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FEATURED STORIES 30 March - 6 April 2020

Information For The Media

 This newsletter is emailed weekly to requesting radio stations across Australia. Enquiries for interviews or info Ph: (02) 6585 2260   Mob: 0400 636 363  Email: davereneke@gmail.com

'Astro' Dave Reneke

David Reneke is one of Australia's most well known and respected astronomers and lecturers with links to some of the world's leading astronomical institutions. 

Astronomers Find Edge Of The Milky Way at Last

The Milky Way's stellar disk, which runs horizontally along the middle, glows in gamma rays.
The Milky Way's stellar disk, which runs horizontally along the middle, glows in gamma rays.

Our galaxy is a whole lot bigger than it looks. New work finds that the Milky Way stretches nearly 2 million light-years across, more than 15 times wider than its luminous spiral disk. The number could lead to a better estimate of how massive the galaxy is and how many other galaxies orbit it.

Astronomers have long known that the brightest part of the Milky Way, the pancake-shaped disk of stars that houses the sun, is some 120,000 light-years across (SN: 8/1/19). Beyond this stellar disk is a disk of gas. A vast halo of dark matter, presumably full of invisible particles, engulfs both disks and stretches far beyond them (SN: 10/25/16). But because the dark halo emits no light, its diameter is hard to measure.

Now, Alis Deason, an astrophysicist at Durham University in England, and her colleagues have used nearby galaxies to locate the Milky Way's edge. The precise diameter is 1.9 million light-years, give or take 0.4 million light-years, the team reports February 21 in a paper posted at arXiv.org.

To put that size into perspective, imagine a map in which the distance between the sun and the Earth is just one inch. If the Milky Way's heart were at the center of the Earth, the galaxy's edge would be four times farther away than the moon actually is.

Footnote: So far, there are about 60 known Milky Way satellites, but astronomers suspect that many more await discovery.


A Newly Found Comet Atlas Coming Towards Earth 

A newly discovered comet known as C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) is making its way toward our sun and is rapidly increasing in brightness. Astronomers spotted the comet on December 28, 2019, using the ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) robotic astronomical survey system in Hawaii, hence the name.

At that point-when the object was around 273 million miles away from the sun-ATLAS was about 398,000 times dimmer than stars that are just about visible with the naked eye, Space magazine reported. It is now possible to see the comet-which recently crossed the orbit of Mars-using amateur astronomy equipment, given that it has about the same brightness as an eighth-magnitude star. By March 17, it was more than 600 times brighter than experts had predicted, Space magazine reported.

If the comet continues to grow in brightness at its current rate, it may even be visible to the naked-assuming you are in an area with low light pollution-by the beginning of May. Like other comets, ATLAS is becoming brighter as it approaches the sun because it is being blasted with increasing amounts of radiation from the star, causing it to shed large quantities of material.

"Right now the comet is releasing huge amounts of its frozen volatile gases," Karl Battams from the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C., told SpaceWeatherArchive. "That's why it's brightening so fast." According to EarthSky, the comet will make its closest approach to the sun on May 31, 2020 when the object will come within 23,517,819 miles of our star-closer than the average orbit of Mercury (around 36 million miles.)

During this close approach, the brightness of the comet will be expected to peak, and experts estimate that it could reach anywhere between +2 to -6 in magnitude, which could potentially make it as bright as the planet Venus in the night sky

However, it is important to note that the behavior of comets is notoriously unpredictable. The rate at which ATLAS has been brightening has decreased slightly in recent days. Furthermore, we don't currently know whether or not the comet will remain intact given that many of these objects simply burn up completely as they fly past the sun.
"We should expect the rate of increase to slow again," Carl Hergenrother, an Arizona-based comet observer, told Space magazine. "This is where it gets tricky for predicting just how bright it will get." "It's going to be fun the next few weeks watching Comet ATLAS develop-and provide a nice distraction from the current state of the world," Hergenrother said. "Here's to good health and clear skies!"

NASA data indicates that the comet takes just over 6,000 years to make one full circle around our star. It appears that ATLAS has a very similar orbit to that of the Great Comet of 1844, indicating that it could be a fragment of this object. If ATLAS does turn out to appear as bright as some estimates are predicting, it could rival the last spectacularly bright comet to pass by Earth-the Comet Hale-Bopp, which flew past our planet in 1997.


Preparing For Lift Off: Space Startups Get Ready To Launch

The Venture Catalyst Space Startup program is shooting for the stars.
The Venture Catalyst Space Startup program is shooting for the stars.

A raft of ambitious startups are putting a rocket under Australia's sleeping space industry. The fledgling sector is reaching for the stars thanks to cutting-edge technology and increasing demand from domestic and international markets.

Space start-ups including satellite operators, rocket developers and launch companies are finally getting the support they need thanks in part to the Australian Space Agency, which launched in 2018 after a year of campaigning by Australian space scientists..

"It is just the beginning of an amazing story that's starting to unfold," said Carley Scott, chief executive of Equatorial Launch Australia. "A lot of people are starting to dip their toes into the space sector and starting their new enterprise, so we've got a range of successful groups developing satellites in Australia.

