What Time Is It on the Moon?

This is where Moonlight will come in. The system may involve three navigation satellites in lunar orbit plus one dedicated to communication. That way, multiple satellites can ping Earth at any given time, and the system would be resilient if a single orbiter fails. (Because the moon lacks an atmosphere, the satellites would be more […]

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Russia’s Space Program Is in Big Trouble

Roscosmos has also considered bringing down the Soyuz currently docked at the ISS earlier than planned and replacing it with yet another Soyuz, according to a Russian newspaper. This could be a sign of technical worries behind the scenes. For nine years after the final space shuttle flight, NASA depended on Russia to carry astronauts to the ISS—Soyuz […]

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What Lit the Lamps That Let Humanity Measure the Universe

Every year, around 1,000 Type Ia supernovas erupt in the sky. These stellar explosions brighten and then fade away in a pattern so repeatable that they’re used as “standard candles”—objects so uniformly bright that astronomers can deduce the distance to one of them by its appearance. Our understanding of the cosmos is based on these […]

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How a Beam of Pellets Could Blast a Probe Into Deep Space

That said, he expects that the futuristic project could take more than a half-century to realize. It poses a few ambitious physics and engineering challenges, including the development of such a massive laser, the construction of a lightsail that can handle that much power without disintegrating, and the design of the minuscule spacecraft and an […]

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The World’s First 3D-Printed Rocket Is About to Launch

An almost entirely 3D-printed rocket is ready to blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, then head for low Earth orbit. Scheduled for a three-hour launch window that opens at 1 pm Eastern time tomorrow, the inaugural launch of Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket will constitute a major milestone for the California-based startup, and for expanding […]

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Tiny, Explosive ‘Jetlets’ Might Be Fueling the Solar Wind

Streaming out of the sun at a million miles an hour, the solar wind—a blistering plasma of electrons, protons, and ions flowing through space—is a decades-old enigma. Scientists know it once stripped Mars of its atmosphere, and some think it put ice on the moon. Today, it causes the glimmering Northern Lights displays and messes with […]

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What Will Ethical Space Exploration Look Like?

The moon is interesting because there are valuable resources people want, like the ice on the poles. But even though the moon hasn’t been mined yet, and it seems like a big pile of resources that we can all just get our hands into, it’s limited, finite resources. And on the moon, they’re in finite […]

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No, the James Webb Space Telescope Hasn’t Broken Cosmology

The cracks in cosmology were supposed to take a while to appear. But when the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) opened its lens last spring, extremely distant yet very bright galaxies immediately shone into the telescope’s field of view. “They were just so stupidly bright, and they just stood out,” said Rohan Naidu, an astronomer […]

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On-Demand Rocket Launches Are Coming

Nine engines, 50,000 liters of fuel, 7 metric tons of thrust, and a velocity of nearly 8 kilometers a second are needed to launch a rocket into orbit. For Skyrora, a private launch-vehicle provider based in Scotland, that’s just step one. Rather than passengers, its payload is satellites. “Satellite data was once predominantly used for […]

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A Tiny Sun in a Jar Is Shedding Light on Solar Flares

Seth Putterman started out studying the behavior of plasma for national security reasons. Extremely fast hypersonic missiles heat and ionize the surrounding air and form a cloud of charged particles called plasma, which absorbs radio waves and makes it hard for operators on the ground to communicate with the missiles—a problem Putterman was trying to solve. […]

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A Tiny Sun in a Jar Sheds Light on Solar Flare Research

Seth Putterman started out studying the behavior of plasma for national security reasons. Extremely fast hypersonic missiles heat and ionize the surrounding air and form a cloud of charged particles called plasma, which absorbs radio waves and makes it hard for operators on the ground to communicate with the missiles—a problem Putterman was trying to solve. […]

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Rovers Are So Yesterday. It’s Time to Send a Snakebot to Space

If the boxy Opportunity rover could elicit years of anthropomorphized love and goodwill, then surely Earthlings will warm to the idea of sending a snake-shaped robot to the moon. This robot—the brainchild of students at Northeastern University—is meant to wiggle across difficult terrain, measure water in the pit of craters, and bite its own tail to become […]

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Citizen Scientists Show Light Pollution Erases Stars From the Sky

Years ago, Christopher Kyba was skeptical about astronomy data collected by citizen scientists—after all, it relies on people making naked-eye assessments of the night sky. But when a student wrote to him with a question about measuring the sky’s brightness, he thought of the Globe at Night citizen science project, which launched in 2006 to let […]

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The Secret Lives of Neutron Stars

It’s a lot of detail about two faraway objects, especially if you consider the astrophysicists only directly observed their extremely violent end. The team reconstructed a city from a pile of dust. To deduce so much from so little, they combined observations of the neutron stars with insights gleaned from studying other stars and galaxies, […]

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A Bold Plan to Beam Solar Energy Down From Space

Whether you’re covering deserts, ugly parking lots, canals, or even sunny lakes with solar panels, clouds will occasionally get in the way—and every day the sun must set. No problem, says the European Space Agency: Just put the solar arrays in space.  The agency recently announced a new exploratory program called Solaris, which aims to figure out if it is […]

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At Last, the Milky Way Gets a Better Close Up

After two years of data-taking and number-crunching, a team of astronomers has dropped a snapshot of, quite literally, cosmic proportions. It’s chock-full of stellar goodness: The image shows the reddish-brown dust clouds clumped along the centerline of our Milky Way teeming with over 3 billion pinpricks of light—nearly all stars, a faint neighboring galaxy here […]

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Spotted a UFO? There’s an App for That

Of course, the challenge will be applying scientific standardization to something that might not be scientific at all. Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable, and people interpret what they see based on factors like current events and their scientific, political, and cultural backgrounds. “The data you’re getting is socially constructed,” says University of Pennsylvania historian Kate Dorsch, […]

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Did the Seeds of Life Ride to Earth Inside an Asteroid?

Nearly a hundred different types of amino acids have been observed in meteorites, but only a dozen of the 20 that are essential for life have been found. Biological amino acids also have a peculiarity that gives them away: They all have a “left-handed” structure, whereas abiotic processes create left- and right-handed molecules in equal […]

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The Spaceport at the Edge of the World

What about human safety? ​​Gordon McEwan, whose home is near the proposed launch site, is anxious about falling rockets. In a meeting with Orbex and other crofters, he shared his concern that the launch exclusion zone was too small. When the rocket lifts off, the zone will have a radius of less than 2 kilometers. […]

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It’s Not Sci-Fi—NASA Is Funding These Mind-Blowing Projects

Instead, with his “fluidic telescope” concept, one need only launch a frame structure—such as an umbrella-shaped satellite dish—and a tank of mirror liquid, like gallium alloys and ionic liquids. After launch, the liquid would be injected into the frame. In space, droplets stick together because of surface tension, and the pesky force of Earth’s gravity […]

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