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ASTRO SPACE NEWS

Weird, Wild & Breaking News Stories in Space and Astronomy From Around The World 24/7 Weekly With Updates. It's a FREE Service To The Public and ALL Media, It's Safe and Reliable. (Est. 2002)

This news service is emailed out each week to all requesting radio stations across Australia.  David Reneke ('Astro Dave') is one of Australia's most well known and respected astronomers and lecturers with links to some of the world's leading astronomical institutions. 

David is radio savvy, well experienced talking to the media and presents information in an easy to understand, up to date and informative manner. Enquiries for interviews or info Ph: (02) 6585 2260 Mobile: 0400 636 363 Email: davereneke@gmail.com

'Stargazing' - Astronomy Nights At Your Place

Ask Yourself Have You Ever...looked through a large telescope? Touched a real space rock? Seen the rings of Saturn, Jupiter's Moon? Viewed star clusters thousands of light years away OR seen huge craters and 'seas' on the Moon up close? 

Our special program is unique... a never to be forgotten journey of the night sky. There is nothing quite like seeing the distant stars and planets with your own eyes through our magnificent telescopes - and it's all done from your backyard with your friends around! 

 *See how this amazing STARGAZING program works: : Click

INTRODUCING OUR NEW PARTNER & ASTRO SUPPLIER

Many thanks to Peter and the crew at ASTRO ANARCHY Queensland. A New business with the amateur astronomer firmly in mind.  Astro Anarchy has the experience, the stock and the knowledge to set up the first timer, to assist in the development of our hobby for the experienced observer OR cater to any other size need or desire in the field of amateur astronomy. 

ATRO ANARCHY AS OUR SPONSOR: My business partner Peter Davies and I have set up a new Astro Tourism business focusing on the recently 'Dark Sky Town' accredited to Norfolk Island. We call it 'Norfolk Island STARGAZING'. When approached, Pete from Astro Anarchy had no hesitation in organizing and supplying all our Telescopes, Binoculars and associated gear to get started. Nothing was any trouble allowing us more than enough time to set up and become fully operational. He and he and his business come highly recommended for anyone wanting any astronomical gear in Australia.

Web: https://www.astroanarchy.com.au/    Sales: sales@astroanarchy.com.au   Phone: 0412 085 224

Take A Vacation That Is Literally 'Out Of This World'

Take The Amazing Norfolk Island STARGAZING Experience

Ask Yourself Have You Ever... Touched a real space rock? Seen the rings of Saturn? Viewed star clusters 17,000 light years away? Seen the craters and 'seas' on the Moon up close... or just looked through a large telescope?  View Planets, Exploding Stars, Clusters - Take a Laser Guided Sky Tour Indigenous Sky Stories - Hold a Real Meteorite - Take Your Own Moon Photo - Kids Catered For Plus FREE 'Space Pack' with Each Booking! ...

BOOKINGS AVAILABLE NOW for September 11-18 2021 and is priced to SELL       

Norfolk Island Travel Centre  - Enquiries/Bookings to: Sophie sophie@travelcentre.nf

*We are also taking enquiries and Bookings for the remaining 2021 season   Tour 2 Dec 7th - 14th 2021

NASA Heads Back to Earth With Asteroid Stash in Tow

After more than two years of sightseeing at an asteroid, a NASA spacecraft is now heading home. Scientists cannot wait to get their hands on the souvenirs it is bringing back. Beginning at about 4 p.m. Eastern time on Monday, the OSIRIS-REX spacecraft, about 180 million miles away, fired its thrusters for seven minutes to push itself away from Bennu, an asteroid that is a bit wider than the Empire State Building is tall.

"The burn was right down the middle," said Jason Dworkin, the mission's project scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. "It looks perfect." Dante Lauretta, a professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona who serves as the principal investigator, said he had mixed feelings about the end of this part of the mission.

"You get used to having a spacecraft at an asteroid and seeing cool new images coming down all the time," he said. But the robotic probe's departure, moving away at 600 miles per hour, means scientists are getting closer to performing close-up studies of pristine asteroid samples in their laboratories. "We're getting pretty excited about that, too," Dr. Lauretta said.

