterious interstellar object ‘Oumuamua, and An international team of astronomers has shown in a laboratory at Leiden University that methane can form on icy dust particles in space.

(podcast link)

Links

Discovery of most massive supernova ever identified

Explaining the mysterious interstellar object ‘Oumuamua

Methane can form on icy dust particles in space

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Monday, April 13, 2020.

Welcome to the Daily Space, I am your host, Dr Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain. Most Mondays through Fridays either I or my co-host Annie Wilson will be here, bringing you a quick run down of all that is new in space and astronomy.

Mondays are the day that Nature magazine releases it’s weekly issues, and while there are weeks when these journals don’t carry a lot of the kind of astronomy we cover here, this isn’t one of those weeks! We have 3 great stories, and it all starts with a bang.

<figure>Artist’s conception of SN2016aps, a candidate pulsational pair instability supernova. The explosion energy of SN2016aps, fueled by the shedding of a massive shell of gas, was ten times that of a normal-sized supernova, making SN2016aps the most massive supernova ever identified.
CREDIT: M. Weiss</figure>

Astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have announced the discovery of the newest supernova to gain the title “Brightest Ever Known.” To be fair, as long as we keep building telescopes to peer at more and more distant corners of the universe, we are going to keep finding new things that are bigger, smaller, and otherwise more extreme than previously seen.

This particular supernova, SN2016aps, was found using Pan-STARRS, and has been studied for 4 years using a mix of new images, and old data from prior to the supernova that allowed them to look for the earliest signs of the supernova going off. They found that SN2016aps was 500 times more luminous than a normal supernova.

To create this massive supernova, the progenerator to SN2016aps had to be a massive, at least 100 times the mass of our Sun. This doesn’t mean the star had to start out that big, and in fact the team believes this object came from the merger of two stars that released a massive shell of gas and dust in the final years before their explosion. This created a system with a single star with an unusually high amount of hydrogen gas, and material to be slammed into.

Early in our universe, star formation was much more common, and these kinds of mergers of massive stars into more massive stars may have also been more common. I look forward to seeing what exactly will be discovered when the Vera Rubin Observatory’s LSST comes online. Its massive mirror will survey the sky and help us maybe find a “brightest supernovae” that will hold its record for a long period of time.

<figure>An artist’s impression of ‘Oumuamua. CREDIT: ESO/M. Kornmesser</figure>

The proliferation of survey telescopes is helping us quantify just what fills our sky and flies through our solar system. Recently, we’ve started turning up extrasolar asteroids and comets as they stumble into our system. Asteroid Oumuamua is one of those objects, and it’s unusual shape brought no end of confusion and speculation to its discovery. Shaped like a needle or cigar, Oumuamua made people think of the spacecraft from Rendezvous with Rama. We just haven’t seen anything this long and skinny before, and spacecraft seemed like as valid an idea as any other, and while the least probable explanation, it is at least understandable. Physical models… well they were harder to come up with.

But one team did manage to find a way. In a new paper with led author Yun Zhang, it’s postulated that as Oumuamua passed near its parent star, it was partiatially tidally disrupted, and the resulting crumbles were stretched out into a broken elongated cloud, until it gravitationally re-solidified into the object we see today.

<figure>An ‘Oumuamua-like object produced by a simulation of the tidal disruption scenario proposed by Zhang and Lin. CREDIT: NAOC/Y. Zhang; background: ESO/M. Kornmesser</figure>

We know that comets break up – we’ve seen both Comet Atlas and Borisov shatter in the past couple weeks – and it is reasonable to believe that asteroids can and have undergone this same process.

This paints us a picture or Oumuamua being a tortured asteroid that was stretched beyond breaking, but held in a new form. This process was likely part of what sent the object on an escape trajectory, and it is because of the asteroid-breaking event that Oumuamua was able to visit us.

This is one more fable teaching us that sometimes you have to undergo hard times and pain to get somewhere amazing – a message we kind of need today.

<figure>CREDIT: LfA/Leiden Observatory</figure>

Our last story of the day, I’d like to share that the astronomers at Leiden University have finally been able to create methane ice in an artificial environment designed to mimic the conditions found in interstellar molecular clouds. In a containment system, they created both an ultrahigh vacuum environment and the necessary low temperatures – temperatures of -263C or -442F.

<———————>

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science, volunteer for various projects, and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Harvard & Smithsonian today announced the discovery and study of the brightest, most energetic, and likely most massive supernova ever identified, scientists posit new theory possibly Explaining the mysterious interstellar object ‘Oumuamua, and An international team of astronomers has shown in a laboratory at Leiden University that methane can form on icy dust particles in space.

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Black hole bends light, non-uniform universe expansion, and brown dwarf's wind speed measured
Black hole bends light, non-uniform universe expansion, and brown dwarf's wind speed measuredmore_vert
2020-04-10T21:52:24+00:00
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Black hole bends light, non-uniform universe expansion, and brown dwarf's wind speed measured 2020-04-10T21:52:24+00:00close

Black holes bend light that can be seen with the help of dust, the universe may not be expanding in a uniform amount across all directions, and astronomers measure wind speed on a brown dwarf for the first time.

[powerpress]

Links

Black Hole bends light with help of dust

Expansion of the Universe is not Uniform

Wind speed measured on brown dwarf

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Friday, April 10, 2020.

Welcome to the Daily Space, I am your host, Dr Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain. Most Mondays through Fridays either I or my co-host Annie Wilson will be here, bringing you a quick run down of all that is new in space and astronomy.

Do you like relativity? I hope you like relativity, because today I’ve got relativity.

And relativity is awesome and weird.

Here is what you need to know: Light doesn’t have mass, but it has energy and thanks to good ol’ E=mc^2, gravity can affect light. Since light goes, by definition, the speed of light, gravity can’t speed up or slow down light, but it can change its energy - which is visible as a change in color - and gravity can totally change the path of light. This way light bends gravity is effectively identical to what we do with curved mirrors and lenses of different shapes, and chance alignments between nearby massive objects and distant light sources allows us to see magnified images that aren’t just magnified by our telescopes, but are rather also magnified by the intervening gravity.

The thing is, just like fun house mirrors and some crazy and crazy lenses can warp light in really weird ways, gravity can also twist light in the extremes, and when I say extremes, I mean extremes. It was long ago realized that black holes should have the capacity to bend light effectively into orbit around them. Seeing this is nearly impossible however, because if the light is orbiting a black hole, it’s not exactly going to make it into our telescopes and onto our sensors.

<figure>This illustration shows how some of the light coming from a disk around a black hole is bent back onto the disk itself due to the gravity of the hefty black hole. The light is then reflected back off the disk. Astronomers using data from NASA's now-defunct Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) mission were able to distinguish between light that came straight from the disk and light that was reflected. The bluish material coming off the black hole is an outflowing jet of energetic particles. CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)/R. Connors (Caltech)</figure>

A multi-institutional team led by CalTech’s Riley Connors, however, found a way to see this kind of light nevertheless - they just needed the help of some dust.

The stellar mass black hole XTE J1550-564 is actively feeding on a binary star companion, and the mass it pulls off forms a small accretion disk that emits light, and like all regular matter, is also capable of reflecting light. It’s this ability to reflect light that made the impossible possible. In this system, the super hot disk emits light that is bent by the black hole, and that new path can return light that left one side of the disk, back to the disk on the other side of the black hole. Now here is where this work got tricky. These researchers used archival data from the now retired Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer to try and discern which photons were coming directly from the disk, and which photons were reflected off the disk. This sounds like a crazy feat, but X-ray photons are so few in number that X-ray researchers will periodically name their photons… because they can. By looking carefully at the light, they could measure the tiny color differences between directly emitted photons, and reflected photons. Future work using this technique has the potential to be able to even measure the effect that rotation has on how black holes warp the space around them, but for now this new technique is enough to allow them to confirm relativity in one new way.

Where that research left me comfortably thinking we do indeed understand the universe, the next story left me feeling that I need to go back to bed and start over, because nothing makes sense any more.

You are warned.

There are a few simple rules we use when we study our far flung universe. We assume the same physics here are at play everywhere. We assume that at a large enough scale the universe is the same everywhere; that it’s homogeneous. We assume that what we see happening here, at large scales is happening everywhere - essentially that it’s isotropic. Put together, this is our cosmological principle and it is at the heart of everything we do when we model our universe at the largest scales. We haven’t been able to directly measure these assumptions, until, maybe, now.

<figure>Cosmic expansion measured across the sky.CREDIT: K. Migkas et al. 2020 –CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO</figure>

There are different things in our universe that physics tells us should all give us off the same amount of light. Hot gas, for instance, obeys standard gas laws, and should glow with consistent luminosity when heated to a characteristic temperature by a given mass’ crushing gravity. In theory, if we see systems of similar temperature, we should see them glowing with the same luminosity and appearing equally bright when placed at equal distances.

But apparently we don’t.

PhD Researcher Konstantinos Migkas unexpectedly made this discovery while looking at 800 galaxy clusters across the entire sky. Distances were based on the observed redshifts of the clusters - the observed recessional velocity caused by the expansion of the universe. If the universe has had the same expansion velocity everywhere at any given moment in time, all objects at the same distance will be moving at the same velocity, and standard candles - objects that give off a standard luminosity - will all appear equally bright.

Again though - this isn’t what was seen. What was seen was galaxy clusters at the same temperature and same redshift had different brightnesses. This implies that all else corrected for, these systems aren’t actually at the same distance, and the expansion of the universe isn’t the same everywhere.

In mapping out these variations, they found smooth changes over the sky, and it appears that they can’t explain these results with intervening dust that might be blocking light or with any other natural phenomena.

This variation isn’t small either. This is a variation of 30%. Researchers from multiple institutions did everything they could to figure out what this graduate student had accidently found while doing an all sky, big data analysis of galaxy cluster X-Ray brightnesses. They couldn’t make the result go away. It appears real.

And I’m going to try and get this young researcher on to talk about these results, because I personally want to know what it feels like to accidentally turn our basic understanding of the universe on its head. If this result proves true, everything is about to get a whole lot more difficult to study, and this early career research may be in line for a lot of awards and a more interesting career than they may have expected.

But for now, I’m not going to lie, this result kind of hurts my brain, and we’re now going to switch gears to a much less universe breaking result.

<figure>Brown dwarf, left, and Jupiter, right. Artist's conception of brown dwarf illustrates magnetic field and atmosphere's top, which were observed at different wavelengths to determine wind speeds.
CREDIT: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF</figure>

In our final story of the day, we’d like to note that a team of researchers has taken lessons learned from studying Jupiter and Saturn, and applied those lessons to studying a nearby brown dwarf star. Specifically, planetary scientists had realized that if they use radio telescopes to measure the rotation of the core of a planet they saw a different rotation rate than they saw at the surface of the world. The difference in these two rates had to go somewhere, and this case the energy was lost to the wind - literally it was lost to planetary outflows. Thanks to spacecraft at Jupiter and Saturn it was possible to physically measure these winds and check all the relationships. This relationship between inner and outer rotation rates and wind can be expressed in straight-forward equations that should be applicable to all similarly structured objects.

And here is where one day astronomer Katelyn Allers had the realization that brown dwarfs count as similarly structured objects. And she realized no one had published on this application before. Allers and her team used data from the Spitzer Space Telescope and VLA to study the nearby brown dwarf 2MASS J1047+21, which is only 34 light years away. These two sets of data allowed them to measure the dwarf to be rotating once every 1.758 days in the interior, and once every 1.741 hours in the atmosphere. This difference resulted in a wind of 650 m/s. This rate matched predictions on how wind speeds should change as objects gain mass from Saturn, to Jupiter, to these 40 Jupiter mass failed-starts. This is a cool piece of science, and it shows that we really need more interdisciplinary thinking, with astronomers and planetary scientists, as well as geologists, all taking time now and then to learn from one another.

And that rounds out our show for today.

<--------------------->

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science, volunteer for various projects, and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org. Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Daily Space 04/10/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Black holes bend light that can be seen with the help of dust, the universe may not be expanding in a uniform amount across all directions, and astronomers measure wind speed on a brown dwarf for the first time. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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MeerKAT spots unusual features in distant galaxy, photographic proof merging galaxies produce jets of charged particles, and BepiColombo makes Earth flyby
MeerKAT spots unusual features in distant galaxy, photographic proof merging galaxies produce jets of charged particles, and BepiColombo makes Earth flybymore_vert
2020-04-09T20:48:15+00:00
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MeerKAT spots unusual features in distant galaxy, photographic proof merging galaxies produce jets of charged particles, and BepiColombo makes Earth flyby 2020-04-09T20:48:15+00:00close

An international team of astronomers has uncovered unusual features in the radio galaxy ESO 137-006 using MeerKAT data, Clemson researchers have reported the first photographic proof that merging galaxies can produce jets of charged particles that travel at nearly the speed of light, and the BepiColombo mission is about to conduct its Earth flyby before heading towards Venus on the way to Mercury.

(podcast link)

Links

Unusual Features in Distant Galaxy spotted by MeerKAT data

Clemson researchers has reported the first definitive detection of a relativistic jet emerging from two colliding galaxies

BepiColombo to conduct Earth flyby before heading towards Venus

Transcript

Due to technical difficulties, there is no transcript for this episode.


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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. An international team of astronomers has uncovered unusual features in the radio galaxy ESO 137-006 using MeerKAT data, Clemson researchers have reported the first photographic proof that merging galaxies can produce jets of charged particles that travel at nearly the speed of light, and the BepiColombo mission is about to conduct its Earth flyby before heading towards Venus on the way to Mercury. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/"

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Rocket Roundup for 4/8/2020
Rocket Roundup for 4/8/2020more_vert
2020-04-08T19:56:15+00:00
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Rocket Roundup for 4/8/2020 2020-04-08T19:56:15+00:00close

SpaceX dominates the week with the tower escape system test for the Crew Dragon, Starship prototype has "rapid unplanned disassembly," and the last Dragon 1 capsule returns to Earth

(podcast link)

Links

SpaceX tests the tower escape system for Crew Dragon

The last Dragon I capsule returned to Earth yesterday

SpaceX loses third Starship prototype

The Continuing Impact of COVID-19

Useless Space Fact: Frogs in Space

Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Daily Space for today Wednesday, April 8, 2020. I am your host Annie Wilson and I AM BACK! Most Mondays through Fridays, our team will be here putting science in your brain.

Usually Wednesdays are for Rocket Roundup, and it’s been yet another week without launches.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

<figure></figure>

You might notice a theme this week: SpaceX. It’s all SpaceX.

This past Friday, SpaceX tested the tower escape system for Crew Dragon at Pad 39A.

This video shows the emergency escape baskets sliding down a cable on the tower at the launch pad. In the event of an emergency, astronauts and ground teams can quickly get away from dangerous conditions, should there be a pre-launch accident with the Falcon 9 rocket or Crew Dragon spacecraft.

(video)

Each basket, which can carry three people, were modified from the space shuttle program. At the end of the slide line, the personnel get into an armored vehicle called an MRAP, which they would drive to safety.

This is basically the same plan as used during the shuttle program, but the updated baskets will leave the tower from the 265-foot level, which is 70 feet higher than was used during the shuttle era.

An escape using the Crew Dragon’s SuperDraco engines would take less than a second, according to SpaceX. However, for safety reasons, the capsule escape engines are not activated until just before the start of fueling in the final countdown.

NASA says the Crew Dragon’s first piloted mission — with astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on-board — could launch as soon as mid-to-late May from pad 39A. The astronauts will fly to the space station for an expedition that could last several weeks up to several months, then return to Earth for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean just off Florida’s East Coast. How many baskets/slidelines are there: Seven!

<figure>https://twitter.com/Commercial_Crew/status/1247586196064272386</figure><figure>CREDIT: NASA/ISS</figure>

Speaking of SpaceX, the last Dragon I capsule returned to Earth yesterday after spending about a month attached to the Nadir port on the Harmony module (aka Node 2) of the International Space Station. Mission control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, commanded the Canadarm 2 to move the spacecraft into the release position. The command to release Dragon from the robotic arm was issued at 13:06 UTC.

Dragon performed three departure burns under the control of NASA controllers in Houston, using its onboard Draco thrusters. After clearing the ISS, control of Dragon was turned over to SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California.

The deorbit burn was conducted at 17:58 UTC. After shedding the unpressurized trunk, Dragon splashed down off the coast of Baja California, about 815 kilometers south of Los Angeles. It will be returned to the Port of Los Angeles for initial cargo unloading and then transferred to SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas facility to have the remainder of the 4,000 pounds of cargo unloaded.

This marks the end of the CRS-20 missions, which began on March 6th on a Falcon 9 rocket from SLC-40 from Cape Canaveral.

And still speaking of SpaceX, because it’s that kind of day, one final story about how space is hard.

Early Friday, April 3rd, SpaceX was conducting a pressure test of the third Starship prototype when something, well… went wrong.

According to a tweet from Elon Musk, this happened because the tanks in the top half were loaded before the tanks in the lower half were, causing it to crumple and then undergo rapid unplanned disassembly. He went on to say “If you lose pressure control on rocket propellant tanks, you’re doomed anyway, so might as well go all in”.

Starship SN4 is already under construction. Space is hard, people.

<figure>https://twitter.com/LabPadre/status/1245998082313117696</figure><figure>https://twitter.com/LabPadre/status/1246000290857394177</figure><figure>https://twitter.com/LabPadre/status/1246055045365469184</figure><figure>https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1245902999798419456</figure><figure>https://twitter.com/LabPadre/status/1245954787427876864</figure><figure>https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1246696253074915328</figure><figure></figure>

And COVID-19 continues to have an impact on launches, with the US Space Force announcing that the launch of GPS III SV03 (aka GPS III-3) from Cape Canaveral is being postponed from later this month until sometime no earlier than June 30th.

“We do not make this decision lightly, however, given our GPS constellation remains strong, we have the opportunity to make a deliberate decision to maintain our mission assurance posture, without introducing additional health risk to personnel or mission risk to the launch,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) commander and program executive officer for space.

The GPS III satellites will bring three times better accuracy and be up to eight times more resistant to jamming than their predecessors.

There are still plans to complete three GPS launches in 2020, while doing what’s necessary to protect the health of personnel involved in the mission.

GPS III SV03 will be launched into operational orbit by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. GPS III SV03 will be the second National Security Space Launch (NSSL) mission to be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the first NSSL mission where a Launch Service Provider is recovering a booster.

<figure></figure>

It feels like like there haven’t been as many launches so far this year as there were at this point in 2019, so I took a look at the numbers to see what’s going on.

I was surprised to see that there have actually been 5 more launch attempts in 2020 than there were by early-April 2019. Five more launches doesn’t sound like a lot until you realize that it’s actually 25% more launches.

We track launches by the country where they take place, not by the country owning the thing being launched. As you can see, both the USA and China have had more launch attempts so far, while most of the others have the same number of launches this year as they did by early-April 2019.

At this point last year, there had been no launch attempts in Russia, which is why they only have an orange bar in the graph.

<figure></figure>

To wrap things up, here’s a running tally of a few spaceflight statistics for the current year:

  • Toilets burned up: 1
  • Total new satellites in orbit: 345 (includes those launched from other in-orbit craft, such as the ISS)
  • Total satellites from launches: 331

I keep track of orbital launches by where they launched from. Here’s that breakdown:

Total 2020 successful launches: 22 (+ 3 failures so far)

Total attempts by country:

  • USA: 9
  • China: 7
  • French Guiana: 2
  • Russia: 2
  • Kazakhstan: 2
  • New Zealand: 1
  • Japan: 1
  • Iran: 1

Your useless space fact for the week: On November 9, 1970 the US launched two bullfrogs into space on the Orbiting Frog Otolith to study how structures in the inner ear are affected by microgravity.

