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A new fleet of Moon landers will set sail next year, backed by private companies

https://www.science.org/content/article/new-fleet-moon-landers-will-set-sail-next-year-backed-private-companies Source: By Joel Goldberg, Science Magazine.  Excerpt: Who knew outsourcing could extend to outer space? In some ways, that’s the aim of NASA’s $2.6 billion initiative meant to galvanize the private sector’s development of Moon landers and rovers. The Commercial Lunar Payload Services program has tasked a number of companies—including Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic—with delivering landers to the Moon’s surface twice a year. Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander, roughly the size of a tree house, is set to blast off this year from Cape Canaveral, Florida, as is Houston-based Intuitive Machines’s Nova-C. A second Astrobotic lander, Griffin, is expected to launch in 2023, ferrying the well-equipped, NASA-designed Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover. Its neutron counter, spectrometers, and specialized drill will seek out evidence of water and attempt to identify its origin. ...an

Deflecting an Asteroid Before It Hits Earth May Take Multiple Bumps

[ https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/25/science/asteroid-deflection-collision.html ] Source: By Katherine Kornei , The New York Times.  Excerpt: There’s probably a large space rock out there, somewhere, that has Earth in its cross hairs. Scientists have in fact spotted one candidate —  Bennu, which has a small chance of banging into our planet in the year 2182 . But whether it’s Bennu or another asteroid, the question will be how to avoid a very unwelcome cosmic rendezvous. For almost 20 years, a team of researchers has been preparing for such a scenario. Using a specially designed gun, they’ve repeatedly fired projectiles at meteorites and measured how the space rocks recoiled and, in some cases, shattered. These observations shed light on how an asteroid might respond to a high-velocity impact intended to deflect it away from Earth. At the 84th annual meeting of the Meteoritical Society held in Chicago this month, researchers  presented findings from all of that high-powered marksmansh

Ancient supernovae might have upended Earth’s evolution

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/08/ancient-supernovae-might-have-upended-earth-s-evolution By  Claire Hogan , Science Magazine.  Excerpt: When stars run out of fuel, they can collapse under their own gravity, exploding as supernovae that blast debris and radioactive nuclei far into space. Most of these events are too far from Earth to affect our planet. But if one happened nearby,  the effects could be dramatic . By studying radioactive isotopes on Earth, scientists have uncovered evidence suggesting two near-Earth supernovae occurred in the past few million years. Some researchers now hypothesize that supernova-generated particles known as cosmic rays might have depleted the ozone layer, increased cancer rates in ancient organisms, sparked wildfires, and even started an ice age....

‘Totally new’ idea suggests longer days on early Earth set stage for complex life

By  Elizabeth Pennisi , Science Magazine.  Excerpt: Today, oxygen fuels much of life on Earth, but it wasn’t always that way. Three billion years ago, this gas was scarce in the atmosphere and oceans. Knowing why oxygen became plentiful could illuminate the evolution of our planet’s flora and fauna, but scientists have struggled to find an explanation satisfying to all. Now a research team has proposed a novel link between how fast our planet spun on its axis, which defines the length of a day, and the ancient production of additional oxygen. Their modeling of Earth’s early days, which incorporates evidence from microbial mats coating the bottom of a shallow, sunlit sinkhole in Lake Huron, produced a surprising conclusion: as Earth’s spin slowed, the resulting longer days could have triggered more photosynthesis from similar mats, allowing oxygen to build up in ancient seas and diffuse up into the atmosphere.  That proposal , described today in Nature Geoscience, has intrigued some sci

She Changed Astronomy Forever. He Won the Nobel Prize For It.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/27/opinion/pulsars-jocelyn-bell-burnell-astronomy.html Source: By Ben Proudfoot, The New York Times.  Excerpt: [see video] In 1967, [Jocelyn] Burnell made a discovery that altered our perception of the universe. As a Ph.D. student at Cambridge University assisting the astronomer Anthony Hewish, she discovered pulsars —  compact, spinning celestial objects  that give off beams of radiation, like cosmic lighthouses. 

Exoplanet Articles in Eos/AGU

Unveiling the Next Exoplanet Act , by  Heather Goss .  Excerpt: ...our  August issue is all about exoplanets —what we know and what awaits us over the launch horizon. Who gets the first peek through James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)? In March, the proposals selected for the first observing cycle were announced. Meet the slate of scientists who will be pointing the telescope at other worlds, and read what they hope to learn in “ Overture to Exoplanets ." ...In “ The Forecast for Exoplanets Is Cloudy but Bright ,” we learn the immense challenge posed by exoplanet atmospheres, when researchers are still struggling to understand the complex dynamics of clouds on our own planet. ...And in “ Exoplanets in the Shadows ,” we look at the rogues, the extremes, and a new field being coined as necroplanetology. See also  Oddballs of the Exoplanet Realm . 

‘Hubble is back!’ Famed space telescope has new lease on life after computer swap appears to fix glitch

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/07/hubble-back-famed-space-telescope-has-new-lease-life-after-computer-swap-appears-fix Source: By  Daniel Clery .  Excerpt: The iconic but elderly Hubble Space Telescope appears to have been resurrected again after a shutdown of more than a month following a computer glitch. Science has learned that following a switch from the operating payload control computer to a backup device over the past 24 hours, Hubble’s operators have re-established communications with all the telescope’s instruments and plan to return them to normal operations today....