Two years from now, after a 1.4 billion-mile journey that will swing around the sun twice, OSIRIS-REX will catch up to Earth. The main spacecraft will not land, but it will instead drop off a capsule containing some precious bits of Bennu it has collected - at least a couple of ounces but more likely more than a pound of dirt and rubble. Slowed by parachutes, the 32-inch-wide capsule will land on Sept. 24, 2023, at the Utah Test and Training Range, a vast, desolate expanse in the Great Salt Lake Desert.

China's Tianwen-1 mission nails historic rover landing on Mars

An artist's impression of the craft that China sent to Mars in July 2020.   Nature Astronomy
An artist's impression of the craft that China sent to Mars in July 2020. Nature Astronomy

On Friday, the "footprint" of a Chinese robot imprinted on the surface of Mars, making China just the third nation to safely reach the red planet's surface. The ambitious Tianwen-1 mission was China's first attempt at reaching the surface of another planet.

The Tianwen-1 spacecraft, which had been orbiting Mars since February, released a shielded capsule toward the surface on Friday afternoon. Inside was the rover Zhurong, strapped to the back of a landing vehicle that deployed parachutes and fired thrusters to slow itself down.  China follows the US in becoming just the second nation to have a rover travel across the Martian surface.

"China has joined an elite club of spacefaring nations with this historic landing," said Alan Duffy, an astronomer at Swinburne University and lead scientist of the Royal Institution of Australia. There may've been celebrations and high-fives exchanged in CNSA's mission control, but the hoots or hollers we're accustomed to seeing during NASA landings weren't televised live.

"Unlike NASA, which released images of the landing of the Perseverance Rover within minutes of them arriving back at Earth via the Deep Space Network, we have heard very little from CNSA about this mission," said David Flannery, a planetary scientist at the Queensland University of Technology and member of the Perseverance team.

Watching the launch of a rocket carrying the Tianwen-1 Mars probe in Wenchang, China, in July.Credit...Yang Guanyu/Xinhua, via Associated Press
Watching the launch of a rocket carrying the Tianwen-1 Mars probe in Wenchang, China, in July.Credit...Yang Guanyu/Xinhua, via Associated Press

"The reluctance of China's space agency to share up to date information is almost certainly related to fears that a mission failure might negatively reflect upon Chinese political leaders." Given the dearth of information, amateur astronomers tried to discern how the mission was proceeding by listening for the telltale radio signals being beamed back to Earth.

Zhurong landed in Utopia Planitia, one of Mars' largest impact craters. NASA's defunct Viking 2 spacecraft landed in the same crater in 1976. Utopia Planitia is expected to house a cache of underground ice and may have once been covered by a Martian ocean. Where there was once water, there may've been life. Zhurong, like NASA's Perseverance, will explore the region and search for signs of past life.

The last 10 months have been busy ones for Martian exploration. Three spacecraft, including Tianwen-1, launched to Mars in July 2020, taking advantage of Earth's proximity to the red planet. The United Arab Emirates' Hope orbiter, which will survey Mars' atmosphere from space, inserted itself into orbit in February. Not long after, NASA's now-famous rolling rover, Perseverance, and its history-making flying companion Ingenuity, reached the surface of Mars, landing in an ancient lakebed that may once have been home to Martian life.

Russia, racing to beat Tom Cruise and NASA to first movie shot in space, picks its cast

The International Space Station has long seen cooperation between Russia and the United States, but will now play host to a new competition.
The International Space Station has long seen cooperation between Russia and the United States, but will now play host to a new competition.

Humans have explored the space around planet Earth for 60 years now, meaning most of the dramatic "firsts" have long been claimed in the history books. But Russia figures it's good for one more: The first film to be shot in outer space. And, just like the old days, it's in a race with the United States to claim the achievement. The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, announced Thursday that it had selected its crew to headline the film, which will be called "Challenge." The movie will star the actor Yulia Peresild, 36, and be directed by Klim Shepenko, 37.

