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FEATURED STORIES 24 February 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. 

Oooops!! Betelguese may not be ready to explode into a Supernova.... Not just yet!

Is Betelgeuse Ok?

As you may have heard, Betelgeuse, the red giant which we know is towards the end of it's stellar evolution and ready to go supernova, recently had an unprecedented dimming event. It's normal periodic variation suddenly dropped off a cliff in a way we'd never seen before.

ESO trained it's Very Large Telescope to the star to see what was going on and came back with the image you see above. You may notice that in both photos Betelgeuse doesn't look like a symmetrical circle like our Sun, but often lopsided which is normal for this weird star.

The question with this image however is whether Betelgeuse is really having a bad-fusion day and about to pop, OR has it wandered into the path of some sort of dust obscuring our vision of the star.

We should receive some kind of early warning in the form of neutrinos or even a gravitational wave signal preceding any explosion so for now it looks like the dimming event is over and the trend in brightness is .. well.. looking bright again. Soon, Betelgeuse, soon.


Mars is a seismically active world, first results from NASA's InSight lander reveal

This image, the second selfie captured by NASA's InSight Mars lander, is a mosaic of 14 photos taken between March 15 and April 11, 2019. (Image: © NASA/JPL-Caltech)
This image, the second selfie captured by NASA's InSight Mars lander, is a mosaic of 14 photos taken between March 15 and April 11, 2019. (Image: © NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Mars may be cold and dry, but it's far from dead. The first official science results from NASA's quake-hunting InSight Mars lander just came out, and they reveal a regularly roiled world. "We've finally, for the first time, established that Mars is a seismically active planet," InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said during a teleconference with reporters Thursday (Feb. 20).

Martian seismicity falls between that of the moon and that of Earth, Banerdt added. "In fact, it's probably close to the kind of seismic activity you would expect to find away from the [tectonic] plate boundaries on Earth and away from highly deformed areas," he said.

Probing the Martian subsurface

InSight touched down near the Martian equator in November 2018, kicking off a two-year, $850 million mission to probe the Red Planet's interior in unprecedented detail. The stationary lander carries two main science instruments to do this work: a supersensitive suite of seismometers and a burrowing heat probe dubbed "the mole," which is designed to get at least 10 feet (3 meters) below the Red Planet's surface.

Analyses of marsquake and heat-transport measurements will allow the mission team to construct a detailed, 3D map of the Martian interior, NASA officials have said. In addition, InSight scientists are using radio signals beamed from the lander to track how much Mars wobbles on its axis over time.

This information will help researchers determine how big and dense the planet's core is. (The mission's full name - Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport - references these various lines of investigation.) Overall, InSight's observations will help scientists better understand how rocky planets such as Mars, Earth and Venus form and evolve, mission team members have said.

The mission's initial science returns, which were published today (Feb. 21) in six papers in the journals Nature Geoscience and Nature Communications, show that InSight is on track to meet that long-term goal, Banerdt said. (We have gotten a taste of these results over the past year or so, however, as mission team members have released some findings in dribs and drabs.)

Lots of quakes

The new studies cover the first 10 months of InSight's tenure on Mars, during which the lander detected 174 seismic events. These quakes came in two flavors. One hundred and fifty of them were shallow, small-magnitude tremors whose vibrations propagated through the Martian crust. The other 24 were a bit stronger and deeper, with origins at various locales in the mantle, InSight team members said.

(But even those bigger quakes weren't that powerful; they landed in the magnitude 3 to 4 range. Here on Earth, quakes generally must be at least magnitude 5.5 to damage buildings.)

That was the tremor tally through September 2019. InSight has been busy since then as well; its total quake count now stands at about 450, Banerdt said. And all of this shaking does indeed originate from Mars itself, he added; as far as the team can tell, none of the vibrations were caused by meteorites hitting the Red Planet. So, there's a lot going on beneath the planet's surface.

Many insights

A wealth of information can be gleaned from InSight's quake measurements. For example, analyses of how the seismic waves move through the Martian crust suggest there are small amounts of water mixed in with the rock, mission team members said. "Our data is consistent with a crust which has some moisture in it, but we can't say one way or the other whether there [are] large underground reservoirs of water at this point," Banerdt said.

The new papers report a variety of other discoveries as well. For example, InSight is the first mission ever to tote a magnetometer to the Martian surface, and that instrument detected a local magnetic field about 10 times stronger than would be expected based on orbital measurements. (Mars lost its global magnetic field billions of years ago, however. This allowed solar particles to strip away the once-thick Martian atmosphere, which spurred the planet's transition from a relatively warm and wet world to the cold desert it is today.)

