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moon

US Company, Intuitive Machines, Wants To Bring America Back To The Moon 

Intuitive Machines is a US company that is trying to get back to the moon in what would be the first American lunar landing in more than 50 years.

hubble

Astronomers Detect Water Vapor On Small Exoplanet In “Landmark Discovery”

Astronomers have utilized the Hubble Space Telescope to make a “landmark discovery” of water molecules on a small exoplanet located 97 light-years away from Earth, according to reports from CNN

The planet is scientifically named GJ 9827d, and is about twice Earth’s diameter, and according to a new report published last week in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, is the smallest exoplanet that has been found to have water vapor in its atmosphere. 

While the presence of water on any planet could be a sign of life, the astronomers involved in this research said it was unlikely that this planet has life on it due to its hot temperature that likely turns the water in the atmosphere to steam. 

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“Water on a planet this small is a landmark discovery. It pushes closer than ever to characterizing truly Earth-like worlds,”  said study coauthor Laura Kreidberg, managing director of the atmospheric physics of exoplanets department at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, in a statement.

The planet itself is reported to reach temperatures of 800 degrees Fahrenheit (427 degrees Celsius), hence the conclusion that it’s inhospitable. 

“This would be the first time that we can directly show through an atmospheric detection, that these planets with water-rich atmospheres can actually exist around other stars. This is an important step toward determining the prevalence and diversity of atmospheres on rocky planets,” said study coauthor Björn Benneke, professor at the University of Montreal’s Trottier Institute for Research on Exoplanets, in a statement

“Our observing program, led by principal investigator Ian Crossfield of (the University of Kansas) in Lawrence, Kansas, was designed specifically with the goal to not only detect the molecules in the planet’s atmosphere, but to actually look specifically for water vapor. Either result would be exciting, whether water vapor is dominant or just a tiny species in a hydrogen-dominant atmosphere,” said lead study author Pierre-Alexis Roy, a doctoral student at the University of Montreal’s Trottier Institute, in a statement

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According to the study, astronomers have observed GJ 9827d during 11 transits within the past three years. 

“Until now, we had not been able to directly detect the atmosphere of such a small planet. And we’re slowly getting into this regime now. At some point, as we study smaller planets, there must be a transition where there’s no more hydrogen on these small worlds, and they have atmospheres more like Venus (which is dominated by carbon dioxide),” Benneke said. 

“Observing water is a gateway to finding other things. This Hubble discovery opens the door to future study of these types of planets by the James Webb Space Telescope. JWST can see much more with additional infrared observations, including carbon-bearing molecules like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and methane. Once we get a total inventory of a planet’s elements, we can compare those to the star it orbits and understand how it was formed,” said study coauthor Thomas Greene, astrophysicist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. 

“We can hardly wait to see what those data reveal. Hopefully, we can now settle the question of water worlds once and for all,” Kreidberg stated.

moon

Defense Of Advanced Research Projects Agency Exploring Technology For Moon-Based Economy 

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is embarking on a seven-month study to analyze the infrastructure and baseline technology that would be needed to develop a moon-based economy within the next 10 years. 

Through their lunar architecture study, called LunA-10, DARPA is attempting to establish the framework needed for “rapid scientific and commercial activity on and around the moon,” between 2025 and 2015, according to an Agency statement.

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“A large paradigm shift is coming in the next 10 years for the lunar economy. To get to a turning point faster, LunA-10 uniquely aims to identify solutions that can enable multi-mission lunar systems,” said Michael Nayak, the program manager in DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office. 

The “multi-mission systems” that Nayak is referring to could include dual use military and commercial technology, such as a wireless power station that would offer communication and navigation capabilities. Nayak compared DARPA’s role in building the lunar economy to it’s contributions to the creation of the internet. 

“Just like DARPA’s foundational node of ARPANET grew into the sprawling web of the internet, LunA-10 is looking for those connective nodes to support a thriving commercial economy on the moon,” Nayak stated. 

The US and other nations, as well as commercial companies, have been planning missions as a part of their vision for a future economy on the moon. DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory have begun a slew of programs in recent years meant to explore satellite sensing and logistics in a lunar environment. 

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The National Geospatial Intelligence Agency announced in May that they’re developing a Lunar Reference Frame that will show a mapping infrastructure to support a GPS-like capability for the moon. 

