Space & Time

  • Green Run hotfire test ends early
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-01-16 at 23:18

    NASA performed a hotfire test of the core stage of the Space Launch System Jan. 16, but the stage’s four main engines shut down a little more than a minute into a test designed to last eight minutes. SpaceNews

  • Policy directive on GPS issued in closing days of Trump administration
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-01-16 at 19:01

    Space Policy Directive-7 highlights the United States’ ever growing dependence on space-based positioning, navigation and timing. SpaceNews

  • FCC C-band auction raised nearly $81 billion so far
    by Debra Werner on 2021-01-16 at 00:59

    The U.S. Federal Communication Commission’s C-band auction of 280-megahertz of C-band has raised nearly $81 billion and it’s not quite over. SpaceNews

  • NASA ceases efforts to deploy Mars InSight heat flow probe
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-01-16 at 00:45

    After nearly two years of struggles, NASA has abandoned efforts to deploy a heat flow probe on its InSight lander into the surface of Mars. SpaceNews

  • Six-wavelength spectroscopy can offer new details of surface of Venus
    on 2021-01-15 at 19:40

    A trio of papers provide new insight into the composition and evolution of the surface of Venus, hidden beneath its caustic, high temperature atmosphere. Utilizing imaging from orbit using multiple wavelengths—six-band spectroscopy proposed as part of the VERITAS and EnVision missions—scientists can map the iron content of the Venusian surface and construct the first-ever geologic map.

  • Foust Forward | “Pro-space” lawmakers on wrong side of history after Capitol riot
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-01-15 at 19:34

    The uncomfortable truth now facing the space community, in the days after the horrific events at the Capitol Jan. 6, is that some of the most prominent Republican supporters of space in Congress are on the wrong side of history. SpaceNews

  • Examination of Theia 456 finds its nearly 500 stars were born at same time
    on 2021-01-15 at 19:27

    The Milky Way houses 8,292 recently discovered stellar streams—all named Theia. But Theia 456 is special.

  • After further review, Space Force confirms selection of NSTXL to manage industry consortium
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-01-15 at 18:25

    National Security Technology Accelerator (NSTXL) on Jan. 15 received a contract to manage the U.S. Space Force’s Space Enterprise Consortium for the next 10 years.  SpaceNews

  • X-rays surrounding ‘Magnificent 7’ may be traces of sought-after particle
    on 2021-01-15 at 16:30

    A new study, led by a theoretical physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), suggests that never-before-observed particles called axions may be the source of unexplained, high-energy X-ray emissions surrounding a group of neutron stars.

  • X-Rays surrounding ‘Magnificent 7’ may be traces of sought-after particle
    on 2021-01-15 at 16:03

    Theoretical physicists suggest that never-before-observed particles called axions may be the source of unexplained, high-energy X-ray emissions surrounding a group of neutron stars.

  • Researchers rewind the clock to calculate age and site of supernova blast
    on 2021-01-15 at 16:03

    Astronomers are winding back the clock on the expanding remains of a nearby, exploded star. By using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, they retraced the speedy shrapnel from the blast to calculate a more accurate estimate of the location and time of the stellar detonation.

  • Week in images: 11 – 15 January 2021
    on 2021-01-15 at 14:20

    Week in images: 11 – 15 January 2021 Discover our week through the lens

  • Mars is still an active world—here’s a landslide in Nili Fossae
    on 2021-01-15 at 14:05

    Since the 1960s and ’70s, scientists have come to view Mars as something of a “dead planet.” As the first close-up images from orbit and the surface came in, previous speculation about canals, water and a Martian civilization were dispelled. Subsequent studies also revealed that the geological activity that created features like the Tharsis Mons region (especially Olympus Mons) and Valles Marineris had ceased long ago.

