Category Archives: The Moon

Space sciences roundup – Oct.18.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images from space-related science news items (find previous roundups here):

Astronomy

** A better view of an interstellar comet 2I/Borisov: Hubble Observes New Interstellar Visitor | ESA/Hubble

On 12 October 2019, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope provided astronomers with their best look yet at an interstellar visitor — Comet 2I/Borisov — which is believed to have arrived here from another planetary system elsewhere in our galaxy.

This observation is the sharpest  view ever of the interstellar comet. Hubble reveals a central concentration of dust around the solid icy nucleus.

Comet 2I/Borisov is only the second such interstellar object known to have passed through our Solar System. In 2017, the first identified interstellar visitor, an object dubbed ‘Oumuamua, swung within 38 million kilometres of the Sun before racing out of the Solar System. 

“Whereas ‘Oumuamua looked like a bare rock, Borisov is really active, more like a normal comet. It’s a puzzle why these two are so different,” explained David Jewitt of UCLA, leader of the Hubble team who observed the comet. 

** The Space Show – Tue, 10/15/2019 –  Dr. Alan Hale discussed “multiple astronomy, telescope and exoplanet subjects. Also Hale-Bopp and other comets. Alan’s new Ice and Stone 2020 educational outreach project.”

** The Milky Way steals gasses from unidentified neighbors:  Milky Way Raids Intergalactic ‘Bank Accounts,’ Hubble Study Finds | NASA

Our Milky Way is a frugal galaxy. Supernovas and violent stellar winds blow gas out of the galactic disk, but that gas falls back onto the galaxy to form new generations of stars. In an ambitious effort to conduct a full accounting of this recycling process, astronomers were surprised to find a surplus of incoming gas.

“We expected to find the Milky Way’s books balanced, with an equilibrium of gas inflow and outflow, but 10 years of Hubble ultraviolet data has shown there is more coming in than going out,” said astronomer Andrew Fox of the Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland, lead author of the study to be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Fox said that, for now, the source of the excess inflowing gas remains a mystery.

Milky Way galaxy's gas recycling
“This illustration envisions the Milky Way galaxy’s gas recycling above and below its stellar disk. Hubble observes the invisible gas clouds rising and falling with its sensitive Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) instrument. The spectroscopic signature of the light from background quasars shining through the clouds gives information about their motion. Quasar light is redshifted in clouds shooting up and away from the galactic plane, while quasar light passing through gas falling back down appears blueshifted. This differentiation allows Hubble to conduct an accurate audit of the outflowing and inflowing gas in the Milky Way’s busy halo — revealing an unexpected and so-far unexplained surplus of inflowing gas. Credits: NASA, ESA and D. Player (STScI)”

The Moon

** Both young and old craters at lunar south pole have water:

The majority of the reported ice deposits are found within large craters formed about 3.1 billion years or longer ago, the study found. Since the ice can’t be any older than the crater, that puts an upper bound on the age of the ice. Just because the crater is old doesn’t mean that the ice within it is also that old too, the researchers say, but in this case there’s reason to believe the ice is indeed old. The deposits have a patchy distribution across crater floors, which suggests that the ice has been battered by micrometeorite impacts and other debris over a long period of time.

If those reported ice deposits are indeed ancient, that could have significant implications in terms of exploration and potential resource utilization, the researchers say.

“There have been models of bombardment through time showing that ice starts to concentrate with depth,” Deutsch said. “So if you have a surface layer that’s old, you’d expect more underneath.”

While the majority of ice was in the ancient craters, the researchers also found evidence for ice in smaller craters that, judging by their sharp, well-defined features, appear to be quite fresh. That suggests that some of the deposits on the south pole got there relatively recently.

“That was a surprise,” Deutsch said. “There hadn’t really been any observations of ice in younger cold traps before.”