InSight is also taking a wealth of weather data, measuring pressure many times per second and temperature once every few seconds, Banerdt said. This information helps the mission team better understand environmental noise that could complicate interpretations of the seismic observations, but it also has considerable stand-alone value.

"This is really going to, I think, revolutionize our understanding of the interaction of the atmosphere with the surface of Mars," Banerdt said. "That's one of the things that's really going to open up a whole new window of research on Mars."

Mole update

Not everything has gone smoothly for InSight, however. Notably, the mole has been unable to get down to its prescribed depth because the Martian dirt is proving more slippery than mission team members had anticipated. (The mole's self-hammering burrowing system requires a certain amount of friction to work.)

The mission team has tried several strategies to get the mole moving, including pressing on the side of the probe with InSight's robotic arm to generate the required friction. This latter tactic has generated some halting success, but the mole remains stranded too close to the surface.

So, in the next six to eight weeks, mission team members aim to try a modification of the arm-pressing strategy, in which they'll push on the mole's back rather than its side. The goal is to get the mole about 16 inches (40 centimeters) down, at which point it will hopefully be able to start digging on its own, Banerdt said.

The InSight team would also like a bit more cooperation from Mars on the seismic side of things, if possible. The lander has not yet spotted any truly big quakes, which have the potential to paint a clearer picture of the planet's deep interior for mission scientists.

The lack of powerful quakes is no surprise, Banerdt stressed; big tremors are much rarer than their smaller counterparts here on Earth, after all. So, the team may have to wait a while to get one. But such issues aren't derailing the mission; the team is excited about how things have gone thus far, Banerdt said.

"I think we're well on our way to getting most, if not all, of the goals that we set for ourselves 10 years ago when we started this mission," he said


Scientists claim to have discover what existed BEFORE the beginning of the universe

The equations predict that the expansion of the universe will come to a halt and then will immediately be followed by a contracting phase.
The equations predict that the expansion of the universe will come to a halt and then will immediately be followed by a contracting phase.

There are many scientific and non-scientific varieties of the answer about what came before Big Bang. Some say there was literally nothing and some say a black hole or a multiverse. But now a group of mathematicians from Canada and Egypt have analyzed some cutting edge scientific theory and a complex set of equations to find what preceded the universe in which we live. Their research paper has been published in Nature.

To explain it in simple and easily understandable terms; they applied the theories of the very small i.e. the world of quantum mechanics, to the entire universe - explained by general theory of relativity, and discovered the universe essentially goes through four different phases. More importantly they discovered what came before this universe was.. Another universe or more accurately another 'cosmological phase'.

Despite being infinite in size our universe is cyclical and has always existed in one of four stages. The universe is expanding, and the expansion is speeding up, but the team believes that certain modification motivated by quantum mechanics will ultimately halt the expansion and pull the whole lot back to a near infinite point - at which stage the universe will start expanding again.

The paper, called ''Non-singular and Cyclic Universe from the Modified GUP'', written by Maha Salah, Fayçal Hammad, Mir Faizal, Ahmed Farag Ali, is super complex but Prof. Mir Faizal outlined the main points of this paper. According to him they have incorporated quantum mechanical effects in cosmology using an approach called the modified GUP.

This approach changes the equation for cosmology in a very interesting way. It predicts four distinct phases for our universe - the present phase of the universe being just one of those phases.

There is a phase before the big bang in this cosmological model, and it is possible to know about that phase of the universe by studying the physics of present phase of our universe.

Professor Mir Faizal said:

"In our cosmological model the universe did not start with the big bang, but there was a phase transition from one phase of the universe to another."

"This is possible because the universe can exist in four different phases, like ordinary water can exist in three different phases. Just as we can know about the properties of ice, by studying water which has formed from it, we can know about pre big bang cosmology by studying the physics of this universe."

In their model they have been able to study the pre-Big Bang state of the universe. The equations in their model predict that the expansion of the universe will come to a halt and then will immediately be followed by a contracting phase.

Prof Mir added:

"When the equations are extrapolated beyond the maximum rate of contraction, a cyclic universe scenario emerges. "Other cosmologists have suggested a big bang and big crunch scenario - but those model have singularities. Singularities are bad in physics as they indicate a place where the laws of physics breakdown, and at such places one cannot use physics to get meaningful results."