And that rounds out our show for today.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Dave Ballard and Gordon Dewis and edited by me, Annie Wilson, with help from Gordon. The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph.

This has been a production of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)(3) non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at patreon.com/cosmoquestx

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Dave Ballard and Gordon Dewis, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Daily Space 04/08/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. SpaceX dominates the week with the tower escape system test for the Crew Dragon, Starship prototype has "rapid unplanned disassembly," and the last Dragon 1 capsule returns to Earth Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Sulfur can impact observations of distant planets, a black-hole powered jet seen in a quasar, and Dr. Stuart Robbins shares his Mars research
Sulfur can impact observations of distant planets, a black-hole powered jet seen in a quasar, and Dr. Stuart Robbins shares his Mars researchmore_vert
2020-04-07T19:28:00+00:00
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Sulfur can impact observations of distant planets, a black-hole powered jet seen in a quasar, and Dr. Stuart Robbins shares his Mars research 2020-04-07T19:28:00+00:00close

Observations of distant planets can be informed by the presence of sulfur, the Event Horizon Telescope gives us a fantastic photo of a black-hole powered jet inside a quasar, and Dr. Stuart Robbins joins us to discuss his climate research on Mars.

(podcast link)

Links

Sulfur can significantly impact observations of far-flung planets

First Event Horizon Telescope Images of a Black-Hole Powered Jet

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

Welcome to the Daily Space, I am your host, Dr Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain. Most Mondays through Fridays either I or my co-host Annie Wilson will be here, bringing you a quick run down of all that is new in space and astronomy.

As promised, today we’re going to be joined by Dr Stuart Robbins, a Principal Research Scientist at SwRI, to talk about his latest research about Mars. As always, however, we’re going to start with today’s news.

<figure>Illustration of multiwavelength 3C279 jet structure in April 2017. The observing epochs, arrays, and wavelengths are noted at each panel. CREDIT: J.Y. Kim (MPIfR), Boston University Blazar program, and the EHT Collaboration.</figure>

The most exciting announcement was a surprise release from the Event Horizon Telescope. Last year they brought us a fabulous image of light twisting around the SMBH in the M87 Galaxy. Today they shared images of the Quasar 3C 279 that were taken in April 2017. With this significantly more distant system, their goal wasn’t to resolve the area around the galaxy’s black hole; instead they were simply using this distant source to calibrate their systems, and along the way they accomplished some cool science.

3C279 was discovered in 1973 to have superliminal jets, jets that thanks to their alignment toward and away from us and the time it takes light to travel, appear to be moving apart at faster than the speed of light. They aren’t, this is just a cool illusion. In EHT’s calibration images, the team was able to resolve features 20 micro arc-seconds thanks to the massive spread of their telescopes. This corresponded to features less than a light year across. By combining data from radio telescopes all across the planet, they synthesized a telescope the size of our planet. Over the several days of the teams observations, they could see details around the jets slowly change, presumably due to the rotation of the accretion disk around the black hole and the shredding and infall of material. Unexpectedly, in these super high resolution images they discovered the jets had an unexpected twist in their shape. This is super weird, and paper lead author Jae-Young Kim describes it this way: “Here, where we expected to find the region where the jet forms by going to the sharpest image possible, we fins a kind of perpendicular structure, This is like finding a very different shape by opening the smallest Matryoshka Doll.” What I particularly love about this is they discovered cool new science while just trying to calibrate their data on other sources, once again proving that one person’s trash is another person’s science. These results appear in the latest issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

<figure>Chao He, an assistant research scientist in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, works with Sarah Hörst, assistant professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, on the Planetary HAZE (PHAZER) chamber.
Credit: Will Kirk/Johns Hopkins University</figure>

From the far off corners of the universe, we now jump to research about possible life right here in our own universe. One of the hottest topics in Exoplanet research right now is modelling planetary atmospheres and trying to sort what molecules may and may not signify the presence of life. In a new paper in the journal Nature, the Horst Lab at JHU explores the impact of sulphur. This element effects the chemistry of many worlds in our solar system, including Earth, Venus, and even Jupiter, and it plays an essential role in the chemistry of life, as an ingredient in several amino acids and enzymes. It is thought sulphur could play a role in the formation of life, and finding it in an alien atmosphere could point at a location for life.

According to lead author Chao He, “We found that just a small presence of sulfur in the atmosphere, less than 2%, can have major impacts on what, and how many, haze particles are formed. This entirely changes what scientists should look for and expect when they examine atmospheres on planets beyond our solar system.”

This is really cool research that involved simulating planetary atmospheres in a physical laboratory instead of just modelling things in software. There is a lot going on in this work, and we’re going to reach out to this team and see if they can come on to discuss this work on a future date.

For now, however, we have planetary scientist Stuart Robbins joining us to discuss new results appearing in JGR Planets that examines how Mars appearance changes year after year. This is ongoing work that includes reprocessing Mars images from the Mars Orbiter Camera to produce amazing and consistently processed images that allow us to understand variations in color and reflectivity over time.

<--------------------->

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science, volunteer for various projects, and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Observations of distant planets can be informed by the presence of sulfur, the Event Horizon Telescope gives us a fantastic photo of a black-hole powered jet inside a quasar, and Dr. Stuart Robbins joins us to discuss his climate research on Mars. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Uranus’ odd tilt possibly explained by new model
Uranus’ odd tilt possibly explained by new modelmore_vert
2020-04-06T19:18:22+00:00
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Uranus’ odd tilt possibly explained by new model 2020-04-06T19:18:22+00:00close

Tokyo Institute of Technology researchers have published a model that seems to explain Uranus’ bizarre tilt – a collision between a young Uranus and a massive ice world that could have both tipped Uranus over, and also formed its rings and its 27 moons in the process.

(podcast link)

Links

Uranus: The Ringed Planet That Sits on its Side

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Monday, April 3, 2020.

Welcome to the Daily Space, I am your host, Dr Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain. Most Mondays through Fridays either I or my co-host Annie Wilson will be here, bringing you a quick run down of all that is new in space and astronomy.

As the effects of the Coronavirus percolate through all of our societies, we’re going to see a tapering off of research as papers already in the queue for publication all get published, but with fewer and fewer associated press releases because universities are shut down. We will also see fewer and fewer papers getting submitted for publication, reviewed, and published as people involved in every step are limited in what they can accomplish by these trying times we live in.

A lot of people have been talking about how Newton was able to go into seclusion during the black plague and come out with heaps of new research accomplished – talking about how it was his most productive time. Well, Newton had 3 things we don’t. 1) There was no internet to distract him with pages of news reports and a myriad of Zoom meetings to fill his day. 2) He had a staff to cook, clean, and risk their lives finding the stuff needed to get by. And 3) He didn’t make the same kinds of social connections so many people need so he wasn’t distracted by loneliness or worry for others. While there are folks out there using this time to perfect their hobbies and advance their work, there are also a lot of folks sitting on their sofa, binge eating whatever snack food was left on the shelf at their grocery store, while binge watching Tiger King and playing Animal Crossing. If that’s what you need to get through your day – that’s ok. There are others struggling to balance their work-from-home job and child care, and everything is a struggle. That’s reality. We aren’t all Newton. Some of us notice that we’re lying in the gutter looking at the stars, and the smell of the shit around us just makes it hard to get work done.

As the news continues to taper out, we’re going to work to bring scientists on stream to talk about their work. This week, we will have Stuart Robbins joining us tomorrow to talk about his recent work doing a consistent analysis of Mars changing colors. On Thursday Greg Gbur will join us to talk about gravity, cats, and the intersectional physics of the two.

<figure>Uranus’ tilt essentially has the planet orbiting the Sun on its side, the axis of its spin is nearly pointing at the Sun.
CREDIT: © NASA and Erich Karkoschka, U. of Arizona</figure>

For today though, it seems like we might as well talk about Uranus.

In new research coming out of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, researchers have published a model that seems to explain Uranus’ bizarre tilt. This 7th planet from the Sun is knocked on its side, with its rotational pole sitting in the plane of the planets and periodically pointing at the Sun. This is not normal. This is not how planets form. To get into this weird inclination, something had to happen to Uranus. Since this pale blue planet is a swirling mass of gas, we can’t directly see scars left by impacts the same way we can on solid worlds like the Moon or Mars. What Uranus has instead are a set of icy rings and icy moons… and a weirdo tilt.

In their new model, scientists led by Sigeru Ida describe how a collision between a young Uranus and a massive ice world could have both tipped Uranus over and also formed its rings and its 27 moons in the process. The colliding body would have needed to be 1-3 Earth Masses in size, which is larger than any icy body so far found, but is consistent with the kind of world we expect to find out on the edge of the Kuiper Belt, as planet 9.

While this process was similar in many ways to what happened with our moon, the differences between a rocky impactor and an icy impactor left their marks. The press release explained this so well, we’re just going to quote it:

“Because the temperature at which water ice forms is low, the impact debris from Uranus and its icy impactor would have mostly vapourised during the collision. This may have also been true for the rocky material involved in Earth’s Moon-forming impact, but in contrast this rocky material had a very high condensation temperature, meaning it solidified quickly, and thus Earth’s Moon was able to collect a significant amount of the debris created by the collision due to its own gravity. In the case of Uranus, a large icy impactor was able to tilt the planet, give it a rapid rotation period (Uranus’ ‘day’ is presently about 17 hours, even faster than Earth’s), and the leftover material from the collision remained gaseous longer. The largest mass body, what would become Uranus, then collected most of the leftovers, and thus Uranus’ present moons are small. To be precise, the ratio of Uranus’ mass to Uranus’ moons’ masses is greater than the ratio of Earth’s mass to its moon by a factor of more than a hundred. Ida and colleagues’ model beautifully reproduces the current configuration of Uranus’ satellites.”

In retrospect, the Earth got kind of lucky in how we got knocked around. We could have ended up as tilted as Uranus, which would have made our seasons much more severe and made the kind of ecosystem we enjoy impossible. As it is, we have a nice tilt that gives us reasonable seasons and a giant moon that gives us a small bit of stability in this crazy universe.

And that rounds out our show for the day.

<———————>

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science, volunteer for various projects, and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Tokyo Institute of Technology researchers have published a model that seems to explain Uranus’ bizarre tilt - a collision between a young Uranus and a massive ice world that could have both tipped Uranus over, and also formed its rings and its 27 moons in the process. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Astrophysicist makes mistake inventing device, return of NASA "Worm" logo, Comet Borisov breaks, and it's time to view the Pleiades
Astrophysicist makes mistake inventing device, return of NASA "Worm" logo, Comet Borisov breaks, and it's time to view the Pleiadesmore_vert
2020-04-03T18:32:24+00:00
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Astrophysicist makes mistake inventing device, return of NASA "Worm" logo, Comet Borisov breaks, and it's time to view the Pleiades 2020-04-03T18:32:24+00:00close

<figure></figure>

A bored astrophysicist makes a mistake with magnets while inventing a coronavirus device, the NASA “Worm” logo returns amid fanfare, Comet Borisov splits in two, and the Pleiades embrace Venus for some excellent viewing.

(podcast link)

Links

Astrophysicist makes mistake inventing device

Return of NASA “Worm” logo

Comet Borisov breaks

It’s time to view the Pleiades

Transcript

This is the Daily Space for today, Friday, April 3, 2020.

Welcome to the Daily Space, I am your host, Dr Pamela Gay, and I am here to put science in your brain. Most Mondays through Fridays either I or my co-host Annie Wilson will be here, bringing you a quick run down of all that is new in space and astronomy.

As we move into the weekend, this episode of the Daily Space is going to focus on things that hopefully can amuse you away from the weirdness of the day to day world around us. As science productivity slows, we’re find astronomers applying their intellectual and emotional energy in the weirdest of ways.

Once upon a time, procrastination meant cleaning your desk, but apparently everyone’s desks are now not only clean, but polished, and maybe even bleached. Seeking new forms of distraction, many scientists have turned their statistical skills toward modelling how the coronavirus may or may not be moving through populations, and trying to understand if we can work backwards to figure out how many undetected cases must be out there to explain what we’re seeing in our hospitals. Astronomers, who are used to only seeing the brightest stars in distant systems, have the numerical modelling skills to do this kind of work, and are in general confirming the results coming out of epidemiologists labs. This work is solid, helps us get extra eyes looking for holes in how we’re thinking about things, and more importantly, does no harm. Where astronomers and physicists really need to stop getting involved is in the medical devices area of research.

In a now famous case, Australian researcher Daniel Reardon used his downtime to try and construct something to stop him from touching his face. Like many of us, he had random electronics and magnets laying around. While I have fantasies of building things that light up or move in response to Twitch chat, his dream was apparently to build something that would buzz when he brought his hand too close to his face, and he created a circuit that could be worn as a necklace, and he thought he designed it with components that would buzz if a magnetic came near. No. This is not what he had on hand. What he had was something that would buzz if the magnet got too far away – this is the kind of sensor that gets shouty when a fridge door is opened or something. When he slipped on the necklace and the magnetic bracelet he’d also made with super strong natural magnets, he discovered he had a system that would buzz if he took his hand away from his face. No bueno. Still bored, and still surrounded by cool things like magnets, he decided to first use pairs of magnets to make fake earrings. I have to admit, I two have done this. It kind of hurts. Then, still apparently bored, he made fake nose studs… with magnets… but putting a magnet inside and outside each nostril. This is where mistakes were really made. If you, like him, decide to make magnetic nose jewelry, you need to remove them one side at a time, but removing what is in your nose and out of your nose together. This is not what he did. He removed the two outside-the-nose magnets, causing the two inside the nose magnets to crash together inside his nose where they did not want to release his nose or one another. Various attempts were made to get them out, all of which failed because, well the middle part of your nose has a small bulge of cartilage. Eventually, a hospital was required, and now… we can laugh at the fact that a PhD does not confer common sense.

You can’t make this shit up people. You can’t make this up.

So, scientists out there who want to help, I’m here to remind you, you can help by staying inside, washing your hands a lot, and overtipping the nice person who brings you things from instacart. You can even run some computer models. Just… don’t get into the medical device arena unless you’re 3D printing things specifically requested, or sewing masks. Be Emily Lakdawalla, folks, that’s the role model to follow.

Moving on…

<figure>This is the Falcon 9 rocket that will launch the Crew Dragon spacecraft, with NASA astronauts aboard.
CREDIT: NASA</figure>

In news I had to triple check wasn’t an April fools joke, NASA has announced they are bringing back the classic NASA worm logo from the 1970s. Throughout my life, we’ve been told it was strictly forbidden to use this logo as it was retired. But… we all coveted this logo and its swoopy simplicity. Now, as my generation rises up in NASA, someone mysterious soul has won us the ability to finally and officially use this logo again. I want to buy this person a drink. Officially, it’s coming back to celebrate the return of manned space flight using US made rockets. The old limitations are also being removed. While NASA style guides dating back to the days of the original worm logo usage required it to only appear horizontally, it will clearly be rotated into the vertical when this falcon 9 is stood up to take flight.

<figure>Comet 2I/Borisov over the last few days. CREDIT: NASA/ESA/D. Jewitt</figure>

Switching topics entirely, we have word from David Jewitt, Max Mutchler and company that the Interstellar Comet, 2I/Borisov has split into two separate pieces . This occurred on or about March 28, when the system puffed out dust and debris. This kind of a breaking up isn’t hard to do for comets, and is quite common. The HST is now able to see a double core, and this team will continue monitoring this double core’d comet to see if the pieces appear to drift apart. This means that this icy blob formed in a distant solar system, traveled for perhaps 10s or 100s of light years or more, and as it passed through our solar system was put under attack by our Sun’s light, heat, and gravity. This is clearly meant as a warning to all other interstellar objects – don’t mess with the solar system – we can mess you up!

<figure>
Venus is currently the brilliant evening star. Shared around world, in tonight’s sky Venus will begin to wander across the face of the lovely Pleiades star cluster. This digital sky map illustrates the path of the inner planet as the beautiful conjunction evolves, showing its position on the sky over the next few days. The field of view shown is appropriate for binocular equipped skygazers but the star cluster and planet are easily seen with the naked-eye. As viewed from our fair planet, Venus passed in front of the stars of the Seven Sisters 8 years ago, and will again 8 years hence. In fact, orbiting the Sun 13 Venus years are almost equal to 8 years on planet Earth. So we can expect our sister planet to visit nearly the same place in our sky every 8 years.
CREDIT &Copyright:Fred Espenak(Bifrost Astronomical Observatory)</figure>

In one final note of the day, if you happen to have dark skies after sunset tonight, you need to get out and look up and toward the west. The brightest thing you see will be the planet Venus, and if you have dark skies you will be able to make out a cluster of stars – the pleiades – that Venus is just brushing up against. This kind of an alignment happens every 8 years and is just pretty to look at, so if you can, step out on your patio, driveway or yard and catch something nice in the sky.

And that rounds out our show for the day.

<———————>

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.
Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. A bored astrophysicist makes a mistake with magnets while inventing a coronavirus device, the NASA "Worm" logo returns amid fanfare, Comet Borisov splits in two, and the Pleiades embrace Venus for some excellent viewing. "Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/"

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Rocket Roundup for April 1, 2020
Rocket Roundup for April 1, 2020more_vert
2020-04-01T19:41:04+00:00
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Rocket Roundup for April 1, 2020 2020-04-01T19:41:04+00:00close

ULA launches an Atlas 5 with military satellites, while most other operations get cancelled due to COVID-19.

(Podcast link)

Links

ULA Launch

Effects of COVID-19 on Spaceflight

Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Daily Space for today Wednesday, March 32nd, 2020. I am your host Gordon Dewis (aka Keeper of Maps in Discord and Twitch), filling in for Annie who is under the weather and grounded from streaming. Most Mondays through Fridays, our team will be here putting science in your brain.

Usually Wednesdays are for Rocket Roundup, and today is no different. This is not an April Fool’s Joke.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

<figure></figure>

On Thursday, March 26th, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket took off from Cape Canaveral. Carrying the sixth Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF-6) satellite, this marked the first launch for the U.S. Space Force, which came into being in December 2019.

<figure>The AEHF 6 satellite was encapsulated inside the Atlas 5 rocket’s payload fairing in February ahead of Thursday’s launch. CREDIT: United Launch Alliance</figure>

The AEHF constellation will provide jam-proof communications for the U.S. military. Built by Lockheed Martin, the six satellites will provide coverage from geostationary orbit.

The Atlas V flew in the 551 configuration, meaning it had a five metre diameter fairing, five solid rocket motors, and one single engine on the upper stage Centaur. Currently five metres is the largest payload diameter possible on the Atlas V, and the five SRBs indicate just how much extra help the core lower stage’s RD180 engine needed in getting up to orbital speed, due to the size of the payload.

The single engine variant was needed for this mission as it had to light three separate times to place the satellite into its proper transfer orbit, however a two-engine stage is also available for missions of shorter duration that need higher thrust burns, such as for the Boeing Starliner crew capsule.

Both variants carry the same amount of fuel, but the 2-engine version is capable of greater thrust as you might imagine.

<figure>Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 by NIAID
This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. CREDIT: NIAID-RML

</figure>

Other than the AEHF-6 launch last week, there hasn’t been a lot of activity to report on.

The coronavirus pandemic is causing organizations, such as the European Space Agency, to change the way that it conducts its operations. About a week ago, ESA announce that it was putting four of its science missions into a “temporary standby” mode to allow it to reduce the number of controllers needed at its operations centre in Germany.