  • Metal Fuels. We research. You benefit.
    on 2021-01-15 at 13:00

    Video: 00:07:30 Did you know that in microgravity we are preparing one of the most promising fuels for the future?Microgravity is helping to find answers and models to refine the processes needed to efficiently burn solid fuel like iron dust. Are we witnessing the raise of a new “Iron Age”? Could we use metal powders instead of petrol to fuel our cars?Solid fuels are used for burning a match, lighting a sparkler on New Year’s Eve as well as the fuel inside the boosters of Ariane and of other rockets. But metals such as iron can also burn, in powder form, and are entirely smokeless and carbon free.Metals could be produced using clean energy, such as from solar cells or wind turbines. That electricity is stored as chemical energy in the metal powder at energy densities that are competitive with fossil fuels. This has the potential to reduce greenhouse gasses emission globally, but a barrier to implementing this technology is the development of combustion systems that can efficiently burn the metal fuels, which requires a solid understanding of their combustion physics.To understand the physics of metal fuel combustion, a cluster of iron powder needs to be suspended for about 30 seconds, the time needed to observe and study how a flame propagates. Researchers used sounding rockets and parabolic flights to run experiments in weightlessness and to validate existing models, yielding promising results.The density of iron particles and the composition of gases in the combustion chamber are essential parameters, like in a petrol car engine. Microgravity allows for the study of the laws of flame propagation, to optimise parameters in industrial burner designs, and reduce impact on the environment. These space experiments also help us understand similar phenomena, such as the spreading of contagious microbes and forest fires.In a vote of confidence for the technique a student team at TU Eindhoven in The Netherlands worked with industrial partners to design a metal combustion facility now installed at Swinkels Family Brewers, subsidised by the Dutch province of Noord-Brabant, used to produce steam for the brewing process.The step to space research is closer than you might think. Get involved with spaceflight research via www.esa.int/spaceflightAO. Find out about our commercial partnerships and opportunities in human and robotic exploration via www.esa.int/explorationpartners to run your research in microgravity as well.

  • ESA Kids app now available
    on 2021-01-15 at 12:35

    ESA Kids app now available

  • Project maps ‘astronomical’ number of celestial objects
    on 2021-01-15 at 12:20

    Nearly 700 million astronomical objects have been carefully cataloged and made public as part of a major international collaboration involving researchers from The Australian National University (ANU).

  • OneWeb raises $400 million
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-01-15 at 12:07

    Broadband satellite company OneWeb announced Jan. 15 it has raised $400 million from SoftBank and Hughes Network Systems, allowing the company to continue deployment of its constellation. SpaceNews

  • SLS core stage ready for Green Run test firing
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-01-15 at 11:18

    NASA officials expressed confidence that a key test of the Space Launch System scheduled for Jan. 16 will go well, keeping open the chances that the vehicle will make its long-delayed debut before the end of the year. SpaceNews

  • Tanezrouft Basin
    on 2021-01-15 at 09:00

    Image: The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over the Tanezrouft Basin – one of the most desolate parts of the Sahara Desert.

  • Earth from Space: Tanezrouft
    on 2021-01-15 at 09:00

    Video: 00:02:50 In this week’s edition of the Earth from Space programme, the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over the Tanezrouft Basin – one of the most desolate parts of the Sahara Desert.See also Tanezrouft Basin to download the image.

  • Astronomers document the rise and fall of a rarely observed stellar dance
    on 2021-01-15 at 08:28

    The sun is the only star in our system. But many of the points of light in our night sky are not as lonely. By some estimates, more than three-quarters of all stars exist as binaries—with one companion—or in even more complex relationships. Stars in close quarters can have dramatic impacts on their neighbors. They can strip material from one another, merge or twist each other’s movements through the cosmos.

  • Researchers rewind the clock to calculate age and site of supernova blast
    on 2021-01-15 at 08:25

    Astronomers are winding back the clock on the expanding remains of a nearby, exploded star. By using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, they retraced the speedy shrapnel from the blast to calculate a more accurate estimate of the location and time of the stellar detonation.