"Every time I do a presentation about ELA I'll have a group of people want to talk to me about how to get into space. It's all part of a groundswell that's already happening." Equatorial Launch Australia, a Northern Territory-based company founded by Scott Wallis in 2015, is a space success story. Last year it secured a contract with NASA to launch three rockets from its spaceport site.

It propelled the company's revenue from $400,000 per year to a projected $3 million within the next 18 months. Scott expects this to rise to between $7 million and $10 million in five years time and up to $30 million in a decade. These figures may sound ambitious, but Scott says Australia's space industry is all set for lift off. "We have reached a critical time in Australia's space industry, on the cusp of unprecedented growth and amazing endeavours," she says.

"With strong international market trends and the growth of local launch and associated start-ups, now is the time for the government and the private sector to invest, and for students to look more closely at STEMM careers." With its proximity to the equator, Australia is an ideal place to launch spacecraft. Launch sites near the equator can harness the rotation of the Earth for increased speed, meaning rockets can carry heavier payloads or cargo.

Currently, 10,000 people work in Australia's space sector, which is valued at $3.9 billion. The Australian Space Agency plans to dramatically increase this to 20,000 jobs and $12 billion by 2030. But Blake Nikolic, chief executive of Queensland-based Black Sky Aerospace, is skeptical. "So there's a lot of interest building, but unfortunately there's a lot of talk," he said

"And there's a lack of understanding and education, and until we can have government bodies break through those barriers or actually understanding, it's going to continue to be challenging." Nikolic said the Australian Space Agency's cost-recovery model was not on par with international expectations.

"We now have a space agency - fantastic. They are trying to push people to come to Australia - fantastic," he said. "However they want to introduce a cost recovery model where they charge for any services that have to be outsourced from the agency and they want to pass them on to the customers.

"The rest of the world does not charge those sorts of fees for those activities. So no one has needed Australia for the last 60-plus years and now you want to convince people to come here and you're going to charge then tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars? "The industry could be stifled right there and then." Since starting in 2018, Nikolic's aerospace business has catered to a wide range of clients.

In its first year of business, it launched three payloads for microgravity testing including a carbon ceramic panel for hypersonic launch vehicles, a measuring device for skydivers and bass jumpers and a hardware system for GPS. Then there's also been the weird and wacky - a $20,000 engagement ring for a radio station stunt and Wagon Wheels, as part of the brand's "relaunch". His company turned over $250,000 in its first year and hopes to hit seven figures in its second.

Australia's space efforts are likely to be boosted by a host of new start-ups at the Venture Catalyst Space incubator at the University of South Australia's Innovation and Collaboration Centre. The centre's associate director Jasmine Vreugdenburg says the program, now in its third year, supports space startups from around the globe to test their products and draw on the expertise of university researchers.

"Bringing the two together, research expertise along with new technologies, is a really good combination and we thought we could play a really good role in that space," she says. "We're really just trying to give these founders the best chance of success by providing them with the resources, the connections and support."

At this critical time in the nation's space industry, it could be everything startup founders need to make that giant leap.


Scientists May Have Just Found Evidence For Previous Universes That Existed Before Our Own

While this is an stimulating theory, there's quite more work to do
While this is an stimulating theory, there's quite more work to do

Researchers claim to have discovered proof for past universes may exist in the night sky - specifically the leftovers of black holes from another universe. As stated by New Scientist, the notion is grounded around something called conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC). Conformal Cyclic Cosmology is the theory that our universe goes through continuous cycles of Big Bangs and compressions, negating the possibility of having initiated from a single Big Bang.

Although most of the universe would be shattered from one cycle to the next, these researchers say that some electromagnetic radiation might survive the recovering procedure. Their research has been issued in arXiv.

University of Oxford mathematical physicist Roger Penrose, co-author on the study and co-creator of CCC theory, told New Scientist. "What we claim we're seeing is the final remnant after a black hole has evaporated away in the previous aeon,"

The proof originates in the form of "Hawking points", titled after the late Stephen Hawking. He speculated that black holes would release radiation called Hawking radiation, and it's this that Penrose and his associates propose may pass from one universe to the next ultimately.

They claim that Hawking points might appear in the leftover heat in the cosmos from the Big Bang, called as the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Hawking points would look like rings of light on the CMB map, known as B-modes.

Beforehand these anomalous points in the CMB were supposed to be produced by either gravitational waves of interstellar dust. But Penrose and his associates claim that their concept could deliver a fascinating answer, and one such Hawking point may previously have been discovered by the BICEP2 project, which is targeting to map the CMB.

The team wrote in their paper: "Though seemingly problematic for cosmic inflation, the existence of such anomalous points is an implication of conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC). Although of extremely low temperature at emission, in CCC this radiation is enormously concentrated by the conformal compression of the entire future of the black hole, resulting in a single point at the crossover into our current aeon."