The four-satellite Cluster space science mission in Earth orbit, the Solar Orbiter spacecraft, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and the Mars Express orbiter have all gone into a safe mode, suspending science operations. These missions are long-duration missions in stable orbits, so turning off their science instruments and placing them in safe-mode should have a negligible impact on their overall missions.

Cluster studies the Earth’s magnetosphere and was launched in 2000. The Solar Orbiter, on the other hand, was launched in early-February and is still in the early phases of commissioning its instruments.

Suspending these missions will also allow them to devote staff to other missions, including BepiColumbo, which is on its way to Mercury and has a critical trajectory adjustment coming up in a week and a half’s time.

No official word on what NASA is doing, but they can do some of their operations remotely, but they still require some controllers to be working in their operations centers, particularly those supporting the ISS.

<figure></figure>

To wrap things up, here’s a running tally of a few spaceflight statistics for the year:

  • Toilets burned up: 1

Total new satellites in orbit: 345 (includes those launched from other in-orbit craft, such as the ISS)

  • Total satellites from launches: 331

Annie keeps track of orbital launches by where they launched from. Here’s that breakdown:

Total 2020 successful launches: 22 (+ 3 failures so far)

Total attempts by country:

  • USA: 9
  • China: 7
  • French Guiana: 2
  • Russia: 2
  • Kazakhstan: 2
  • New Zealand: 1
  • Japan: 1
  • Iran: 1

And that rounds out our show for today.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Dave Ballard and edited by me, Gordon Dewis. The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph, and my studio production assistant today was Paranor, one of our über mods.This has been a production of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)(3) non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at patreon.com/cosmoquestx


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ULA launches an Atlas 5 with military satellites, while most other operations get cancelled due to COVID-19. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Quasar winds flee, Bepicolombo on schedule for flyby, and Comet Atlas on display
Quasar winds flee, Bepicolombo on schedule for flyby, and Comet Atlas on displaymore_vert
2020-04-01T18:04:23+00:00
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Quasar winds flee, Bepicolombo on schedule for flyby, and Comet Atlas on display 2020-04-01T18:04:23+00:00close

Winds from a quasar in a distant galaxy are fleeing at a record rate, ESA's Bepicolombo mission to proceed with flyby in spite of COVID-19, and Comet Atlas is on display in the night sky for all to enjoy.

(podcast link)

On what should be the last day of March, we’d like to share that this year there will be no April 1 episode of the Daily Space. Instead, we have decreed that tomorrow will be March 32, and Rocket Wednesday will bring you no foolishness in trickery, because let’s face it, sometimes you just want a bit of normalcy.

<figure> Bright, active black holes at the centers of galaxies, called quasars (illustrated), can blow gas out into space, shutting down galactic growth. CREDIT: J. Olmsted/STSCI, ESA, NASA</figure>

In general, the universe doesn’t really do normal. Every galaxy seems to be finding it’s own way to be the biggest or smallest or flattest or roundest. If there is an adjective to be had, there is probably a galaxy to be the most or least of that descriptor, at least in the eyes of some astronomer.

In today’s first story, we look at the galaxy SDSS J1042+1646. This system was spectroscopically observed with the Hubble Space Telescope. This means that the precise motions of different kinds of gases could be measured, allowing the velocity of the galaxy itself to be compared to the velocities of material streaming away. SDSS J1042+1646 is an active galaxy, with a feeding black hole that has an associated accretion disk that glows so brightly that we call this system a quasar. In looking at the materials flowing out of this system’s jets, astronomers could calculate that 5 million trillion trillion gigawatts of energy were escaping. This is 100 times less energy than the stars in the Milky Way produce! What’s particularly cool, is this system has been under observation for a number of years, and while the material was seen flowing at 1,550 km/s in 2011, new observations in 2017 showed the gas moving at 21,050 km/s! This is an 8% increase. This energy is associated with the increased energy of the accretion disk, and this is exactly the kind of energy that we’ve talked about before when discussing how galaxies essentially turn off, by blasting everything around their core away. This disk is giving off so much energy that it is triggering star formation, and whatever material doesn’t form stars is simply getting pushed away. When the current epoch of activity - both the active feeding of the black hole and the associated star formation - this system is going to take a long siesta. Star formation will be effectively over and the black hole will starve unless it is someday reawakened through a collision with another galaxy.

While we’d theorized systems like this, it’s amazing to see them caught in the act of energetically killing everything around them. And it wasn’t just this one galaxy. The system was discussed in 1 of 6 papers published in a special issue of the Astrophysical Journal Supplement series on March 16. These papers document a myriad of additional, less energetic but still fascinating systems.

<figure> The BepiColombo spacecraft in orbit around Mercury. CREDIT: ESA.</figure>

Let’s face it, we could all use a little positive excitement right now. While I can’t offer you anything amazing right this moment, we do have two things that we need to be preparing for. The first is the flyby of the Bepicolombo mission on April 10. At 6:25 am Central European Time, this interplanetary spacecraft will approach within 12,700 km of Earth. This will put it significantly closer to us than geostationary satellites, and will allow it to use the Earth’s gravity to change its orbit to help it rendezvous with Mercury in late 2025. If you are at equatorial or southern latitudes, and you have a small telescope you can point at just the right place, you may be able to see this blip zip by. Observing tools and information on what ESA is going to be doing during the encounter will all be linked to from DailySpace.org, and if there are any streams to watch, we’ll be hosting watch parties on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. We’ll have more on this tomorrow, as guest host Gordon Dewis reviews the effects of COVID-19 on mission operations.

<figure> Image of comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) on March 14th, 2020, Canon 6D, Orion CT8 telescope.
CREDIT: Martin Gembec at Wikimedia Commons</figure>

April and May actually have a lot of potentially cool things to offer. The comet Atlas continues to brighten in the northern sky. The Southern Hemisphere had comet McNaught a few years ago, and it is finally our time. This bright comet is readily visible in small telescopes as it arcs away from the big dipper. You can find its position in software like Stellarium as long as you have applied recent updates. While it is cool that it is visible in small telescopes, what is even better is that in late April and early May this comet has the potential to become the first major naked-eye comet of this century. According to Earth and Sky, some models predict that this comet will max out between +2 and -6 in magnitude. This makes its total light somewhere between the brightness of Betelgeuse… and brighter than anything else regularly in the sky. Note I said total brightness - that light will be spread out over the coma of the comet, so it’s not like you’ll be able to read by the light of this comet, but it still has truly amazing potential to add a reason to go outside and look up. Fair warning though, Comets have a tendency to periodically just plain fall apart, and sometimes the fizzle out. We make no promises, but I give it good odds that we will finally get ourselves a naked eye comet.

<--------------------->

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.
Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Daily Space 03/31/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Winds from a quasar in a distant galaxy are fleeing at a record rate, ESA's Bepicolombo mission to proceed with flyby in spite of COVID-19, and Comet Atlas is on display in the night sky for all to enjoy. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Searching for dark matter in sterile neutrinos and hexaquarks
Searching for dark matter in sterile neutrinos and hexaquarksmore_vert
2020-03-30T19:06:09+00:00
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Searching for dark matter in sterile neutrinos and hexaquarks 2020-03-30T19:06:09+00:00close

Scientists look for dark matter in dark places close to home – and study flickers of light that might be created by dark matter, called sterile neutrinos – to find the mysterious substance. And the discovery of stable 6-particle quarks called hexaquarks might turn out to be mysterious dark matter.

(podcast link)

It is spring and as we all shelter in place, the excess of daylight is easy to miss. It seems only fitting that in this dark time we should take a moment to talk about dark matter.

<figure>This image from the Hubble Space Telescope indicates that a huge ring of dark matter likely exists surrounding the center of CL0024+17 that has no normal matter counterpart. CREDIT: NASA, ESA, M. J. Jee and H. Ford et al. (Johns Hopkins Univ.)</figure>

When we look out at the motions of large and larger objects, we see behaviors that can only be explained if there is more material out there than we can see without telescopes. Discovered by both Vera Rubin and Fritz Zwicky, who were looking at galaxies and galaxy clusters, today we know that at least 25% of the mass-energy of the universe is hidden in this mysterious stuff. Initially, it was hoped that if we just look harder and in new wavelengths, we’d uncover this stuff in the form of gas, dust, black holes, and rogue planets. When I was in graduate school, the emptiness of our universe and the scale of this problem was proud home to me when professor Don Winget pointed out that you could account for all the dark matter by placing one acme brick in each solar system sized volume of space. Our universe is seriously empty, and we’re looking for stuff that adds up over the size of the universe, but in general just isn’t all that much stuff.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, teams searched for black holes and other dark objects that might be hiding out in plain sight. Specifically, they looked toward our galactic bulge, and toward the Magellanic Clouds and looked for the gravity of nearby objects to gravitational lens the distant stars and make them temporarily seem brighter. While these projects did see gravitationally lensed things, including at least 1 planet!

<figure>In the Bullet Cluster, light seems to bend in what should be empty space. Researchers now believe those areas contain dark matter. CREDIT: X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/ M. Markevitch et al.; Lensing Map: NASA/STScI; ESO WFI; Magellan/U.Arizona/ D.Clowe et al. Optical: NASA/STScI; Magellan/U.Arizona/D.Clowe et al.</figure>

What they found wasn’t nearly enough to account for all dark matter effects we see. At the same time that observers were ruling out normal things being dark matter, other astronomers were thinking through how clouds of dark matter particles could gravitationally reshape images of distant galaxies, allowing us to look for dark matter that was nothing more than a distribution of particles – and we found this. The Bullet Cluster image was perhaps the most famous example of how dark matter has been mapped by looking at how it reshapes our view of what lurks behind it.

The only thing is, these particles don’t seem to interact through the electro-magnetic force in normal ways – they don’t produce or interact with light except through gravitational tugs on photons. We don’t have reason to think that it interacts with magnetic fields, and in general, most of our normal ways of seeing things are defeated by dark matter.

And dark matter’s way of hiding only makes us want to find it all that much more, and astronomers and physicists around the world are struggling to find new ways to detect patricals.

<figure>In this composite image, theorized particles of decaying dark matter should produce a spherical halo of X-ray emission – represented here as colorized matter concentrated around the center of the Milky Way (in black and white) – that could be detectable when looking in otherwise blank regions of the galaxy.
CREDIT: Zosia Rostomian and Nicholas Rodd/Berkeley Lab; Christopher Dessert and Benjamin Safdi/University of Michigan; Fermi Large Area Telescope</figure>

In a new study from a collaboration by folks at the University of Michigan, Lawrence Berkeley Labs, and UC Berkeley sought to see if maybe, mysterious flickers of light from nearby galaxies might be caused by dark matter. These flickers are believed to be from a theorized particle called a sterile neutrino, and they appear as XRay flickers in massive galaxies. It was thought that decay of sterile neutrinos might be producing this line.

This begs the question, what is a sterile neutrino? We have no experimental evidence that requires these particles to exist, but most observed particles in the standard model come in different varieties that complimentary spin. All observed neutrinos to date have a left-handed spin, sterile neutrinos are theorized as the right handed spinning version of this hard to study little particle – a particle that acts an awful lot like dark matter in terms of not interacting. It was hoped that the sterile neutrino would prove real and prove to be at least part of the solution for dark matter.

Analysis of data from the XMM-Newton looking at the flickers in large galaxies to see if they could be proven to be caused by sterile neutrino decay was consistent with big galaxies having lots of decays to go with their lots of dark matter. This should mean that smaller galaxies, like our own Milky Way, should have the same flickers in proportion to the size of our galaxy. The thing is… observations don’t show that. By going through all the archives of XMM data they could, this team searched near and far in our Milky Way and there were no flickers to be seen. This indicates that whatever causes these flickers is unique to the environment of large galaxies – and dark matter isn’t unique to any location, so… the flickers and dark matter can’t be linked in a way we can understand.

We may still be able to blame sterile particles for dark matter, but the flickers aren’t sterile neutrinos decaying.

<figure>A dibaryon-type hexaquark. There are two constituent quarks for each of the three color charges. CREDIT: Linfoxman on WIkipedia</figure>

Coming up with and then finding new particles is very much the quest of dark matter researchers. The “coming up with” particles park is easy – math makes it possible to define all sorts of things. It’s the finding of the particles that is hard.

But things that are hard, aren’t impossible.

Everything in the universe is made up of particles and energy. Regular matter is made of fundamental particles like electrons, and composite particles like protons that are made up of combinations of 3 quarks. As far as we know, all stable composite particles – leptons – are made of 3 and only 3 quarks. But quarks don’t have to come together in groups of 3, and we don’t necessarily know about everything that is out there.

Using massive particle colliders, we have been able to slam together bits of regular matter with so much force that it turns into almost pure energy that re condenses into myriad stable and unstable particles. In these flashes of unstable particles configurations of 4 and 5 quarks have been discovered. It is now theorized that 6-quarks may be able to come together to form stable particles. Called hexaquarks, these undiscovered particles are being actively sought as a dark matter candidate. Researcher Glennys Farrar at NYU has theorized that these particles may be trapped inside various elements in the crust of the earth, such as oxygen-18. Folks are literally weighing different oxygen-18 atoms to see if they can measure the excess weight hexaquarks might cause. Folks are also looking through results from past particle collisions at the world’s various accelerators, and there are hints of a large particle in data from Germany’s WASA experiment at the COSY particle accelerator. It looks like there might be a 2.4 billion electron volt particle in the data, and this is consistent with a 6 quark particle. It isn’t conclusive, but it’s a hint, and this is the best we’ve got right now.

Other researchers are also looking for flickers in neutrino detectors that aren’t caused by neutrinos and could be dark matter, and others are simply brainstorming new possibilities.

But no one can really say exactly what dark matter is. The best we’ve got, based on observations, is dark matter is a particle that is a pain in the expletive to find.

And that’s all I’ve got. Not even dark matter wants to hangout with us in these dark times.While dark matter may not be showing up for the shelter-in-place party, we want you to know we’re going to show up for you.

<———————>

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Daily Space 03/30/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Scientists look for dark matter in dark places close to home - and study flickers of light that might be created by dark matter, called sterile neutrinos - to find the mysterious substance. And discovery of stable 6-particle quarks called hexaquarks might turn out to be mysterious dark matter. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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User #23594060 - 1 Apr 20 20:48
"As far as we know, all stable composite particles – leptons – are made of 3 and only 3 quarks". You skip the word leptons in the podcast and this is good, because you think you meant baryons.
Using evolution to hunt exoplanets, and ALMA sees gas jets influenced by black hole
Using evolution to hunt exoplanets, and ALMA sees gas jets influenced by black holemore_vert
2020-03-27T20:41:55+00:00
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Using evolution to hunt exoplanets, and ALMA sees gas jets influenced by black hole 2020-03-27T20:41:55+00:00close

Researchers have defined how our world would look to distant observers during each of the periods in time, showing us what to look for, and ALMA shows us the MG J0414+0534, a galaxy 11 billion light years away, a galaxy with a disturbed shape, that is due radio jets turning on in a young galaxy.

(podcast link)

<figure>
This artistic depiction shows exoplanet Kepler-62f, a rocky super-Earth size planet, located about 1,200 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. Kepler-62f may be what a prebiotic Earth may have looked like. Other exoplanets may look similar. CREDIT: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech</figure>

In this modern world, we all find ourselves periodically wondering, “Is there a world out there I can escape to,” or “Can I shoot this other person off into space”. While you may not care if that space is all that habitable in the second case, finding a place capable of supporting life may matter more if it is yourself you’d like to take somewhere else.

The good folks at Cornell have your back. A team led by Lisa Kaltennegger has looked at the geologic and biologic history of our own mostly habitable planet and defined five key points in our world’s evolution. Using advanced computer models, they’ve defined how our world would look to distant observers during each of the periods in time. Specifically, they’ve defined our planet’s changing chemical barcode – that rainbow of light with superimposed dark lines that mark out the colors different elements absorb as sunlight passes through our Earth’s atmosphere. These kinds of spectral signatures won’t be unique to our Earth, this paper doesn’t just explain how our world might look to aliens: It also explains how alien worlds could look to us.

In their paper, this research team looks at how our earth would look currently as well as 3.9, 3.5, 1-2, and 0.5-0.8 Billion years ago. These specific periods correspond to our earth in its prebiotic days, when the atmosphere was dominated with CO2; to that Archean period when continents had just finished forming and life was just starting; to the Paleo- or Meso-proterozoic period when oxygen began to rise in our atmosphere thanks to life, and finally to the time when multi-cellular life began to dominant our world in the Neo-proterozoic period. While the model for today reflects the impacts of intelligence and the pollution that comes with industry, the early epochs show distinct changes that come from the presence of different kinds of life.

But taking into consideration the changes in planetary temperature, chemistry, and the biosignatures of life, they have provided observers with detailed charts of what we may someday see when we look at the atmosphere’s of distant worlds.

One of the great sadnesses of this paper is that the JWST will have the capacity to measure the atmospheres’ of planets outside our solar system. If it had launched in 2011 as planned, they could be going through its archive to say “This world matches the age of the dinosaurs, and this one may have its first single celled critters.” But… At this stage I have no idea when it will launch, and I don’t think anyone has any idea when it will launch, so for now… this is cool research with no application.

<figure>Reconstructed images of what MG J0414+0534 would look like if gravitational lensing effects were turned off. The emissions from dust and ionized gas around a quasar are shown in red. The emissions from carbon monoxide gas are shown in green, which have a bipolar structure along the jets.
CREDIT: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), K. T. Inoue et al.</figure>

In our second story of the day, we have a pretty picture from ALMA that includes MG J0414+0534, a galaxy 11 billion light years away. This young galaxy has a disturbed shape, and astronomers have realized that what they’re seeing is radio jets turning on in a young galaxy.

We’ve previously seen myriad galaxies with active jets of material spewing out of their galactic disk. These jets are driven by the magnetic fields of accretion disks – those disks of material that spiral around actively feeding black holes. In addition to seeing active disks, we’ve also caught the light echoes of jets that have recently shut down, leaving disconnected light continuing its journey through space. What we hadn’t seen are young jets, just turning on.

According to team member Satoki Matsushita, of the Academia Sinica Institute ofAstronomy and Astrophysics, “We are perhaps witnessing the very early phase of jet evolution in the galaxy. It could be as early as several tens of thousands of years after the launch of the jets.”

These new observations, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, were possible thanks to the magnifying powers of an intervening galaxy’s gravity. Gravity has the same ability to bend and seemingly magnify light that lenses have. Since space is mostly empty, it is rare that we find useful alignments of nearby massive galaxies and distant systems that are super scientifically interesting. In this case, we got lucky, and the gravitational lens in combination with the resolving power of ALMA was able to reveal details we would otherwise have never seen. We now have captured the birth and death of jets, and a myriad of examples of all the stages in between, and this will allow better future modeling of the life cycle feeding galaxies and their associated jets.

And that rounds out our show for today.

<———————>

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Daily Space 03/27/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Researchers have defined how our world would look to distant observers during each of the periods in time, showing us what to look for, and ALMA shows us the MG J0414+0534, a galaxy 11 billion light years away, a galaxy with a disturbed shape, that is due radio jets turning on in a young galaxy. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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More secrets from Voyager 2 info revealed, star formation project maps edges of interstellar clouds and Comet Atlas
More secrets from Voyager 2 info revealed, star formation project maps edges of interstellar clouds and Comet Atlasmore_vert
2020-03-26T18:33:04+00:00
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More secrets from Voyager 2 info revealed, star formation project maps edges of interstellar clouds and Comet Atlas 2020-03-26T18:33:04+00:00close

Scientists discovered from the data sent back from Voyager 2 that Uranus had a plasmoid, a magnetic blob of atmosphere stuck out away from the planet, the Nobeyama Radio Observatory Star Formation Project mapped in greater detail than ever before a series of star-forming regions, and Comet Atlas will be bringing a show in May and June to your backyards.

