"Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances."

— Dr. Lee De Forest

Astronomy

Cosmonaut Muhammed Faris, first Syrian in space, dies at 72

Space.com - Sat, 04/20/2024 - 11:00am
Muhammed Faris, who was the first cosmonaut from Syria and second Arab to fly into space, has died at the age of 72.
Categories: Astronomy

This Week In Space podcast: Episode 107 — Mars Sample Return Blues

Space.com - Sat, 04/20/2024 - 10:27am
On Episode 107 of This Week In Space, Rod and Tariq talk with journalist Leonard David about NASA's troubled Mars sample return mission.
Categories: Astronomy

Lego Star Wars Millennium Falcon (2024) review

Space.com - Sat, 04/20/2024 - 10:00am
Lego's latest Millennium Falcon model certainly isn't a hunk of junk, as Luke Skywalker famously called the ship in 'Star Wars: A New Hope.'
Categories: Astronomy

New Minecraft ‘Heat Dragon’ Quest Has Gamers Fight Climate Villain

Scientific American.com - Sat, 04/20/2024 - 10:00am

A new video game puts climate solution tools in the hands of up to 80 million Minecraft players

Categories: Astronomy

Those magic minutes during April 8's solar eclipse brought me to tears

Space.com - Sat, 04/20/2024 - 9:00am
As a TV reporter and meteorologist, I experienced some pretty incredible things in my career. But the 2024 total solar eclipse in Dallas left me in awe and with unforgettable emotions like I've never seen or felt before.
Categories: Astronomy

Everything we know about 'The Fantastic Four'

Space.com - Sat, 04/20/2024 - 8:00am
After several years in development and pre-production at Marvel Studios, The Fantastic Four is finally coming to the big screen in 2025. Here's all we know.
Categories: Astronomy

What’s the Most Effective Way to Explore our Nearest Stars?

Universe Today - Sat, 04/20/2024 - 6:06am

It was 1903 that the Wright brothers made the first successful self-propelled flight. Launching themselves to history, they set the foundations for transatlantic flights, supersonic flight and perhaps even the exploration of the Solar System. Now we are on the precipice of travel among the stars but among the many ideas and theories, what is the ultimate and most effective way to explore our nearest stellar neighbours? After all, there are 10,000 stars within a region of 110 light years from Earth so there are plenty to choose from. 

It’s not just the stars that entice us to explore beyond our Solar System. Ever since the first exoplanet discovery in 1992 we have been discovering more and more alien worlds around distant stars. The tally has now reached over 5,500 confirmed exoplanets and they too demand our attention as we reach out among the stars. There have been many ideas and technologies proposed over the past few years but to date, even Proxima Centauri (the nearest star system to our own) remains out of reach. 

In his thesis recently published, lead author Johannes Lebert from the Technische Universität München (TUM) attempts to develop a strategy, based on existing interstellar probe concepts and knowledge of nearby star systems. Lebert was driven by the exoplanet discoveries that continue at pace and the development and interest, both commercially and technically in interstellar probes. Not only does he explore the technologies but he also looks at the returns too. 

Artist’s illustration of HD 104067 b, which is the outermost exoplanet in the HD 104067 system, and responsible for potentially causing massive tidal energy on the innermost exoplanet candidate, TOI-6713.01. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

In the strategy developed in the thesis he looks at the two main objectives which are duration of the mission and the returns. By returns he refers to the sum of all rewards provided by the stars explored during the mission and of course be largely scientific.  He considers a multi vehicle approach using several probes which do not return to Earth and are capable of exploring different stars thereby maximising the mission returns. Finally he explores the routing of such a mission to ensure maximum mission returns. Succinctly he calls this his ‘Bi-objective multi- vehicle open routing problem with profits.’

The thesis concludes with several recommendation. First that the use of efficient routing around the stars, a more limited number of probes can be used, limiting reducing fuel costs. This should be balanced by the mission returns which increase faster should more probes be used to explore the same number of stars simultaneously. This does however increase mission costs due to increase fuel costs. Whichever strategy is used, small-scale remotely operated or autonomous craft are far more suited to the need. 