The model of a recycling universe is not without disagreement. Most of our proof proposes that the growth of the universe is accelerating, with the cosmos not being compact enough to compress back into a single point and inflate again - sometimes called the Big Bounce theory.

We've also yet to find any indication of Hawking radiation, let alone Hawking points. So while this is an stimulating theory, there's quite more work to do just yet before anyone goes about claiming the conclusive presence of a prior universe.


NASA Is About to Grab an Asteroid Sample and Bring it Home

Bennu is a carbonaceous asteroid — a primitive, carbon-rich piece of debris left over from the  process that formed the solar system 4.6 billion years ago
Bennu is a carbonaceous asteroid — a primitive, carbon-rich piece of debris left over from the process that formed the solar system 4.6 billion years ago

For the past two years, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has sailed across the solar system by the light of the stars. Like ancient mariners and the Apollo astronauts, it needed the constancy of the constellations to navigate the dark unknown.

All that changed Monday, when the NASA probe finally reached its target, an Empire State Building-size asteroid named Bennu. Now OSIRIS-REx faces a whole new kind of challenge: exploring the smallest object ever orbited by a spacecraft. Sitting at mission control at the Denver offices of Lockheed Martin, which operates the spacecraft for NASA, engineer Javi Cerna waited for the signal indicating OSIRIS-REx had begun the burn needed to bring it close to its target.

OSIRIS-REx was within 12 miles of Bennu's surface. Soon an image of the asteroid appeared on the mission control screens: a diamond-shaped body with a rough, speckled exterior. OSIRIS-REx was finally at the doorstep of its new home. Bennu is a carbonaceous asteroid - a primitive, carbon-rich piece of debris left over from the process that formed the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. OSIRIS-REx will spend the next 18 months there, surveying the landscape and probing Bennu's chemical makeup before finally selecting what piece of the asteroid it wants to bring back home.

In a kiss-like maneuver, the spacecraft's robotic arm will collect material from Bennu's surface, then sling the sample back toward Earth. It will be the largest planetary sample retrieved since the Apollo era, when astronauts brought rocks back from the moon. Studying the sample in terrestrial labs, scientists hope to uncover clues about the birth of the planets and the origins of Earth's water and life. They may also uncover potentially useful natural resources such as organic molecules and precious metals. 

And since Bennu has a 1-in-2,700 chance of impacting Earth about 200 years from now, researchers figure it would be good to glean insights about the asteroid's fate - and how it might intersect with our own. Bennu is so small, dark and distant (over 110 million kms from Earth at the moment) that scientists could only theorize about what it might look like when they launched OSIRIS-REx two years ago. To their delight, newly acquired close-ups of the asteroid closely match their predictions.

But there's still a lot to learn about the object, said University of Arizona Planetary Scientist Bashar Rizk, who oversees three of OSIRIS-REx's cameras. In the coming weeks and months, his team aims to get detailed measurements of the asteroid's shape, density and gravity that will allow scientists to fine-tune how they orbit it.

Bennu is so small that its gravity is nearly negligible. If you stood at Bennu's North Pole and jumped, you would achieve escape velocity and go soaring off into the void. That makes orbiting - which relies on a delicate balance between a spacecraft's velocity and an object's gravity - especially hard. "It will really be record-breaking in terms of the precision, the navigation, compared to anything we've done before," said an engineer at aerospace company KinetX. With gravity so weak, other factors could potentially knock OSIRIS-REx off course. 

Even the faint pressure of sunlight warming the spacecraft can create sufficient thrust to warp its orbit. Now, after 18 months of observations, OSIRIS-REx will swoop close to Bennu and extend a long robotic arm equipped with its sample-collecting instrument, called TAGSAM. With a puff of nitrogen gas, it will blow material off the asteroid's surface, gathering as much as 4.4 pounds of rock in the head of the sample. Then it must turn around and retrace its path back home.

Finally, on Sept. 24, 2023, a capsule containing the sample will streak through Earth's atmosphere and land in the Utah desert. As NASA scientists learn more about Bennu, they'll be comparing their findings with counterparts from the Japanese Space Agency, whose Hayabusa 2 spacecraft arrived at the asteroid Ryugu earlier this year.

OSIRIS-REx scientists expect to reveal the results of their early surveys of Bennu next week at the American Geophysical Union in Washington. Asked how he was feeling at the moment of arrival, principal investigator Dante Lauretta tweeted, "relieved, proud and anxious to start exploring!"

How To Explore The Universe While You're Stuck At Home 

The distant cosmos isn't beyond your reach. You can explore the universe without getting off the couch. Spending time at home (whether willingly or not) doesn't mean you can't explore the great wonders that our universe has to offer. Beautiful images and tours of distant galaxies and nebulae can be accessed right from your computer. And in that spirit, here are a few free websites that can deliver the cosmos directly to you - no spaceflight required.

1. NASA TV

Ever wonder what the world looks like from the International Space Station? Do you want to watch an astronaut speak from space? NASA TV is the perfect place to see both of these things and more. This free, 24-hour video service can be found on YouTube and on NASA's website. Throughout the day, you can drop in to watch astronauts give talks on microgravity, NASA scientists explaining upcoming missions, and even catch a live launch if you tune in at the right time.