(podcast link)

<figure> Voyager 2 took this image as it approached the planet Uranus on Jan. 14, 1986. The planet's hazy bluish color is due to the methane in its atmosphere, which absorbs red wavelengths of light.
CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech</figure>

Right now, all around the world, we’re seeing museums, libraries, and other centers of knowledge set their content free. The Smithsonian museum has dropped millions of images onto the internet, and libraries are making online books even easier to access. This is awesome - it does raise the question of “If you had all this content already, why were you not sharing?” but… I’m hoping this data sharing is our new normal. In space science we have a long tradition of sharing our data, with major telescopes like the Very Large Array and Hubble Space Telescope putting their observations in vast databases that people can continue to explore for generations to come. Over the years, as technology and our understanding of science changes, we’re seeing new science come from old data. This week, NASA shared that planetary scientists revisiting Voyager 2’s data on Uranus had discovered that Voyager 2 flew through a plasmoid of atmosphere that Uranus had lost to space.

Voyager 2’s 1986 flyby of Uranus revealed an oddly tilted magnetic field that can’t be explained in a nice neat way. Something bad happened to this outer world at some point in the past, and now it is permanently tilted on its side, with its pole pointed at the sun twice a year as it goes through it’s weird summer and winter solstices. The magnetic field, however, isn’t aligned with the planet’s rotation. It’s actually tilted about 60 degrees off. It’s not unusual for a magnetic field to not be completely aligned with a world’s rotation, but Uranus goes to an extreme. If the Earth’s magnetic pole behaved like this, the North magnetic pole might be pointing out through New Orleans or Houston, instead of somewhere in the arctic sea.

<figure> Animated GIF showing Uranus’ magnetic field. The yellow arrow points to the Sun, the light blue arrow marks Uranus’ magnetic axis, and the dark blue arrow marks Uranus’ rotation axis.
CREDITS: NASA/Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman</figure>

While planning for a hoped-for future mission to Uranus and Neptune, Gina DiBraccio and Dan Gershman reviewed Voyager 2’s data on Uranus’s weird magnetic field, and noticed a weird blip in the data. This odd shape in a graph of magnetic data is consistent with a blob of Uranus’s atmosphere getting pulled off where Uranus’s magnetic field and the Sun’s Magnetic field and the solar wind interact and tangle. These kinds of blobs are called plasmoids, and we didn’t know about them yet in 1986, and it was in the context of our modern understanding - brought to us from satellites orbiting Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, that they could understand this data blip for Uranus.

Plasmoids like this carry away a world’s atmosphere a small bit at a time. While this has been devastating for world’s like Mars, Uranus is large enough that we won’t see it noticeably diminish over human timescales.

There isn’t a lot of new science to this story. Plasmoids happen, and there was no reason to think Uranus would be any different. This is a cool story, however, because the ability to say Uranus has plasmoids has been there for more than 30 years, but because no one looked at the right data since plasmoids were discovered, this discovery has just been sitting on magnetic tape, waiting to be spun up.

Right now, a lot of observatories have ceased scientific observations as people go home to socially distance. This doesn’t mean that new research can’t be done with data we already have. This new discovery, highlighted in a paper in the Geophysical Research Letters, shows old data still has a lot to offer. Now, I know a lot of people are struggling against the increased entropy of having a house full of children and often a partner. Most people are going to have their productivity destroyed by a lack of childcare and the loss of their support network. For those that don’t have chaos, however, science can go on. Let’s dig into the archive and make 1980's data all the rage again.

<figure> In this image from the Fermi space telescope, the Milky Way's stellar disk, which runs horizontally along the middle, glows in gamma rays. A vast halo of dark matter engulfs the disk and emits no light at all, which makes measuring the galaxy’s total size a challenge. CREDIT: Fermi Lat Collaboration/DOE/NASA</figure>

Our next story of the day is one I debated talking about, because theoretically you shouldn’t talk if you're not sure you have anything nice to say, and here, I’m not sure. A new paper posted on the astronomical part of the ArXiv.org preprint server is getting a lot of coverage for claiming our galaxy’s edge has finally been found, and our galaxy is significantly bigger than anyone ever thought. The problem with this paper, right off the bat, is there are a gazillion ways to define “edge”. Even with humans this can be tricky. Most people, if you ask them how tall they are, will give you the distance from the soles of their feet to the tops of their head, as measured while standing flat footed, but you could also measure to the top of their hair, giving some punk rockers one hell of a height advantage. You could also go by the maximum extension, and measure from the tip of a ballerina on pointed toes to the tip of her outstretched arm. Those latter measurements aren’t standard, but you can make those measurements and proclaim humans to be of unusual size.

In the same manner, we can measure galaxies in all sorts of different ways and get all sorts of different numbers, and that’s what’s happening here. Normally, we base our size measurements on looking at a galaxy through a specific filter, so we’re seeing light from the same kinds of objects, and we define the size based on where the brightness is some set fraction of the bright inner region of the galaxy. It’s a whole lot of math, but it keeps everything more or less consistent. What the folks in this paper have done is to instead try and sort using computer models and observations of nearby dwarf galaxies, and tried to sort how in-falling material might decide “I shall fall into the Milky Way” versus falling into something else like Andromeda.

There are soo many problems with saying “this is the edge” the first being that over the 13 billion year history of our universe, stuff has moved, and since galaxies grow through accumulation of colliding galaxies, these kinds of models can’t know how to accurately take into account stuff that we can’t see because we already ate it.

Anyway - folks have asked me about this story, and I’m just going to say this is a neat idea, but the physics of our reality doesn’t make this paper a solid way to say how big our galaxy may or may not be.

<figure> Montage of the CO molecule radio emission-line intensities in the three regions observed by the Star Formation Project and the Nobeyama 45 m Radio Telescope. CREDIT:NAOJ</figure>

To round out our day, I have a couple quick notes on things to come. The NAOJ has released a publication describing how they have mapped in greater detail than ever before achieved a series of star forming regions. These new maps have a spatial resolution of about 3200 AU, which means individual solar systems can’t be resolved, but we can see the massive clouds that can collapse into solar systems clearly. These maps are new, and we look forward to seeing the science that will come out of this work.

<figure> Between the end of March and the middle of June, ATLAS will slip through several familiar constellations and come close to some easily identifiable bright stars, including Capella, Aldebaran, and Betelgeuse.
CREDIT: Alison Klesman (via TheSkyX)</figure>

Finally, we’d like to alert you all to a comet that may just become really darn bright come Map. I’m talking about Comet Atlas, which is currently visible in small telescopes. This is the time for everyone to practice your astrophotography from your driveway and patio, and learn to find your way around the sky, so that you are ready in a few weeks when this system is at its best. I know some of you are already taking images, and I’m here to say, I want to see them! We have a new images channel setup on our CosmoQuest Discord channel where your astrophotography can be shared with adoring fans you didn’t know you had.

<--------------------->

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Daily Space 03/26/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Scientists discovered from the data sent back from Voyager 2 that Uranus had a plasmoid, a magnetic blob of atmosphere stuck out away from the planet, the Nobeyama Radio Observatory Star Formation Project mapped in greater detail than ever before a series of star forming regions, and Comet Atlas will be bringing a show in May and June to your backyards. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Rocket Roundup for March 25, 2020
Rocket Roundup for March 25, 2020more_vert
2020-03-25T19:46:37+00:00
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Today Gordon takes us through the collection of rocket launches and delays – Roscosmos launched a satellite constellation, China launched some military reconnaissance satellites SpaceX launched another set of Starlink satellites, and COVID-19 delays a number of launches worldwide.

Hello, and welcome to the Daily Space for today March 25, 2020. I am your host Gordon Dewis (aka Keeper of Maps in Discord and Twitch), filling in for Annie who just moved and is waiting for her Internet to be hooked up. Most Mondays through Fridays, our team will be here putting science in your brain.

Usually Wednesdays are for Rocket Roundup, and today is no different.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

(Podcast link)

<figure></figure>

Up first, a Soyuz 2.1b with a Fregat upper stage took off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Saturday 21 MAR 2020 1706:58 GMT (1:06:58 p.m. EDT; 10:06:58 p.m. Baikonur time).

With the help of Roscosmos providing the facilities and the launch vehicle, Arianespace providing the commercial launch services, and Sweden’s RUAG Space providing the multiple satellite dispenser, OneWeb of Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, USA successfully placed 34 more of their broadband communications satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO) on Saturday night local time. That bring to 74 the total number of OneWeb satellites in orbit, with the goal of completing its initial constellation of 650 satellites by 2021.

<figure>IMAGE: OneWeb’s Launch #3 mission patch. The mission name commemorates the 55th anniversary of the first human spacewalk, made by Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov (1934 – 2019). CREDIT: OneWeb</figure>

The Soyuz rocket used for this launch is a far more capable distant cousin to the old Soviet R-7 ICBM, but at liftoff, the rocket’s 32 engines once again blazed an impressive trail into the night sky … much as it did NOT do when Soviet Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov hitched a ride to space back in March of 1965, for THAT flight took place in the early afternoon. It was during that trip that Leonov became the first human being to exit his capsule while in orbit, connected only by a tether to his ship. His adventure in trying to get back INSIDE the Soyuz capsule is well known though: once he exited the capsule, his space suit began to slowly inflate in the vacuum of space, to the point that initially he was unable to re-enter the capsule. He was only able to do so after deliberately venting his suit to space in order to deflate enough to fit through the doorway.

OneWeb’s goal of completing its own project is also in some trouble, however. Like many companies today, OneWeb is looking at large financial hurdles going forward. To date they’ve received over US$3.4 billion to finance their operations, much of it from companies like SoftBank, Qualcomm, and Airbus, to name a few. But these companies are also being hit hard by poor payouts on investments, the recent severe market fluctuations related to the world-wide COVID-19 epidemic, and the various supply and travel problems also associated with the pandemic. (More on this later in the show.)

While OneWeb has almost 2,000 satellites in various stages of design, planning and production, and several launches planned for just the upcoming months, many of those launches are now on an indefinite hold, and speculation is running rampant that this company may end up declaring bankruptcy before it can sell its services to a single customer.

<figure>Credit: OneWeb (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzs-1EA5e6MRHXK8NKyqzcw)</figure><figure></figure>

Also on Monday, but this time back in the win column, China’s space agency successfully launched 3 new military reconnaissance satellites aboard a Long March 2C (CZ-2C) from LC-3, Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 0343 UTC. First and so far hardest hit by the recent pandemic, China also seems to have reached a point where their mitigation efforts have been balanced with continuing to advance the national spaceflight agenda.

<figure>IMAGE: CG image of the three newly deployed Yaogan 2 satellites being deployed
CREDIT: CCTV</figure>

This launch was the third by China just this month, and the sixth successful launch of the year so far. Entitled “Yaogan 30-06,” the mission lifted off from Sichuan Province in southwestern China at 11:43 am local time aboard the Long March 2C. This rocket is a 2-stage liquid fueled vehicle which can loft up to 2,800 kg / 6,200 lb into LEO, including Sun-synchronous orbits. After leaving the Earth’s atmosphere, the upper stage successfully placed three Earth-observation satellites into their planned low Earth orbits, according to Chinese news agencies.

These are Yaogan 2 satellites, and the name “Yaogan” directly translates to “Remote Observing.” Intended for dedicated military use, media outlets have stated before that various governmental and commercial agencies may be able to access the data collected for things like land use, disaster recovery, resource mapping, and so on.

Exact instrumentation on each satellite varies, and precise information on any given satellite is, as you might expect, a little difficult to come by. Some are thought to carry synthetic aperture radar (SAR) in addition to the usual cameras, and others are suspected to have electronic signals intelligence capacity as well, possibly capable of tracking ships via electronic signals detection. At a minimum, they are believed to have ground resolution of below 1m per pixel in various visual and other wavelengths of light. CCTV, an official media outlet in China, announced only that the three new satellites “will be used for electromagnetic environment detection and related technological tests.” The trio of spacecraft join the Chuangxin-5 constellation; now consisting of 18 total satellites, the first trio was sent into orbit back in 2017.

No word on whether there was damage associated with falling debris. As you may recall, China typically launches from sites well inland, and so their lower stages routinely crash back to Earth… sometimes on top of buildings and personal property.

<figure>CREDIT: China Central Television via SciNews (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjU6ZwoTQtKWfz1urL7XcbA)</figure><figure>IMAGES: While many around the world are in quarantine, the space industry is trying to find its way forward in a more virtual environment. LEFT CREDIT: CCTV RIGHT CREDIT: iQonset/Shutterstock
</figure>

****

Normally, we don’t talk about launches that haven’t happened yet, but COVID-19 is affecting everyone, including companies that launch things into orbit.

<figure>IMAGE: Time lapse of onlookers enjoying a night time rocket launch from Florida’s Space Coast. Though launches are expected to continue, public observation points like these are being shut down to help contain the spread of COVID-19. CREDIT: NASA/Ben Smegelsky</figure>

***

New Zealand, for example, is at the highest level of lockdown. This means that Rocket Lab, which launches their Electron rockets from New Zealand, is postponing their March 30th launch that Annie was going to cover. Ironically, the mission is called “Don’t stop me now”.

SpaceX, which launched another batch of Starlink satellites last week, had another Falcon 9 launch scheduled for the end of the month from Cape Canaveral. While US military officials have said that they remain ready to support such launches — including ULA’s Atlas V launch of AEHF-6, which is still scheduled for next Thursday — the travel restrictions in places like the US and Argentina have prevented needed personnel from making the trip, meaning the SAOCOM 1B mission is now indefinitely postponed.

Astra, who had an “anomaly” during their pre-launch tests on Monday, said that while it doesn’t look like the current coronavirus crisis contributed to any technical issues, it seems likely that it will impact repairs and the rescheduling of the launch that was supposed to happen today.

<figure></figure>

To wrap things up, here’s a running tally of a few spaceflight statistics for the year:

  • Toilets burned up: 1
  • Total new satellites in orbit: 344 (includes those launched from other in-orbit craft, such as the ISS)
  • Total satellites from launches: 330

Annie keeps track of orbital launches by where they launched from. Here’s that breakdown:

Total 2020 successful launches: 21 (+ 3 failures so far)

Total attempts by country:

  • USA: 8
  • China: 7
  • French Guiana: 2
  • Russia: 2
  • Kazakhstan: 2
  • New Zealand: 1
  • Japan: 1
  • Iran: 1

Your useless space fact for the week: A “sagan” is an approximate unit of measurement which may be applied to a set of discrete objects which numbers no less than 4 billion individuals. (Etymologically, “billions and billions;” S EQUALS AT LEAST TWO TIME TEN TO THE NINTH PLUS TWO TIMES TEN TO THE NINTH [S = (≥2 × 10^9)+(≥2 × 10^9)].

It honors the late Carl Sagan, a famous scientist and science communicator who was known for (among other things) remarking lyrically upon the vastness of space, saying of our universe, “Once misjudged to be a fixed sphere of stars encircling the sun and planets, the cosmos is now a ballooning expanse of space populated by billions and billions of galaxies, each containing billions and billions of stars.

The term seems to have first appeared in a scientific paper written in 2002, and appearing in the published literature in 2004.

And that rounds out our show for today.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Dave Ballard and lightly edited by Gordon Dewis (Lightfoot). The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph, and my studio production assistant was none other than the inimitable Dr. Pamela Gay, who is also our fearless leader.

This has been a production of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)(3) non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at patreon.com/cosmoquestx


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Daily Space 03/25/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Today Gordon takes us through the collection of rocket launches and delays - Roscosmos launched a satellite constellation, China launched some military reconnaissance satellites SpaceX launched another set of Starlink satellites, and COVID-19 delays a number of launches worldwide. Followed by Dr. Pamela hosting guest Dr. Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) to discuss the Starlink constellation of satellites being launched by SpaceX. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Update on How COVID-19 is Affecting Space Science
Update on How COVID-19 is Affecting Space Sciencemore_vert
2020-03-25T03:40:29+00:00
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Update on How COVID-19 is Affecting Space Science 2020-03-25T03:40:29+00:00close

<figure> Kitt Peak Observatory. CREDIT: P. Marenfeld & NOAO/AURA/NSF </figure><figure>COVID-19 virus particles. CREDIT: Centers for Disease Control</figure>

Today, Pamela gives us an update on how COVID-19 is affecting missions, programs, and other related science.

(podcast link)

There is no denying it, we live in strange times where it is becoming necessary to define essential programs and people in ways we haven’t done before. During various government shutdowns, NASA and other government agencies sent home staff and locked down website behind “We are shut down” messages, but when it came to spacecraft construction, things kept on keeping on because launch windows wait for no rover.

Well, in this age of COVID-19 how we define essential is taking a very different shape. Essential is no longer “how do we keep our timelines intact”. Essential is now, “what is necessary to prevent Planet of the Apes from becoming our new reality.” Zookeepers are self-quarantining with their animals to keep themselves safe and keep their animals fed and cared for. Spacecraft and telescopes can - if shut down properly - be left alone, but if you stop construction… things can go sideways.

Different facilities are taking different approaches. AURA, the organization that runs many of the telescopes on Kitt Peak, in putting out daily updates, and continuing to observe where possible in the Hawaii and Arizona facilities, but the Vera Rubin Observatory, which we still think of as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), is being locked up and left abandoned, partially built, on its mountain in Chile, and all scientific operations are suspended at Cerro Tololo, SOAR, and Gemini South, all in Chile. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore continues to operate Hubble, but is otherwise in telework mode only, where “Essential personal” include those that keep space craft functioning. As for JWST, well, they pushed back the submission date for observing proposals, and that is never a good sign.

NASA has put out a statement on how their assessing mission impacts. While I’m generally skeptical about putting politicians and businessmen in charge of NASA, this is one of those times when having a leader used to looking out for his constituents - his people - is proving to be a grace. In the NASA statement, administrator Jim Bridenstine writes, “We are going to take care of our people. That’s our first priority. Technology allows us to do a lot of what we need to do remotely, but, where hands-on work is required, it is difficult or impossible to comply with CDC guidelines while processing spaceflight hardware, and where we can’t safely do that we’re going to have to suspend work and focus on the mission critical activities.”

To quote from the NASA statement, “NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, which includes the Perseverance Rover and Mars Helicopter, remains a high priority for the agency, and launch and other mission preparations will continue. Much of the work is being done by employees and contractors who work remotely across the agency. Assessments by agency leadership are underway for anyone required to work in areas under restriction, such as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California”.

Where things are getting tricky because they also have to balance against state mandates that are shutting down everything outside certain sectors. This is particularly relevant for the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, which is in the LA hot spot. At least one friend who works there seems to have COVID and be recovering, but… as is the case in the US, since she doesn’t require hospitalization she can’t get tested.

Our heart breaks as we watch what is happening to our friends and families in the aerospace and science community in California. We must do everything we can to support life. This does mean JWST is going to experience further delays. At this time All integration and testing operations are suspended.

While I expect this to be more a topic for tomorrow’s Rocket Wednesday, I will add that work on Artemis, which is taking place in states with fewer restrictions, is continuing at a very limited level. In Texas, astronauts continue to train, and the ISS operations center continues to keep the folks on ISS company, and as far as we have been able to determine, NASA and SpaceX continue to anticipate a May launch of Crew Dragon from Florida to ISS with astronauts and supplies on board.