Lebert goes on to explain that higher probe numbers also brings the benefit that probes can be tailored to suit the star systems they are destined to explore. Unlike a smaller number of probes that will have to cater for a greater range of systems.  There is a concept known as the ‘derived scaling law’ which articulates that higher probe numbers do inherit a risk of less efficient deployment.

It’s an interesting read that reminds us that, whilst we are developing the probes, and there are quite a number on the drawing board; Breakthrough Starshot, Interstellar Express, Interstellar Probe, Innovative Interstellar Explorer, Tau Mission to name a few, we do need to consider just how we plan, manage and deploy to maximise the scientific gain. 

Source : Optimal Strategies for the Exploration of Near-by Stars

The post What’s the Most Effective Way to Explore our Nearest Stars? appeared first on Universe Today.

Categories: Astronomy

NASA satellite's 'shocking' space junk near-miss was even closer than thought

Space.com - Sat, 04/20/2024 - 6:00am
The Feb. 28 encounter between NASA's TIMED satellite and a dead Russian spacecraft was even closer than first thought — a mere 33 feet (10 meters) or so, NASA officials said.
Categories: Astronomy

How cannabis gets you high and alters your perception

New Scientist Space - Cosmology - Sat, 04/20/2024 - 3:00am
20 April is weed's unofficial holiday. In honour of the special day, we collected our answers to all your cannabis questions. This is the science of 420
Categories: Astronomy

How cannabis gets you high and alters your perception

New Scientist Space - Space Headlines - Sat, 04/20/2024 - 3:00am
20 April is weed's unofficial holiday. In honour of the special day, we collected our answers to all your cannabis questions. This is the science of 420
Categories: Astronomy

Radiating Exoplanet Discovered in “Perfect Tidal Storm”

Universe Today - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 11:45pm

Can tidal forces cause an exoplanet’s surface to radiate heat? This is what a recent study accepted to The Astronomical Journal hopes to address as a team of international researchers used data collected from ground-based instruments to confirm the existence of a second exoplanet residing within the exoplanetary system, HD 104067, along with using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission to identify an additional exoplanet candidate, as well. What’s unique about this exoplanet candidate, which orbits innermost compared to the other two, is that the tidal forces exhibited from the outer two exoplanets are potentially causing the candidates’ surface to radiate with its surface temperature reaching as high as 2,300 degrees Celsius (4,200 degrees Fahrenheit), which the researchers refer to as a “perfect tidal storm”.

Here, Universe Today discusses this fantastic research with Dr. Stephen Kane, who is a Professor of Planetary Astrophysics at UC Riverside and lead author of the study, regarding the motivation behind the study, significant results, the significance of the “tidal storm” aspects, follow-up research, and implications for this system on studying other exoplanetary systems. So, what was the motivation behind this study?

“The star (HD 104067) was a star known to harbor a giant planet in a 55-day orbit, and I have a long history of obsessing over known systems,” Dr. Kane tells Universe Today. “When TESS detected a possible transiting Earth-size planet in a 2.2-day orbit (TOI-6713.01), I decided to examine the system further. We gathered all RV data and found that there is ANOTHER (Uranus mass) planet in a 13-day orbit. So, it started with the TESS data, then the system just kept getting more interesting the more we studied it.”

Dr. Kane’s history of exoplanetary research encompasses a myriad of solar system architectures, specifically those containing highly eccentric exoplanets, but also includes follow-up work after exoplanets are confirmed within a system. Most recently, he was the second author on a study discussing a revised system architecture in the HD 134606 system, along with discovering two new Super-Earths within that system, as well.

For this most recent study, Dr. Kane and his colleagues used data from the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) and High Resolution Echelle Spectrometer (HIRES) ground-based instruments and the aforementioned TESS mission to ascertain the characteristics and parameters of both the parent star, HD 105067, and the corresponding exoplanets orbiting it. But, aside from discovering additional exoplanets within the system, as Dr. Kane mentions, what are the most significant results from this study?