And while the current coronavirus pandemic has many of us trapped at home, now's the perfect time to explore the space agency's NASA at Home website, which is packed with links to podcasts, videos, e-books, virtual tours, and more. If you're instead interested in leafing through static images of cosmic wonders, NASA also has a collection of thousands of interstellar photos that are also completely free and open to the public.

2. ESA videos and images

The European Space Agency (ESA) website is a lot like NASA's in that it has plenty of engaging and educational videos to watch. Get a behind-the-scenes tour of their launch site in French Guiana, or listen in as experts discuss the plans and challenges of upcoming missions.

As one of the world's leading space agencies, the ESA's website is designed with public outreach in mind. In addition to hosting thousands of videos and tens of thousands of images, the ESA also livestreams its own channel called ESA Web TV.

3. The Hubble Space Telescope's homepage

The most famous space telescope in history - a joint mission undertaken by NASA and the ESA - has its own website with loads of information on exoplanets, nebulae, stars, galaxies, and much more. You can sift through collections of thousands of photos, countless videos, and informative articles.

Hubblesite.org offers a lot of knowledge in one place. Whether you're looking for quick facts on the telescope, its mission, or its science, or just the latest Hubble news, the telescope's online portal has you covered. The site also has educational resources to help making teaching the next generation about Hubble's mission and astronomy as a science both easy and fun!

4. Cosmos: Possible Worlds

In 1980, Carl Sagan mesmerized the world when he hosted a humbling, captivating, and, most of all, accessible television series called Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. This show - written by Sagan, Steven Soter, and Emmy and Peabody Award-winner Ann Druyan (who married Sagan in 1981) - thoughtfully explored the wonders of the universe, as well as our place in it. (By the way, if you haven't heard Sagan's famous Pale Blue Dot monologue, do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to listen to it.)

In 2014, almost two decades after Sagan's death in 1996, Soter and Druyan again teamed up as writers to reboot the series with a new season called Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. This time around, the show was hosted by, Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famed astrophysicist and Director of Hayden Planetarium in New York City.

The companion book to the latest season of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan's blockbuster, Cosmos, is available now. Go beyond the series to undertake an exhilarating journey through space and time. Get your copy now! And earlier this month, 40 years after Sagan first brought the distant cosmos into our living rooms, the latest season of the show - Cosmos: Possible Worlds - premiered.

5. Astronomy magazine

Finally, did you know we host a collection of videos right here at Astronomy.com? For example, "The Real Reality Show" will teach you about the history of astronomy and answer some of those burning questions you didn't even know you were wondering about. Or you can browse our archive of hundreds of thought-provoking reader questions that have been answered by our editors and outside experts.

Astronomy.com also has plenty of tools, podcasts, videos, and guides on observing for those looking to use their downtime to explore the night sky in person. Just remember, if you manage to capture a great shot of the heavens, make sure to submit it to our Space & Beyond Box Photo Contest, which runs through April 23, 2020.

If you're looking for short video snippets of popular news stories, Check out our Astro News Bytes series. And for those of you who are stuck in the house but don't have time to watch anything, you can also tune in to past episodes of our podcast: 5 Questions with David J. Eicher.

Remember, the cosmos is never out of reach; it's always out there, just waiting to be explored from the comfort of your own home!


EARLIER REPORTS March 2020

Spacex Satellite Swarm Will Be Visible With Naked Eye

SpaceX is exploring options to reduce the impact of its satellites
SpaceX is exploring options to reduce the impact of its satellites

On Wednesday, SpaceX launched yet another 60 Starlink satellites into orbit, furthering the company's plan to beam internet service down to the entire globe.

While CEO Elon Musk and COO Gwynne Shotwell have repeatedly insisted that the blanket of satellites won't hinder astronomy or space exploration efforts, new models suggest a much more grim outlook. In fact, Popular Science reports that hundreds of Starlink satellites could be visible to the naked eye, changing the landscape of the night sky as it appears from Earth.

The study, shared on the preprint server ArXiv on Monday, argues that a complete Starlink network would flood the night sky with visible lights, crowding out stars. To be fair, SpaceX is exploring options to reduce the impact of its satellites - preliminary research suggests, for instance, that painting the Earth-facing side of them black would make the swarm 2.5 times less visible.

That would help amateur astronomers and stargazers better appreciate a starry sky. But PopSci reports that professional researchers and space exploration agencies could face serious problems navigating around a Starlink constellation, no matter what color the paint.

Going forward, astronomers will have to take extra steps and observatories will have to be outfitted with costly equipment if they want to continue conducting research on a sky filled with thousands of Starlink satellites, PopSci reports.

"This is a wakeup call for astronomers generally to start thinking about the mitigations," Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and study author Jonathan McDowell told PopSci.

Download the App

NB/ If you want to see the satellite train for yourself download an app on your phone or tablet caled: Star Tracker. This will give you sighting times for your area. 