Scientists everywhere are now learning how to better use Zoom, Slack, and other digital tools to try and keep the science going. While astronomy and space science researchers are unlikely to do anything to help us survive these times, I personally hope that what we are doing can help keep your minds occupied as we together dream of the stars. I’m going to be working hard to keep my own programs going and using my lack of travel to catch up on old projects. Where I personally am panicking is not knowing how grant awards will be delayed. Like so many scientists, I don’t have a steady paycheck and work grant to grant and am rarely funded full time. Currently I have multiple NSF grants pending, and in looking to the NSF to seek information, I found a statement that didn’t answer my questions, but did leave me feeling better about our future. I’m now going to read this statement in it’s entirety:

In these times, we are given the opportunity to define ourselves and redefine humanities future. We can be afraid. I am afraid.

The choice becomes, do we let that fear control us, or do we choose to keep going and try and find ways to make the world a little better through our actions.

I am going to choose to keep trying to make it better. For me that means building a community where we can work together to help people learn and do science, and find companionship at their keyboard. I want all of you out their listening to know that no matter how much you may feel alone, you aren’t. We’re all in this together.

I’m one of those immuno-compromised people they keep talking about as “These are the people most likely to die.” I haven’t left my house since Feb 28, I am practicing social distancing in my house and won’t get within 6 feet of the people I live with. I’m graced with a house with enough rooms to pull this off. I live in a ramshackle old farm house that may not be heated really well, and leaks mice and birds, but it has space a plenty. Space to allow us all to isolate. That said, I had to tell someone wanting to chat on Saturday that I was peopled out. This happened because of this community, where we can come together to write software in one moment and to play Ticket to Ride in the next. If you feel alone, know that we’re here for you. It’s OK to be afraid. What matters is what you do after you acknowledge you are afraid. Join us, and at least bring someone a smile by sharing a picture of your pet. We can all get through this together.

<--------------------->

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.
Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Daily Space 03/24/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Today, Pamela gives us an update on how COVID-19 is affecti...

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Black Hole Imaging, Quasar Wind in the Galaxy, and ‘Tatooine’ Planetary Disks
Black Hole Imaging, Quasar Wind in the Galaxy, and ‘Tatooine’ Planetary Disksmore_vert
2020-03-23T20:37:34+00:00
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Black Hole Imaging, Quasar Wind in the Galaxy, and ‘Tatooine’ Planetary Disks 2020-03-23T20:37:34+00:00close

Today’s stories cover getting razor-sharp black hole Image using photon rings and future tech, detecting the powerful jets and winds produced by quasars in the galaxy, taking better images of Earth-like planets around other stars with upgraded adaptive optics, and watching the strange orbits of planets in orbit around binary stars.

(podcast link)

<figure>
Scientists have obtained the first image of a black hole, using Event Horizon Telescope observations of the center of the galaxy M87. The image shows a bright ring formed as light bends in the intense gravity around a black hole that is 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun. This long-sought image provides the strongest evidence to date for the existence of supermassive black holes and opens a new window onto the study of black holes, their event horizons, and gravity.CREDIT: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration.</figure>

Hello and Welcome to Monday. And I am here to tell you this Monday is lit.

Well, maybe not really, but our first story describes how we can understand the light disc around black holes in a new and truly spectacular way.

Last year the Event Horizon Telescope people shared the highest resolution image ever acquired of the region surrounding a black hole. This fuzzy orange donut shows us how light and hot light-emitting material swarms the Super-massive Black Hole in the core of the galaxy M87. Over the past year, a lot of folks have asked us to try and explain the asymmetric orange blob, and we’ve done our best, but it turns out that if an image causes 100 questions, a video may answer a 1000.

A team led by Michael Johnson of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics has modeled how light shining toward a black hole, but with bad aim that causes it to miss the black hole, can get bent to trace out rings and arcs of light. Their video, which you can see in the show notes on our site, DailySpace.org, looks out how closer-in paths lead to sharper lines, as trapped light follows close-in orbits, while a fuzzy outer glow comes for the lazier paths of less on-target light. These paths are called photon rings. Since light that passes close to the star has less distance to cover, this light may swing wide around the black hole numerous times before traveling to the observer, creating the bright rings seen in this simulation. Light further out, with larger orbits that take longer to travel, will have been retraced fewer times, creating fainter and fuzzier appearing rings.

While these fine structures can’t be seen in the fuzzy donut from the Event Horizon Telescope, there is the possibility of obtaining images that can see them with near future technology. In the article on this research published in Science Advances, the team describes how two radio telescopes, spread between our planet’s surface and orbit, would have sufficient resolution to map out these delicate structures and reveal the nature of a black hole. It turns out simple factors like how fast a black hole is spinning can have major relativistic effects on how light near the black hole travels, and some day, we may be able to image the stack rings of light around a black hole to study otherwise unmeasurable characteristics of these light-eating dense objects.

<figure>Black holes cast a shadow on the image of bright surrounding material because their strong gravitational field can bend and trap light. The shadow is bounded by a bright ring of light, corresponding to photons that pass near the black hole before escaping. The ring is actually a stack of increasingly sharp subrings, and the n-th subring corresponds to photons that orbited the black hole n/2 times before reaching the observer. This animation shows how a black hole image is formed from these subrings and the trajectories of photons that create the image. CREDIT: Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian</figure>

We can’t stress this enough – Black holes themselves do not shine light. The blackness we see in the Event Horizon Image is the shadow in space where a black hole says to the light that gets too close “Thou shall not pass” and then traps that light forever within its Schwartzschild radius.

While Black Holes don’t emit light, the material that is falling toward them can become extraordinarily dense, light up with its own nuclear reactions, and radiate massive quantities of light. This material, called an accretion disk, is responsible for the bright light coming from quasars and other kinds of active galaxies. It is also responsible for a whole lot of misleading headlines, including the headline for our next story, “Blistering radiation from active black hole snowplows immense amounts of mechanical energy through space.” To be clear – radiation … which is a fancy word for light… is responsible for any energy redistribution discussed in the next few minutes.

<figure>This is an artist’s concept of a distant galaxy with an active quasar at its center. A quasar emits exceptionally large amounts of energy generated by a supermassive black hole fueled by in-falling matter. Using the unique capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered that blistering radiation pressure from the vicinity of the black hole pushes material away from the galaxy’s center at a fraction of the speed of light. The “quasar winds” are propelling hundreds of solar masses of material each year. This affects the entire galaxy as the material snowplows into surrounding gas and dust.
CREDITS: NASA,ESA, and J. Olmsted (STScI)</figure>

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope to study quasar light and then working to model it using computers have published a series of 6 research papers in the Astrophysical Journal Supplements. They describe how this immensely energetic disc can drive the formation of powerful jets that push out through intergalactic space, and also generate a quasar wind inside the galaxy, much like our own star’s solar wind, that pushes material outwards. These jets and winds dump more energy than any other phenomena – even more than Gamma Ray Bursts. This has the effect of pushing back inner material in the galaxy and damping star formation, and pushing back on surrounding extra galactic material slows the growth of the galaxy. This research starts to finally show physics-linkages between galaxy size, black hole size, and dynamics, by following the energy interactions while a galaxy grows. It also hints at limiting factors on how galaxies can grow. This is just a start – but it’s a 6-paper start! We look forward to seeing how this research defines the reasons we see the size of a supermassive black hole correlated to a galaxy’s spheroid’s size.

We’re already starting to see the flow of news slow down as faculty all around the world struggle to figure out how to teach online, and delays come in as folks set up their computers from work on random surfaces in their home. Tomorrow, Pamela will be doing a round up of COVID-19 related science impacts we’re already seeing. For now, we’re just going to mention a few quick notes that under more normal times might get skipped over.

<figure>A 10,000-pixel MKID array made by the Mazin lab for the DARKNESS instrument at the Palomar 200-inch Telescope. CREDIT: Ben Mazin</figure>

Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara are developing new detectors that cram more light sensing pixels into tiny spaces than prior detectors have been able to. These powerful new ultra-sensitive superconducting photon sensors, called MKIDs, have been tested using the Palomar observatory’s 200-inch telescope and will soon be installed on the 8-meter Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. It is hoped their great speed and capabilities will improve the quality of the telescope’s adaptive optics, allowing it to obtain higher resolution images on Earth than has previously been possible. With better sensors and better adaptive optics, they are hoping to better image Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone of alien stars. This work is still in its early days, but they believe they will one day be able to detect and characterize temperate, Earth-sized planets around nearby, low mass stars using ground-based massive telescopes.

<figure>Two examples of aligned and misaligned protoplanetary disks around binary stars (circumbinary disks), observed with ALMA. Binary star orbits are added for clarity. Left: in star system HD 98800 B, the disk is misaligned with inner binary stars. The stars are orbiting each other (in this view, towards and away from us) in 315 days. Right: in star system AK Sco, the disk is in line with the orbit of its binary stars. The stars are orbiting each other in 13.6 days.
CREDIT: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), I. Czekala and G. Kennedy; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello</figure>

And in one final bit of planetary news, astronomers have looked at a dozen planetary systems that have formed around binary stars. Called “Tatooine” systems, these systems exhibit some neat relationships between the stars’ orbits and the planets’ orbits. The illustration that accompanied this story may mislead folks. In general, the planets orbit in circles, but those circles look like ovals when you rotate the planet’s orbit relative to the star’s orbit. And this lack of alignment is exactly what happens in systems where the stars have longer orbits. This means that in systems where the planets are orbiting in and out of the sky – toward and away from us – we will observe planets going in a polite circle on the sky when the orbit is long [LEFT IMAGE]. This was seen for HD 9880 B and it’s 315 day orbit. In a system that has the stars still orbiting toward and away from us but in a shorter orbit, the planets will also orbit toward and away from us, nicely aligned [RIGHT IMAGE], as is seen in AK Scotii, where the stars orbit in 13.6 days.

Alright – that’s all we’ve got. Tomorrow Pamela will be back, with more science. But that rounds out our show for today.

<———————>

As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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Daily Space 03/23/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. .Today's stories cover getting razor-sharp black hole Image using photon rings and future tech, detecting the powerful jets and winds produced by quasars in the galaxy, taking better images of Earth-like planets around other stars with upgraded adaptive optics, and watching the strange orbits of planets in orbit around binary stars. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Daily Space 3/20/2020
Daily Space 3/20/2020more_vert
2020-03-23T20:35:39+00:00
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This episode did not end up having a podcast recorded for it, so here is the video archive.

<figure>LEFT: This high-resolution mosaic of WAC images shows Mercury as it appeared to MESSENGER as the spacecraft departed the planet following themission’s first flyby of Mercury. This mosaic uses the same WAC images asthis previous mosaicthat was posted a few weeks after the flyby, but with slight improvements in the image processing and color stretch. CREDIT: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
INSET:Zoom in showing variable magnitudes of collapse, which includes a relatively unmodified rim section that is smooth but not broken into knobs (arrow 1). This area adjoins another part of the rim that has been almost entirely removed (arrow 2). The adjacent intercrater regions also exhibit deep and abrupt relief losses (arrows 3 & 4). CREDIT: University of Arizona, NASA Goddard, and the Southwestern Research Institute</figure><figure>BACK IMAGE: Closeupof Asteroid Ryugu.CREDIT:JAXA, University of Tokyo, Kochi University, Rikkyo University, Nagoya University, Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji University, University of Aizu, AIST, Kobe University, Auburn University
OVERLAY: Formation scenario for Ryugu. CREDIT:Okada et al. Nature 2020</figure><figure>Jupiter’s trademark Great Red Spot – a swirling anticyclonic storm feature larger than Earth – has shrunken to the smallest size ever measured. Astronomers have followed this downsizing since the 1930s.
“Recent Hubble Space Telescope observations confirm that the Great Red Spot (GRS) is now approximately 10,250 miles across, the smallest diameter we’ve ever measured,” said Amy Simon of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Historic observations as far back as the late 1800s gauged the GRS to be as big as 25,500 miles on its long axis. The NASA Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 flybys of Jupiter in 1979 measured the GRS to be 14,500 miles across.
Starting in 2012, amateur observations revealed a noticeable increase in the spot’s shrinkage rate. The GRS’s “waistline” is getting smaller by 580 miles per year. The shape of the GRS has changed from an oval to a circle. The cause behind the shrinking has yet to be explained.
“In our new observations it is apparent that very small eddies are feeding into the storm,” said Simon. “We hypothesized that these may be responsible for the accelerated change by altering the internal dynamics and energy of the Great Red Spot.”
Simon’s team plans to study the motions of the small eddies and also the internal dynamics of the GRS to determine if these eddies can feed or sap momentum entering the upwelling vortex.
In the comparison images one Hubble photo was taken in 1995 when the long axis of the GRS was estimated to be 13,020 miles across. In a 2009 photo, the GRS was measured at 11,130 miles across.
CREDIT: NASA,ESA, and A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center);
Acknowledgment: C. Go, H. Hammel (Space Science Institute, Boulder, andAURA), and R. Beebe (New Mexico State University)</figure>

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Slime Mold can map Universe, Variable Star pulsates on only one side, and Binary System of Two Brown Dwarfs found
Slime Mold can map Universe, Variable Star pulsates on only one side, and Binary System of Two Brown Dwarfs foundmore_vert
2020-03-20T02:03:11+00:00
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Slime Mold can map Universe, Variable Star pulsates on only one side, and Binary System of Two Brown Dwarfs found 2020-03-20T02:03:11+00:00close

Astronomers use slime mold algorithms to map the known universe, a pulsating variable star is found that only pulsates on one side due to gravity from a binary companion red dwarf, and a binary system of two brown dwarf stars has been found by the SPECULOOS survey.

(podcast link)

Today’s news is full of stories that kept taking turns for the unexpected. Mistakes may be made in covering this first story, but it definitely is one you need to know about – so you can laugh!

<figure>Astronomers have designed a computer algorithm, inspired by slime mold behavior, and tested it against a computer simulation of the growth of dark matter filaments in the Universe. The researchers then applied the slime mold algorithm to data containing the locations of over 37 000 galaxies mapped by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The algorithm produced a three-dimensional map of the underlying cosmic web structure.
They then analysed the light from 350 faraway quasars cataloged in the Hubble Spectroscopic Legacy Archive. These distant cosmic flashlights are the brilliant black-hole-powered cores of active galaxies, whose light shines across space and through the foreground cosmic web.
CREDIT: NASA, ESA, and J. Burchett and O. Elek (UC Santa Cruz)</figure>

Over the past decade or so, researchers have been realizing that slime molds are better at optimizing travel paths than anything else. Build a tiny city with slime mold food at building locations, and they will optimize delivery routes. Layout a nation of cities, they’ll optimize the highways. Slime molds… they work together to get that mapping done. No, I don’t know how single celled organisms do this, I just know they do. Computer science researchers have been trying to learn from the mold, and have created algorithms based on how the molds seem to decide their paths. These algorithms are able to produce the same kinds of dendritic looking paths that we’re used to seeing in, well, trees… And the large scale structure of the universe.

As our universe formed, it gravitationally collapsed from a mostly smooth cloud of material into clusters and walls of galaxies. Because this is all driven by gravity, you end up with these cool gravitational potentials that map to the shortest paths between the biggest clusters. Knowing that is awesome. Mapping that is hard.

This is where the slime mold comes in. Slime has our back on the mapping.

To be clear, much to my disappointment, scientists did not create a physical map of galaxies and let the slime mold connect the model galaxies. When I read the headline “Astronomers Use Slime Mould to Map the Universe’s Largest Structures” I had so much hope that actual slime mould would be involved… no – slime mold computer algorithms were involved – NOT actual slime mold. Using these algorithms and data from the Digital Sky Survey that provided positions of galaxies, the team had the slime mold algorithm map where the LSS should be, and then they used archival data from the Hubble Space Telescope to go looking to see if they could confirm the slime mold algorithms results.

And they could! In the light of 350 distant quasars they could trace out the hydrogen gas that stretches between the galaxies. The cool thing about using the algorithm instead of actual slime mold is the algorithms work in 3 dimensions, just like our universe. That said, I’m hoping that some bored research team recreates this work with actual mold. We have links to this research on our website, DailySpace.org. This research is published by J Burchett and company in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

<figure>An artistic rendering showcases the world’s first known one-sided pulsar, which is tidally locked with its companion, a red dwarf. Photo by Gabriel Pérez Díaz/IAC</figure>

Alright, from this tale of the cross disciplinary awesome, we now jump to another story of things going sideways. In this case, we actually mean sideways.

A new star has been identified that is a pulsating variable star… but only half of it. In a binary system with a delta Scuti variable star and a regular red dwarf, the gravity of the tiny red dwarf is able to distort its 1.7 solar mass companion in such a way that the stars regular expansion and contraction only occurs on one side, and the regular brightening and dimming is only seen in some orientations of the binary system. This kind of star has long been theorized, but had never been seen until now. This system was spotted by the TESS spacecraft as it looked for transiting exoplanets, and showing that one scientist’s noise is another scientist’s data. According to Don Kurtz of University of Central Lancashire, “I’ve been looking for a star like this for nearly 40 years and now we have finally found one. Gerald Handler, of Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center adds “The exquisite data from the TESS satellite meant that we could observe variations in brightness due to the gravitational distortion of the star as well as the pulsations.” As we perform more and more surveys we’re going to turn up more and more rare objects that help us see the full distribution of weird and awesome that our universe has combined objects to create.

<figure>
An artist’s view of one of the SPECULOOS telescopes, with the eclipsing binary brown dwarf in the sky. The third red dot is a third nearby brown dwarf, which is also part of the same system. The book on the side shows the data that led to the discovery. On the left page is the eclipse captured by SPECULOOS while the right page shows the data from Keck Observatory and the VLT.
CREDIT: University of Birmingham/Amanda J. Smith.</figure>

In another case of surveys finding the hard to find, a new paper in Nature by Triaud and company identifies a binary system made of two brown dwarf stars in the SPECULOOS survey, which is designed to find potentially habitable planets. While this system isn’t likely to have life, it is nonetheless super cool. Literally… these stars have failed and are just barely glowing through the combination of heat from compressed gas and residual hit from brief burning of heavy hydrogen. This particular system is super interesting because the stars are precisely aligned to eclipse one another, which allows us to measure their size and mass accurately, giving us some of our best data on the nature of these tiny hard to find not-quite-stars. This system got follow up from the 8-m VLT. They found the system also has a 3 brown dwarf companion, making this brown dwarfs all the way down. Unfortunately, I hit a paywall when I tried to read about what size these stars were found to be… so I can’t tell you, but I can tell you, we now know. Stay tuned. We’re going to try and find someone with access to this paper, but for now, now we have found a small commune of failed stars hanging out in the not so distant universe.

<———————>

And that rounds out our show for today. As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel, and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay, and the Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. The Daily Space is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Astronomers use slime mold algorithms to map the known univ...

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Rocket Roundup for March 18, 2020
Rocket Roundup for March 18, 2020more_vert
2020-03-18T20:07:02+00:00
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This week, we had a lot of important launches. SpaceX launches Bartolomeo research platform, China launched more of their Beidou GPS System, Russia launched more of their Uragan-M GPS System, and SpaceX launches more Starlink satellites.

(podcast link)

<figure></figure><figure>Spaceflight Now@SpaceflightNowCapture confirmed! For the final time, a SpaceX Dragon capsule has been captured using the space station’s robotic arm.

Future Dragon missions will dock directly with the International Space Station. https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/03/06/falcon-9-dragon-crs-20-mission-status-center/…
7566:29 AM - Mar 9, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy119 people are talking about this</figure>

First up, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the CRS SpX-20 (Dragon) mission on Saturday, March 7, 2020 at 4:50 AM (UTC) / 11:50 PM EST.