"This new cosmological model does away with such singularity. The big bang singularity can therefore also be avoided by using the modified GUP-corrections to the cosmology."

In their cosmology model, the cyclic nature of the universe occurs as a result of incorporating quantum effects into a cosmological model of the universe. Prof Faizal explained that even though there are many different mind-bending approaches to quantum gravity, like string theory and loop quantum gravity, what most of these different approaches have in common is that there is a minimum length below which space does not exist.

Many of these approaches also predict that there is also a maximum energy and no object in the universe can have an energy beyond that maximum energy. They research team incorporated the effect of having a minimum length and an maximum energy into a cosmological model, and then they ended up with a cyclic universe.

Asked about the philosophical and even possible theological implications of his work Prof. Mir said:

"No one draws any philosophical or theological implications of a finite or an infinite spatial dimension, and time is just another dimension, so why should it be treated any differently."

"In any case, I do not believe in a God of gaps, with big bang being a big gap, but in a God who made the mathematics describing reality so perfect that there are no gaps, not now and not at big bang."


China Reaches the Moon Farside Snapping Incredible, Never-Before-Seen High-Definition Images

While exploring the lunar surface, China's Chang'e 3 lander discovered a new type of moon rock, and managed to snap THOUSANDS of high-resolution images of the moon. For the first time ever, you can take a peek at the lunar surface like never before thanks to the sophisticated cameras located onboard the Chang'e 3, one of China's most advanced lunar landers.

The Lunar Mission touched down on the moon in 2013, on the region known as Mare Imbrium -where researchers believe in the distant past, actual water could have existed-making China the third country in the history of mankind to achieve a soft landing on the lunar surface, after the Soviet Union and United States of America.

Run rabbit run: The little rover snakes its way across the lunar environment, with the blackness of space above
Run rabbit run: The little rover snakes its way across the lunar environment, with the blackness of space above

Not long ago, Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla spent weeks searching through the photo trove -which has over 45 gigabytes of data-and presenting it all in a easily downloadable manner for the entire world to see.

"When it comes to data sharing from China, the situation is pretty good," says Lakdawalla, who notes that the images' formats mirror those used by NASA and the European Space Agency. "It would probably be much easier if I could read the language."

Along with the pebbles are larger boulders, caked in the same powdery rock dust which covers the lunar surface
Along with the pebbles are larger boulders, caked in the same powdery rock dust which covers the lunar surface

The images are beyond fascinating and have helped scientists around the world, to understand the complex and mysterious geology of the lunar surface, even revealing a completely new moon rock, undiscovered by previous mission of the Soviet Union and United States. Two years after touching down on the lunar surface, the instruments onboard the lander remain functional.

"China is trying to reach the top tier and show that they're a major space power," says Kevin Pollpeter, a Defense Group, Inc. analyst affiliated with the University of California San Diego. "They're also contributing real knowledge about the moon that we haven't been able to get before."

The CNSA's Chang'e 3 lander snaps pictures of the shallow tracks left by the wheels of its Yutu rover in the fine lunar soil
The CNSA's Chang'e 3 lander snaps pictures of the shallow tracks left by the wheels of its Yutu rover in the fine lunar soil

But China isn't stopping there and it seems they have great plans for the moon, reveling possible manned moon mission in the near future, expanding the lunar exploration like never before. While the CNSA website is difficult to navigate - not to mention entirely in Chinese - the US Planetary Society has reposted the images from both Yutu and Chang'e 3 in accessible formats.


Hubble Space Telescope Has Just Sent Back New Pictures of Saturn's Aurora And They Are Absolutely Stunning

Saturn's main auroral ring seems to be solar wind-generated
Saturn's main auroral ring seems to be solar wind-generated

Hubble Space Telescope Has Just Sent Back New Pictures of Saturn's Aurora And They Are Absolutely Stunning

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured series of stunning photos of Saturn, showing the planet's spectacular and breathtaking auroras over a period of seven months. On Earth, auroras are generated by solar winds, which interact with charged particles mainly protons and electrons in our magnetosphere.

These charged particles then rain into the ionosphere and travel along the planet's magnetic field lines to the poles, whereby lights occur in the night sky, as other particles such as oxygen and nitrogen interact with each other.

