Venus has active volcanoes, we get a glimpse of NASA’s new lunar exploration suits, and scientists build a completely flat telescope 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 gathered radar images of Venus’s surface decades ago, but the observations were inclusive. Scientists have the data more thoroughly and 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 sending the VERITAS mission to Venus soon, which will capture more images of the planet’s surface and should see if the vent is continuing to grow.
Related interview with with Dr Tibor Kremic about developing tech for Venus exploration
Vulcan Is No More
The discovery of a possible exoplanet, which was believed to be associated with Star Trek’s fictional Vulcan homeworld, has been found to be a false positive caused by a wobble in the star’s spectrum rather than an orbiting exoplanet. The discovery was made using the property of radial velocity, which detects a faint push-pull evinced by fluctuations in the wavelength of light coming from the star. However, it is not always easy to tease an exoplanet out of this apparent wobble. As we obtain more data and more detailed data, it’s worthwhile to revisit older, potentially ambiguous detections to clarify the observed signals and ensure our exoplanet detections are as clear as possible.
Sorry, Spock. Looks like you lost your planet twice by now.
$1B to Deorbit the ISS
In their latest budget request, NASA asked for an interesting new addition to the ISS. They plan to develop a thug that should be able to deorbit the station when its time comes. Previous plans required several Progress ships to accomplish this task. But after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the relationships with Roskosmos have been cut where possible. So, NASA wants to have a redundant option that won’t be dependent on Russia.
New Axiom Spacesuits For the Moon
When humans return to the Moon in 2025, they’ll need new lunar spacesuits. NASA has contracted Axiom Space in a private-public partnership to supply them. 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 black layer that conceals their proprietary design. Although we don’t know exactly what they’re going to look like, the suits show clear mobility, with a model demonstrating squats, lunges, and kneeling down, movements that would have been extremely difficult with the Apollo-era EVA 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’s one that looks very similar to the standard Starlink dish. There’s a bigger version for enterprise-grade solutions. But probably the most interesting one is a mini-version that practically fits into the palm of your hand. Of course, Project Kuiper is still far from operational, as none of the 3236 planned satellites were launched yet. But at least we now know what the terminals will look like.
Spinning asteroids throw rocks into space
NASA’s DART mission crashed into the asteroid Dimorphos in 2022, sending out a plume of material scientists have been studying carefully. Dimorphos is in orbit around asteroid Didymos, and DART was able to analyze the larger asteroid as it flew past. Astronomers found small grains of dust in the environment that came from Didymos. This is because the asteroid is spinning so quickly that the material on its equator is almost perfectly weightless, drifting off its surface into orbit. Most find their way back to the surface again, but some are blown away by the solar wind into interplanetary space.
Related interview about making asteroids into space habitats with Dr Adam Frank
More Science from New Horizons
It’s been nearly eight years since NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft arrived at Pluto and continued on to Arrokoth, but researchers continue to uncover new information about these enigmatic worlds. This week, scientists revealed some of their most recent findings on the formation of Arrokoth, the origin and timing of Pluto’s pronounced axial tilt, the peculiar bladed ice structures on its surface, and the part its heart-shaped region played in shaping its surface. I’m confident we’ll discover even more in the decades ahead.
Flat Lens Telescope
Researchers have developed a completely flat lens big enough to use in a telescope and take a picture of the Moon. This type of lens, called a metalens, has been around for a while, but a team of researchers at the University of Rochester scaled the lens size up to 8 centimetres (4 inches), allowing it 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 they one day allow us to get rid of camera bumps on our phones, as well as build simpler and more compact telescopes.
Violent Red Dwarfs
Astronomers recognize that red dwarf stars can be unpredictable and tumultuous during their initial few billion years, launching numerous solar flares and coronal mass ejections at their planets. This might be disastrous for any life on those planets, leading astronomers to ponder just how volatile these stars are. Researchers examined nearly two decades of stellar data, observing the behaviour of close to 200 red dwarf stars. They discovered that nearly all of these stars are variable to some degree, even the calmest ones.
Related interview about potential habitability of red dwarf systems with Mariano Battistuzzi