While space is very old, some things happening in space are very new. For example, the James Webb Telescope. After much planning, it was recently made operational and started to send back amazing photos (like the one above). You can see more of them at Colossal and the official site of the James Webb telescope. To give you a sense of how great the new telescope is, here’s a piece showing side by side images of the Hubble telescope with those from the James Webb . A dramatic improvement (and the Hubble images were still great).
In other good news, NASA is going back to the moon. I am very excited about this. In not so good news, Russia says it will quit the International Space Station after 2024. Let’s hope the Space Station can survive this form of fracture.
P.S. Not news at all, but here’s a “fun” study of asteroids hitting earth. Hey, it’s space related! 🙂
(Image: link to image in Collossal)
Someone posted this occultation of Saturn and I am taking a chance and sharing it on the blog because it’s too cool not to. (An occultation is an event that occurs when one object is hidden by another object that passes between it and the observer.)
I say “take a chance” because I have so many broken Youtube links on my blog, rendering many posts useless as a result. (Word of advice: don’t post Youtube links of songs or movies.) I’m hopeful this one will stay up.
If you think of meteors hitting the Earth, you might be thinking of ones like the Chicxulub impactor that killed off the dinosaurs. Good news: scientists have been tracking meteors of that size and we are safe for at least the next few centuries.
But what about smaller ones, like the one that hit Chelyabinsk and caused significant damage? Those we may not be so safe from. Indeed, if they hit a major city, the destruction could be catastrophic.
That’s why NASA has launched the DART mission. It’s goal is to see if it could stop an asteroid and prevent an asteroid apocalypse. That piece in Scientific American on what is involved is fascinating. It’s not merely a matter of putting a major explosive on an asteroid and blowing it to bits. Go read the article and you’ll see what I mean.
For more on the. Chelyabinsk Meteor, click here.
Despite having telescopes being able to observe it, there’s still much to learn about the Great Red Spot of Jupiter. To do that, NASA sent a space craft to the giant planet to learn more about it. The story of that can be found here: Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Is Surprisingly Deep in Scientific American. It’s one of the many awesome things NASA has on the go in our solar system and beyond.
It’s well known that Mars is going to be difficult for humans to get there. If you are like me, I figured once we got there, then we land just like we land on Earth or the moon. But what if we can’t? This article fom BBC Sky at Night Magazine raises a number of difficulties that arise from dropping things from space onto the Red Planet. Things that seem to be recently considered.
Going to Mars is not going to be a matter of jumping in a big rocket ship and blasting into space. It’s going to take a lot of time to figure everything out, including landing there. Read that piece and see why.
(Photo by Mike Kiev on Unsplash )
It’s true! A planet is going to make a fly by. According to Kottke, the minor planet 2014 UN271 is about to visit our solar system. By 2031 it should be about as close to the sun as Saturn is!
I hope we can get some good views of it while it is in the area.
For more on it, see the Kottke article. He also has links to more pieces on it.
(Photo by Guillermo Ferla on Unsplash )
Fermi’s Paradox in a nutshell:
‘We’d estimate that there are 1 billion Earth-like planets and 100,000 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.’ So there must be aliens. Why haven’t we heard from them?
If this fascinates you, check out this list of solutions to the Fermi Paradox.
You may not be convinced there is an answer to this problem, but for some, they will be.
(Image of Enrico Fermi from Wikimedia)
This piece on the Milky Way photographer of the year is filled with amazing photos of…well, you can guess. (One of the photos is above).
This is a good piece on the efforts to study Venus. It won’t be easy to do, but it will be rewarding.
Finally, this piece on how black holes are visualized is excellent.
Are you an amateur? Do you sometimes feel you can never accomplish anything doing something you love? Then here’s three good stories on amateurs doing great things you want to read:
- High school students discover exoplanets during mentoring program
- Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician
- How older amateur athletes are staying fit through the pandemic
Not all amateurs can accomplish great things, but never let anyone tell you that amateurs are incapable of great things. Because surely they are. Go on, pursue the thing you love. Great things may result.
(Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash)
This piece (Worst technology failures of 2020) by MIT Technology Review has a list of the bigger technology failures of 2020. Some of them, like Quibi and facial recognition abuses, are well known.
One listed here may be the greatest technology failure of them all, though for many it is not considered a failure at all. That is the unregulated pollution of space with tiny satellites. As the article states:
Since prehistory, humankind has looked upwards for awe and inspiration, to imagine what forces created the world—and which might end it. But now, that cosmic view is being contaminated with the reflections of thousands of inexpensive commercial satellites put aloft by companies like Amazon, OneWeb, and SpaceX, who want to cover the Earth with internet connections. Sixty satellites can swarm out of a single rocket.
To see what I mean, check out this picture from the article:
Telescope views from earth are being marred with the light of all these satellites. This is today’s problem. Tomorrow’s problem is going to be all the other pollution, light or otherwise, which is going to result from the rush to put things in space. Science is getting wrecked by this.
Already astronomers are thinking of putting telescopes on the dark side of the moon to escape such problems. But without regulation, who knows if even this will be successful? To hear Elon Musk yammer on, he’s just going to be throwing who knows what into space. He’s already launched one of his stupid cars into the atmosphere. Hardly the guy you can trust to be responsible when it comes to deciding what should go into space.
Here’s hoping that in the rush to do more and more space development (a good thing) there is also an effort to make sure it is well thought and regulated (also a good thing).
The problems with colonizing other worlds can be read here: Humans Will Never Colonize Mars.
It’s a bucket of ice water to dump on the head of anyone who optimistically thinks it will happen. It may happen, centuries from now. More likely places like Mars will be colonized by robots that will do a lot of the activities we once expected humans to do.
Here’s something to add to your bucket list: visit a Dark Sky Park. This is about how the Grand Canyon has become one: The Grand Canyon is now a Dark Sky Park.
In the article is a good slideshow with a list of other such parks. Well worth visiting.
If you have ever wondered that, then read this: Where are all the aliens? — Quartz
It brings together all the ideas behind this and describes them simply and clearly.
… here: Stephen Hawking Is Still Underrated – The Atlantic.
I like this piece because it takes you into his science and what makes his work great without having you be an expert in the field yourself. You might still struggle with it, but it is a worthwhile struggle.
Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking. You may be gone, but the work you did lives on and will lead to more great work being done by other scientists that come after you.
It’s not explicitly stated, but if you read this: If you think NASA is frustrated with SpaceX, you’re probably right in Ars Technica, then you may draw the same conclusion. It seems SpaceX is taking advantage of its partnership with NASA to position itself to get the point where it can get by without it and eventually compete with the space agency.
If that was not the case, then I would expect SpaceX to stick to missions that were separate from NASA and supportive of NASA. Instead they seem to be trying to compete with NASA for the same missions.
It’s a tricky call for SpaceX: if they are not careful, they could ruin their partnership and find themselves without a steady source of income to fund their ambitions. I’m all for both NASA and SpaceX both being viable for the long term. Let’s hope that happens.
Really. There is a kickstarter going on right now you can contribute to: LUNAR MISSION ONE: A new lunar mission for everyone. by Lunar Missions Ltd
The team there says….
We plan to send an unmanned robotic landing module to the South Pole of the Moon – an area unexplored by previous missions.
We’re going to use pioneering technology to drill down to a depth of at least 20m – 10 times deeper than has ever been drilled before – and potentially as deep as 100m. By doing this, we will access lunar rock dating back up to 4.5 billion years to discover the geological composition of the Moon, the ancient relationship it shares with our planet and the effects of asteroid bombardment. Ultimately, the project will improve scientific understanding of the early solar system, the formation of our planet and the Moon, and the conditions that initiated life on Earth.
I think this is the most fantastic Internet project I have seen yet. I highly recommend you check it out.
Thanks to Kottke for pointing it out.
Posted in cool, science
Tagged astronomy, astrophysics, cool, crowdfunding, exploration, kickstarter, kottke, lunar, moon, NASA, science, space