Dr. Kane tells Universe Today, “The most amazing outcome of our work was that the dynamics of the system causes the 2.2-day period to experience enormous tidal effects, similar to those experienced by Io. In this case though, TOI-6713.01 experiences 10 million times more tidal energy than Io, resulting in a 2600K [2,300 degrees Celsius (4,200 degrees Fahrenheit)] surface temperature. This means the planet literally glows at optical wavelengths.”

Jupiter’s moon, Io, is the most volcanically active planetary body in the solar system, which is produced from tidal heating caused by Jupiter’s massive gravity throughout Io’s slightly eccentric (elongated) orbit lasting 1.77 days. This means that Io gets closer to Jupiter during certain points and farther away from Jupiter at other points causing Io to compress and expand, respectively. Over millions of years, this constant friction within Io’s interior has led to the heating of its core, resulting in the hundreds of volcanoes that comprise Io’s surface and no visible impact craters, as well. As Dr. Kane mentions, this new exoplanet candidate “experiences 10 million times more tidal energy than Io”, which could raise additional questions regarding its own volcanic activity or other geologic processes. Therefore, what is the significance of the “tidal storm” aspects of TOI-6713.01?

Dr. Kane tells Universe Today, “The reason TOI-6713.01 experiences such strong tidal forces is because of the eccentricity of the outer two giant planets, forcing TOI-6713.01 into an eccentric orbit also. Thus, I referred to the planet as being caught in a perfect tidal storm.”

The HD 104067 system with its two outer giant exoplanets forcing the innermost TOI-6713.01 into a “perfect tidal storm” is slightly reminiscent of Jupiter’s first three Galilean moons, Io, Europa, and Ganymede, regarding their gravitational effects on each other throughout their orbits. There are some differences, however, since Jupiter’s massive gravity is the primary force driving Io’s volcanic activity, and all three moons are in what’s known as orbital resonance, which means the orbits are ratioed with each other. For example, for every four orbits of Io there are two orbits of Europa and one orbit of Ganymede, making their orbital resonance 4:2:1, which results in each moon causing regular gravitational influences on each other. Therefore, with the tidal storm aspect on TOI-6713.01 being caused by the eccentricities of the two outer giants, how does this compare to the relationship between Io, Europa, and Ganymede?

Dr. Kane tells Universe Today, “The Laplace resonance of the Galilean moons creates a particularly powerful configuration, whereby regular alignments of the inner three moons regularly force Io into an eccentric orbit. The HD 104067 system is not in resonance but is still able to produce a power configuration by virtue of the b and c planets being so massive and is therefore more of a “brute force” effect of forcing the inner transiting planet into an eccentric orbit.”

As noted, TOI-6713.01 was discovered using the radial velocity method, also known as Doppler spectroscopy, meaning astronomers measured the miniscule changes in the movement of the parent star as it’s slightly tugged by the planet during the latter’s orbit. These slight changes cause the parent star to wobble as the two bodies tug on each other, and astronomers use a spectrograph to detect changes in these wobbles as the star moves “closer” and “farther away” from us to find exoplanets. This method has proven to be very effective in finding exoplanets, as it accounts for almost 20 percent of the total confirmed exoplanets to date, and the first exoplanet orbiting a star like our own was discovered using this method, as well. However, despite the effectiveness of radial velocity, the study notes how TOI-6713.01 “has yet to be confirmed”, so what additional observations are required to confirm its existence?

Dr. Kanes tells Universe Today, “Because the planet is so small, it’s difficult to detect it from the radial velocity data. However, the transits look clean, and we have ruled out stellar contamination. Additional transits will help, but we’re quite confident in the existence of the planet at this point.”