** Chandrayaan-2 lunar orbiter begins producing science data: India’s Chandrayaan-2 Moon Probe Just Beamed Back Its 1st Lunar Science | Space.com

The Chandrayaan-2 mission launched in July and was designed to tackle a host of questions about the moon, with a particularly sharp eye to the water ice the spacecraft’s predecessor spotted at the south pole. The current orbiter carries eight different instruments — and Indian scientists are already poring over some of the mission’s very first science data.

The orbiter carries two cameras, both of which have been hard at work. The Terrain Mapping Camera began surveying the moon as soon as Chandrayaan-2 arrived in orbit. Now, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), which runs the mission, has also released images taken by a second instrument, the Orbiter High Resolution Camera.

Chandrayaan2 Orbiter High Resolution Camera
First images released from the Orbiter High Resolution Camera on the Chandrayaan-2 lunar orbiter. Credits: ISRO

More on Chandrayaan-2 at

The Sun

** The latest on the lack of sunspots: Sunspot update Sept 2019:The blankest Sun in decades – Behind The Black. The latest from Bob Zimmerman on the spotless sun:

With the release yesterday by NOAA of its September update of its graph showing the long term sunspot activity of the Sun, we find ourselves in what might be the longest stretch of sunspot inactivity in decades, part of what might become the most inactive solar minimum in centuries.

In the last four months the Sun has produced practically no sunspots. There were two in June, two in July, and one in August. The September graph, posted below with additional annotations by me to give it context, shows that the past month was as weak as August, with only one sunspot again.

Sunspot vs time in months
A plot of the number of sunspots versus time in months. Credits: Bob Zimmerman

Mars

** More signs of abundant ice on Mars: Ice! Ice! Everywhere on Mars ice! | Behind The Black.  Bob Zimmerman reports on further examples of “exposed ice in a number scarp cliff faces found in the high-mid-latitudes of Mars.

These scarps have so far been found in the highest latitudes of those two glacial bands, which might also explain why they appear more solid with the appearance of only the beginning of degradation. The buried glaciers found in the lower latitudes always look more degraded. As Dundas notes,

We expect that ice at lower latitudes will be less stable because the temperatures are warmer, so on average (over millions of years) at lower latitudes there will be less frequent deposition and more sublimation, so this fits together.

One striking conclusion that we can begin to draw from all this recent research is that ice is likely far more prevalent close to the Martian surface then previously believed. Not only will it be reachable by colonists by simply drilling down to an underground ice table, from 30 degrees latitude and higher there will be numerous places where it will be either close to the surface, or exposed and accessible.

In this image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the blue streak along the edge of a scarf at Milankovic Crater in the northern hemisphere of Mars indicates water ice.  Credits: Bob Zimmerman

** And more Mars surface imagery analysis from Bob Zimmerman at Behind The Black:

** Progress with the Insight lander’s Mole digger: Mars InSight’s ‘Mole’ Is Moving Again | NASA

NASA’s InSight spacecraft has used its robotic arm to help its heat probe, known as “the mole,” dig nearly 2 centimeters (3/4 of an inch) over the past week. While modest, the movement is significant: Designed to dig as much as 16 feet (5 meters) underground to gauge the heat escaping from the planet’s interior, the mole has only managed to partially bury itself since it started hammering in February 2019.

The recent movement is the result of a new strategy, arrived at after extensive testing on Earth, which found that unexpectedly strong soil is holding up the mole’s progress. The mole needs friction from surrounding soil in order to move: Without it, recoil from its self-hammering action will cause it to simply bounce in place. Pressing the scoop on InSight’s robotic arm against the mole, a new technique called “pinning,” appears to provide the probe with the friction it needs to continue digging.

Since Oct. 8, 2019, the mole has hammered 220 times over three separate occasions. Images sent down from the spacecraft’s cameras have shown the mole gradually progressing into the ground. It will take more time — and hammering — for the team to see how far the mole can go.

Insight Mole digs again with help
“‘Pinning’ Helps the Mole Move: This GIF shows NASA InSight’s heat probe, or “mole,” digging about a centimeter (half an inch) below the surface last week. Using a technique called “pinning,” InSight recently pressed the scoop on its robotic arm against the self-hammering mole in order to help it dig. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.”