<figure>IMAGE: The last Dragon 1 capsule is shown here being berthed to the ISS’ Harmony Module via the Canadarm. Future Dragon 2 capsules will automatically dock with the station without assistance.
CREDIT: NASA TV / SpaceflightNow</figure>

For the 20th and final time, a SpaceX Dragon 1 cargo module was lofted to the ISS. The picturesque late-night launch also featured a successful landing of the first stage of the Falcon 9 back at Cape Canaveral, and was the 50th successful landing of a Falcon 9 first stage booster. The capsule, on its third trip to the station, was successfully berthed to the station’s Harmony Module on March 9th at 10:25 UTC / 06:25 EDT using the Canadarm, with US astronaut Jessica Meir at the controls.

Future SpaceX cargo modules will be uncrewed versions of the new Dragon 2 capsule, which will not contain crew seating, life support, space toilets, or other accommodations such as the crew-operated flight controls and the Super Draco abort thrusters. Perhaps most importantly, the new version of the Dragon will be able to self-dock at the station like the current Progress modules do.

Aboard CRS-20 were almost 2,000 kg / 4,400 lbs of cargo and experiments, including an outdoor deck which will be mounted to the station during a future spacewalk. The Bartolomeo platform, as it is called, has 12 mounting points which will allow for remote, robotic installation of future commercial scientific experiments designed to be exposed to the vacuum of space. The deck was built in Germany and is owned by Airbus Defense and Space, a European aerospace corporation. It cost an estimated 40 million Euro (US$45 million) to construct.

Assuming a successful return to Earth later, the Dragon 1 will have delivered roughly 43 metric tons of cargo, supplies and experiments to the ISS, while returning about 33 metric tons of experimental results back to Earth.

<figure>Credit: SpaceX (https://www.youtube.com/user/spacexchannel)</figure>

Our next story begins just as the first story leaves off. Just after the Dragon capsule successfully docked with the ISS, another mission lifted off, this time from halfway around the world at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern China’s Sichuan province. There, a Long March 3B rocket carrying the next to last Beidou navigation satellite lifted off at 11:55 PM UTC on Monday, March 9th. This marks the 54th total launch for the constellation, and Chinese authorities quickly announced the successful delivery of the satellite into its intended orbit.

<figure>IMAGE: A Long March 3B rocket lifts off shortly before midnight local time Monday, 09 March, with a Beidou navigation satellite.CREDIT: Xinhua</figure>

This constellation features signals from low earth orbit, middle earth orbit, and geostationary orbit, allowing for multiple timing references for customers. (This is similar to the European Galileo system.) While its coverage is primarily intended for East Asia, customers can use the system for basic GPS-style location and timing reference around the world as well. This will provide the Chinese military with access to their own system; reportedly, they have relied on the US GPS to this point for military applications. According to Chinese media, the system “can provide services for the driverless vehicles, accurate berthing of ships, as well as takeoff and landing of airplanes,” and “will be widely used in the fields of communication, electric power, finance, mapping, transportation, fishery, agriculture and forestry.”

Chinese cell phone services have already incorporated the Beidou system into navigational apps available for commercial and private cellular customers.

<figure>CREDIT: SciNews (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjU6ZwoTQtKWfz1urL7XcbA)</figure>

Despite the success of the Beidou launch, the following week saw China suffer a bit of a set-back. On March 16th a new Long March 7a rocket attempted to launch a Xin Jishu Yanzheng 6 (XJY-6) satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit. While the launch itself appeared to go according to plan, the new third stage – derived from that of the Long March 3 rocket – failed to put the satellite into its intended orbit.

<figure>IMAGE: The first standard Long March 7 (CZ-7) rolled out in 2016. The Long March 7A has an additional third stage.CREDIT: CASC</figure>

Normally, Chinese state media will announce successes more or less immediately; in this case, there was no word for hours after the launch. Chinese authorities eventually announced that the satellite had failed to make its intended orbit, but offered no explanation for the failure, saying only that “engineers are investigating.”

If the problem does involve some shortcoming or failure of the upper stage, this could result in the delay of several Chinese programs, including its crewed space flight program, which was planning to use the Long March 7a for future taikonaut missions.

Despite the failure, we do have a launch video for you.

<figure></figure>

On the same day as the Long March 7a mission was suffering its failure, a Soyuz rocket managed yet another success.

In another night time launch, the Russian military sent one of their own satellites into space: at 9:28 pm Moscow time, or 18:28 UTC, a Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket equipped with a Fregat booster lofted an Uragan-M satellite successfully into GTO from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome some 800 km / 500 mi north of Moscow. The Fregat upper stage made three separate burns to deliver the satellite into its target orbit.

<figure>IMAGE: An artist’s rendition of a new GLONASS navigation satellite. CREDIT: Roscosmos</figure>

Like the Beidou constellation, the GLONASS system is operated by the Russian military in an effort to gain the advantages of a space-based timing and navigation system that is independent of the United States’ GPS constellation. The first satellite of the GLONASS constellation was launched way back in 1970, but the system as currently constituted has been operating since about 1996. Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin made the constellation a national priority in 2001, and the system has been steadily upgraded since that time.

The name of the latest version of the GLONASS satellite, Uragan, means “hurricane” in Russian. It has a mass of about 1,400 kg / 3,100 lb., and is designed to have an on-orbit service life of at least seven years. These can be launched in trios aboard the larger Proton rockets, or one at a time aboard an available Soyuz – as was the case here.

<figure>CREDIT: Russian Defense Ministry (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQGqX5Ndpm4snE0NTjyOJnA)</figure><figure></figure><figure>SpaceX✔@SpaceXTargeting Wednesday, March 18 at 8:16 a.m. EDT, 12:16 UTC, for Falcon 9's launch of Starlink from LC-39A in Florida
10.3K2:29 PM - Mar 16, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy1,446 people are talking about this</figure><figure>SpaceX✔@SpaceXStanding down today; standard auto-abort triggered due to out of family data during engine power check. Will announce next launch date opportunity once confirmed on the Range
9,8809:33 AM - Mar 15, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy1,515 people are talking about this</figure><figure>Spaceflight Now@SpaceflightNowElon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, confirms one of the Falcon 9’s first stage engines shut down prematurely during today’s launch.

Although the rocket achieved the planned orbit, Musk says a thorough investigation is needed before the next mission. https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/03/13/falcon-9-starlink-5-mission-status-center/…
3789:11 AM - Mar 18, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy108 people are talking about this</figure>

Finally, earlier today SpaceX launched its sixth batch of 60 StarLink satellites into low Earth orbit this morning, but this mission was far from smooth!

<figure>IMAGE: Venting occurs as a SpaceX Falcon 9 is safed following a last second launch abort March 15th.
CREDIT: Theresa Cross, Space Flight Insider</figure>

This mission was originally scheduled to launch this past Monday morning East Coast time, and the count seemed to be going exactly according to plan — right up until the clock hit T- 00:00:00. At that point the nine Merlin engines of the first stage ignited and then immediately shut down as the onboard computers detected what SpaceX initially termed, “an out of family data” problem. In short, the power-up phase was not going according to plan so the computer hit the virtual Big Red Button which shut off the engines before the rocket could lift from the pad.

Further testing apparently revealed no firm cause for the faulty reading, and a new instantaneous launch window was set for 08:16 AM EDT this morning. This time no errors were detected, and the rocket lifted off as planned.

That was NOT the end of this adventure, however!

<figure>Credit: SpaceX / SciNews</figure><figure>IMAGE: A Falcon 9 rocket roars from SLC-39a at the Kennedy Space Center Wednesday, March 18th, with 60 StarLink satellites aboard. CREDIT: SpaceX / SpaceflightNow.com</figure>

As the rocket roared into the Florida sky, the glitch from a couple of days before was a thing of the past. But several seconds before scheduled main engine cutoff, one of the nine Merlin engines on the first stage shut down prematurely. Elon Musk would later tweet that this was the advantage of having nine engines and the upper stage was able to reach its target orbit despite this shut-down.

The failure was not without cost, however. SpaceX announced on their webcast just before the deployment of the Starlink satellites that the first stage had failed its landing attempt on the drone ship, Of Course I Still Love You. Musk stated that a thorough investigation was needed to solve the issue prior to launching future missions. There was no immediate word as to how this might affect missions already in the pipeline, or how long they would be delayed, if at all, by the mishap.

<figure></figure>

To wrap things up, here’s a running tally of a few spaceflight statistics for the year:

  • Toilets burned up: 1
  • Total new satellites in orbit: 307
  • Total satellites from launches: 293

We keep track of orbital launches by where they launched from. Here’s that breakdown:

Total launches: 20

  • USA: 6
  • China: 6
  • French Guiana: 2
  • Russia: 2
  • New Zealand: 1
  • Japan: 1
  • Kazakhstan: 1
  • Iran: 1

Your useless space fact for the week comes from @badpandabear on Twitch : Kepler 11145123 is the roundest natural object ever measured.

And that rounds out our show for today.Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Dave Ballard and lightly edited by me, Annie Wilson. The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. Our fearless leader is Dr. Pamela Gay. This has been a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at patreon.com/cosmoquestx


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Daily Space 03/18/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. This week, we had a lot of important launches. SpaceX launches Bartolomeo research platform, China launched more of their Beidou GPS System, Russia launched more of their Uragan-M GPS System, and SpaceX launches more Starlink satellites.

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Betelgeuse shedding dust, Planet with iron rain, and Days on Earth used to be shorter
Betelgeuse shedding dust, Planet with iron rain, and Days on Earth used to be shortermore_vert
2020-03-17T20:59:28+00:00
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Betelgeuse shedding dust, Planet with iron rain, and Days on Earth used to be shorter 2020-03-17T20:59:28+00:00close

Betelgeuse is brightening back up after shedding a cloud of dust, WASP-76b turns out to be a super-hot tidally locked world that rains iron, and fossil records indicate that our days on Earth used to be much shorter.

(podcast link)

<figure>Observations of the star Betelgeuse taken by the ESO’s Very Large Telescope in January and December 2019, which show the star’s substantial dimming.ESO/M. Montargès et al.</figure>

Today’s news starts with a disappointing update on Betelgeuse. We are saddened to report that our favorite Red Supergiant shows no signs of going boom. After declining radically in brightness from October through January, Betelgeuse is now re-brightening in a perfectly normal way. New research from astronomers at the University of Washington and Lowell Observatory, and published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, finds that Betelgeuse’s fainting spell was due to the shedding of a cloud of dust.

During Betelgeuse’s decline in brightness, folks had speculated that the cause was likely either the effect of massive convective cells in the star’s atmosphere cooling and darkening at the surface, or the formation of dust. Both are perfectly normal behaviors for large stars, which lose bits of their atmospheres the way most of us not so young people lose our reading glasses. Only one measurement was needed to sort which scenario was true, but that one measurement was a doozy – scientists had to measure the temperature of Betelgeuse’s surface. If Betelgeuse was dim and warm – it was dust. Dim and cold, well, that’s convection. It turns out, Betelgeuse is one warm star. The physics of this is kind of cool. The star periodically puffs out parts of its atmosphere, and as this material drifts away from the star it cools and coalesces into dust. If Betelgeuse wasn’t running away from some past event on a rapid track through the solar system, this dust would form a nebula around Betelgeuse. Instead, it forms a train behind the star, making it impossible for us to determine how much dust this system has lost over time.

From one warm star we now move to one really hot planet.

<figure>Researchers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) have observed an extreme planet where they suspect it rains iron. The ultra-hot giant exoplanet has a day side where temperatures climb above 2400 degrees Celsius, high enough to vaporise metals. Strong winds carry iron vapour to the cooler night side where it condenses into iron droplets.</figure>

New observations collected with the Very Large Telescope in Chile have discovered that the planet WASP-76b likely experiences weather that is cloudy with a chance of iron rain.

This hot world is located 640 Light years away in the constellation Pisces and orbits a 6400 Kelvin star that is just a bit hotter than our Sun. What makes this system extraordinary is the location of the planet. It is so close to its star that it has become tidally locked to its star, so that the same side always faces the star. That starward side is estimated to be 2400 degrees Celsius, which is hot enough to vaporize metals like iron and form metal clouds that stream to the cooler side of the world. The temperature drops to 1400C on the night side of WASP 76b, and at this temperature the metal vapor condenses into droplets and rains. This implies puddles become sheets of metal and everything is coated in metal. This is both awesome and horrifying, and we feel safe saying no larger forms of life exist on this world, although no one can rule out bacteria, because bacteria like to adapt to the challenges geology gives them.

<figure></figure>

The kind of tidal effects that we see on WASP-76b affect orbits in fascinating ways. Here on Earth, we have a moon that is tidally locked so that we only see one side of the moon. This is because the more massive Earth was able to exert torques on the moon that brought it’s rotation into sync with its orbital period. The moon is trying to do the same to earth, but it’s smaller, so the process may take longer than our Earth will actually be pleasantly orbiting a normal Sun. Still, we can see hints that in the past the Earth’s days were far shorter, and now we have a pretty new example of just how short those days were. 70 Million years ago, at the end of the time of the dinosaurs, a bivalved mollusk captured the length of the day in the ridges in its shell. Using a laser beam to measure ridges too small for researchers to count with a microscope, this science team found that days appeared to be just 23.5 hours long and a year was 372 days long.

These day tracking ridges are giving scientists insights on how the tides, symbiotic relationships with photosynthesising critters, and other factors affected mollusk growth. It’s really cool to see research that hits so many different topics and we encourage you to go explore the links we have on DailySpace.org which discuss the bioscience of this story.

<———————>

And that rounds out our show for today. Tomorrow is Rocket Wednesday, and Pamela will be back with even more science on Thursday. As part of helping keep us all occupied in these really weird times, we’re going to be hosting a lot of additional content on our Twitch channel https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx , and we want to remind you that CosmoQuest has an active community on Discord where you can talk science and even find other people to join you in playing some online games. You can find links to everything that is going on at CosmoQuest.org.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay and the Daily Space is produced by me, Susie Murph. The Daily Space a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. The best way you can support us is through Patreon.com/cosmoquestx Like us? Please share us! You never know whose life you can change by adding a daily dose of science.


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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Betelgeuse is brightening back up after shedding a cloud of dust, WASP-76b turns out to be a super-hot tidally locked world that rains iron, and fossil records indicate that our days on Earth used to be much shorter.

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Blazar pointed right at us & Mars 2020 gets a name
Blazar pointed right at us & Mars 2020 gets a namemore_vert
2020-03-06T20:36:43+00:00
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Astronomers discover an active galaxy in the early universe, and NASA names the Mars 2020 Rover with an essay contest. Note: The show will be taking a week off next week.

(podcast link)

Hello, Friday! I just want to start this episode off with a reminder that we will be taking next week off to work on planning how to bring you all the news that would have been coming out during the Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conferences, but is now in limbo as coronavirus has cancelled that meeting and so many others.

Folks, it’s a weird world out there. Stock up on food and chocolate, and wash your hands.

I think everyone is a bit distracted at the moment, and there hasn’t been a lot of super exciting news.

<figure>Cosmic Jets Coming at You
This artist’s concept shows a “feeding,” or active, supermassive black hole with a jet streaming outward at nearly the speed of light. Such active black holes are often found at the hearts of elliptical galaxies. Not all black holes have jets, but when they do, the jets can be pointed in any direction. If a jet happens to shine at Earth, the object is called a blazar.

Blazars are categorized differently than other active black holes with jets because they have unique properties when viewed by telescopes. They give off a full range of light, dominated by high-energy gamma rays. As particles in the jets are accelerated to almost the speed of light, they give off a specific infrared signature, which NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) can detect. Astronomers have taken advantage of this fact, and used the WISE all-sky catalog to uncover more than 200 new blazars so far.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech</figure>

The most scientifically interesting news is the discovery of an active galaxy with massive jets pointed right at us. While that may sound dangerous, this particular object, a blazar named PSO J030947.49+271757.31, is located in the distant universe, and its light has been travelling toward us for some 12 billion years. These kinds of galaxies can only be detected when their jets are pointed in our direction. Statistically, if we find one blazar like this, there are going to be 100 more that are pointed in other directions. This implies there are a bunch of active galaxies already large are churning out star formation just 1 billion years after the universe formed. This object is the most distant source of persistent radio emission so far found. These results are published in the latest issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics and this work was led by Silvia Belladitta.

You’ll often hear us talk about how our stories come from a new article in one journal or another, and we work hard to make sure that we are either putting forward peer-reviewed science, or highlighting an event or pretty picture that may be of interest but doesn’t make science claims that need to be reviewed by peers.

<figure>https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:In_Peer_Review_We_Trust.jpg</figure>

This week we’ve had a bunch of people ask us about claims that a protein has been found in a meteor. We’ve seen reports of this on Twitter, but Twitter isn’t exactly a credible source of information. In trying to hunt down the original research, we found a preprint – a paper that is not yet published and is undergoing review, from a team of researchers led by Malcom McGeoch who lists his affiliation as PLEX LLC, but who isn’t listed on their website, and may actually be retired or something. Given the lack of peer review on this paper, and my inability to find out anything about the first author, we are going to hold off talking about the science of this paper until it’s made it through peer review. This science is outside my area of expertise, and this isn’t a case where I can say “I know this research team, so I’m going to give you a preview.” This isn’t to say the research is bad, or less likely to be true. It’s to say, I have no idea, and science as a process for this, so let’s wait for the process to take place.

<figure>This artist’s rendition depicts NASA’s Mars 2020 rover studying a Mars rock outrcrop.
The mission will not only seek out and study an area likely to have been habitable in the distant past, but it will take the next, bold step in robotic exploration of the Red Planet by seeking signs of past microbial life itself.

Mars 2020 will use powerful instruments to investigate rocks on Mars down to the microscopic scale of variations in texture and composition. It will also acquire and store samples of the most promising rocks and soils that it encounters, and set them aside on the surface of Mars. A future mission could potentially return these samples to Earth.
Mars 2020 is targeted for launch in July/August 2020 aboard an Atlas V-541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory builds and manages the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.
For more information about the mission, go tohttps://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech</figure>

OK, one final news note for the day. Yesterday, NASA announced that the Mars 2020 rover is going to be dubbed Perseverance. The winning essay associated with this name was written by Alexander Mather of Virginia and was 1 of 28,000 essays submitted. People on Twitter were quick to complain that this name is a bear to spell, and I’ll admit I misspelled it on my first try for this story, but… it is already looking like folks maybe shortening it to Percy. Don’t like either Perseverance or Percy? Well, Doug Ellison at JPL pointed out on Twitter that the Mars Science Laboratory team refers to Curiosity as “the rover,” or when it is being annoying as “the spacecraft”. So, here is to the other rover, launched in 2020, that some call Percy, having a successful launch later this year.

<———————>

And that rounds out our show for today.Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay. The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph, and is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at Patreon.com/cosmoquestx


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Daily Space 03/06/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Astronomers discover an active galaxy in the early universe, and NASA names the Mars 2020 Rover with an essay contest. Note: The show will be taking a week off next week. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Rocket Roundup for March 4, 2020
Rocket Roundup for March 4, 2020more_vert
2020-03-04T21:33:46+00:00
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No rockets launched this past week, but that doesn’t mean there’s no news! Susie recaps Astra’s launch attempt for the DARPA Launch Challenge and MEV-1’s successful capture of IS-901.

(podcast link)

<figure></figure>

On the second of March, Astra attempted to launch “One of Three” for the DARPA Launch Challenge. This would have been the first orbital launch for Astra, but the count was stopped at T-minus fifty-three seconds due to unexpected signals being received from the rocket’s guidance, navigation and control system. The launch was then held for the remainder of the three-hour window while technicians accessed the pad to ensure the rocket could maintain its launch-ready status and even replaced a “suspect ground transmitter” which would have been responsible for activating the flight termination system had the rocket gone off course or malfunctioned in flight. However, they were unable to resolve the issue with the sensor before the launch window closed.