According to reports, “the DARPA effort is focused on fusing various infrastructure sectors that have technological overlap into hubs that could be built up in the future, as economic activity on and around the moon increases. Those sectors include: transit and mobility; energy; communications; and other revolutionary orbital or surface infrastructure concepts.”

DARPA is not planning on funding any new technology development, transportation, or integration with space vehicles, and instead is forming teams that are made up of companies with expertise in lunar technology. 

The teams will be responsible for identifying enabling capabilities, developing analytical frameworks, and considering logistical and technical challenges for future moon operations. 

DARPA is projecting their study will officially begin in November and go until June 2024. They’re also coordinating with NASA to create a blueprint for scientific exploration on the moon and Mars.

jupiter

Jupiter Is Now The Planet With The Most Known Moons 

Astronomers have announced that Jupiter is now the planet in our Solar System with the most moons. 

Saturn and Jupiter have been in a battle for the most moons for quite some time now. In 2019, Saturn took the title from Jupiter, however, astronomers have now counted 12 previously unknown moons in orbit around Jupiter; the Solar System’s largest planet.

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The current known total of Jupiter’s moons is now 92, while Saturn currently has 83 known moons. 

According to Science Alert, the observations were led by Scott Sheppard, an astronomer for Carnegie Institution for Science. The new findings have been published by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, which is known for keeping records of all the small bodies newly discovered in the Solar System. 

“Jupiter just happened to be in the sky near the search fields where we were looking for extremely distant Solar System objects,” Sheppard said back in 2018 when his team initially discovered a dozen new moons orbiting the planet. 

These planet’s moons are quite small and dim, making them difficult to see, which is why it makes sense that we’re continuously discovering new ones. 

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According to Sky & Telescope, “nine of the newly discovered moons are quite distant from Jupiter, orbiting in a retrograde motion, the opposite direction to Jupiter’s rotation.

This is not weird; most of Jupiter’s moons are retrograde. This motion means they were probably passing rocks that were snared by Jupiter’s gravity and remained in orbit.”

The additional three moons are closer to Jupiter, and orbiting in the same direction as the planet. Jupiter itself is also extremely bright, so seeing the newer moons has been a challenge due to how dim they are. 

The newly discovered moons were initially spotted in 2021 and 2022, however, it takes time to confirm that these small planetary objects are actually moons. Follow-up observations need to be done both one month and one year after the initial sightings, which is also helpful for tracking the orbits of them. 

According to these reports, it’s very possible that there are even more moons surrounding both Jupiter and Saturn that are yet to be discovered. For now Jupiter holds the lead for Solar System planets with the moons, and only time, and scientific discovery, will tell whether or not it remains in that position.

wormhole

Physicists Create ‘Baby Wormhole’ Using Quantum Computer

Physicists announced on Wednesday that they had successfully simulated a pair of black holes and created a “theoretical” wormhole on a quantum computer. The researchers were able to transmit a message through the wormhole without affecting space or time, potentially paving the way for future studies of teleportation.

According to a study published in the journal “Nature,” scientists at the California Institute of Technology used the computer to virtually simulate what amounts to a tunnel connecting distant regions of the universe.

The achievement is a small step in understanding the relationship between gravity and quantum mechanics.

Dr. Maria Spiropulu, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology, the leader of a consortium called Quantum Communication Channels for Fundamental Physics, and co-author of the report, described that the “holographic” tunnel has the elements of a “baby wormhole.” 

“This is important because what we have here in its construct and structure is a baby wormhole. And we hope that we can make adult wormholes and toddler wormholes step-by-step.”

Of course, scientists did not create a real-life wormhole, but physicists celebrated their work as a spectacular technical triumph. Dr. Spiropulu and her colleagues created the wormhole through an “emergent” two-dimensional space with “quantum fields on the edge of space-time determining what happens within.” 

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The computer-generated cosmic tunnel was built by scientists on Google’s Sycamore quantum processor. Essentially, their system was small enough to be implemented on current hardware while retaining the key properties of a gravitational wormhole.

Experts like Dr. Spiropulu stressed that scientists are still a long way away from being able to teleport any living being through a time-travel portal.

“Experimentally, for me, I will tell you that it’s very, very far away. People come to me and they ask me, ‘Can you put your dog in the wormhole?’ So, no.”