** Curiosity is staying busy:

Curiosity Mars Rover: Wheel Scuff at Culbin Sands – Leonard David

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now performing Sol 2558 tasks.

The rover has made a wheel scuff at “Culbin Sands,” reports Fred Calef, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Curiosity purposely ran over a megaripple (fine grained sandy ripple with a coarser pebble coating), Calef notes, to create a “scuff” which churned up and bisected the feature to observe any layering or material within.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance-Camera-Left-B-Sol-2557-October-16-2019
Wheel scuff mark made by Curiosity wheel scuff at “Culbin Sands as seen by the Front Hazard Avoidance Camera on-Sol-2557, October-16-2019. Credits: Leonard David

Curiosity Mars Rover: Last Views of Drill Sample, Sand Dancing – Leonard David

Reports Ashley Stroupe, Mission Operations Engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the rover is taking its last views of the Glen Etive 2 drill sample. A recent plan had the robot cleaning out the remaining sample within the drill and doing contact science analysis on the dumped sample.

Both the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) and Mastcam will be taking a look at “Penicuik,” a pebble target, and “Monach Isles,” a potential small meteorite. Also planned is a standard environmental observation suite: a Mastcam crater rim extinction and tau, and a Navcam supra-horizon movie.

====

Galaxy Girls: 50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space.

Video: “How to Draw the Lunar Lander”

Artist Stanley Von Medvey shows how to draw the Apollo lunar lander:

If you prefer to build a model of the lander, here are some paper model guides for download:

Here’s a 1960s era NASA fact sheet for the Lunar Module (pdf).

And a simulator: Eagle Lander 3D (EL3D)

====

Aoshima Apollo Lunar Module Eagle-5 Model Kit

‘First Women on the Moon’ 2019 Essay Contest

The International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and the Moon Village Association (MVA) are sponsoring the

‘FIRST WOMEN ON THE MOON’ 2019 ESSAY CONTEST
200-Word Submission Due 10 October 2019

2019 FWotM Essay Contest Announcement

Grand Prize: All-expenses-paid participation at ILOA Galaxy Forum China: Hainan, 25-28 February 2020 provided by ILOA
And one-on-one Astronaut briefing(s) provided by the Moon Village Association

Introduction: Working to help to fulfill the Apollo 11 message ‘in peace for all’, ILOA and MVA are sponsoring the 2019 First Women on the Moon Essay Contest. Only 63 women have been to space, and of the 12 Moonwalkers, all have been men. The first step toward realizing a future where peoples of varied genders, geographies and generations live off-planet may begin with The First Women on the Moon.

Grand Prize: Winner will attend all sessions, ceremonies and activities at ILOA Galaxy Forum China 2020, Hainan 25-28 February, and participate in the “First Women on the Moon” special luncheon panel featuring invited Astronauts Soyeon Yi, Naoko Yamazaki, other women Astronauts from China and USA (TBD); and potentially an Apollo Moonwalker. Direct purchase by ILOA will cover round-trip regular class airline travel to Hainan Island, hotel accommodation at Hilton Wenchang, Galaxy Forum registration fee and meals. Reimbursement for reasonable traveling incidentals such as meals at airports and ground transportation will be covered. Reimbursement for passport and visa, and expedited fees, will also be provided, if necessary.

MVA will provide direct, one-on-one Astronaut briefing(s) for a total of up to 3 hours with the winner, by skype or in person, at a date to be mutually agreed, to answer questions they may have about living and working in space, and perhaps one day on the Moon.

How to enter: Visit www.galaxyforum.org and use the online form to describe the significance of the First Women landing on the Moon, and why you would like to be one of the First Women on the Moon –  in 200 words or less. Submit your essay with your full name, age, mailing address, and telephone number.