Nasa Worried Astronauts Could Spread Coronavirus On Space Station

NASA is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
NASA is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

NASA is reevaluating its standard pre-launch precautionary measures to ensure that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus doesn't have a chance to spread among its employees - and to stop the deadly virus from reaching orbit, according to Space.com.

NASA astronauts already go through "health stabilization," a two week quarantine that ensures they are not incubating any illnesses before blasting off into space.

Once in space, any astronaut's ability to fight off diseases is compromised as microgravity has been shown to affect the immune system - which could make a COVID-19 outbreak on board the space station a potentially life-threatening situation.

Meanwhile, Russia is considering extending this pre-flight quarantine. Nonetheless, an April 9 launch to the ISS with US astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner is still approved for liftoff.

"We expect them to take additional measures to make sure that quarantine is a little tighter," NASA's ISS program manager Kirk Shireman said. "We're ready to deal with that if it happens."

For now, NASA is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols to combat the coronavirus outbreak.  This includes cleaning of surfaces, social distancing, emphasizing hand hygiene, encouraging NASA team members who are sick to stay home and limiting contact with crew members.

The news comes after an employee at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley tested positive for COVID-19 last week, causing the center to mandate strict work from home measures.


Giant 'potentially hazardous' asteroid will fly safely by Earth in April

NASA has classified asteroid 1998 OR2 as "potentially hazardous"
NASA has classified asteroid 1998 OR2 as "potentially hazardous"

Don't worry. It won't even come close to hitting us. A large and "potentially hazardous" asteroid is poised to fly by Earth next month, but don't worry - it poses no threat to Earth. Asteroid (52768) 1998 OR2 will make a close approach to Earth on April 29. The hefty space rock has an estimated diameter of 1.8 to 4.1 kilometers.

While an asteroid that size could wreak havoc if it crashed into Earth - prompting some alarmist and misinformed media reports - this asteroid poses no threat. At its closest approach, which will happen at about 5:56 a.m. EDT (0956 GMT), asteroid 1998 OR2 will be 6.3 million km from Earth. That's more than 16 times the average distance between Earth and the moon.

NASA has classified asteroid 1998 OR2 as "potentially hazardous" not because it puts Earth in danger, but because it fulfills certain criteria in the agency's classification scheme. According to NASA, an asteroid qualifies as "potentially hazardous" if its orbit ever intersects Earth's orbit at a distance less than 7.5 million km, or 0.05 astronomical units, the average distance between Earth and the sun.

Asteroid 1998 OR2, which orbits the sun in between the orbits of Earth and Mars, won't fly by Earth again until May 18, 2031, and it will be farther away, passing about 12 million miles (19 million km) from our planet, according to NASA. Its next two flybys, in 2048 and 2062, will be even farther away. The closest flyby of asteroid 1998 OR2 for the foreseeable future will be on April 16, 2079, when it will be only 1.1 million miles (1.8 million km) away.

NASA and its international partners are actively scanning the skies for potentially hazardous asteroids and studying ways to deflect an Earth-bound asteroid before it strikes. So far, about one-third of the 25,000 large asteroids thought to be zooming around in Earth's cosmic neighborhood have been discovered.


Here Is What Humans Will Look Like In 1,000 Years

Humans are evolving with time. And ever wondered what humans will look like in 1,000 years? Here is the video below folks from Tech Insider explain what humans will be like in 1,000 years from now. 

New Study Shows the Earth and Moon are not so Similar After All

The theory that the Earth and the Moon were once a single body has existed since the 19th century.
The theory that the Earth and the Moon were once a single body has existed since the 19th century.

According to the most widely-accepted theory, the Moon formed roughly 4.5 billion years ago when a Mars-sized object named Theia collided with Earth (aka. the Giant Impact Hypothesis). This impact threw up considerable amounts of debris which gradually coalesced to form Earth's only natural satellite. One of the most compelling proofs for this theory is the fact that the Earth and the Moon are remarkably similar in terms of composition.

However, previous studies involving computer simulations have shown that if the Moon were created by a giant impact, it should have retained more material from the impactor itself. But according to a new study conducted by a team from the University of New Mexico, it is possible that the Earth and the Moon are not as similar as previously thought.

The theory that the Earth and the Moon were once a single body has existed since the 19th century. But it was not until rock samples were brought back by the Apollo astronauts that scientists had definitive evidence that Earth and the Moon formed together. These samples showed that like Earth, the Moon was composed of silicate minerals and metals differentiated between a metal core and a silicate mantle and crust.

While the Moon has less iron and less in the way of lighter elements, the Giant Impact Hypothesis explains this quite well. Iron, a particularly heavy element, would have been retained by Earth while the heat and explosive force of the impact caused the lighter elements to boil off and be ejected into space. The rest of the material from Earth and Theia would have then cooled and then mixed to form the Earth and Moon as we know them today.

This theory also explains the speed and nature with which the Moon orbits the Earth; in particular, how it is tidally-locked with our planet. However, previous studies involving computer simulations have shown that in this scenario, roughly 80% of the Moon should consist of material that originated from Theia.

