Venus has active volcanoes, we get a glimpse of NASA’s new lunar exploration suits, and scientists are building a fully flat telescopic lens.
Active volcano found on Venus
Venus holds many mysteries, and one of the biggest is whether or not there are still active volcanoes on its surface. NASA’s Magellan mission collected radar images of Venus’ surface decades ago, but the observations have been comprehensive. Thoroughly examining the data, scientists discovered a volcanic vent on Venus that changed shape and increased in size in less than a year. This appears to be conclusive evidence that Venus is still volcanically active. NASA is soon sending the VERITAS mission to Venus, which should take more pictures of the planet’s surface and see if the vent continues to grow.
Read more about volcanism on Venus.
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Related interview with Dr. Tibor Kremic on the development of technologies for exploring Venus
volcano is no more
The discovery of a possible exoplanet thought to be associated with Star Trek’s fictional homeworld of Vulcan has turned out to be a false alarm caused by a wobble in the star’s spectrum rather than an orbiting exoplanet. The discovery was made using the radial velocity property, which detects a faint push-pull manifested by variations in the wavelength of light coming from the star. However, teasing an exoplanet out of this apparent wobble is not always easy. As we get more data and more detailed data, it’s worth revisiting older, potentially ambiguous discoveries to clarify the observed signals and ensure our exoplanet detections are as clear as possible.
I’m sorry, Spock. Looks like you’ve already lost your planet twice.
$1 billion to bring the ISS out of orbit
In its last budget request, NASA asked for an interesting addition to the ISS. They plan to develop a thug that should be able to leave the station when his time comes. Previous plans required multiple Progress ships to accomplish this task. But after Russia invaded Ukraine, ties with Roskosmos were severed where possible. So NASA would like to have a redundant option that is not dependent on Russia.
New Axiom spacesuits for the moon
When humans return to the moon in 2025, they will need new lunar space suits. NASA has contracted Axiom Space to deliver in a public-private partnership. This week we saw a partial reveal of the new suits in action. The final suits will be white to reflect the sun’s heat on the moon, but these are covered with an additional layer of black that hides their proprietary design. While we don’t know exactly what they’ll look like, the suits show clear agility, with one model demonstrating squats, lunges, and squats, moves that would have been extremely difficult with the Apollo-era EVA suits.
More about the new lunar space suits.
Amazon Project Kuiper terminals revealed
Amazon showed the designs of their user terminals for their Project Kuiper satellite internet system. There will be three different options. There is one that looks very similar to Starlink’s standard bowl. There is a larger version for enterprise solutions. Most interesting, however, is probably a mini version that practically fits in the palm of your hand. Of course, Project Kuiper is far from operational as none of the 3236 planned satellites have been launched yet. But at least now we know what the terminals will look like.
Rotating asteroids hurl rocks into space
NASA’s DART mission crashed into the asteroid Dimorphos in 2022, sending out a cloud of materials scientists to carefully study. Dimorphos is in orbit around the asteroid Didymos, and DART was able to analyze the larger asteroid as it flew by. Astronomers found small dust grains in the area that came from Didymos. This is because the asteroid spins so fast that the material at its equator is almost entirely weightless, drifting off its surface into orbit. Most find their way back to the surface, but some are blown into interplanetary space by the solar wind.
More information on the results of DART.
Related interview on making asteroids in space habitats with Dr. Adam Frank
More science from New Horizons
It’s been almost eight years since NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft landed on Pluto and continued its journey to Arrokoth, but researchers continue to uncover new information about these enigmatic worlds. This week scientists unveiled some of their latest insights into the formation of Arrokoth, the origin and timing of Pluto’s pronounced axial tilt, the peculiar blade-shaped ice structures on its surface, and the role its heart-shaped region played in shaping its surface. I am confident that we will discover even more in the decades to come.
Read more about the results of New Horizons.
Flat lens telescope
Researchers have developed a completely flat lens large enough to use in a telescope and photograph the moon. This type of lens, called metalens, has been around for a while, but a team of researchers from the University of Rochester scaled the lens size up to 8 centimeters (4 inches), allowing them to act like a telescope and magnify an image of the moon. These lenses could be used in a variety of applications including telescopes, microscopes and cameras. Maybe one day they will allow us to get rid of camera bumps on our phones and build simpler and more compact telescopes.
More about the Flat Lens Telescope.
Violent Red Dwarfs
Astronomers recognize that red dwarf stars can be unpredictable and turbulent during their first few billion years, triggering numerous solar flares and coronal mass ejections onto their planets. This could be catastrophic for any life on these planets and make astronomers consider how volatile these stars are. The researchers examined nearly two decades of stellar data and observed the behavior of nearly 200 red dwarf stars. They discovered that almost all of these stars are variable to some degree, even the quietest.
More on the potential habitability of red dwarfs.
Related interview with Mariano Battistuzzi on the possible habitability of red dwarf systems
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