Optional graphic: Contestants are encouraged, but not required, to submit an original drawing, photograph, or image of any size to support their essay. Please do not submit any copyrighted or other intellectual property materials.

Deadline: All entries due by 10 October 2019 at 12:00 Hawaii Standard Time (UTC-10).

Eligibility: Contest is open to all women 21 years of age or older by 25 February 2019, from any country, nation, continent, background and ability. English is the main language of Galaxy Forum China, Hainan, therefore we ask for essays to be submitted in English. Contestant must already have or be eligible to receive a Passport and a Visa to travel to Hainan, China for 25-28 February 2020.

Galaxy Forum Hainan 2020 – China: Developing program and details for Galaxy Forum China 2020 may be found here: https://galaxyforum.org/galaxy-forum-china-2020-hainan/

Further information and contact: Please visit the websites for International Lunar Observatory Association, Galaxy Forum, or Moon Village Association.

===

See also the update on the winner and other entrants for the 2018 ‘First Women on the Moon’ Essay Contest.

====

Galaxy Girls:
50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space

Space sciences roundup – May.22.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images from space-related science news items:

** Update on China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover:

From the Planetary Society article:

The first science results from the unprecedented Chang’e-4 lunar far side mission are in. The mission’s Yutu-2 rover, deployed from the lander shortly after the Chang’e-4 landing on 3 January, has, with the help of the Queqiao relay satellite, returned data which suggests it has discovered material derived from the Moon’s mantle, according to research published today in Nature. The possibility of accessing mantle rocks exposed within an enormous impact basin was a major reason for attempting the challenging farside landing.

The Visible and Near Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS) aboard Yutu-2 made the first in situ observations—detecting scattered or reflected light from surface materials—on the lunar far side. These spectra have been interpreted by the paper’s authors to represent the presence of olivine and low-calcium pyroxene, materials that may originate from the Moon’s mantle.

Yutu-2 VNIS exploration area
VNIS payload and observation footprint – Yutu-2’s Visible and Yutu-2 rover’s Near Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS) measures an area a few centimeters across. Credits: Chunlai Li et al via Planetary Society

** SpaceIL‘s Beresheet lunar vehicle makes a mark on the Moon:

Lunar surface before/after Beresheet impact
Lunar surface before/after Beresheet impact. Planetary Society: “Left: Beresheet impact site as seen by Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on 22 April 2019. Right: An image processed to highlight changes near the landing site among photos taken before and after the landing, revealing a white impact halo. Other craters are visible in the right image because there is a slight change in lighting conditions among the before and after images. Scale bar is 100 meters. North is up. Both panels are 490 meters wide.”

** Greek high school student team flies experiment on the Blue Origin New Shepard: ACS Athens STEAM Experiment Blasts off into Space with Blue Origin Rocket – The National Herald

How will Greek honey and olive oil behave under microgravity conditions? What about ouzo and grape juice molasses? Will bubbles grow bigger and last longer? ACS Athens students sealed their experiment within the capsule carried by the groundbreaking Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable rocket where it will tested at an altitude of 100 km.

ACS Athens High School students are conducting one complex STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) experiment, investigating how honey behaves at an altitude of 100 km. ACS Athens is one of the three non-US-based K-12 schools to have ever sent an experiment with Blue Origin

More about the team’s experiments: ACS Athens | Modeling education for the 21st Century

  • spACS 1 scientific goal is to investigate the viscosity of honey under microgravity conditions, a Physics-based experiment on fluidity. 
  • spACS 2, which won the first place in the Hellenic Physical Society’s 1st aerospace contest (November 2018), combines Physics, Chemistry, and Biology to investigate the behavior of foams and emulsions under microgravity conditions focusing on Greek traditional products (olive oil, ouzo, petimezi). 

** Update on OSIRIS-REx at the Bennu asteroid: Here’s a Roundup of Recent OSIRIS-REx Postcards from Bennu | The Planetary Society

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is continuing to chug along at asteroid Bennu. It’s currently sweeping arcs between the asteroid’s north and south poles, gathering scientific data that will also be used to select 12 possible sites for sample collection. The OSIRIS-REx team has also been releasing stunning new images from the mission’s prior phase.