This presents a serious quandary for astronomers and geologists, and various theories have been advanced to explain this. In one scenario, Theia was similar in composition to Earth, which would explain why Earth and the Moon seem so similar. In another, the mixing of materials was very thorough, to the point that both the Earth and the Moon retain elements of Theia.

Unfortunately, these explanations are either inconsistent with what we know about the Solar System or present theoretical problems of their own. To shed light on this, Cano and his colleagues considered a key inconsistency with the Giant Impact Hypothesis. Basically, when scientists examined the Apollo lunar rock samples, they noted that the oxygen isotope values were virtually identical to those found in rocks here on Earth.

If the Giant Impact Hypothesis is correct, then the precursors to the Earth and Moon either had identical values to begin with, or extensive homogenization took place after the impact event. To address this, Cano and his colleagues conducted a high-precision oxygen isotope analysis of a range of different lunar rocks. What they found was that lunar rocks showed higher concentrations of lighter oxygen isotopes than Earth.

In addition, the differences increase the deeper one probes from the crust into the mantle. They attribute this to the fact that the crust is where debris from Earth and Theia would have mixed, whereas the interior is where material from Theia would be more concentrated. As they summarize in their study:

"Oxygen isotope values of lunar samples correlate with lithology, and we propose that the differences can be explained by mixing between isotopically light vapour, generated by the impact, and the outermost portion of the early lunar magma ocean. Our data suggest that samples derived from the deep lunar mantle, which are isotopically heavy compared to Earth, have isotopic compositions that are most representative of the proto-lunar impactor 'Theia'."

In summary, the team's research findings show that Earth and Theia were not similar in composition, which provides the first definitive evidence that Theia likely formed farther from the Sun than Earth did. Similarly, their work shows that the distinct oxygen isotope compositions of Theia and Earth were not completely homogenized by the Moon-forming impact.

This study calls to mind research that was recently conducted by a team from Yale and the Tokyo Institute of Technology. According to their work, the Earth was still a hot ball of magma when the Moon-forming impact took place. This is what would have allowed for material from Theia to be lost to space while material from Earth quickly coalesced to form the Moon.

Whether material from Theia was lost to space or retained as part of the Moon's interior is a question that scientists will be able to examine more fully thanks to the many sample-return missions that will be happening in the coming years. These include NASA send astronauts back to the lunar surface (Project Artemis) and multiple rovers sent by China (Chang'e 5 and Chang'e 6 missions).

These and other mysteries about Earth's only satellite stand a good chance of being answered soon!

Somewhere out there: Beginners guide to astronomy

Astronomy is a big field, but you can explore it at your own pace
Astronomy is a big field, but you can explore it at your own pace

Looking up at the night sky with its different constellations and stars glimmering before you can turn into a lifelong passion. Watching celestial bodies may be a great pastime activity, but have you thought about turning it into a real hobby?

Astronomy could seem like a difficult field to delve into. So, if you have recently thought about taking up astronomy but do not know where to start, just check out the next few points for a comprehensive beginner's guide.

Learn More

This might seem easier said than done, but the first thing you should always do when you want to take up a new hobby, especially one that is a bit complex like astronomy, is gaining more knowledge about the field. Astronomy can be a scary field to explore; after all, some people choose it as a major in college! However, do not let that discourage you because your goal should be learning more, not becoming an expert astronomer. So, head to your public library and stock up on books. You can find magazines that include a map of the sky for each month and different books for all levels, which can be a great source of information when you are still a beginner.

Get Out Of The City

If you live in a populous city with a lot of light pollution, then chances are that you will not be able to see the stars and constellations clearly. In case you cannot get out of the city, start with the moon, as it stays visible even when there is light pollution, so you can learn about its phases and monitor its progress throughout the month. When you are ready for a clearer view, go to a place with no light pollution like the countryside where you can take pictures of the sky. Taking pictures using the fixed tripod method is a great hack for beginners who do not have much experience in astrography. All you need is a manual single-lens reflex (SLR) camera and a tripod to keep the camera in place. This method can give you beautiful photos of star trails that you will be proud to show off to your friends and family. When looking for locations where you can stargaze, always look for a place that gives you a wide view of the horizon away from bright light sources. Also, use high elevation to your advantage to get a clear view of the sky. So, you can stargaze from the top of a hill or a high building.

Buy The Right Equipment

Having a high-end telescope can be a dream come true for any astronomy lover, but you do not have to go all out and break the bank to enjoy your new hobby. Binoculars make for an awesome substitute for beginners, and they are cheaper as well, so it is a win-win situation! Opt for binoculars that spot large front lenses and high optical quality for better viewing. When you are ready for more advanced gadgets, consider getting a high-end telescope. Buying a telescope is a huge investment, though, so make sure to read reviews and compare prices to get the best value for money. Generally, you need a light telescope that you can carry easily. Getting a telescope that sports a big aperture can be tempting, but as a beginner, you should worry more about accessibility. There are also models with built-in computers and motors that can help you spot celestial bodies more easily, which can be a good option if you are willing to splurge on your new telescope.