The study’s co-author Dr. Joseph Lykken said, “these ideas have been around for a long time, and they’re very powerful ideas.”

“But in the end, we’re in experimental science, and we’ve been struggling now for a very long time to find a way to explore these ideas in the laboratory. And that’s what’s really exciting about this.”

Dr. Daniel Jafferis, a physics professor at Harvard, said that the “key question, which is perhaps hard to answer, is: Do we say from the simulation it’s a real black hole?”

“I kind of like the term ’emergent black hole.’ We are just using the quantum computer to find out what it would look and feel like if you were in this gravitational situation.”

M.I.T. physicist Dr. Daniel Harlow, who was not involved in the experiment, told the New York Times that the study’s foundation was an extremely simplistic and unrealistic model of quantum gravity.

“So I’d say that this doesn’t teach us anything about quantum gravity that we didn’t already know. On the other hand, I think it is exciting as a technical achievement, because if we can’t even do this, and until now we couldn’t, then simulating more interesting quantum gravity theories would certainly be off the table.” 

According to Dr. Harlow, Developing computers capable of handling these simulations might take 10 or 15 years.

Dr. Leonard Susskind, a Stanford University physicist who was also not involved in the study, agreed with Dr. Harlow.

“They’re learning that they could do this experiment. The really interesting thing here is the possibility of analyzing purely quantum phenomena using general relativity, and who knows where that’s going to go.”

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The concept of a wormhole was first born from physicist Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity in 1935. Einstein and a fellow physicist, Nathan Rosen, showed how shortcuts connecting black holes through space and time could theoretically exist. These bridges were later termed to be “wormholes” by physicist John Wheeler in 1957. 

The recent wormhole experiment used the mathematics of general relativity to investigate quantum teleportation in the hopes of illuminating some previously unknown facet of physics or gravity.

In quantum teleportation, researchers can use a set of quantum manipulations to convey a message between two entangled particles, whether separated by inches or miles, without the researchers knowing what the information is. The technique is seen as fundamental to the development of an unhackable “quantum internet” of the future.

In a Nature article accompanying the paper, Dr. Susskind and Dr. Adam Brown, a physicist at Stanford, said the results could help demystify aspects of quantum mechanics.  

“The surprise is not that the message made it across in some form, but that it made it across unscrambled.”

According to Dr. Lykken, the most straightforward explanation is that the message went through a “really short” wormhole. 

In quantum mechanics, the shortest conceivable length of a wormhole in nature is 10⁻³³ centimeters, which is also known as the Planck length. Dr. Lykken calculated that the wormhole in the study was no more than three Planck lengths long.

“It’s the smallest, crummiest wormhole you can imagine making. But that’s really cool because now we’re clearly doing quantum gravity.”

mars

Ancient Mars May Have Been Teeming With Life

Ancient Mars may have had the right environmental conditions to support a subterranean world filled with microscopic organisms, researchers say. These microbes are known to thrive in extreme conditions on earth.

Scientists at the University of Arizona determined that if primary life forms did ever exist on Mars, they would have drastically altered the planet’s atmosphere, resulting in an ice age that would have led to their own extinction.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature Astronomy, analyzed the habitability of Mars around 4 billion years ago. Lead author Boris Sauterey and his team used climate and terrain models to simulate the temperatures at the surface and crust of the red planet.

“This allowed us to evaluate how plausible a Martian underground biosphere would be. And if such a biosphere existed, how it would have modified the chemistry of the Martian crust, and how these processes in the crust would have affected the chemical composition of the atmosphere.”

At the time, the planet is believed to have had a much denser atmosphere, rich in carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The temperate climate would have likely led to a planet teeming with water, capable of better sustaining life than it is today.

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The areas that were free of ice could have housed these organisms in a manner similar to early earth. Methanogens, known to exist in low-oxygen, extreme temperature and high-pressure conditions on earth, may have thrived underneath a thick layer of dirt protecting them from incoming radiation.

The atmosphere would have been thrown off kilter with the amount of hydrogen consumed from its carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere, causing temperatures to drop by nearly 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The atmosphere “would have been completely changed by biological activity very rapidly, within a few tens or hundreds of thousands of years,” Sauterey said.

The microorganisms living near the surface would have burrowed deeper into the crust in an effort to survive the rapidly dropping temperatures.