(ESA/Hubble, NASA, A. Simon (GSFC) and the OPAL Team, J. DePasquale (STScI), L. Lamy (Observatoire de Paris))
(ESA/Hubble, NASA, A. Simon (GSFC) and the OPAL Team, J. DePasquale (STScI), L. Lamy (Observatoire de Paris))

The space-based telescope use Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph to study Saturn's auroras in its northern hemisphere before and after the summer solstice. As previous Hubble observations of Saturn's auroras revealed the presence of radio wave activity which is also associated with Earth auroras.

The Hubble team states that, "The variability of the auroras is influenced by both the solar wind and the rapid rotation of Saturn, which lasts only about 11 hours," they wrote in an image release.

They also added, "The northern aurora displays two distinct peaks in brightness -at dawn and just before midnight. The latter peak, unreported before, seems specific to the interaction of the solar wind with the magnetosphere at Saturn's solstice."

Other planets have auroras too such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, also some exoplanets show some evidence of auroral activity. However, auroras are unique to each planet for instance Jupiter's permanent aurora is not caused by solar wind but some mysterious mechanism yet to be discovered.

And while Saturn's main auroral ring seems to be solar wind-generated, there are patches of it that are not, which is still a mystery.


Maria Mitchell, First Female Astronomer

It all started with a telescope which I'm sure was the reason she became fascinated with astronomy.
It all started with a telescope which I'm sure was the reason she became fascinated with astronomy.

Maria Mitchell is best known for being the first professional female astronomer in the United States. She discovered a new comet in 1847 that became known as "Miss Mitchell's Comet."

Who Was Maria Mitchell?

Maria Mitchell was an astronomer who studied astronomy on her own time with the support of her father. In 1847, Mitchell discovered a new comet, which became known as "Miss Mitchell's Comet," gaining her recognition in astronomy circles. She went on to become a professor of astronomy at Vassar College in New York, tracking and taking photos of sunspots with her students.

Early Life

Astronomer and educator Maria Mitchell was born to Quaker parents William and Lydia Mitchell on August 1, 1818, in Nantucket, Massachusetts, where she was raised and received her early education.

Mitchell's father, recognizing her interest in the heavens at an early age, encouraged her interest in astronomy and taught her how to use a telescope. She worked as the first librarian at the Nantucket Atheneum library from 1836 to 1856, all the while still gazing at the sky at night, studying solar eclipses, the stars, Jupiter and Saturn.

Discovering 'Miss Mitchell's Comet' and Becoming America's First Female Astronomer

On October 1, 1847, a 28-year-old Mitchell, while scanning the skies with her telescope atop the roof of her father's place of business, the Pacific National Bank on Main Street in Nantucket, discovered what she was sure was a comet. It turned out that she was right, and what she had spotted was, in fact, a new comet, previously uncharted by scientists. The celestial object subsequently became known as "Miss Mitchell's Comet," with the formal title of C/1847 T1.

In recognition of her important discovery, Mitchell was presented with a gold medal by Frederick VI, king of Denmark, who had an amateur interest in astronomy himself. Consequently, Mitchell became the first professional female astronomer in the United States.

The breakthrough brought Mitchell respect and recognition among astronomers and other scientists, and in 1848, she became the first woman to be named to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The following year, Mitchell made computations for the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac. In 1850, she was elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 1856, Mitchell left the Atheneum to travel the United States and abroad, and in 1865, she took a job as a professor of astronomy at Vassar College in upstate New York, where she quickly became a well-liked and respected educator. Among many projects, Mitchell and her students continuously tracked and photographed sunspots. In 1882, they documented Venus traversing the sun-one of the rarest planetary alignments known to man, occurring only eight times between 1608 and 2012.

Mitchell was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1869. Four years later, in 1873, she co-founded the Association for the Advancement of Women, serving as the organization's president for the next three years.

According to the National Women's History Museum, Mitchell once stated, "We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry."

Death and Legacy

In 1861, after her mother died, Mitchell moved to Lynn, Massachusetts, with her father. In ill health, she retired from teaching at Vassar in 1888, and died on June 28, 1889. She is buried with family members at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Nantucket.

In honor of the first female astronomer, the observatory in Nantucket was named the Maria Mitchell Observatory. Additionally, the Maria Mitchell Association, also in Nantucket; a World War II ship, the SS Maria Mitchell; and a crater on the moon ("Mitchell's Crater") were named after her.

Mitchell was posthumously inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1994.