The effort was first announced last year, shortly after the actor Tom Cruise and NASA announced their own collaboration to make a movie on the International Space Station. Peresild, who has starred in a number of Russian movies, beat out hundreds for the role after a casting call that promised a chance at "international fame." The team will take up two of the three seats aboard the October launch of Russia's Soyuz mission to the orbiting space station. Before that launch, however, they will undergo elements of Russia's standard cosmonaut training.

"Among other things, they will have to take centrifuge tests, vibration stand tests, perform introductory and training flights on a zero-gravity plane, undergo parachute training," Roscosmos said. Very little is known about the plot, which in many ways seems secondary to the spectacle. Russia's Channel One - which is working with Roscosmos on the film - said that it would not be a science fiction film, but a realistic depiction of near-term space travel.

"Its a movie about how a person in no way connected with space exploration, due to various reasons and personal debt, ends up a month later in orbit," Ernst said in a September 2020 interview. "That's all I can tell you." The casting call was issued in November, seeking a female actor between the age of 25 and 40, weighing between 50 and 70 kilograms who could pass a variety of fitness tests. The decision to fill the October Soyuz flight with a movie crew comes at an uncertain time for Russia's space program.

Astronauts may finally start cleaning their space underwear (with microbes)

A man models an astronaut undergarment — known as a Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment — that was designed for the Space Shuttle/International Space Station Extravehicular Mobility Unit, photographed in 1994. (Image credit: NASA)
A man models an astronaut undergarment — known as a Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment — that was designed for the Space Shuttle/International Space Station Extravehicular Mobility Unit, photographed in 1994. (Image credit: NASA)

We can probably all agree that sharing your unwashed underwear with another person isn't ideal. However, for astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS), performing a spacewalk requires that they share not only the spacesuits, but also a next-to-the-skin piece of clothing that's worn underneath the spacesuit and resembles long underwear, known as the Liquid Cooling and Ventilation Garment (LCVG).

Access to a freshly laundered LCVG isn't an option on the ISS, but technicians with the European Space Agency (ESA) are taking steps to improve the antimicrobial properties in LCVG materials to keep these shared garments clean and fresh for longer, ESA representatives said in a statement.

In a new two-year project called Biocidal Advanced Coating Technology for Reducing Microbial Activity (Bacterma), ESA researchers are collaborating with the Vienna Textile Lab - a private biotechnology company in Austria that produces fabric dyes from bacteria. Compounds generated by these bacteria can also make textile fibers more resistant to certain types of microbes, according to the statement.

Astronauts on the ISS keep their hands and bodies clean with no-rinse cleaning solutions and dry shampoo, but laundering clothes - including underwear - would require too much water and is simply not possible, according to NASA. Nor is there enough room on the ISS for astronauts to pack a fresh change of clothes for every day of their mission.

When it comes to dirty underwear, astronauts don't have the luxury of being squeamish, and may wear a pair more than once. American astronaut Don Pettit wrote that he changed his underwear once every three or four days when he was on the ISS, according to NASA. And when Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata tested bacteria-resistant underwear coverings in space in 2009, he wore one pair "for about a month," the San Francisco Times reported.

Wakata reported no pungent-smelling effects after wearing the fabrics within a scheduled timeline. Astronaut David A. Wolf performs a spacewalk on Oct. 12, 2002. The long underwear Wolf wore under his spacesuit may have been worn by another astronaut, too. (Image credit: NASA) When clothing becomes too soiled or smelly for an astronaut to wear any longer, it is either returned to Earth as trash or is packed up into a capsule, which is then ejected into space and burns up in Earth's atmosphere, NASA says.

Remembering The Great Destructive Geo-Magnetic Storm Of 1921

What would happen if the same storm struck today? A 2013 Royal Academy of Engineering report summarizes the possibilities. The fire would be the least of our worries.
What would happen if the same storm struck today? A 2013 Royal Academy of Engineering report summarizes the possibilities. The fire would be the least of our worries.