Make It Fun

Watching the sky on your own can become a bit repetitive over time, and it is up to you to keep it fresh and interesting. So, why not have fun while learning about different constellations? Most constellations have stories, such as Orion the Hunter and Andromeda. Most of these stories focus on ancient Greek culture, which can offer a great learning experience. Not only will this make you excited to learn more about the stars and celestial bodies, but it can also help you impress others with your knowledge! Moreover, you can join an astronomy club in your town to find other amateurs like you and share your experience with them.

Astronomy is a big field, but you can explore it at your own pace if you have the patience and the passion needed. As a beginner, you need to get the right equipment like binoculars and telescopes, stock up on books and star maps, and get away from bright light sources to get a clear view of the sky. Once you find your groove and gain more knowledge, stargazing will be a totally different experience!


Modern Recording Equipment For Space 'Sounds' 

Space waves can have a sound, even if space is a vacuum.
Space waves can have a sound, even if space is a vacuum.

While space emits no noise, the waves of various energy types that can be captured from scanning the stars can be converted to an audio basis. As outlined by NASA, this has been done frequently in the past, from the Roar of Jupiter to the Sounds of a Comet Encounter. With modern recording technology, these incredible sounds can now be captured at home with similar quality to what it took back in 'the day' to capture what we now think of as space noises.

Background equipment

The more powerful your equipment, the better quality recordings you can make. However, anyone can aim to record waves from space. The first step is to have good quality home equipment; you'll want recording kit that isn't easily interfered with by outside sounds, and that can focus on specific points in the sky. Kit that is used to isolate and get down specific nature sounds will do the trick here. Amateur astronomers conducting extraordinary feats like this is nothing new. In 2018, a Canadian amateur astronomer discovered a satellite that even NASA had lost. With the right focus, you will be able to isolate finds.

What waves can become sound?

All waves are capable of making some sound; gamma, for instance, is a frequency used in binaural beats, touted to provide benefits to work and study. However, not all are audible, and it will take some aptitude to turn a captured wave into a noise. Most waves are, however, convertible - this proof of concept has been established well in microchips, with Futurism noting the rapidly prevalent method of storing light as sound within data banks in chips. With the right software and hardware, you will be able to calculate equivalent wavelengths and formulate the sound you want to make. An easy place to start is with radio waves and similar frequencies that are common to modern digital and analogue media. Moving on to more esoteric concepts will come with time.

The outcome

What does space sound like, then? NASA's famous recordings offer an insight. The Roar of Jupiter is its magnetosphere, an unerring hum that The Verge equate to the sound of a Star Wars lightsabre. Conversely, Saturn produces wavelengths from its rings that sound like an eerie static television. Elsewhere, gamma waves are more rhythmic, as established in binaural beats, and the comet pass-by is far more familiar - the physical sound of rock and ice tinkling against metal protective casing. While home astronomers would be very lucky to collect such an in-depth sound, there remain plenty of opportunities among the stars from the countless signals given off from stars and planets, old and new.

Space waves can have a sound, even if space is a vacuum. This has been shown, time and time again, by enthusiasts across the world - as well as NASA. Astronomy has been opened up big time as a hobby for people of all backgrounds, and with that comes the ability to make your own space sounds playlist.

**Article Written and Supplied by our popular correspondent 'Sally' Contact:  sally@diamondmail.net


This Woman Claims She Owns The Sun 

The Sun has been legally registered as the property of a Spanish woman,
The Sun has been legally registered as the property of a Spanish woman,

In September 2010, Angeles Duran a housewife in Spain claimed legal ownership of the sun.

It has been up there in the sky in plain view for billions of years but nobody seems to have thought of its earning potential - until now.

A canny Spanish woman from Galicia - a sun-drenched region on the border with Spain and Portugal - has decided that she owns the star, and has the registration papers to prove it.

Angeles Duran, 49, says that the sun officially belongs to her now, having had the celestial body registered in her name at a local notary office. 'I know the law': An international agreement states that no country may claim ownership of a planet or star, but it says nothing about individuals

Ms Duran told the online edition of daily El Mundo she took the step in September after reading about an American man who had registered himself as the owner of the moon and most planets in our solar system.

There is an international agreement which states that no country may claim ownership of a planet or star, but it says nothing about individuals, she added. 'There was no snag, I backed my claim legally, I am not stupid, I know the law. 'I did it but anyone else could have done it, it simply occurred to me first.'

The document issued by the notary public declares Ms Duran to be the 'owner of the Sun, a star of spectral type G2, located in the centre of the solar system, located at an average distance from Earth of about 149,600,000 kilometers'.

Ms Duran, who lives in the town of Salvaterra do Mino, said she now wants to slap a fee on everyone who uses the sun and give half of the proceeds to the Spanish government - and 20 per cent to the nation's pension fund.