“The problem these microbes would have then faced is that Mars’ atmosphere basically disappeared, completely thinned, so their energy source would have vanished, and they would have had to find an alternate source of energy. In addition to that, the temperature would have dropped significantly, and they would have had to go much deeper into the crust. For the moment, it is very difficult to say how long Mars would have remained habitable.”

This evolution of the atmosphere would have been different from earth, where microbes helped maintain the proper temperatures in an atmosphere dominated by nitrogen.

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Kaveh Pahlevan of the SETI Institute led another study that suggested Mars had warm oceans that persisted through millions of years. The hydrogen-dense atmosphere would have served as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat. Much of the hydrogen would eventually rise and dissipate into the atmosphere.

“This finding is significant because H2 is known to be a strong greenhouse gas in dense environments. This dense atmosphere would have produced a strong greenhouse effect, allowing very early warm-to-hot water oceans to stabilize the Martian surface for millions of years until the H2 was gradually lost to space. For this reason, we infer that—at a time before the earth itself had formed—Mars was born wet.”

The University of Arizona study analyzed the influence microbes had on Mars’ atmosphere during a different period when it was primarily dominated by carbon dioxide.

Pahlevan added in an email to The Guardian, “what their study makes clear, however, is that if life were present on Mars” during this earlier period, “they would have had a major influence on the prevailing climate.”

Future exploration projects on Mars may provide a clearer picture of potential life on early Mars. Researchers identified Hellas Planitia, a plain formed by the impact of a giant asteroid early in Mars’ history, as a site for possible evidence. However, the plain is home to some of the planet’s strongest dust storms, making it too challenging to be explored by autonomous rovers right now.

asteroid

NASA To Slam Probe Into Asteroid for Planetary Defense Test

On Sept. 26, NASA will slam a probe into an asteroid during its Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission. The mission is part of NASA’s larger planetary defense plan against any asteroids that may someday impact the Earth.

If an asteroid were to hurl toward Earth in the future, a probe like the one used in DART should be able to realign its trajectory or destroy it, neutralizing its threat.

One of the engineers orchestrating the mission acknowledges, “this is an amazing moment for our space program.”

“For the first time, we will move a celestial body intentionally in space, beyond Earth’s orbit! This test goes beyond international borders and really shows what we can accomplish if we all work together as one team and as one on Earth.”

NASA mapped the orbits of 30,000 nearby asteroids and determined that, as of right now, most of them are unlikely to collide with Earth or are so small that they would burn up in the atmosphere before any significant impact.

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The last time an asteroid collided with Earth, it ended the age of dinosaurs some 66 million years ago. The 6-mile wide asteroid Chicxulub killed over 75% of the Earth’s species, triggering a mass extinction event. Earthquakes reverberated throughout the crust; wildfires spread in all directions from the asteroid’s impact, and mammoth tsunamis engulfed dry land.

NASA does not want to rule out that an asteroid may hit Earth in the future. The probe will impact an asteroid named Dimorphos, which orbits another asteroid named Didymos, nearly the Earth’s size. Its mission is to realign Dimorphos and change the duration of its orbit by 11 minutes.

The agency says this will determine if a strategy like DART would successfully prevent planetary threats posed by asteroids by gauging how asteroids respond to kinetic impact. The stakes of the test are low since it poses no threat to Earth, but the agency says the difficulty of the maneuver will remain the same.

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During a news conference, Andrea Riley, a program executive at NASA, spoke on the importance of the DART test. The probe will only be able to detect Dimorphos an hour and a half before impact, making this an accurate test of its precision. Once the probe detects the asteroid, it will autonomously guide itself into a collision.

“If it misses, it still provides a lot of data. This is a test mission. This is why we test; we want to do it now rather than when there is an actual need.”

NASA will hold a televised briefing for the test at 6 p.m. on Sept. 26. NASA TV will then provide live coverage of the impact, predicted to be at 7:14 p.m. EDT the same day.

alien

A Top Scientist Believes That Alien Tech May Be Located In The Pacific Ocean

Astrophysicist Avi Loeb is on a mission to try and find some alien technology that he believes is lying on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

black hole

NASA Releases Footage Found From A Black Hole That Leaves An Ominous Sound

In a recent tweet from NASA, they revealed some mysterious audio from a galaxy cluster that can be found 240 million lightyears away from Earth.