You know a solar storm is serious when buildings catch on fire. It really happened 100 years ago this week. On May 15, 1921, the biggest solar storm of the 20th century hit Earth. Around 02:00 GMT that Sunday morning a telegraph exchange in Sweden burst into flames. Across the Atlantic, the same thing was going on in New York. Flames engulfed the switch-board at the Brewster station of the Central New England Railroad and quickly spread to destroy the whole building. 

During the conflagration, long distance telephone lines burned out in New Brunswick; voltages on telegraph lines in the USA spiked as high as 1000 V; and auroras were sighted by ships at sea crossing the equator. It was a Big. Solar. Storm.

The outburst happened during the lazy tail end of Solar Cycle 15, an unremarkable cycle that was almost over in 1921. Sunspot numbers were low--but it only took one. Giant sunspot AR1842 appeared in mid-May and started flaring, hurling multiple coronal mass ejections (CMEs) toward Earth. In those days scientists had never even heard of "CMEs," so they were completely surprised when the clouds of plasma arrived.

As one CME after another struck, Earth's magnetic field swayed back and forth, rippling with energy. Fires were a direct result. Physics 101: When a magnetic field changes rapidly, electricity flows through conductors in the area. It's called "magnetic induction." Early 20th century telegraph lines suddenly found themselves buzzing with induced currents. In Sweden and New York, wires grew so hot they ignited telegraph papers and other combustibles.

What would happen if the same storm struck today? A 2013 Royal Academy of Engineering report summarizes the possibilities. Suffice it to say, fire would be the least of our worries. Modern technology is far more sensitive to solar activity than the simple copper wires of 1921. The same solar storm today could cause regional power blackouts, expose air travelers to radiation, knock out satellites, and disable radio-based technologies such as GPS.

Loss of electricity is often cited as the worst likely side-effect of a solar superstorm, but power systems are more resilient than they used to be. Thanks to improvements made after the Great Quebec Blackout of 1989, many modern grids would bounce back quickly. A more worrisome loss might be GPS. We think of GPS as our main way of finding things: ambulances finding accidents, pilots finding runways, and so on. But there's more to it than that. GPS tells us what time it is, a service of atomic clocks onboard the satellites. In fact, GPS time is woven into the fabric of modern society.

Consider the following paragraph from a report in the Atlantic entitled "What Happens if GPS Fails?":

"Telecom networks rely on GPS clocks to keep cell towers synchronized so calls can be passed between them. Many electrical power grids use the clocks in equipment that fine-tunes current flow in overloaded networks. The finance sector uses GPS-derived timing systems to timestamp ATM, credit card, and high-speed market transactions. Computer network synchronization, digital television and radio, Doppler radar weather reporting, seismic monitoring, even multi-camera sequencing for film production-GPS clocks have a hand in all."

"What if all these flying clock radios were wiped out, and everything on the ground started blinking 12:00?" asks the author, Dan Glass. Answer: "Nobody knows."

Space weather scholars routinely call the May 1921 event a "100 year storm." However, recent research (both historical and statistical) suggests that such storms come along more often--every 40 to 60 years. Either way, we're overdue.

How And When To Watch The Super Blood Moon In Australia

A super blood flower moon will be graving our skies on May 26. And unlike the super pink moon, it'll actually look like its name. All of Australia will have a front-row seat. The eclipse will occur on the night of Wednesday, May 26 and it will be visible across Australia (clouds permitting) from coast to coast.

-- What is a total lunar eclipse? --

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth passes between the sun and the moon. This alignment causes the moon to be either partially or fully covered by Earth's shadow. When the whole moon passes through Earth's shadow, this is called a total lunar eclipse.

-- What does a total lunar eclipse look like? --

On any given night, the moon is only visible because it reflects light from the sun towards our eyes. During an eclipse, the moon is shielded from direct sunlight. You might expect the moon to go completely dark or black when it enters Earth's shadow during a total lunar eclipse. But it doesn't. The moon usually turns red during a total lunar eclipse, which is why they are sometimes called blood moons.

What Is A Super Blood Moon?

