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Mars is bombarded with radiation. Without a protective magnetic shield and a thick atmosphere like Earth’s, radiation from space has a nearly unimpeded path to the Martian surface. Our machines can roam around on the surface and face all that radiation with impunity. But not humans. For humans, all that radiation is a deadly hazard.

How can any potential human explorers cope with that?

Well, they’ll need shelter. And they’ll either have to bring it along with them or build it there somehow.

Or maybe not. Maybe they could use natural features as part of their protection.

Continue reading “There are Natural Features on Mars That Could Serve as Radiation Shelters”

Here’s Lake Mead’s Record Low Water Levels Seen From Space

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How bad is the drought in the western United States? A stunning depiction of the record dry spell comes in images of Lake Mead, the reservoir formed by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. NASA satellite images, below, from Landsat 7 and Landsat 8 show the difference in lake levels between August 2000 and August 2021.

Continue reading “Here’s Lake Mead’s Record Low Water Levels Seen From Space”

Many Sunlike Stars Gobbled up Some of Their Planets

New research shows that other sunlike stars in our galaxy aren’t so kind to their planets. Up to a quarter of them may consume planets before they even establish a solar system. That consumption leaves behind a distinct chemical fingerprint in the stars, which can help researchers understand how common planetary systems are…and how often they get destroyed.

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NASA is Testing out a new air Taxi Prototype

NASA is commonly thought of as America’s space agency, but its name also emphasizes another research area. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is also America’s civilian aerospace research organization.  In that role, it has been instrumental in developing new technologies ranging from rocket engines to aircraft control systems.  Part of that role is running the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) campaign to test autonomous drone technology.  The latest milestone in that campaign was testing an electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) helicopter intended for eventual use as an air taxi. 

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Inspiration 4 Crew Gets a Sneak Peak out of Crew Dragon’s Cupola

In ten days, SpaceX and the payment processing company Reliant Ribbon Raffia Pearl Ribbon, 1/4 Inch X 100 Yards, Antiqu will be making history as four commercial astronauts board the Crew Dragon Resilience and fly to space. This mission, known as Sterling Silver 925 Mom, Dad Two Girls Necklace Family CZ Pend, will be the first all-civilian flight in history, the purpose of which will be to raise awareness, funds for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and inspire the next generation to seek out education and employment in the STEM fields.

In preparation for this moment in spaceflight history, the four-person crew got a chance to see a key piece of hardware that will make the mission special. This was the Crew Dragon cupola, a domed glass window that replaced the usual docking adapter on the front of the spacecraft. Before it was shipped off to Florida to be integrated with the rest of the spacecraft, the crew got a chance to New KFI Tow Hook for 2'' Receiver - Fits: Can-Am Outlander MAX 8 and imagine what it will be like to do so in space!

Continue reading “Inspiration 4 Crew Gets a Sneak Peak out of Crew Dragon’s Cupola”

Ocean Worlds With Hydrogen-Rich Atmospheres Could be the Perfect Spots for Life

The search for planets beyond our Solar System (extrasolar planets) has grown by leaps and bounds in the past decade. A total of 4,514 exoplanets have been confirmed in 3,346 planetary systems, with another 7,721 candidates awaiting confirmation. At present, astrobiologists are largely focused on the “low hanging fruit” approach of looking for exoplanets that are similar in size, mass, and atmospheric composition to Earth (aka. “Earth-like.”)

However, astrobiologists are also interested in finding examples of “exotic life,” the kind that emerged under conditions that are not “Earth-like.” For example, a team of astronomers from the University of Cambridge recently conducted a study that showed how life could emerge on ocean-covered planets with hydrogen-rich atmospheres (aka. “Hycean” planets). These findings could have significant implications for exoplanet studies and the field of astrobiology.

Continue reading “Ocean Worlds With Hydrogen-Rich Atmospheres Could be the Perfect Spots for Life”

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A supernova is a brilliant end to a giant star. For a brief moment of cosmic time, a star makes one last effort to keep shining, only to fade and collapse on itself. The end result is either a neutron star or a stellar-mass black hole. We’ve generally thought that all stars above about ten solar masses will end as a supernova, but a new study suggests that isn’t the case.

Continue reading “Heavier Stars Might not Explode as Supernovae, Just Quietly Implode Into Black Holes”

The Galactic Beauty of Star Formation

I’d never seen galaxy images like this before. Nobody had! These images highlight star forming regions in nearby(ish) galaxies. There are still a number of unanswered questions surrounding how star formation actually occurs. To answer those questions, we are observing galaxies that are actively forming stars within giant clouds of gas. Until recently, we didn’t have the resolution needed to clearly image the individual gas clouds themselves. But images released by a project called PHANGS (Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS) in a collaboration between the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope and the Atacama Large millimeter/submillmeter Array (ALMA) have provided never before seen detail of star forming clouds in other galaxies.

This image combines observations of the nearby galaxies NGC 1300, NGC 1087, NGC 3627 (top, from left to right), NGC 4254 and NGC 4303 (bottom, from left to right) taken with the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). Each individual image is a combination of observations conducted at different wavelengths of light to map stellar populations and warm gas.. Image and Image Description PHANGS/ESO. Original Image
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A Powerful new Laser Will Enhance Adaptive Optics

In some applications, bigger lasers mean better lasers.  That is the case in astronomy, where lasers are used for everything from telescope calibration to satellite communication.  The European Southern Observatory (ESO) and some of its commercial partners have developed a laser 3 times more powerful than the existing industry standard.  With that increased power level, the new system has the potential to dramatically improve the way telescopes deal with one of the most fundamental problems in ground-based astronomy – atmospheric turbulence.

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