The new sound waves that have been released were previously identified, but now for the first time they can actually be heard. 

Scientists say the black hole sends out pressure waves that cause ripples in the hot gas, which can be translated into a note,” according to Wesh.com

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The actual note can’t be heard by a normal human ear. The note is roughly 57 octaves below that of middle C. 

The black hole has been associated with the sound ever since 2003. 

Astronomers figured out that the waves that were coming from the black hole ended up causing ripples within the hot gas which translated into the ominous note that was and can now be heard.

“The misconception that there is no sound in space originates because most space is a ~vacuum, providing no way for sound waves to travel. A galaxy cluster has so much gas that we’ve picked up actual sound. Here it’s amplified, and mixed with other data, to hear a black hole” 

NASA ended up scaling the sounds up to their true pitch that way everyone would be able to hear the sound coming from within the black hole. 

According to Business Insider, the scaled up sound is actually 144 quadrillion and 288 quadrillion times higher than what the actual frequency is. 

The news broke across the internet and the outpouring of peoples reactions at being able to hear the interior of the black hole was astounding.

One tweet from CNN anchor Jim Sciutto wrote, “This is cool-and really, really spooky.”

“Everyone is talking about how eerie this is, but, to me the way it just cuts off is by far the creepiest part,” said astronomy blogger Phil Plait. 

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Another Twitter account noted that the black hole actually sounded like “a billion souls being tortured.”

When the clip was originally published, NASA shared a more pleasant version of the noise from M87 which was released by the Event Horizon Telescope project in 2019. 

The incorporated music also came from Chandra telescope’s X-ray data along with audio of optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Atacma Large Milimeter Array in Chile. 

When listening, the loudest part of the M87 music goes along with the brightest part of the image shown which is right where the black hole can be found.

Meteor

US Military Records Confirm An Interstellar Meteor Collided With Earth In 2014

According to a recently released document from the United States Space Command, researchers discovered an interstellar meteor hit Earth in 2014. An interstellar meteor is a space rock that originated from outside of our solar system, making it extremely rare for any of them to make contact with our planet. 

CNEOS 2014-01-08 is the name of the meteor that crashed along the northeast coast of Papua New Guinea on January 8th, 2014 (hence the numbers in the name).

Amir Siraj identified the object as an interstellar meteor in 2019 when he co authored a study as an undergraduate at Harvard University. Initially, Siraj was investigating “Oumuamua,” the first known interstellar object in our solar system that was found in 2017. 

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Siraj was performing the study with Harvard professor of science Abraham Loeb. Siraj was going through NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies database to potentially find other interstellar objects and was able to find the 2014 meteor within days. 

Siraj was able to conclude that the object was indeed an interstellar meteor based on the high velocity of it when it hit Earth. The meteor was moving at a high speed of 28 miles per second, for reference the Earth is currently moving around the sun at a speed of 18.6 miles per second. 

After mapping out the meteor’s trajectory, Siraj found that at its highest speed, the meteor was moving at about 37.3 miles per second in relation to the sun. He used this to determine that the meteor was in an unbound orbit before crashing into Earth, meaning it came from outside our solar system. 

“Presumably, it was produced by another star, got kicked out of that star’s planetary system and just so happened to make its way to our solar system and collide with Earth.”

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John Shaw, deputy commander of the US Space Command, which is part of the US Department of Defense, was able to confirm that the object was in fact an interstellar meteor after reviewing the findings in the study.

“Dr. Joel Mozer, the Chief Scientist of Space Operations Command, the United States Space Force service component of U.S. Space Command, reviewed analysis of additional data available to the Department of Defense related to this finding. Dr. Mozer confirmed that the velocity estimate reported to NASA is sufficiently accurate to indicate an interstellar trajectory,” wrote Shaw.

Initially, Siraj and Loeb weren’t able to get their findings published or confirmed from NASA due to the database it came from. So much time had passed since they contacted NASA for confirmation, that Siraj even moved on to other studies so he wouldn’t get his hopes up to high. 

“I thought that we would never learn the true nature of this meteor, that it was just blocked somewhere in the government after our many tries, and so actually seeing that letter from the Department of Defense with my eyes was a really incredible moment,” Siraj said.

Now that Loeb and Siraj have their confirmation, their team is working to resubmit all their findings for publication to explain in greater detail the significance of this discovery.