A super blood moon occurs when we experience a total lunar eclipse when the moon is in perigee (aka - when it's closest to Earth). To be more specific, the moon has to be within 361,766km of Earth to be considered a super moon. 

As a result of its close proximity to Earth, a super moon is bigger and brighter than an average full moon. Generally speaking, they're not that exciting because the regular ol' moon is already pretty big and bright, but when combined with a total lunar eclipse, it looks pretty cool. The super blood moon on May 26 is also the closest super moon of 2021, measuring at a distance of only 257,462km from Earth.

The total lunar eclipse will be fully visible from most of Australia this year, so it's a great time to get outside and do some moon gazing. bviously, it's all dependent on cloud cover and other visibility conditions that we won't be able to predict until the date is much closer.

But at the moment, it looks like we'll be able to view the full lunar eclipse for approximately 15 minutes. Peak viewing time will be at 9:18pm (AEST), but the full cycle can be seen at the following times:

Penumbral Eclipse begins - 26 May at 6:47:39 pm AEST
Partial Eclipse begins 26 May at 7:44:58 pm
Full Eclipse begins 26 May at 9:11:26 pm
Maximum Eclipse 26 May at 9:18:42 pm
Full Eclipse ends 26 May at 9:25:54 pm
Partial Eclipse ends 26 May at 10:52:23 pm
Penumbral Eclipse ends 26 May at 11:49:44 pm

Wine that went to space for sale with $1 million price tag

A bottle of Pétrus red wine that spent a year orbiting the world in the International Space Station is pictured in Paris on Monday, May 3, 2021.(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
A bottle of Pétrus red wine that spent a year orbiting the world in the International Space Station is pictured in Paris on Monday, May 3, 2021.(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

The wine is out of this world. The price is appropriately stratospheric. Christie's said Tuesday it is selling a bottle of French wine that spent more than a year in orbit aboard the International Space Station. The auction house thinks a wine connoisseur might pay as much as $1 million to own it.

The Pétrus 2000 is one of 12 bottles sent into space in November 2019 by researchers exploring the potential for extraterrestrial agriculture. It returned 14 months later subtly altered, according to wine experts who sampled it at a tasting in France. Tim Tiptree, international director of Christie's wine and spirits department, said the space-aged wine was "matured in a unique environment" of near zero-gravity aboard the space station.

The trip turned a $10,000-a-bottle wine known for its complexity, silky, ripe tannins and flavors of black cherry, cigar box and leather into a scientific novelty - and still a fine bottle of wine, Tiptree said."It's just a very harmonious wine that has the ability to age superbly, which is why it was chosen for this experiment," he said. "It's very encouraging that it was delicious on return to Earth."

Private space startup Space Cargo Unlimited sent the wine into orbit in November 2019 as part of an effort to make plants on Earth more resilient to climate change and disease by exposing them to new stresses. Researchers also want to better understand the aging process, fermentation and bubbles in wine.

At a taste test in March at the Institute for Wine and Vine Research in Bordeaux, France, a dozen wine connoisseurs compared one of the space-traveled wines to a bottle from the same vintage that had stayed in a cellar. They noted a difference that was hard to describe. Jane Anson, a writer with the wine publication Decanter, said the wine that remained on Earth tasted a bit younger, the space version slightly softer and more aromatic.

The wine, being offered by Christie's in a private sale, comes with a bottle of terrestrial Pétrus of the same vintage, a decanter, glasses and a corkscrew crafted from a meteorite. It's all held in a hand-crafted wooden trunk with decoration inspired by science fiction pioneer Jules Verne and the "Star Trek" universe.

Proceeds from the sale will fund future research by Space Cargo Unlimited. Several other bottles from the dozen that went to space remain unopened, but Christie's says there are no plans to sell any of them. Tiptree says the price estimate, "in the region of $1 million," reflects the sale's likely appeal to a mix of wine connoisseurs, space buffs and the kind of wealthy people who collect "ultimate experiences."