<figure></figure>

Now normally, we don’t talk about rocket launches until after they happen. This launch is an exception because of its association with the DARPA Launch Challenge.

The DARPA Launch Challenge came into existence because the ability to launch at a moment’s notice has long been on the US military’s wish list. Specifically, the challenge was for a commercial rocket company to launch two rockets with different payloads from different locations into different orbits with very little notice.

Here’s a statement from DARPA’s website that explains the challenge in more detail: “Today, space launch is a process that begins years in advance, and it relies on a limited number of launch ranges that have complex, expensive, and one-of-a-kind, fixed infrastructure. The DARPA Launch Challenge is stressing the time, technology, systems, and processes that currently constrain access to space. The Challenge aims to minimize launch infrastructure, improve responsiveness, and take advantage of advances in commercial launch cadence to demonstrate flexible launch capabilities in days rather than years, for our nation’s defense.”

<figure> IMAGE: Astra employees remove the rocket fairing before installing the 3 small sats intended to ride aboard Rocket 3.0 CREDIT: DARPA</figure>

For the challenge, Astra was kept in the dark as to its first payload until late January. This was to ensure the company could make no major changes to its launcher to customize it for the payloads. Remember, the goal was to have a successful flight would demonstrate a capability to launch any payload -- not a specific payload. Additionally, Astra didn’t find out about the intended launch site until two weeks prior to the initial launch in order to demonstrate the company’s flexibility of deployment.

The selected launch site was the Pacific Spaceport Complex located at Narrow Cape on Kodiak Island, Alaska. Let’s face it: if you can launch from there, you can probably launch from anywhere. It’s remote, the temperatures in February and March hover around freezing, and there’s minimal launch infrastructure. The spaceport literally does not have the capabilities to launch anything bigger than a “small-lift” rocket. Rockets arrive either on barge or by plane, which is route that Astra decided to go with.

Astra’s entire launch system fits into a single large shipping container which can be flown by aircraft wherever it needs to go. That container first arrived in Alaska on 18 February, a day into the scheduled 14-day launch window. Because of a vicious winter storm that lasted more than a week, Astra requested and received an extension to the Challenge launch window.

Had this launch been successful, DARPA would have awarded the company $2 million. Astra would then have had two weeks to prepare to launch another set of payloads from a different site. If both launches were successful, the company would have earned an additional $10 million.

<figure></figure>

So, what now? No one won the challenge. The payloads were taken off the rocket and returned to their owners. While Astra claims they will continue to work towards demonstrating this capability, there is no word on when -- or if -- the scheduled payloads will be launched.

-------------------------------------------

Prometheus nanosat - Los Alamos National Laboratory for the Department of Defense: The shoebox-sized Prometheus nanosatellite is one of a series which have launched on other missions in the past. Los Alamos said prior to the exercise that this would have helped demonstrate capabilities aimed at “reducing tasking and data dissemination timelines to provide military operators with tactically relevant information.”

ARCE-1 - University of South Florida - Two identical CubeSats would have communicated with one another continuously in an effort to demonstrate the capability of LEO satellites in a larger constellation to adapt & adjust their missions in a largely autonomous fashion. The idea was to demonstrate technologies which would, according to DARPA, “gracefully handle faulty and failed satellites, and operate with a minimum of oversight from Earth-based operators.”

2nd Stage beacon - A miniature radio beacon is attached to the 2nd stage of the rocket, to assist in ground station tracking, and to improve current tracking and prediction of orbital objects. Essentially, this would provide something similar to the transponder beacon aboard airliners, which augments and assists ground radar tracking of aircraft. Among other things, this would allow ground-based technicians to correlate radar returns with beacon signals to refine orbital tracking data. This might be especially useful for objects which are tumbling, inconsistently colored, or have a lopsided center of mass.

The 2nd stage was expected to be left in orbit, to eventually decay and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere along a similar timeline to the satellite payloads themselves, essential making the rocket body itself the largest of four mission payloads.

<figure>https://twitter.com/Astra/status/1232068679220641793</figure><figure> IMAGE: Artist’s impression of the MEV-1 attached to the apogee motor of IS-901.
CREDIT: Northrop Grumman</figure>

For the first time ever, two satellites in a geosynchronous graveyard orbit have docked with one another. On Tuesday February 25th at 0215 EST / 0715 GMT, the MEV-1, or Mission Extension Vehicle, successfully autonomously docked with an aging commercial communications satellite, Intelsat 901 high above the Pacific Ocean.

IS-901, like many older geostationary (GEO) satellites, is still capable of performing its intended mission but is low on the fuel needed for attitude adjustment and station keeping. After its launch back in June of 2001, it served well beyond its planned 13 year lifespan, and was raised from its operational orbit to a GEO graveyard orbit late last year. The GEO graveyard orbit is the nearest convenient place to decommission GEO satellites to keep them out of the way of currently operational satellites. Thanks to the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun, the orbit of these satellites becomes inclined and increasingly distant over time, further decreasing the chance of them interfering with spacecraft lower down.

Knowing that fuel was running low, Intelsat signed on with SpaceLogistics LLC (a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman) to have IS-901 become the first craft to test a design where an otherwise operational spacecraft could have its mission extended by docking with MEV-1, which would provide the needed fuel and thruster control to keep IS-901 properly orientated in space.

<figure>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rgglvA5DdI IMAGE: MEV-1 mission profile video CREDIT: Northrop-Grumman (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiTTe3mBodoZVGVhQDpEFjg)</figure>

The mission profile of the MEV-1 is simple in theory: launch to space with plenty of fuel and a robust attitude control and navigational system. Then, meet up with a target satellite in orbit, latch on, and for the next five years provide the target satellite with stantion-keeping services it simply cannot provide for itself. But if rocket science has taught us anything, it’s that execution is sometimes much more difficult than theory.

The MEV-1 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan last October and spent several months using its low-impulse ion engines to reach the proper orbit. It finally arrived in the neighborhood of IS-901 back on the 5th of February, and after taking several pictures of the target, ground controllers gave the green light. MEV-1 then used its higher-powered, more responsive liquid fueled jets to approach IS-901 from the spaceward or apogee side of the craft, first parking at an 80 meter distance, then again at 20 meters away. At each pause, ground controllers reviewed the data sent back and gave the GO for the craft’s next phase; each time the craft received the GO it executed its next phase autonomously without help from the ground.

Finally approaching to within 5 meters, the MEV-1 extended a long probe into the throat of the apogee engine nozzle of the IS-901 spacecraft. Once inside several mechanical fingers deployed, grabbing IS-901 and pulling the two craft physically into contact.

<figure> IMAGE: (L) IS-901, as seen from the MEV-1 prior to docking on 25 Feb. Note the apparent size of Earth from this distance, as well as the north-south orientation of IS-901’s solar panels. (R) A view of the MEV-1’s capture probe as it extends into the engine nozzle of IS-901
CREDIT: Northrop-Grumman</figure>

The MEV-1 is now in the process of returning IS-901 back down into the Clarke belt, where it will operate over the Atlantic Ocean at a longitude of 27 degrees West. It should complete this maneuver by the end of this month, performing various operational checks as it goes. Intelsat is reportedly paying $13 million per year for this operation, as compared to initial construction and launch costs of reportedly over $700 million for a planned life of 13 years. Once the five years are up, MEV-1 will return IS-901 to graveyard orbit, then move on to another customer to provide the same service. The craft is reportedly able to perform this same five year mission for up to three separate satellites.

The operation went so smoothly that Intelsat has announced that MEV-2 will perform its docking maneuver while the target satellite is still in GEO, rather than moving that satellite into a graveyard orbit. MEV-2 is expected to launch in June of this year from French Guiana along with Intelsat’s new Galaxy 30 spacecraft aboard an Ariane V.

However, despite the apparent success, Northrop-Grumman has no plans to build additional MEV’s. Instead, they are focusing on developing Mission Robotic Vehicles. Rather than acting like a tugboat for out-of-fuel satellites, these Mission Robotic Vehicles (also known as MRVs) will act more like an in-flight adjustment and refuel service. Using a device called Mission Extension Pod, the MRVs will be able to autonomously refuel a satellite before undocking and moving on to the next customer.

That said, Northrop-Grumman has said there is nothing preventing them from constructing other MEV’s if market demand exists.

<figure></figure>

Last but not least, SpaceX’s Starship SN1 imploded during testing on February 28.

<figure>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYeVnGL7fgw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYeVnGL7fgw Will replay a couple of times
Related: https://youtu.be/U4C0wfRSUNQ</figure><figure> ….as well as this day-after picture from Space Padre Isle on Twitter.
https://twitter.com/SpacePadreIsle/status/1233768171724775425</figure>

To wrap things up, here’s a running tally of a few spaceflight statistics for the year:

  • Toilets burned up: 1
  • Total new satellites in orbit: 245
  • Total satellites from launches: 231

I keep track of orbital launches by where they launched from. Here’s that breakdown:

  • Total launches: 16
  • USA: 5
  • China: 3
  • French Guiana: 2
  • New Zealand: 1
  • Russia: 1
  • Japan: 1
  • Kazakhstan: 1
  • Iran: 1

Your useless space fact for the week comes from Dave himself: Statistically, at the fastest speeds humans have ever traveled, the radiation OF THEIR OWN BODIES would give them cancer before they reach the closest star.

To wrap things up, here’s a running tally of a few spaceflight statistics for the year.

So far, only one toilet has burned up in the atmosphere. There are 245 new satellites in orbit, with 231 of those launched by 16 rockets.

By spaceport, here’s the breakdown of those rocket launches:

<figure></figure>

And that rounds out our show for today.Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Annie Wilson and Dave Ballard. The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph. This has been a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at patreon.com/cosmoquestx


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Daily Space 03/04/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. No rockets launched this past week, but that doesn’t mean there’s no news! Susie recaps Astra’s launch attempt for the DARPA Launch Challenge and MEV-1’s successful capture of IS-901. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Cotton-Candy Super Puffs, the warped Milky Way Galaxy, and Conference Chaos
Cotton-Candy Super Puffs, the warped Milky Way Galaxy, and Conference Chaosmore_vert
2020-03-03T20:59:43+00:00
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Cotton-Candy Super Puffs, the warped Milky Way Galaxy, and Conference Chaos 2020-03-03T20:59:43+00:00close

This week’s news is weird. Cotton-Candy exoplanets called SuperPuffs may have rings, the Milky Way Galaxy may have been warped by a major collision, and conference cancellations and uncertainty are overwhelming the news this week.

(podcast link)

<figure>Artist’s conception of a ringed planet transiting in front of its host star by Robin Dienel and courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science.</figure>

Today’s first story uses words in ways I was not prepared to encounter in a press release. Astronomers have announced, and I quote, “‘cotton-candy-like’ exoplanets called super-puffs may actually have rings, according to new research published in The Astronomical Journal by Carnegie’s Anthony Piro and Caltech’s Shreyas Vissapragada.” Apparently, the one time astronomers decided to give something an awesome name and description, it is food- and fashion-related.

So what is a ‘super-puff’? If you try googling, you will learn it is one of the big puffy quilted jackets made popular by Eddie Bauer and Lululemon. If you google ‘super-puff planet’, you’ll find out they are planets whose size has been measured by studying how they transit their host star, and whose mass has been measured from how they gravitationally interact with their stars, and according to these combined measurements, have disturbingly low densities. I actually remember the first one being announced back in 2014, and talking to other folks about how the announced 0.1 grams per cubic centimeter masses being found simply made no sense. As our earlier quote implies, this is a bit like making a planet the density of cotton candy.

For some reason, we didn’t immediately jump to the thought “but what if these worlds have rings that make it seem like they are way bigger than they are and distort our measurements?” Well, while this didn’t occur to me or the speaker I remember listening to, it did occur to Piro and Vissapragada who have calculated that some but not all of the super puffs observed could be explained with familiar ring systems, and that with high enough quality observations, we may be able to observe the difference between a ringed world, and puffed-out world. Unfortunately, we’re going to need to wait for JWST to make those observations. For now, it’s comforting to know that these worlds have down-to-Earth – or at least down-to-Saturn – explanation.

<figure>The structure of our galaxy, the Milky Way.</figure>

Our second story of the day is one that actually sent me searching through my press releases, because it seems to be an update on prior results. A team using Gaia data to study the structure of our Milky Way galaxy has published a new paper in the journal Nature Astronomy, describing the warp of our galaxy and attributing it to a collision. Now, in general, galactic warps are thought to pretty much always come from a collision, so by itself this isn’t all that newsworthy. This team actually buried the lede, however, and in the third section of the release they contend that the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy might just be driving this warp with its ongoing merger into the Milky Way. Gaia’s amazingly precise measurements of stellar positions and motions have allowed them to not just trace out the shape of the Milky Way’s warp, but to also measure how it is moving. They have determined that the warp itself will appear to make one full precession about the galaxy every 600-700 million years, as it’s constitution stars move around our galaxy in bobbing orbits. The warp itself moves slower than the stars, which can complete a cycle in 200-300 million years. This story takes a known concept – collisions make warps – and paints in amazing details, showing once again that science is an incremental process.

<figure></figure>

This week is proving to be a slow news week, and I think that is in part triggered by so many people having a ‘WTF is going on with the world’ kind of week. Over the weekend, the American Physical Society cancelled their annual meeting less than a day before events for slated to start. Money was already spent, and a lot of people had already traveled. This triggered a collective scramble to figure out what other meetings are at risk, and we’re seeing a wild interest in sorting how to hold remote meetings. As we’ve mentioned before, our team is planning to take off next week so we can plan our coverage of the annual Lunar and Planetary Meeting in Houston. At this time that meeting is still planned. In looking into things, however, we’ve learned that many hotels and event centers don’t rationally allow cancellation for emergency unless it is within hours or days of the events start. This means we can tell you LPSC is still on, but it could be cancelled at the last minute as well, depending on how the corona virus evolves. We will do what we can to bring you the news, meeting or no meeting.

<———————>

And that rounds out our show for today.Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay. The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph, and is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at Patreon.com/cosmoquestx


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Daily Space 03/03/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. This week’s news is weird. Cotton-Candy exoplanets called SuperPuffs may have rings, the Milky Way Galaxy may have been warped by a major collision, and conference cancellations and uncertainty are overwhelming the news this week. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Galactic Magnetic field, Chonky White Dwarf, & Earth’s Moonshine shows life
Galactic Magnetic field, Chonky White Dwarf, & Earth’s Moonshine shows lifemore_vert
2020-03-02T19:53:36+00:00
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Today’s news includes Pulsars being used to detect the Milky Way’s magnetic field, how a seriously oversized white dwarf was able to form, and new science about the search for alien atmospheres that was done in a Lunar Eclipse.

(podcast link)

Today’s news is of the awesome and straightforward and why didn’t we think of that before variety, and it’s all so awesome it is hard to figure out where to start. For lack of a better reason, let’s go with the prettiest story first.

<figure>Globular cluster 47 Tuc (upper right) and the Small Magellanic Cloud in the same field-of-view. The inset is a close-up of the cluster showing the detected magnetic field in a colour scale. The lines indicate the effect of the Galactic wind on the magnetic field.
© ESO/VISTA VMC (background image); F. Abbate et al., Nature Astronomy (inset)</figure>

One of the most beautiful and confusing globular clusters associated with our Galaxy is 47 Tucana or Tuc, a Southern Hemisphere system that can be seen right off the edge of the much larger Small Magellanic Cloud. This system of millions of stars is both one of the largest and oddest globular clusters we have locally. Unlike other systems, 47 Tuc appears to have undergone multiple periods of star formation, has gas in the cluster, and it just might have a black hole in its center. The weirdo system is home to numerous pulsars, and it is this population of spinning neutron stars that makes 47 Tuc the perfect laboratory to test for galactic magnetic fields.

47 Tuc is located 13,000 ly away in the galactic halo. It had been unclear how much of an effect that our Milky Way’s magnetic field might have at this distance. We simply hadn’t had a way to measure it! Well, thanks to new Parkes Radio telescope observations of this system’s 25 pulsars, we see the presence of a strong magnetic field that is running perpendicular to the galactic disk. This can be seen in how their signals are spread out across different frequencies by the magnetic fields as a function of where they are in the cluster. Pulsars on the far side of the cluster have their signals dispersed more than pulsars on the near side. This strong field was surprising, and it appears that the magnetic field is amplified by interactions of the galactic wind and the cluster material. This was observationally a challenging result to get at, but the physics is straight forward – look at how a magnetic field interacts with a blob of stars in gas. Replicated this result might be tricky however. This kind of dispersion is possible in systems like 47 Tuc that have gas, but … there really aren’t other systems like 47 Tuc.

Still, even if we can’t replicate this result using other globular clusters, this result does confirm our galaxy has one heck of an extensive magnetic field. This work appears in the journal Nature and was led by Frederico Abbate.

From one set of dead stars to another, we now turn from prolific pulsars to overweight white dwarf stars.

<figure>Artist’s impression of two white dwarfs in the process of merging. Depending on the combined mass, the system may explode in a thermonuclear supernova, or coalesce into a single heavy white dwarf, as with WDJ0551+4135. This image is free for use if used in direct connection with this story but image copyright and credit must be University of Warwick/Mark Garlick</figure>

In new research coming out of Warwick University, an surprisingly large white dwarf has been found in data from the Gaia mission. This system, cataloged as WDJ 0551+4135, appears to be the result of a stellar merger that just squeaked in under the supernova triggering weight limit. And not only was this star made in a stellar merger, but it appears to be the merger of two small white dwarf stars.

Folks, the more we look at the universe, the more weird stuff we’re going to find.

This bloated star was observed in detail by the William Herschel telescope and found to have a surface composition of both Hydrogen and Carbon. While these elements are common on white dwarfs, they aren’t generally found together. Carbon white dwarfs are formed in the deaths of larger stars that start out a few solar masses in size, and hydrogen come from smaller stars. To see both… means both kinds of stars were born and died and merged. And somehow didn’t explode. This star appears to be 1.14 solar masses – twice the average of a white dwarf – and these systems max out and go boom at 1.4 solar masses. This is turning into the academic year when we learn stars just like to merge, and this is a pretty common thing in our universe.

<figure>Snapshot spectra of terrestrial molecular oxygen and water vapor absorption. Intensity is plotted versus wavelength in Angstroem. Time increases from bottom up as indicated in UT hh:mm:ss. Immediately noticeable is the dramatic increase of O2and H2O absorption during eclipse (central four spectra) with respect to outside eclipse (other spectra). Oxygen molecules create the so-called A-band at 7600 Å, H2O is seen as myriads of individual absorption lines in the range 7850–9100 Å. Credit: AIP/Strassmeier</figure>

In our final story of the day, scientists trying to learn how our planet’s atmosphere might appear to other worlds have finally sorted a clever experiment. When we measure the compositions of alien atmospheres, we do it by looking for their star’s light to pass through their atmospheres, and then we measure their atmosphere as the difference between starlight and starlight plus atmosphere. Compositions are measured with spectrographs that allow us to see the complex dips and wiggles in the random of light from a system. This isn’t pretty science. This is science by graph.

In January 2019, astronomers pointed the Large Binocular Telescope at the moon during a lunar eclipse and looked at the blood red moon that was illuminated strictly by sunlight that had been bent through the Earth’s atmosphere. As the eclipse progressed, astronomers were able to make out more and more elements and molecules in our atmosphere in the reflected sunlight. It is clear that distant observers would be able to see that we have an atmosphere rich in molecular oxygen and water vapor, as well as elements like sodium, calcium, and potassium. And I have to admit, I didn’t know all those elements were in our atmosphere because they aren’t anywhere near the top of the atmosphere’s ingredient list. This is an experiment we can do under different conditions to build a good understanding of just how eclipses can reveal our world’s hidden characteristics. Our world after all, is just one of 1000s in our galaxy, and if we can figure out how we look, it will help us understand how we see others.