Hold Onto Your Brain: Astronomers Have Discovered That Universe is Far Bigger Than We Thought 

So now it turns out, what we call the observable universe - the portion observable within our cosmological horizon, a.k.a the final frontier - has at least 10 times more galaxies than the mid-1990s Hubble Deep Field imageries sum to about 100 to 200 billion.

With the help of saved data from numerous deep space images from the Hubble Space Telescope and other telescopes, an international group of researchers led by Christopher Conselice from the University of Nottingham, UK, formed a 3D map of the known universe.

Mathematical models helped to compute for galaxies current telescopes cannot yet observe at the moment. These disclosed that, to make sense of the numbers and the maps, about 90% of galaxies are far, far away and too weak to be observed openly.

The map reconstructs, as perfectly as possible, diverse times in the universe's history as far back in times as 13 billion years in its past. Therefore, when the cosmos was some billion years younger than today, it had 10 more galaxies per unit volume. Galaxies decline in number (and rise in size) as the billion years go by. Conselice explains "This gives us a verification of the so-called top-down formation of structure in the universe,"

This helps answer Olbers' Paradox (why the night sky is still dark, even with the billions of stars). The uncountable stars inside the billions of galaxies are imperceptible to the human eye because of redshifting of light, the cosmos's dynamic nature, and interstellar dust and gas absorbing light. This keeps the night sky mostly dark.

Conselice explains further:

"It boggles the mind that over 90% of the galaxies in the universe have yet to be studied. Who knows what interesting properties we will find when we observe these galaxies with the next generation of telescopes,"

The growth of more progressive space telescopes in the future, starting with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in 2018, would definitely help us see the observable cosmos clearly. Who knows what remains lurking just by that expanded frontier of space.

In any case, a larger known universe means an even wider space to accommodate the search for possible extraterrestrial life. Why not? Every time we think that we understand more of it, the universe seems to always surprise us with more.


Katherine Johnson, pioneering NASA mathematician of 'Hidden Figures' fame, dies at 101

athematician Katherine Johnson at work at NASA's Langley Research Center in 1980.
athematician Katherine Johnson at work at NASA's Langley Research Center in 1980.

Katherine Johnson, whose career making vital calculations for NASA was immortalized in the 2016 book and movie "Hidden Figures," has died at 101. Johnson joined what was then called the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1953 as a so-called human computer at the agency's Langley, Virginia, office.

The office was still segregated when she joined, and she worked with other black mathematicians in the West Area Computing section. The agency became NASA in 1958, and Johnson remained at the agency until she retired, in 1986.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced her death today (Feb. 24) and said it occurred earlier in the morning. "Ms. Johnson helped our nation enlarge the frontiers of space even as she made huge strides that also opened doors for women and people of color in the universal human quest to explore space," he said in a statement. "Her dedication and skill as a mathematician helped put humans on the moon."

"At NASA, we will never forget her courage and leadership and the milestones we could not have reached without her," Bridenstine said. "We will continue building on her legacy."

When Johnson joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, her work focused on flight tests and plane crashes. When the agency shifted to focus on spaceflight, Johnson did too. Her calculations mapped the trajectory of Alan Shepard's historic 1961 flight, during which he became the first American to reach space. She also verified the trajectory for John Glenn's first orbital flight.

Johnson made similar trajectory calculations during the Apollo era. She also worked on emergency procedures, which were vital during the Apollo 13 mission of 1970, when an explosion on the main spacecraft required astronauts to use the lunar module as a lifeboat to return to Earth. Her math also supported the space shuttle and plans for Mars missions.

Katherine Johnson, pictured here at NASA's Langley Research Center, where she worked as a computer and mathematician from 1953 to 1986.
Katherine Johnson, pictured here at NASA's Langley Research Center, where she worked as a computer and mathematician from 1953 to 1986.

Johnson and her colleagues became famous with the publication of "Hidden Figures" (William Morrow and Co., 2016) by Margot Lee Shetterly and the release of the blockbuster movie of the same name, which starred Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer as Johnson and her colleagues Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan

As both the book and the movie showed, Johnson and her colleagues had to withstand discrimination based on their gender and skin color alike. One poignant scene in the movie was inspired by Johnson's time working away from the West Area Computing section, with white colleagues, when she has to explain to her white, male supervisor where she keeps disappearing to - the only restrooms she was allowed to use, half a mile away.

The release of "Hidden Figures" made Johnson one of the most celebrated black women in space science and a hero for those calling for action against sexism and racism in science and engineering.