More about the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and mission:

** Examining the rough plains of the Marineris Valles: The floor of Marineris Valles | Behind The Black

The photograph, uncaptioned, is titled “Terminus of Pitted Materials Emanating from Oudemans Crater.” Oudemans Crater is about 55 miles across and is located near the head of Marineris Valles to the east of the giant volcanic region dubbed the Tharsis Bulge. The meteorite that caused this crater is estimated to have been a little less than 3 miles in diameter. It is believed by some scientists that the impact heated up subsurface carbon dioxide permafrost which then explosively flooded down the Valles Marineris into the Northern Plains of Mars, pushing a lot of pulverized debris in front of it.

A section of the floor of Marineris Valles.
A section of the floor of Marineris Valles. Credits: MRO/HiRISE via Bob Zimmerman

** NASA’s Curiosity Finds Climate Clues on a Martian Mountain – A brief update on Curiosity’s travels:

After spending the better part of a year exploring Mars’ Vera Rubin Ridge, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has moved to a new part of Mount Sharp. Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada gives a tour of the rover’s new home in the “clay unit,” as well as other areas scientists are excited to visit. Find out what they could tell us about watery ancient Mars versus the dry Red Planet we see today.

** Charon, Pluto’s Companion: What We Learned from New Horizons – Dr. Ross Beyer (SETI Institute) gave this recent public lecture in the Silicon Valley Astronomy Series:

Pluto’s large moon Charon turned out to be far more interesting than astronomers expected. Pluto was the star of the New Horizons show, but the features on Charon’s surface tell a fascinating tale of how icy worlds could form far from the gravitational influences of the giant planets. There is evidence of a world-wide sub-surface ocean early on, and of global expansion as that ocean froze solid. Dr. Beyer is your expert (and humorous) guide through this story of formation and change in the frozen reaches of the outer Solar System.

** Dr. Linda Spilker spoke about the latest findings from the Cassini Mission data, “new information on Saturn’s ring system, Titan, Enceladus, liquid methane oceans, life, NASA missions and more” – The Space Show – Friday, 05/17/2019

====

Chasing New Horizons:
Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

SpaceIL diagnosing landing failure and planning for next lunar mission

The attempt by SpaceIL, a private non-profit organization, to land the Beresheet craft softly on the Moon last week went awry just a few minutes before it was to set down onto the surface. Initial results of an investigation into what went wrong were released today:

See also:

** Final image taken by Beresheet released:

** Planning for a second Beresheet mission is now underway:

More at

** SpaceIL member participated in an Ask Me Anything session on reddit this week: Hi, my name is Ben Nathaniel, I work on the team of Beresheet, the spacecraft that Israel sent to the Moon on April 11 (as you may know the landing didn’t go so well). Ask Me Anything. – space/reddit.com.

** A vast knowledge database on Beresheet may have survived the crash: There may be a copy of Wikipedia somewhere on the moon. Here’s how to help find it – Mashable.com

The Arch Lunar Library contains 100GB, or 30 million pages of text and pictures, literally embedded in 25 nickel disks in the tiniest type you can possibly imagine. You don’t need anything more specialized than a microscope to read it, and the etchings should survive for billions of years. 

This library was supposed to be delivered to the surface of the moon — specifically, the Sea of Serenity — by Israel’s Beresheet Mission last week. The bad news: After a glitch that turned its engine off and on again at the worst possible moment, the Beresheet lander smashed into the moon at 300 miles per hour.

The good news: Those disks were designed to be indestructible. And the Arch Foundation is all but certain its payload survived the crash.

“We have either installed the first library on the moon,” says Arch Mission co-founder Nova Spivack, “or we have installed the first archaeological ruins of early human attempts to build a library on the moon.”

====

First on the Moon: The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Experience