  • Report: U.S. military space programs at risk of losing domestic sources of key components
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-01-14 at 23:18

    DoD space programs need to invest in new technology and qualify new suppliers to ensure they have access to domestic sources, the Pentagon said in a report released Jan. 14. SpaceNews

  • Astronomers document the rise and fall of a rarely observed stellar dance
    on 2021-01-14 at 23:06

    Astronomers have catalogued 126 years of changes to HS Hydra, a rare evolving eclipsing binary star system. Analyzing observations from astro-photographic plates in the late 1800s to TESS observations in 2019, they show that the two stars in HS Hydra began to eclipse each other around a century ago, peaking in the 1960s. The degree of eclipsing then plummeted over the course of just a half century, and will cease around February 2021.

  • RIP: Mars digger bites the dust after 2 years on red planet
    on 2021-01-14 at 21:37

    NASA declared the Mars digger dead Thursday after failing to burrow deep into the red planet to take its temperature.

  • Blue Origin launches capsule to space with astronaut perks
    on 2021-01-14 at 21:35

    Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin company launched a new capsule into space Thursday to test all the astronaut perks before people strap in.

  • Blue Origin launches New Shepard vehicle intended for crewed flights
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-01-14 at 20:29

    Blue Origin flew a new model of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle Jan. 14, a flight the company says brings it “really close” to finally flying people. SpaceNews

  • Hanwha Aerospace claims 30% stake in Satrec Initiative
    by Debra Werner on 2021-01-14 at 18:47

    Hanwha Aerospace, South Korea’s largest defense company, announced plans Jan. 14 to invest approximately $100 million to purchase 30% of the shares of satellite manufacturer Satrec Initiative. SpaceNews

  • Asteroids vs. microbes
    on 2021-01-14 at 18:35

    Inside one of the containers of this 40-cm-across miniature laboratory in orbit, a battle is set to start between asteroid-like fragments and rock-hungry microbes, to probe their use for space mining in the future.

  • Galaxies hit single, doubles, and triple (growing black holes)
    on 2021-01-14 at 18:01

    When three galaxies collide, what happens to the huge black holes at the centers of each? A new study using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other telescopes reveals new information about how many black holes are furiously growing after these galactic smash ups.

  • Mapping our sun’s backyard
    on 2021-01-14 at 18:01

    Astronomers have curated the most complete list of nearby brown dwarfs to date thanks to discoveries made by thousands of volunteers participating in the Backyard Worlds citizen science project. The list and 3D map of 525 brown dwarfs — including 38 reported for the first time — incorporate observations from a host of astronomical instruments including several NOIRLab facilities. The results confirm that the Sun’s neighborhood appears surprisingly diverse relative to other parts of the Milky Way Galaxy.

  • Galaxies hit single, doubles, and triple (growing black holes)
    on 2021-01-14 at 17:27

    When three galaxies collide, what happens to the huge black holes at the centers of each? A new study using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other telescopes reveals new information about how many black holes are furiously growing after these galactic smash ups.

  • Final data release from DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys issued
    on 2021-01-14 at 15:00

    Astronomers using images from Kitt Peak National Observatory and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory have created the largest ever map of the sky, comprising over a billion galaxies. The ninth and final data release from the ambitious DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys sets the stage for a ground-breaking 5-year survey with the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), which aims to provide new insights into the nature of dark energy. The map was released today at the January 2021 meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

  • Giant map of the sky sets stage for ambitious DESI survey
    on 2021-01-14 at 14:58

    Astronomers using images from Kitt Peak National Observatory and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory have created the largest ever map of the sky, comprising over a billion galaxies. The ninth and final data release from the ambitious DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys sets the stage for a ground-breaking 5-year survey with the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI), which aims to provide new insights into the nature of dark energy.

  • Mars 2020 Perseverance rover to capture sounds from the red planet
    on 2021-01-14 at 14:50

    When the Mars Perseverance rover lands on the red planet on Feb. 18, 2021, it will not only collect stunning images and rock samples; the data it returns may also include some recorded sounds from Mars.