<———————>

And that rounds out our show for today.Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay. The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph, and is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at Patreon.com/cosmoquestx


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Daily Space 03/02/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. Today’s news includes Pulsars being used to detect the Milky Way’s magnetic field, how a seriously oversized white dwarf was able to form, and new science about the search for alien atmospheres that was done in a Lunar Eclipse. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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The AGN Outburst we won’t call an explosion and a rock around the Earth
The AGN Outburst we won’t call an explosion and a rock around the Earthmore_vert
2020-02-28T20:13:27+00:00
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The AGN Outburst we won’t call an explosion and a rock around the Earth 2020-02-28T20:13:27+00:00close

Today we give a close look to the science behind that “Exploding Galaxy” filling all our feeds. Short version? Nothing exploded, but it’s still really cool. We also talk about a tiny rock (or rocket bit) that has been found dancing around the Earth.

(podcast link)

<figure></figure>

Today’s top story flooded our feeds yesterday’s with news that astronomers had detected the biggest explosion ever seen in our universe, and this explosion is said to have lasted hundreds of millions of years. This statement left our resident astronomer, Dr Pamela, a bit confused, so she dug into the literature to put together today’s story.

In 2009, a paper by Perez-Torres et al described the hot and massive Ophiuchus galaxy cluster as the second brightest X-Ray source in the sky. Further work in 2016 by Wener et al found that X-Ray emission, associated with the extremely hot dense gas in the center of the cluster, has a weird hollowed-out dent in the side, as though someone had blown a bubble just outside the galaxy, and that bubble had pushed against the dense X-ray emitting gas.

Now, there are a lot of galaxy clusters with dented X-Ray emission that can be linked to Radio bright jets blowing bubbles outside of an active galaxy. The biggest of these are caused by AGN Outbursts. AGN, or active galactic nuclei, are the family of objects that quasars belong to, and they are the result of super massive black holes in the centers of galaxies feeding on material in hot dense accretion disc that is so hot and so dense it can be undergoing nuclear reactions, and generating a powerful magnetic field that flings electrons out the rotational poles of the system. Now, if that doesn’t sound wild enough, these systems can sometimes experience what is called an AGN outburst. During these events several solar masses of material can rapidly fall into the supermassive black hole, and as this happens, the associated accretion disc will also have strong jets that blast out of the core, and when they hit the intracluster medium, they will form shockwaves and blow bubbles filled with radio emission.

Well, when Wener and company looked at the Ophiuchus cluster and saw the dented X-Ray gas, scientifically referred to as a concave edge, they did calculations on how much energy would be needed to dent that much gas, and concluded the answer was along the lines of “More than is rational- this concave edge surely is something else.”

But not everyone was ready to give up on the idea of a massive powerful AGN outburst creating a massive dent in the X-Ray emitting gas. A new team did follow up observations to see if the radio emission that is characteristic of a bubble-blowing AGN was present. In a new paper in the Astrophysical Journal, written by a team led by Simona Giacintucci, they combine Chandra and XMM-Newton X-ray data with Murchison Widefield Array and Giant Metrewave Radio data, to definitively show that you should never say “That would require too much energy” when it comes to supermassive black holes, because they will rise to your challenge. This new data shows the perfect match of radio and X-Ray data to definitively say that there was indeed an AGN outburst, and it lasted for some 100s of millions of years.

Now here is where an attempt to make this story more click-worthy by using loaded language may lead to some confusion. In a lot of what we’re seeing written about this system, people are referring to this outburst as an explosion. Now, I don’t know if there is a scientific definition of an explosion that this matches, but I can tell you this isn’t what any normal person would call an explosion. In this system, a disc of material rapid-fire fed a supermassive black hole, and in the process, it spun up a magnificent magnetic field, and much destruction occurred. I wouldn’t exactly call this a controlled process, but it was something like feeding a fire hose with a flooded dam’s output channel – you knew where everything was flowing, but it was doing it in a way that damaged everything in the process.

This flood of material has stopped for reasons we may never know, and the sloshing around of material, and the jets, and everything else that flood triggered has also stopped. We only see the cooling carnage on one side of the once active galaxy. The other side is thought to have maybe been less dense an area, and the region the jet hit may have already cooled so much we can’t see it in the radio images. This is not an active galaxy. This is a formerly active galaxy that now sites in the center of the mess it made.

There are a lot of articles saying this is the most powerful explosion ever seen, and we also want to point out the 2 key words in this phrase – “ever seen”. The sky is big, and it takes a huge amount of effort to see things in this level of detail. This particular system is only 390 million light-years away, which in the vastness of the universe, is right next door. In the past – which we see as galaxies that are further away with light that takes longer to reach us – active galactic nuclei were much more common. While this is the most powerful AGN outburst seen so far, that doesn’t mean it’s unique. It just means it’s the biggest we’ve found so far, and as we keep looking, we should find more, and even bigger, bubbles getting blown by black hole accretion disks as supermassive black holes gobble up material on their way to hugeness.

Alright… that was a lot, and we are only going to look at one more story today, and it is a small story. A very small story in fact.

<figure></figure>

Astronomers of all kinds are currently fascinated by a tiny object with a crazy orbit around our world. This tiny thing is of unknown composition, and is speculated to probably be a little asteroid but maybe be a big piece of space junk. Discovered by folks at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory as part of the Catalina Sky Survey, this object, cataloged as 2020 CD3, is only temporary, so if you have access to a fairly large telescope – like 30” or more – now is your time to get out or get online and start pointing at this crazily moving target. It is only about 6 – 12 feet or 2 – 3.5 meters in size, and is consistent with in appearance with a carbon-rich asteroid – but like we said, a few folks are speculating this is debris of some sort, so we’re not going to rule that out.

This object isn’t in a stable orbit, and while it mathematically looks like it’s probably been with us for 3 years, it may not be around in another 3 years, but will instead most likely depart our world and head off to explore new parts of the solar system through a fluke of orbital mechanics. This kind of an object, called a minimoon, isn’t thought to be rare – we probably have one of these random rocks orbiting our world at any given time. That said, seeing these things is hard, and happening to be looking in just the right place at just the right time and doing what is needed to see these hard-to-see objects … that’s the challenge. Our hats are off to the folks at Catalina for this cool discovery, and we look forward to learning the rock….or maybe rocket part’s … future.

<———————>

And that rounds out our show for today.Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay. The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph, and is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at Patreon.com/cosmoquestx


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Daily Space 02/28/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX.Today we give a close look to the science behind that “Exploding Galaxy” filling all our feeds. Short version? Nothing exploded, but it’s still really cool. We also talk about a tiny rock (or rocket bit) that has been found dancing around the Earth. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Learning from Rocks & a Pretty Planetary Nebula
Learning from Rocks & a Pretty Planetary Nebulamore_vert
2020-02-27T20:29:56+00:00
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In today’s episode we learn about how the lucky train of events that delivered a rock from Vesta to scientists on Earth allows us to study volcanism on an asteroid. We also look at how melty silicate rocks of the past may have started Earth’s magnetic field early in our planet’s past. Although not a rock, we also talk about what we’re learning from a stunning new image of a planetary nebula.

(podcast link)

<figure></figure>

Today we start with a look at Vesta, the number 2 asteroid in the main belt and the largest of the “not even a dwarf planet” objects in the inner solar system. This 525 km across rock was imaged in detail by the Dawn mission and can be chemically studied thanks to a wealth of meteorites that have been broken off through past impacts and flung at Earth. In a new paper in Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, scientists study the history of Vesta by looking at these samples and the craters they may have come from.

The lab analysis of these meteorites showed that Vesta was volcanically active for 30 million years after its formation 4.6 billion years ago. It wasn’t anticipated that this small of an object could have volcanism for this long. In general, the heat needed for liquid magma to exist is either left over from the formation of an object or comes from the decay of radioactive elements, like aluminium 26. By the time 30 million years had passed, all that aluminium would have decayed away. In trying to explain the prolonged volcanism, they speculate that maybe magma survived in slower-cooling regions of the asteroid’s crust.

This is all cool, but it actually isn’t the most interesting part of this research. The cool part is in how those magma-turned rock samples made it to Earth. It turns out that about 1 billion years after its formation, Vesta experienced a large impact that dug a deep crater where those volcanoes had been, and tossed samples of that region our direction. They weren’t all flung this way randomly, however. The team behind this paper, led by Fred Jourdan, believe all that dug up debris would have formed a rubble-pile asteroid – think Bennu or Ryugu – and this configuration protected the material until in recent times it could get knocked off, and sent to Earth as meteorites.

So, to sum this crazy tale up, 4.5 billion years ago, Vesta formed, and for 30 million years it had active volcanoes. At some point after the volcanism turned off, something large hit Vesta right were those last erupting volcanoes had been located, and that event carved up a massive amount of material. That material THEN gravitationally came together to form a rubble pile asteroid that protected the rocks from those volcanoes for billions of years, until something knocked them off and sent them to Earth, where they were found by someone among all the other rocks on our planet, identified as a meteorite, and chemically matched to the composition of Vesta, then studied… and now published in a research paper.

Go team. This shows just what has to sometimes happen for science to happen, and now we know it took longer for Vesta to completely cool off and solidify then we previously thought.

<figure></figure>

I’m generally not into rocks, but I have to admit that we can learn an amazing amount of science by studying all the different physical properties of rocks. In another paper centered on rocks, we learn that our own Earth may have had a massive magma ocean 4 billion to 2.5 billion years ago. Our world is still hot – nuclear decays across the depths of our planet continue to generate heat that churns our planet’s internal heat flows. Today, this churning magma – specifically Earth’s outer liquid iron / nickel core – plays a key role in generating Earth’s magnetic field. Historically, however, this was not the source.

Figuring out the origins of the Earth’s magnetic field hasn’t been easy, and scientists have struggled to figure out how our planet went from a generic lump of melty rocks to being a coherent planet with a well defined magnetic field. In new research coming out in Nature Communications, planetary scientists have used computer models to figure out that the early Earth would have had a massive molten silicates – minerals that include silicon. Lead author Lars Strixrude modeled how these minerals behave had high temperatures and found that they are conductive enough to generate magnetic fields. While these silicates cooled and solidified over the Earth’s first few billion years, they were liquid long enough to allow the Earth’s increasingly turbulent core to reach a point where it could take over magnetic field generation.

That hand-off from the Earth’s magnetic field coming from a liquid silicate dynamo to later coming from a liquid iron/nickel dynamo allowed our world to have magnetism from as early as possible, and more-or-less continually to the present day. This has protected our evolving atmosphere, and made life possible. This physics doesn’t look like it will be unique to our world. While Earth is unusually dense because of how it was formed, and has an unusually large iron/nickel core, this kind of a silicate magma driven magnetism could be common on super earths. These larger worlds would have longer lasting silicate magma seas. These are also the most common smaller worlds that we’ve found, and we now see amazing ways those worlds could be a bit safer for life.

<figure></figure>

Our final story of the day has nothing to with rocks. It’s a pretty picture of the Planetary Nebulae CVMP 1. This leaned over hourglass shape was formed by a star similar to our Sun or perhaps a bit bigger that puffed off its outer atmosphere toward the end of its life, and then collapsed down to leave a cooling white dwarf in its place. This white dwarf is currently 130,000 degrees Celsius and gives off enough high energy light to ionize the gas you’re seeing. As the white dwarf cools, this nebula will eventually fade away, but for now it can be seen in striking detail in this new image from the Gemini South telescope in Chile. From formation to death, it’s thought planetary nebula may persist for only 10,000 years, and scientists studying this image believe that CVMP 1 may be an elder planetary nebula that will allow scientists to study the latter millennia of Planetary nebulae evolution.

<———————>

And that rounds out our show for today.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Pamela Gay. The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph, and is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at Patreon.com/cosmoquestx


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Daily Space 02/27/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. In today’s episode we learn about how the lucky train of events that delivered a rock from Vesta to scientists on Earth allows us to study volcanism on an asteroid. We also look at how melty silicate rocks of the past may have started Earth’s magnetic field early in our planet’s past. Although not a rock, we also talk about what we’re learning from a stunning new image of a planetary nebula. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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Rocket Roundup for Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020
Rocket Roundup for Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020more_vert
2020-02-26T19:38:54+00:00
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There were only two launches this week! Annie chats about China’s rocket launch amid the coronavirus outbreak, Russia’s newest Meridian-M satellite, and Molniya orbits.

(podcast link)

<figure></figure>

Our first launch of the week was in China. Amid the COVID-19 epidemic, a Long March 2D rocket took off carrying the XJS (C – F) mission on Wednesday, February 19 at 9:07 PM (UTC).

<figure>Image source: Official CASC WeChat page https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/42oHCCn7u4L7T3IhCOHI9Q</figure>

This launch took place at the Xichang Space Center in southwestern China and is interesting for a couple of reasons. For one, this launch center doesn’t usually perform launches of this particular rocket type and primarily handles launches of the Long March 3. Normally the Long March 2s fly from either Jiquan, or from the Taiyuan space centers, both in northern China. This is the first space launch for China since the recent coronavirus outbreak became worldwide news. Most of China’s various space facilities have taken a number of precautionary measures to limit the spread of the disease, such as employing body temperature monitors and requiring everyone to wear face masks.

As is often the case, there’s not a lot of other information about this launch. What we do know is that four technology demonstration satellites were carried into low Earth orbit. While not much is known about the specific operations of these spacecraft, CASC reports that they will mainly focus on testing new Earth observation technologies, as well as inter-satellite communications between the members of the constellation.

This isn’t the greatest quality launch footage, but it shows the command room and the workers inside. They are all wearing masks to conform with disease prevention standards. Annie felt that it was important to share the human side of this rocket launch.

<figure>Images from Guizhou Radio and Television News Center, shared on Chinese social media site Weibo https://www.weibo.com/5550357934/Iv4DQkTs1?type=comment#_rnd1582571780608</figure>

Because China launches from inland rather than a coastline, debris fell to land. Guizhou Radio and Television reported no major casualties or property damage and that the recovery process was successful.

<figure></figure>

Next up, on Thursday, February 20 at 08:25 UTC, the Russian Military launched a Soyuz-2 with the Meridian-M 19L satellite.

<figure>Image from Roscosmos Twitter: https://twitter.com/roscosmos/status/1230497305071104000</figure>

At first glance, it looks like this mission went completely nominally. THAT’S NOT THE CASE! This launch was originally scheduled for January 24th, but during pre-flight checks it was discovered that the Soyuz third stage — the upper of the two center core stages — had an electrical problem. After inspection, technicians decided to replace the third stage ENTIRELY rather than try to repair the one in place. That meant rolling the rocket back to its assembly building, UNSTACKING ALL OF THE PARTS, then bringing the new third stage in, and putting it all back together again!

This combined with the launch windows available for the spacecraft’s intended orbit delayed launch by almost a month. The Soyuz 2.1a rocket with a Fregat upper stage and the new third stage finally took off from the Russian military’s Plesetsk Cosmodrome, located about 800 km / 550 mi north of Moscow. The launch successfully put the spacecraft into a highly elliptical, highly inclined orbit. I’ll talk more about that orbit in a second.

The satellite launched last Thursday was the second of an upgraded batch of Meridian Ms, the 1st of which was launched back in 2018. They are designed to work within the Russian military’s Integrated Satellite Communications System (ISCS), which provides uplink and downlink support for services and satellite tracking and control via Raduga and Globus satellites in geosynchronous orbit. A total of nine Meridian satellites have been launched since 2006; seven have apparently been successful, while one was deployed into the wrong orbit in 2009, and another was lost during a launch failure in 2011.

Space is hard, people: space is hard.

In any case, the new satellite is part of a system that will help allow, among other things, broad, persistent coverage of high Arctic areas. The Russian military suggested that among other possible missions, Arctic ice reconnaissance planes communicating voice and survey data back to distant ground stations could be done via this satellite network.

<———————>

<figure>LEFT: View of an example Molniya orbit, showing a spacecraft’s motion over time and its inclination relative to the Equator
RIGHT: An example ground track for a Molniya orbit. Most of a Molniya satellite time will be spent over the small loops in the ground track, giving excellent views of the higher latitudes. Images from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molniya_orbit</figure>

Okay, on to that odd orbit:

Normally when we cover satellite launches, the satellites involved are put into mostly circular orbits. The ISS, Starlink, and GPS satellites are all placed in circular or near-circular orbits to accomplish their missions. However, the Meridian satellites are placed in a Molniya orbit, which is highly elliptical and highly inclined.

And here, when we say elliptical we don’t mean a tiny bit egg-shaped: we’re straight into “severely stretched” territory, with altitudes ranging from 600 to nearly 40,000 km above Earth! Take that long oval of an orbit and place it at a 63 degree angle relative to Earth’s equator, and you get the highly inclined orbit. But why would you even do this to a satellite?

Thanks to orbital mechanics, a Molniya orbit is uniquely suited to providing useful satellite coverage for Earth observation and communications services needed by ground terminals operating in high northern latitudes. Those areas are not easily serviceable from satellites in the typical geosynchronous orbits over the equator because any antenna you’re using would be pointing at such a low angle that a small hill could easily block the path of the signal. And even though polar orbiting satellites can see these same latitudes, they only have coverage of any given spot for several minutes at a time. The Molniya orbit is inclined in such a way that the desired areas are not only clearly visible, the satellite is able to “pause” for a time at its highest point thanks to orbital mechanics, which provides several hours of uninterrupted coverage that LEO and GEO satellites simply can’t match.

To wrap things up, here’s a running tally of a few spaceflight statistics for the year.

So far, only one toilet has burned up in the atmosphere. There are 245 new satellites in orbit, with 231 of those launched by 16 rockets.

By spaceport, here’s the breakdown of those rocket launches:

<figure></figure>
  • USA: 5
  • China: 3
  • French Guiana: 2
  • New Zealand: 1
  • Russia: 1
  • Japan: 1
  • Kazakhstan: 1
  • Iran: 1

Your useless space fact for the week comes from refsmmat, who shared that all payloads carried by the Space Shuttle had to be balanced by carrying lots of lead ballast into orbit and bringing it back again. That lead ballast served no other purpose.

<———————>

And that rounds out our show for today.

Thank you all for listening. Today’s script was written by Annie Wilson and Dave Ballard. The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph, and is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at Patreon.com/cosmoquestx


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Daily Space 02/26/2020

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The #DailySpace brings you the universe at 10am PST / 1pm EST / 5pm GMT on twitch.tv/CosmoQuestX. There were only two launches this week!  Annie chats about China's rocket launch amid the coronavirus outbreak, Russia's newest Meridian-M satellite, and Molniya orbits. Want to support CosmoQuest? Here are specific ways you can help: * Subscribe FREE to our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/cosmoquest * Subscribe to our podcasts Astronomy Cast and Daily Space where ever you get your podcasts! * Watch our streams over on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/cosmoquestx - follow and subscribe! * Become a Patreon of CosmoQuest https://www.patreon.com/cosmoquestx * Become a Patreon of Astronomy Cast https://www.patreon.com/astronomycast * Sponsor 365 Days of Astronomy http://bit.ly/sponsor365DoA * Buy stuff from our Redbubble https://www.redbubble.com/people/cosmoquestx *Join our Discord server for CosmoQuest - https://discord.gg/4g35wpW *Join the Weekly Space Hangout Crew! - http://www.wshcrew.space/

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