In 2015, Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, one of the most prestigious civilian awards in the U.S., from President Barack Obama. The NASA Langley facility at which Johnson worked renamed a building in her honor in 2016, and she received a standing ovation at the Oscars the next year, when "Hidden Figures" was nominated for best picture.

In 2019, Johnson told her own story for young readers in a book called "Reaching for the Moon" (Atheneum Books for Young Readers).

"Every time engineers would hand me their equations to evaluate, I would do more than what they'd asked. I'd try to think beyond their equations. To ensure that I'd get the answer right, I needed to understand the thinking behind their choices and decisions," she wrote.

"I didn't allow their side-eyes and annoyed looks to intimidate or stop me. I also would persist even if I thought I was being ignored. If I encountered something I didn't understand, I'd just ask. ... I just ignored the social customs that told me to stay in my place."

Black in Space'

At the same time that the U.S. was striving to win a space race against its Cold War foe, the Soviet Union, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the country was also responding to the civil rights movement. The Smithsonian Channel's new documentary, "Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier" looks at the intersection of race and the space race by chronicling the American and Soviet decades-long efforts to launch the first black astronaut

Astronauts wanted

:NASA will again accept applications for its astronaut corps beginning on March 2. The new recruits, who now must have a master's degree and complete a two-hour online assessment, in addition to earlier requirements, will be considered for NASA's 23rd astronaut candidate class to be selected in mid-2021. The new group will train for flights to the space station and the moon

Record return 

Astronauts Christina Koch of NASA and Luca Parmitano of ESA, together with Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos, are now back from a record-setting expedition to the International Space Station. Returning to Earth on Russia's Soyuz MS-13, Parmitano and Skvortsov wrapped a 201-day stay on orbit, while Koch logged eleven months on this single mission, a new record by a woman.

Spitzer shuttered

NASA on Thursday (Jan. 30) shut off the Spitzer Space Telescope, 16 years after its launch. One of the four Great Observatories, the Spitzer's infrared view led to insights and discoveries about exoplanets, interstellar dust and distant galaxies. Its mission complete, the dormant Spitzer will continue in its Earth-trailing orbit.

Russia replaces two cosmonauts 

Two Russian cosmonauts have been removed from the next scheduled launch to the International Space Station "for medical reasons," according to the Russian space agency. Roscosmos said Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin will no longer fly in April.

News Credit: Collect Space


EARLIER REPORTS February 2020

It's Official: Astronomers Have Discovered another Earth

NASA's Kepler Space Telescope discovered an Earth-like planet circling a nearby star within the Goldilocks zone of our galaxy. Kepler-186f is around 500 light-years from Earth in the Cygnus constellation. The habitable zone, also identified as the Goldilocks zone, is the area around a star within which planetary-mass objects with enough atmospheric pressure can sustain liquid water at their surfaces.

While it has been projected that there are at least 40 billion Earth-sized planets circling in our Milky Way Galaxy, this specific finding is labelled the first Earth-sized planet to be discovered in the habitable zone of another star.

"We know of only one planet where life survives - Earth. When we hunt for life outside our solar system, we emphasis on discovering planets with features that mimic that of Earth," said Elisa Quintana, research scientist at the SETI Institute at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and lead author of the paper published in the journal Science."Discovering a habitable zone planet similar to Earth in size is a major breakthrough."

The neighboring star to Kepler-186f has half the mass and size as our solar system's Sun and only gets one-third of the energy that we get from our Sun. Kepler-186f circles its star once every 130 days.

Daredevil 'Mad' Mike Hughes dies tragically launching his home-made rocket 

Daredevil "Mad Mike" Hughes died Saturday (Feb. 22) during his latest attempt to launch into the sky on a homemade rocket powered by steam.

Hughes, 64, was attempting to launch 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) into the air from a location near Barstow, California, in a rocket he built with partner Waldo Stakes. The Science Channel, which was filming the launch attempt as part of the future documentary series "Homemade Astronauts," confirmed Hughes' death to Space.com.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time," Science Channel representatives said in a statement. "It was always his dream to do this launch, and Science was there to chronicle his journey."

According to CNN, the San Bernadino County Sheriff's office responded to the fatal rocket crash off Highway 247 in Barstow. NBC News reported that the launch lifted off from private property in the Barstow area.

The Sheriff's Office did not identify Hughes in a statement, saying only that authorities had pronounced a man dead at the scene of the rocket crash, CNN added. The Science Channel later confirmed Hughes' death.