  • Doubling the number of known gravitational lenses
    on 2021-01-14 at 14:40

    Data from the DESI (Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument) Legacy Imaging Surveys have revealed over 1200 new gravitational lenses, approximately doubling the number of known lenses. Discovered using machine learning trained on real data, these warped and stretched images of distant galaxies provide astronomers with a flood of new targets with which to measure fundamental properties of the Universe such as the Hubble constant, which describes the expanding Universe.

  • NASA’s SDO spots first lunar transit of 2021
    on 2021-01-14 at 14:38

    On Jan. 13, 2021, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, experienced its first lunar transit of the year when the moon crossed its view of the sun. The transit lasted about 30 minutes, between 12:56 and 1:25 a.m. ET. During this time, the moon happened to cover two of the spacecraft’s fine-guidance sensors, causing its view of the sun to jitter slightly. SDO recovered a steady view shortly after the transit.

  • NASA’s Juno mission expands into the future
    on 2021-01-14 at 14:38

    NASA has authorized a mission extension for its Juno spacecraft exploring Jupiter. The agency’s most distant planetary orbiter will now continue its investigation of the solar system’s largest planet through September 2025, or until the spacecraft’s end of life. This expansion tasks Juno with becoming an explorer of the full Jovian system—Jupiter and its rings and moons—with multiple rendezvous planned for three of Jupiter’s most intriguing Galilean moons: Ganymede, Europa, and Io.

  • Citizen scientists contribute to 3-D map of cosmic neighborhood
    on 2021-01-14 at 14:38

    Scientists tapped into the worldwide network of volunteers using Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 to map dozens of new brown dwarfs, or balls gas not heavy enough to be stars.

  • Shining a new light on dark energy
    on 2021-01-14 at 14:16

    The Dark Energy Survey has released a massive, public collection of astronomical data and calibrated images from six years of work. Containing data on nearly 700 million astronomical objects, this second data release in the Survey’s seven-year history is the topic of sessions today and tomorrow at the 237th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

  • Doubling the number of known gravitational lenses
    on 2021-01-14 at 13:54

    Data from the DESI (Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument) Legacy Imaging Surveys have revealed over 1200 new gravitational lenses, approximately doubling the number of known lenses. Discovered using machine learning trained on real data, these warped and stretched images of distant galaxies provide astronomers with a flood of new targets with which to measure fundamental properties of the Universe such as the Hubble constant, which describes the expanding Universe.

  • China moves to next stage of super heavy rocket development
    by Andrew Jones on 2021-01-14 at 13:41

    China’s space contractor has announced progress on rocket engines designed for major space missions, including a new engine for future lunar missions. SpaceNews

  • Students discover bright lensed galaxy in the early universe
    on 2021-01-14 at 13:38

    The night sky is a natural time machine, used by cosmologists to explore the origins and evolution of the universe. Reaching into the depths of the past, a class of undergraduate students at the University of Chicago sought to do the same—and uncovered an extraordinarily distant galaxy in the early cosmos.

  • Next-generation Dragon cargo spacecraft returns from space station
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-01-14 at 12:00

    The first in SpaceX’s new generation of Dragon cargo spacecraft completed its mission with a splashdown off the Florida coast Jan. 13. SpaceNews

  • Director General’s annual press conference
    on 2021-01-14 at 12:00

    Video: 01:36:00 A replay of our start-of-year press conference with ESA Director General Jan Wörner, future Director General Josef Aschbacher and other ESA Directors, held online on Thursday, 14 January 2021.They looked ahead at Europe’s space activities in 2021 and answered questions from media. Highlights in 2021 include two ESA astronauts flying to the International Space Station, the new James Webb Space Telescope being launched from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, and the launch of NASA’s first Artemis mission, in a programme that will take humans to the Moon powered by ESA’s European Service Module. Download the presentations (pdf):Jan Wörner Josef Aschbacher

  • OneWeb slashes size of future satellite constellation
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-01-14 at 11:11

