Evidence of rain has been spotted near the north pole of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, for the first time ever, Since the arrival of the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn in 2004, astronomers have been expecting to see this phenomenon, which they expected to occur in 2016 or 2017. Titan is the second-largest moon in the Solar System, and is the only one known to possess a thick atmosphere, along with vast lakes and seas of liquid methane and ethane. These conditions make it one of the most-likely places to find life in our solar system. Currently, NASA is considering sending a drone, called Dragonfly, to the moon, to be launched in the year 2025.Read More Rain on Saturn’s Moon Titan Could Make this World the Life of the Party
Animals will certainly join humans on our quest to colonize the planets and moons of our solar system. However, animals have not flown on space missions in quite a while, as space agencies are hesitant to bring them on involuntary journeys. The only cat to have ever flown in space, Félicette, is now being honored for her 1963 journey, with a new statue due to be erected in Paris.Read More In Space, No One Can Hear You Meow – A Sad Tale (Tail?) of the First Cat in Space
The Chinese space program recently landed a spacecraft on the far side of the Moon, and has begun growing plants there. Neither of these feats have ever been accomplished by any other nation. Bolstered by their success, the Chinese space agency has announced plans to return sample materials from the Moon and Mars, and to construct a base on the Moon, to be constructed with a 3D printer. These missions have some people asking if China is now leading the way in space exploration, surpassing the United States and Russia. The U.S. has not sent an astronaut past low-Earth orbit since 1972.Read More Is China Leading the Exploration of Space?
For just the second time in history, astronomers have witnessed a repeating fast radio burst. These events are formed far beyond our galaxy, and release more energy in a small fraction of a second than our Sun produces in decades. Researchers are uncertain what causes this phenomenon, although they may be the result of black holes or ultra-dense neutron stars colliding with each other. The event was witnessed by researchers at the new CHIME radio telescope in Canada, as that instrument underwent early testing. Only 60 of these events have ever been recorded, and this is just the second one ever seen repeating. Once CHIME is fully operational, astronomers hope to see several dozen fast radio bursts every day.Read More Second Repeating Radio Burst Seen – Are Aliens Behind These Odd Events?
Elon Musk released the first photograph of the new Starship rocket, and it looks like it came straight out of a science fiction show from the 1950’s. Sporting a stout, silver body, the rocket sits on top of three over-sized fins. This test vehicle is scheduled to carry out vertical takeoff and landing tests, but will be unable to reach space. The orbital version of Starship, with a sleeker body and thicker skin, is due to begin testing in June 2019.Read More Elon Musk Unveils Starship — and Marvin the Martian would be Proud
A newly discovered super-Earth, Barnard b, may be capable of supporting alien life, researchers at Villanova University report. This world is roughly three times larger than the Earth, and experiences frigid temperatures. However, if it is a rocky world with a molten core, like Earth and Venus, this could provide enough heat to create oceans of liquid water that could support life. Astronomers are still uncertain if Bernard b has a solid surface, or if it is a gaseous world, similar to Uranus and Neptune. The next generation of telescopes may be able to make that determination, and possibly detect life if it exists on that alien world.Read More Could Alien Life Exist on Barnard b? It’s Possible!
For the first time ever, astronomers may have seen the birth of a black hole, or possibly a neutron star. Each of these types of bodies are the remnants of supermassive stars which collapsed under gravity after they ran out of fuel. Researchers in Hawaii spotted a tremendous burst of energy between 10 and 100 times more massive than that released by a supernova explosion, That event released particles which flew apart at 10 percent of the speed of light, before dissipating 10 days later. The event took place 200 million years ago, before the age of the dinosaurs, but due to the great distance to object, the energy from it is just reaching Earth now.Read More The Birth of a Black Hole Seen for the First Time (or was it a Neutron Star?)
The Hubble Space Telescope suffered a major setback as a primary instrument, the Wide Field Camera 3, failed on January 8th. This is one of two main cameras aboard the orbiting telescope, and was installed by astronauts in 2009. Backup equipment aboard Hubble might be able to revive the telescope, but engineers are not at work during a partial shutdown of the federal government. Repairs to the Hubble are unlikely to happen until the government reopens.Read More Hubble Space Telescope Camera Fails and Government Shutdown Prevents Repairs
A strange exoplanet sitting 53 light years from Earth has been discovered by astronomers using the TESS spacecraft. This world is three times larger than the Earth, but 23 times as dense. This suggests it is likely surrounded by a thick atmosphere, denser than that seen on Uranus or Neptune. The planet, HD 2172b, speeds around its parent star once every 36 days. This is the third confirmed planet found by TESS, although astronomers are looking through data showing more than 280 other potential worlds.Read More Weird Exoplanet Discovered by TESS Spacecraft – Strange World, Indeed!
The Milky Way Galaxy is headed for a collision with the Large Magellanic Cloud in about 2.4 billion years, new research has found. Astronomers previously thought this satellite galaxy of the Milky Way would pass harmlessly by our home galaxy. But, new observations show it contains twice as much dark matter as previously believed, sending it on a collision course with our local family of stars. Galactic collisions are fairly common, and we are also due to collide with the much larger Andromeda galaxy, just over four billion years in the future.Read More Milky Way Galaxy Headed for Collision – Brace Yourselves, Here Comes the Large Magellanic Cloud!