Lights in the Dark 23 Feb 2018, 18:48 UTC Can you feel the heat? NASA’s Mars Odyssey can see it! This is an image of Mars’ smaller moon Deimos, captured with Odyssey’s THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System) instrument on Feb. 15, 2018. Part of the 7-mile-wide Moon was in shadow, but the sunlit surface area reached temperatures up to 200 K (that’s still pretty cold for us, though… –100ºF / -73ºC!)
Centauri Dreams 23 Feb 2018, 13:44 UTC The Kepler space telescope has established that exoplanets are abundant in our galaxy and that many stars have planets in their habitable zones (defined as having temperatures that potentially allow surface water). This has reinvigorated the quest to answer the age-old question “Are We Alone?”. While SETI attempts to answer that question by detecting intelligent signals, the Drake equation suggests that the emergence of intelligence is a subset of the planets where life has emerged. When we envisage such living worlds, the image that is often evoked is of a verdant paradise, with abundant plant life clothing the land and emitting oxygen to support respiring animals, much like our pre-space age visions of Venus.
Geekwire 22 Feb 2018, 20:49 UTC The 1,000-foot Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, made famous by such movies as “Contact” and the James Bond thriller “Goldeneye,” will be under new management. Today the National Science Foundation announced that the University of Central Florida has begun the transition process for taking on operation and management of the observatory. “NSF is currently negotiating the operations and management award with UCF,” the federal agency said in a statement.
Centauri Dreams 22 Feb 2018, 19:40 UTC Between Kepler and the ensuing K2 mission, we’ve had quite a haul of exoplanets. Kepler data have been used to confirm 2341 exoplanets, with NASA declaring 30 of these as being less than twice Earth-size and in the habitable zone. K2 has landed 307 confirmed worlds of its own. K2 offers a different viewing strategy than Kepler’s fixed view of over 150,000 stars. While the transit method is still at work, K2 pursues a series of observing campaigns, its fields of view distributed around the ecliptic plane, and with photometric precision approaching the original.
The Planetary Society Blog 22 Feb 2018, 16:35 UTC Imagine, for a moment, that the sun unleashes the strongest solar flare humanity has ever seen. Then, a coronal mass ejection (CME) event follows, releasing a high-velocity stream of magnetized plasma that slams into the Earth’s protective magnetosphere. The resulting shockwaves propagate through the near Earth-space environment, jolting communications satellites, low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, global positioning system (GPS) satellites, and the International Space Station. Radio communications cease, electrical transmission lines fail on the Earth’s surface, and the world fades to black. This is, of course, an extreme scenario—we are unlikely to experience an apocalyptic global blackout, even with the strongest solar flare. Yet, the idea that flares and CMEs can disrupt human activity on Earth and space is not fiction, and it does happen with significant frequency. Any electric circuit in space is vulnerable to CMEs of measurable magnitude, which means it is in society’s best interest to understand how this kind of “weather in space” affects those circuits, namely those belonging to satellites. We increasingly depend on communications and imaging satellites to tell us where we are, guide us to new places, and show us what kind of thunder storms are headed our way. To begin understanding space weather, ...
SPACE.com 22 Feb 2018, 11:31 UTC Last fall, a cucumber-shaped visitor zoomed through the inner solar system. Known as 1I/2017 U1 'Oumuamua, the unusual object sped around the sun before disappearing to the outskirts of the solar system, on its way back to interstellar space.
Space Fellowship 22 Feb 2018, 07:17 UTC Not all roses are red of course, but they can still be very pretty. Likewise, the beautiful Rosette Nebula and other star forming regions are often shown in astronomical images with a predominately red hue, in part because the dominant emission in the nebula is from hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen’s strongest optical emission line, known as H-alpha, is in the red region of the spectrum, but the beauty of an emission nebula need not be appreciated in red light alone.
Planetaria 22 Feb 2018, 03:18 UTC NASA’s Opportunity rover has just crossed another amazing threshold – passing the 5,000-sol mark on Mars. That is a phenomenal achievement, considering that the plucky little machine was designed for a hopeful lifetime of at least 90 sols (a sol is a Martian day, just slightly longer than an Earth day). To put it another way, Opportunity landed way back in January 2004, and the mission would be considered a great success if it lasted for several months in the harsh Martian climate. But now here it is 2018, and it is still going!
AmericaSpace 21 Feb 2018, 22:29 UTC NASA is getting closer to taking the next big step in exoplanet-hunting – the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) space telescope has just arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for launch no earlier than April 16. It was built and tested during 2017 at Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia, and now will be readied for launch in the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF) at Kennedy. This is the same clean room used for the Cassini, New Horizons, Mars rovers, OSIRIS-REx and other missions. TESS will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Complex 40 launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.