Showing posts from October, 2020

The universe teems with weird black holes, gravitational wave hunters find Source:    By   Adrian Cho , Science Magazine.  Excerpt: Less than 5 years ago, physicists rocked the scientific world when they   first spotted gravitational waves —fleeting ripples in space and time—set off when two gargantuan black holes billions of light-years away swirled into each other. Since then, scientists have detected a scad of similar events,   mostly reported event by event . Today, however, researchers with a global network of gravitational wave detectors announced the first major statistical analyses of their data so far, 50 events in all. Posted online in four papers, the analyses show that black holes—ghostly ultraintense gravitational fields left behind when massive stars collapse—are both more common and stranger than expected. They also shed light on mysteries such as how such black holes pair up before merging....  

NASA’s SOFIA Discovers Water on Sunlit Surface of Moon. Source:   NASA RELEASE 20-105.  Excerpt: NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed, for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places. ...Previous observations of the Moon’s surface detected some form of hydrogen, but were unable to distinguish between water and its close chemical relative, hydroxyl (OH). Data from this location reveal water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million – roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water – trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface. The   results are published   in the latest issue of Nature Astronomy. ...As a comparison, the Sahara desert has 100 times the amount of water than what SOFIA detected in the lunar soil. ...the discovery raises new questions

The Moon may hold much more water than we think Source:    By   Sid Perkins , Science Magazine.  Excerpt: Scientists have long suspected the Moon holds sizable reserves of water, secreted as ice in the deep cold of permanently shadowed craters near the poles. Two new studies tell us more about the possible extent of those reserves. One suggests the shadowy polar caches may cover an area equivalent to the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts combined; the other reveals traces of water elsewhere on the Moon’s surface, trapped in rocks or between the grains of lunar soil. ...A 2008–09 orbital expedition   detected the signature of water in shadowy lunar hollows . But how much is there? To find out, Paul Hayne, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and his colleagues estimated the number and size of permanently shadowed polar regions, where temperatures remain below –163°C. ...the team calculated that the Moon’s polar regions host

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Successfully Touches Asteroid Source:  NASA RELEASE 20-103.  Excerpt: NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft unfurled its robotic arm Tuesday, and in a first for the agency, briefly touched an asteroid to collect dust and pebbles from the surface for delivery to Earth in 2023. This well-preserved, ancient asteroid, known as Bennu, ... offers scientists  a window into the early solar system  as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and flinging ingredients that could have helped seed life on Earth. If Tuesday’s sample collection event, known as “Touch-And-Go” (TAG), provided enough of a sample, mission teams will command the spacecraft to begin stowing the precious primordial cargo to begin its journey back to Earth in March 2021. Otherwise, they will prepare for another attempt in January.... See also New York Times article [ https:/

Dune Universe Inspires Titan’s Nomenclature Source:  By  JoAnna Wendel , Eos/AGU.  Excerpt: Frank Herbert’s Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a son of a noble family sent to the hostile desert planet Arrakis to oversee the trade of a mysterious drug called melange (nicknamed “spice”), which gives its consumers supernatural abilities and longevity. ... Arrakis Planitia —belongs to the second-largest moon in our solar system,  Titan . Arrakis is a vast, undifferentiated plain of sand, but not sand as we know it. Titan’s sand is made of large organic molecules, which would make it softer and stickier, said  Mike Malaska , a planetary scientist.... ...Malaska likes to imagine that Titan’s hydrocarbon sand, which is actually referred to as tholin, or  complex organic gunk,  could double as the infamous spice at the center of Dune’s expansive narrative arc. ...Arrakis isn’t the only name from the Dune novels that adorns Titan’s geological features. ...There’s Bu

A NASA mission is about to capture carbon-rich dust from a former water world Source:  By  Paul Voosen , Science Magazine.  Excerpt: OSIRIS-REx is ready to get the goods. On 20 October,  after several years of patient study  of its enigmatic target, NASA’s $800 million spacecraft will finally stretch out its robotic arm, swoop to the surface of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, and sweep up some dust and pebbles. The encounter, 334 million kilometers from Earth, will last about 10 seconds. If it is successful, OSIRIS-REx could steal away with up to 1 kilogram of carbon-rich material from the dawn of the Solar System for return to Earth in 2023. Since OSIRIS-REx (short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) arrived in 2018, Bennu has yielded surprises…. Despite the logistical challenge, the boulders contain a prize:  veins of carbonate minerals thicker than your hands , the team reports in one of six studies pu