Daredevil driver Mad Mike Hughes with  his steam-powered rocket constructed out of salvage parts on a five-acre property  in Apple Valley, California.
Daredevil driver Mad Mike Hughes with his steam-powered rocket constructed out of salvage parts on a five-acre property in Apple Valley, California.

Hughes has repeatedly tried to launch homemade rockets and actually did launch an earlier rocket in 2018. During that flight, which reached a maximum height of 1,875 feet (572 m), Hughes suffered compressed vertebrae but still aimed to launch ever higher.

Attempts to launch this current steam rocket in August 2019 were prevented by a faulty water heater.

In the past, Hughes said he believed the Earth was flat, with some publications stating his launches were aimed at seeing the Earth's curvature for himself. In August 2019, however, Hughes told Space.com that his flat-Earth belief was not his launch motivator. He was simply a daredevil, pushing the envelope of homemade rockets, Hughes said.

Hughes and Stakes made up one of three different teams working to build and launch their own rockets while being filmed for the Science Channel's "Homemade Astronauts" series. The teams were shooting to get as close as possible to the Karman line, a boundary about 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth. 

Australian Space Agency gets New SA Office. 

Thankfully a politician was willing to cut the ribbon so they could finally all get to work on our space future.
Thankfully a politician was willing to cut the ribbon so they could finally all get to work on our space future.

The Australian Space Agency has been in operation for a while now, but they finally have an address at "Lot Fourteen" in Adelaide, a trendy tech hub in a heritage listed building on the site of the old Royal Hospital that closed recently. 

Although you could probably show up unannounced, you should probably continue to send your crazy space theories to their Post Office Box address in Canberra. 

With any luck, they'll end up in the national archives as a permanent record of your crazy ideas for future generations to enjoy.

Australian Space Agency, GPO Box 2013, CANBERRA ACT 260


NASA Brings VOYAGER 2 Fully back online, 11.5 Billion miles from Earth

"Mission operators report that voyager 2 continues to be stable and that communications between the Earth and the spacecraft are good."
"Mission operators report that voyager 2 continues to be stable and that communications between the Earth and the spacecraft are good."

An incredible achievement of remote engineering, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has fixed its most adventurous probe in human history. Voyager 2, is 11.5 billion miles away from Earth, is working and now back online continuing its mission to gather scientific data on the solar system and the interstellar space beyond. At 10:00 p.m., Eastern, on Wednesday, NASA's voyager twitter account announced the good news that no only voyager 2 is secure, but is back at its vital science mission.

"My twin is back to taking science data, and the team @NASAJPL is evaluating the health of the instruments after their brief shutoff," the account twitted. Voyager 2 is sister craft to Voyager 1. Both crafts have been travelling through the solar system and now are beyond the solar system touching the interstellar space - for their four last decades. Together, they have improved our understanding of stellar neighborhood and both are already uncovering outstanding information about the interstellar space beyond Sun's sphere of affect.

In a statement, the space agency reasserted that the voyager 2 is back in business. Good vibes! Voyager 2 continues to be stable, and communications between Earth and the spacecraft are fine. My twin is back to taking science data, and the team at @NASAJPL is evaluating the health of the instruments following their brief shutoff. - NASA Voyager February 6, 2020. "Mission operators report that voyager 2 continues to be stable and that communications between the Earth and the spacecraft are good."

"The spacecraft has resumed taking space data, and now the science teams are evaluating the health of the instruments," NASA said. What happened to Voyager 2? On January 28, NASA shut down the spacecraft because it unexpectedly had run into trouble - for unspecific reasons - the world was shocked. Here's the skinny: My twin went to do a roll to calibrate the onboard magnetometer, overdrew power and tripped software designed to automatically protect the spacecraft.

Inverse said at the time, Voyager 2 went dark right before it was planned for a test in which the space craft rotates 360 degrees in order to adjust one of its instrument on-board. But the spacecraft didn't not respond. As a result, two of its very important systems which consume a lot of power, were running at the same time, NASA said. The most probable problem, the spacecraft was consuming up too much of its power supply, which activated protection software. The software on its own turns off Voyager 2's science equipment where there is an overload of power. It does not has an infinite power supply.

The space agency has not confirmed or denied whether that is what really happened. Only time will tell what went wrong. But voyager 2's mission is not over that is for sure. If nothing goes wrong it will have five more years to explore, meaning five years of crucial scientific information from an area of space mankind has no other way to explore.

