Saturday, October 21, 2017

Astronauts Complete Third Spacewalk in Two Weeks

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba working on the robotic Canadarm2 on October 20, 2017. Photo Credit: NASA TV

International Space Station Expedition 53 astronauts Randy Bresnik and Joe Acaba stepped outside for the third spacewalk this month dedicated toward outpost maintenance activities. U.S. Extravehicular activity (EVA) 46 lasted 6 hours, 49 minutes. It started at 7:47 a.m. EDT (11:47 GMT) October 20, 2017, once the NASA duo switched their spacesuits to battery power.

NASA Research Suggests Significant Atmosphere in Lunar Past and Possible Source of Lunar Water

A time sequence of lunar mare -- lava plain -- flows in 0.5 billion year time increments, with red areas in each time step denoting the most recently erupted lavas. The timing of the eruptions, along with how much lava was erupted, helped scientists determine that the Moon once had an atmosphere and that the lunar atmosphere was thickest about 3.5 billion years ago. Credits: NASA/MSFC/Debra Needham; Lunar and Planetary Science Institute/David Kring

Looking up at the Moon at night, Earth’s closest neighbor appears in shades of gray and white; a dry desert in the vacuum of space, inactive and dead for billions of years. Like many things, though, with the Moon, there is so much more than what meets the eye.

In Search of the Ninth Planet

Artist's concept of the "Planet Nine". Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Robert Hurt

A University of Michigan doctoral student has logged two pieces of evidence that may support the existence of a planet that could be part of our solar system, beyond Neptune. Some astronomers think this alleged planet, called Planet Nine, exists because of the way some objects in space, called "Trans-Neptunian Objects," or TNOs, behave. These TNOs are rocky objects smaller than Pluto that orbit the sun at a greater average distance than Neptune. But the orbits of the most distant of these TNOs—those whose average distance from the sun is more than 250 times as far as Earth's distance—seem to point in the same direction. This observation first led astronomers to predict the existence of Planet Nine.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Polar Geomagnetic Storms Could Hit Earth This Weekend

Artist illustration of events on the sun changing the conditions in Near-Earth space. Image Credit: NASA

Polar geomagnetic storms could hit Earth when a new solar stream wind will arrive at our planet this weekend, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In result, weak power grid fluctuations can occur and auroras may be visible at high latitudes such as Canada and Alaska.

A Solar Flare Recorded from Spain in 1886

Drawing by Valderrama of the solar flare he observed on 10 September 1886 on a sunspot (with the penumbra shown with hashed lines and the umbra in black). It shows the tadpole-shaped flare. The original document is held at the Library of the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute. / Credit: IAC

Satellites have detected powerful solar flares in the last two months, but this phenomenon has been recorded for over a century. On 10 September 1886, at the age of just 17, a young amateur astronomer using a modest telescope observed from Madrid one of these sudden flashes in a sunspot. He wrote about what he saw, drew a picture of it, and published the data in a French scientific journal. This is what researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and the Universidad de Extremadura have recently found.

Mars Has a Twisted Tail, MAVEN Finds

Artist's conception of the complex magnetic field environment at Mars. Yellow lines represent magnetic field lines from the Sun carried by the solar wind, blue lines represent Martian surface magnetic fields, white sparks are reconnection activity, and red lines are reconnected magnetic fields that link the surface to space via the Martian magnetotail. Credits: Anil Rao/Univ. of Colorado/MAVEN/NASA GSFC

Mars has an invisible magnetic “tail” that is twisted by interaction with the solar wind, according to new research using data from NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft. NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) spacecraft is in orbit around Mars gathering data on how the Red Planet lost much of its atmosphere and water, transforming from a world that could have supported life billions of years ago into a cold and inhospitable place today. The process that creates the twisted tail could also allow some of Mars’ already thin atmosphere to escape to space, according to the research team.

Potential Human Habitat Located on the Moon

The Marius Hills Skylight, as observed by the Japanese SELENE/Kaguya research team. Image by: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

A study published in Geophysical Research Letters confirms the existence of a large open lava tube in the Marius Hills region of the moon, which could be used to protect astronauts from hazardous conditions on the surface. No one has ever been on the moon longer than three days, largely because space suits alone can’t shield astronauts from its elements: extreme temperature variation, radiation, and meteorite impacts. Unlike Earth, the moon has no atmosphere or magnetic field to protects its inhabitants. The safest place to seek shelter is the inside of an intact lava tube, according to the study.