She would dedicate another 10 per cent to research, another 10 per cent to ending world hunger - and would keep the remaining 10 per cent herself. She said: 'It is time to start doing things the right way, if there is an idea for how to generate income and improve the economy and people's wellbeing, why not do it?'

For those who might be a little too broke to venture out in the sunlight - and risk a large bill at the end of the day - Ms Duran has not yet figured out a way of enforcing her sun charge. Someone has already bought solar land on her webpage 


Japanese Plans To Build A Space Elevator By 2050

Japanese company Obayashi has declared that they will have a space elevator assembled by 2050. The elevator will spread 96,000 km (60,000 mi) into space and will transport people and shipment to a new space station. It will also work as a port to transport astronauts to Mars and beyond.

"The construction process consists of deploying the cable and constructing the facilities. It is necessary to analyze the cable dynamics in order to estimate the characteristics of the cable, counter-weight, facilities and climbers, and in order to determine the construction procedures.

Parameters for the cable dynamics include tension, displacement and elongation of the cable due to ascending climbers, masses of counter-weight and cable, wind, and fixed loads of facilities.

With the help of a computer simulation of the equations of motion, we designed the system and determined the construction process." ~ Obayashi

Watch the video above to learn more about their model.


This Machine Turns Pee Into Water...in Space

The new hardware will recycle waste water into potable water more efficiently than before.
The new hardware will recycle waste water into potable water more efficiently than before.

In space, hydration is at a premium. That's why astronauts living onboard the International Space Station (ISS) go through some extreme measures to drink the doctor's recommended amount of H20 everyday-they recycle it from pee.

For years, NASA relied on a complex hardware system-in personal EVA suits and aboard the ISS itself-to recycle moisture, like sweat, condensation, and urine. Now, this system is getting a big upgrade. Launched March 6 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This new equipment will make the machines more efficient, reliable, and save money, providing a reliable supply of H20...even if it's from an unconventional source.

"Improving the efficiency and reliability of the current system will diminish the need for an excess of spare parts on board," project manager for the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) Jennifer Pruitt of Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said in a statement. "With less maintenance required, the crew can focus on the science at hand."

The current ECLSS is made up of two components, the Water Recovery System, which sends gray water through a series of filters and chemical reactions, and the Oxygen Generation System. "One of the most important things we've learned in the last 12 years of the hardware's orbital operation is that the hardware is vulnerable in its steam environment." Pruitt said. To correct these faults, engineers upgraded the system to include a new toothed belt drive system, fresh bearing seals, a Teflon spacer, and a liquid level spacer.

Earlier life support systems were clunky, prone to accidents, and disposable. Astronauts on the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions were only supposed to use the systems once before discarding them. On the Skylab space station, astronauts relied on stores of water and oxygen. During the Space Shuttle missions, frequent and expensive resupply trips were scheduled to deliver water and oxygen to the astronauts.

As we explore farther and farther out into the solar system, the need for faster, more efficient and less expensive life support systems will be even more critical. Several research teams are working on high-tech solutions. One group, for example, is betting on microalgae as a means of clearing the air and producing oxygen.

But whatever systems adorn a far-future spacecraft, urine will likely remain a necessary ingredient for human space travel.


Alfred Worden (1932-2020)

: One of only 24 people to fly to the moon, Alfred "Al" Worden has died at age 88. As the command module pilot on Apollo 15, Worden orbited the moon while his crewmates, David Scott and James Irwin, explored the lunar surface. He was the first astronaut to perform a spacewalk outside of low Earth orbit and set a record as "the most isolated that any human has been from another person" during his days circling the moon alone

'X' marks the spot

: Visitors to Space Center Houston can now stroll under a twice-landed Falcon 9 rocket stage following a pathway in the shape of the 'X' in SpaceX's logo. Raised 14 feet above the ground, the booster shows the scorch and sot marks from its two launches to resupply the International Space Station in 2017. The Falcon 9 first stage is displayed intact, with its four landing legs, four grid fins and nine aft-mounted Merlin 1D rocket engines.

'Spacewalker' satellites

: OneWeb is paying tribute to the world's first spacewalk 55 years ago. The company dedicated its next launch of broadband satellites to the late cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, who made history performing the first extravehicular activity on March 18, 1965. OneWeb designed the mission patch for the launch to depict Leonov on his spacewalk outside of the Voskhod 2 spacecraft.

Perseverance

: NASA's next Mars rover now has a new name: Perseverance. Chosen out of 28,000 contest entries, NASA selected the name entered by seventh grade student Alex Mather to represent the six-wheeled science platform targeted to land on Mars in February 2021. Mather proposed Perseverance to complement the names of prior Mars rovers, including Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity.

Apollo 13 in Real Time

: Despite their flight's designation and liftoff at 13:13 p.m. CDT, the Apollo 13 crew did not pay much attention to triskaidekaphobia. So when picking a date to launch Apollo 13 in Real Time, Ben Feist did not have a problem with Friday, March 13 (Friday the 13th). "The crew of Apollo 13 were not superstitious, and neither are we," he said. The website presents never-before-heard mission control audio synced with Apollo 13 multimedia.

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