The United Kingdom Is Releasing Nearly 60 Years of UFO Reports Online

What does all this stuff about flying saucers amount to? What is the truth?
What does all this stuff about flying saucers amount to? What is the truth?

No one country has a monopoly on UFO reports. Sometime between the Roswell incident of 1947 and Canada's Falcon Lake sighting in 1967, the United Kingdom's government started collecting official "X-files" of its own. Now, Live Science reports, the country's Ministry of Defence will share those formerly classified documents with the public for the first time.

UFO-mania had invaded the UK by the early 1950s. The British media began covering supposed extraterrestrial phenomenon with a more serious tone, and books with titles like The Riddle of the Flying Saucers and The Flying Saucers are Real were excerpted in major newspapers. Even Winston Churchill was intrigued, writing to his air minister in 1952, "What does all this stuff about flying saucers amount to? What can it mean? What is the truth?"

The Ministry of Defence formed the "Flying Saucer Working Party" to process the flood of new reports coming in around this time. Though the original group concluded that none of the sightings were credible, various departments of the Ministry continued investigating reports of strange objects seen in the sky through 2009, when a policy change ended the program officially.

All the files from that near-60-year period will be released on their own gov.uk webpage some time in 2020. The announcement was made after a British news agency made a request for the documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Select files from this period had previously been made available through the U.K. National Archives website. Now, instead of choosing certain items to share, the UK government has decided to publish all the documents at once.

Reports that have already been made public include sightings of "a diamond-shaped red light," "15 fireballs in the sky," and "three blazing gold orbs." 

The Ministry of Defence stated it "has no opinion on the existence or otherwise of extra terrestrial life," but the public will be able to decide for themselves when more documents are shared later this year.

The 'Impossible' Quantum Space Engine That Breaks Laws Of Physics

A couple of years ago, researchers at NASA's Johnson Space Center proposed a thruster system which actually generates thrust, despite requiring absolutely no propellant. The implications of this discovery are far-reaching; applications for space flight and other technologies which require propulsion could one day become far cheaper, allowing space exploration to expand exponentially.

The existence of this technology also further validates the fact that energy can be derived from tapping into the quantum vacuum, also known as "zero-point.".

Bottom line is that space is not empty, and the energy which lies within it can be used. This was experimentally confirmed when the Casimir Effect illustrated zero point or vacuum state energy, which predicts that two metal plates close together attract each other due to an imbalance in the quantum fluctuations(source)(source).

The propellant-less thruster is called the Cannae Drive, invented by Guido Fetta, and was tested by NASA over an eight day testing campaign that took place in August of 2013. It's also known as the EM drive. It showed that a small amount of thrust was achieved inside a container, again, without the use of any fuel. The results were then presented at the 50th Joint Propulsion Conference in Cleveland, Ohio in July the next year.

Now, it's about to be launched into spacee, and, according to many, like ScienceAlert.com, the EM "is as controversial as it gets, because while certain experiments have suggested that such an engine could work, it also goes against one of the most fundamental laws of physics we have.

It's a law that Issac Newton derived, called the law of conservation of momentum, which states that an equal and opposite reaction must stem from an action. In order for something to gain momentum it must expel some kind of propellent in the opposite direction, but not the EM drive, this invention taps into the 'zero-point' field of energy/electromagnetic waves, creating thrust by microwave photons bouncing around inside a cone shaped metal cavity. The cone shaped mental cavity is what accelerates it into the opposite direction.

This is exciting, because it basically proves that we have a limitless resource of energy to tap into and utilize for space travel. This is currently the biggest barrier for modern day space travel and exploration.

Science needs to be careful and stray far from getting caught up in the grip of scientific dogma. History has constantly shown us, especially within the realms of science, that what we accept as real always changes at another point in time. Our understanding and knowledge regarding the nature of our reality is constantly changing.

"There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement." This statement (worldview statement) was made by Lord Kelvin in 1900, which was shattered five years later when Einstein published his paper on special relativity. This one great, out of many.

Today, engineers are inventing power generators that utilize these concepts, like Paramahamsa Tewari. These laws need to be refined to account for the fact that space is not empty, what we currently accept as fact is going to have to change, and developments like the EM drive, or electrical generators that used these concepts, are going to have to be acknowledged soon. Throughout history, new developments in fields such as energy have always taken their time to find it into the market place.

In today's world, there's always a lot of Red Tape you're going to have to go through, unfortunately.