    OneWeb says it’s drastically reducing the size of a proposed next-generation satellite constellation originally envisioned to have nearly 48,000 satellites. SpaceNews

  • 2021 is taking off with ESA’s new rocket merchandise
    on 2021-01-14 at 09:00

    2021 is taking off with ESA’s new rocket merchandise

  • Asteroids vs. microbes
    on 2021-01-14 at 08:59

    Image: Asteroids vs. microbes

  • Building a giant 2-D map of the universe to prepare for the largest 3-D map
    on 2021-01-14 at 08:26

    Before DESI, the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument, can begin its 5-year mission from an Arizona mountaintop to produce the largest 3-D sky map yet, researchers first needed an even bigger 2-D map of the universe.

  • SpaceX wins contracts for lunar lander, environmental satellite launches
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-01-13 at 23:55

    SpaceX secured contracts Jan. 13 for the launches of a commercial lunar lander mission backed by NASA as well as a privately funded satellite to track methane emissions. SpaceNews

  • Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal selected as future home of U.S. Space Command
    by Sandra Erwin on 2021-01-13 at 19:42

    The U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, was picked as the preferred location of U.S. Space Command’s headquarters. SpaceNews

  • Burst of light April 15, 2020 likely magnetar eruption in nearby galaxy
    on 2021-01-13 at 18:24

    On April 15, 2020, a brief burst of high-energy light swept through the solar system, triggering instruments on many NASA spacecraft. Scientists think the blast came from a supermagnetized stellar remnant located in a neighboring galaxy.

  • Wormholes may be lurking in the universe—and new studies are proposing ways of finding them
    on 2021-01-13 at 18:10

    Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity profoundly changed our thinking about fundamental concepts in physics, such as space and time. But it also left us with some deep mysteries. One was black holes, which were only unequivocally detected over the past few years. Another was “wormholes”—bridges connecting different points in spacetime, in theory providing shortcuts for space travelers.

  • Astronomers find signature of magnetar outbursts in nearby galaxies
    on 2021-01-13 at 17:43

    Apart from black holes, magnetars may be the most extreme stars in the universe. With a diameter less than the length of Manhattan, they pack more mass than that of our sun, wield the largest magnetic field of any known object—more than 10 trillion times stronger than a refrigerator magnet—and spin on their axes every few seconds.

  • Rare star’s giant gamma-ray burst GRB 200415A captured close to our home galaxy
    on 2021-01-13 at 17:30

    Earth gets blasted by mild short gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) most days. But sometimes, a giant flare like GRB 200415A arrives at our galaxy, sweeping along energy that dwarfs our sun. In fact, the most powerful explosions in the universe are gamma-ray bursts.

  • Could we harness energy from black holes?
    on 2021-01-13 at 15:08

    Physicists have found a new way to extract energy from black holes by breaking and rejoining magnetic field lines near the event horizon.

  • Mistaken identity: A presumed supernova is actually something much rarer
    on 2021-01-13 at 14:29

    In a case of comic mistaken identity, an international team of astronomers revealed that what they once thought was a supernova is actually periodic flaring from a galaxy where a supermassive black hole gives off bursts of energy every 114 days as it tears off chunks of an orbiting star.

  • A robot made of ice could adapt and repair itself on other worlds
    on 2021-01-13 at 14:06

    Some of the most tantalizing targets in space exploration are frozen ice worlds. Take Jupiter’s moon Europa, for instance. Its warm, salty subsurface ocean is buried under a moon-wide sheet of ice. What’s the best way to explore it?

  • Study investigates emission from a distant red quasar
    on 2021-01-13 at 14:00

    Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, an international team of astronomers has performed observations of HSC J120505.09−000027.9—the most distant red quasar so far detected and found that it showcases an extended emission of ionized carbon. The finding is reported in a paper published January 4 on arXiv.org.

  • Blue Origin preparing for next New Shepard flight
    by Jeff Foust on 2021-01-13 at 12:30

    Blue Origin is gearing up for the next test flight of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle as soon as Jan. 14. SpaceNews