The lot includes the bottle of 2000 Pétrus that remained on Earth so the buyer can compare the two - should they decide to open the one that went into orbit. "I would hope that they will decide to drink it, but maybe not immediately," Tiptree said. "It's at its peak drinking, but this wine will last probably at least another two or three decades." Cr The Associated Press

Blue Origin's New Shepard will launch humans into space in July

On July 20th, New Shepard will fly its first astronaut crew to space. The company is offering one seat on this first flight to the winning bidder of Blue Origin's online auction. Starting today, anyone can place an opening bid by going to the company's website.

These are the three phases of the auction:

  • May 5-19: Sealed online bidding - you can bid any amount you want on the auction website (no bids are visible)
  • May 19: Unsealed online bidding - bidding becomes visible and participants must exceed the highest bid to continue in the auction
  • June 12: Live auction - the bidding concludes with a live online auction
    The winning bid amount will be donated to Blue Origin's foundation, Club for the Future, to inspire future generations to pursue careers in STEM and help invent the future of life in space.                                                                                                                                                                                     On this day 60 years ago, Alan Shepard made history by becoming the first American to fly to space. In the decades since fewer than 600 astronauts have been to space above the Kármán Line to see the borderless Earth and the thin limb of our atmosphere. They all say this experience changes them.  Blue Origin named its launch vehicle after Alan Shepard to honor his historic flight. New Shepard has flown 15 successful consecutive missions to space and back above the Kármán Line through a meticulous and incremental flight program to test its multiple redundant safety systems. Now, it's time for astronauts to climb onboard. This seat will change how you see the world.

Make some space for your kids. Explore the Universe and beyond with YouTube

Space has captured the imagination of humans throughout history. Even today, with all our developments here on Earth, space still holds endless mysteries. If you love to dream about space, and maybe need a bit of fun, escapist learning, then head over to YouTube to enjoy a wealth of information on astronomy alongside helpful and exciting visuals. Here are a few videos to start with.

"Let's Explore Space! | Astronomy for Kids," posted by SciShow Kids - A fantastic 101 on basic astronomy. Learn what gives stars their glow, what type of star our sun is and what makes stars glow different colors. Visit the other planets in our solar system and learn about what other kinds of things float around there, some natural and some made on Earth. Discover the astronomical conditions that make Earth hospitable compared with other planets.

"Space Compilation: Crash Course Kids," posted by Crash Course Kids - This compilation is also a great introduction to basic astronomy, discussing topics like how light travels from the sun to the Earth, Earth's cosmic address, how scientists measure space, Earth's second-closest star, constellations and how stars have been viewed throughout history and how the stars have been used for navigation.

"StoryBots Outer Space | Planets, Sun, Moon, Earth and Stars," posted by Netflix Jr. - If you love learning along with catchy songs, this video is an entertaining and quotable way to learn about our solar system. Each planet and Earth's moon is their own character, providing a helpful device for young learners to remember each planet's characteristics. The music has good production value and is fun to listen along to. The sun raps about its temperature and gases, the moon sings about how it reflects light at the Earth each night, and the Earth make rhymes about all the awesome people and places it has.

"The Solar System Song (with lyrics)," posted by KidsTV123 - This animation made to "The Solar System Song," written and performed by A.J. Jenkins is great for younger learners. It's a short length, great for quick and entertaining learning. The relaxed song has just a few lines for each planet, paring down information and presenting it in a calming way. This video would work as a great wind down song before bed.

"Mars, the Red Planet - Solar System 3D Animation for Kids," posted by Smile and Learn - English - Mars has been in the news a lot recently with the new rover, Perseverance, having just landed there. Learn more about the Red Planet with high-quality animations and fun narrations. The entire video is subtitled in English so it's a great video for children who are practicing their reading.

"Jupiter 101 | National Geographic," posted by National Geographic - This video likely works best for older kids and adults, but with the high-quality visuals you would expect from National Geographic, it's a great way for people of any age to get a great look at the planet Jupiter. The information is an excellent introduction of Jupiter, explaining what makes it a gas planet, its immense density, its stormy atmosphere, and details about the Great Red Spot. On-screen graphics make this video easy to follow along with and the inclusion of archival footage is a treat to see.

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