This study comes as the total number of exoplanetary systems is almost 4,200 with the number of confirmed exoplanets exceeding 5,600 and more than 10,100 exoplanet candidates waiting to hopefully be confirmed, as well. These system architectures have been found to vary widely from our own solar system, which is comprised of the terrestrial (rocky) planets closer to the Sun and the gas giants orbiting much farther out. Examples include hot Jupiters that orbit dangerously close to their parent star, some in only a few days, and other systems boasting seven Earth-sized exoplanets, some of which orbit within the habitable zone. Therefore, what can this unique solar system architecture teach us about exoplanetary systems, overall, and what other exoplanetary systems mirror it?

Dr. Kane tells Universe Today, “This system is a great example of extreme environments that planets can find themselves in. There have been several cases of terrestrial planets that are close to their star and heated by the energy from the star, but very few cases where the tidal energy is melting the planet from within.”

The potential discovery of an exoplanet orbiting in a “perfect tidal storm” further demonstrates the myriad of characteristics that exoplanets and exoplanetary systems exhibit while contrasting with both our own solar system and what astronomers have learned about them until now. If confirmed, TOI-6713.01 will continue to mold our understanding regarding the formation and evolution of exoplanets and exoplanetary systems throughout not only our Milky Way Galaxy, but throughout the cosmos, as well.

“The universe is an amazing place!” Dr. Kane tells Universe Today. “The fun thing about this particular project is that it all started with ‘Hmm … this might be interesting’ then turned into something far more fascinating than I could have imagined! Just goes to show, never miss the chance to follow your curiosity.”

How will this tidal storm exoplanet teach us about other exoplanets and exoplanetary systems in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

The post Radiating Exoplanet Discovered in “Perfect Tidal Storm” appeared first on Universe Today.

Categories: Astronomy

NASA's Juno probe captures amazing views of Jupiter's volcanic moon Io (video)

Space.com - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 5:00pm
NASA's Juno probe continues to give us more insight into Jupiter and the giant planet's moons, including Io, the most volcanically active object in the solar system.
Categories: Astronomy

NASA's Artemis 3 astronauts will put a moonquake detector on lunar surface

Space.com - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 4:00pm
NASA is building a moonquake detector for its upcoming Artemis 3 mission, in hopes of learning more about lunar tremors and the internal structure of the moon.
Categories: Astronomy

Knot theory could help spacecraft navigate crowded solar systems

New Scientist Space - Cosmology - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 3:00pm
It can be difficult to figure out how to move a spacecraft from one orbit to another, but a trick from knot theory can help find spots where shifting orbits becomes easy
Categories: Astronomy

Knot theory could help spacecraft navigate crowded solar systems

New Scientist Space - Space Headlines - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 3:00pm
It can be difficult to figure out how to move a spacecraft from one orbit to another, but a trick from knot theory can help find spots where shifting orbits becomes easy
Categories: Astronomy

Looking Beyond the Veil

NASA Image of the Day - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 2:46pm
This image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) of star-forming region NGC 604 shows how stellar winds from bright, hot young stars carve out cavities in surrounding gas and dust.
Categories: Astronomy, NASA

Ingenuity's travels: New NASA video tracks Mars helicopter's 72 flights

Space.com - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 2:00pm
NASA's history-making Ingenuity helicopter covered a lot of ground on Mars over the past three years, as a new video shows.
Categories: Astronomy

Sorry, Little Green Men: Alien Life Might Actually Be Purple

Scientific American.com - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 2:00pm

Purple may be a likely color for extraterrestrial organisms, research suggests

Categories: Astronomy

Animals may help ecosystems store 3 times more carbon than we thought

New Scientist Space - Cosmology - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 1:33pm
Carbon storage calculations don’t always take into account the effects of animals – when they eat, defecate and die, they help store lots of carbon
Categories: Astronomy

Animals may help ecosystems store 3 times more carbon than we thought

New Scientist Space - Space Headlines - Fri, 04/19/2024 - 1:33pm
Carbon storage calculations don’t always take into account the effects of animals – when they eat, defecate and die, they help store lots of carbon
Categories: Astronomy