Photo credit: Lights Over Lapland
For those who either live in northern Norway or have been watching a webcam, some bizarre dancing blue lights may have appeared in the sky this past week, and it’s not extraterrestrial. NASA was conducting The Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment (AZURE), with the first one having being launched and seven more planned, that aims to study the patterns of solar winds. What caused the light show? The rocket released harmless gases into the atmosphere, or trimethylaluminum and a mixture of barium and strontium to be more specific, for researchers to study the paths of particles in the Earth’s ionosphere. Read more for two videos and additional information.
Solar wind, a stream of charged particles released from the upper atmosphere of the Sun, is nothing new, but sometimes, they can get a bit crazy. How so? Well, as the underlying plasma grows hotter, it becomes denser, and erupts from the sun as lava lamp-inspired dark blobs capable of swallowing entire planets for minutes or hours at a time. They’re officially called “periodic density structures,” but have earned the nickname “the blobs” from astronomers, and rightfully so. “They look like the blobs in a lava lamp. Only they are hundreds of times larger than the Earth,” said Nicholeen Viall, a research astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to Live Science. Read more for a video and additional information.
The Weather Channel is back at it again, and their latest immersive mixed reality video is definitely no slouch. This segment, hosted by meteorologist Jen Carfagno, begins with a virtual recreation of Charleston, South Carolina in the year 2100. You see the city’s flooded streets, a billboard advertising the 2086 elections, and then the remains of the city. You’re then transported to Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland way back in 1851. Read more for the video and additional information.
Astronomers announced that they will be releasing the first-ever photo of a black hole, which are collapsed stars with gravity so strong that even light cannot escape their grasp, on Wednesday. What will you see? Possibly a dark mass surrounded by a ring of bright light to mark the event horizon, or the edge of a black hole where light can’t escape. The images are coming from the Event Horizon Telescope, a collection of telescopes in Chile, Hawaii, Arizona, Mexico, Spain and at the South Pole, designed specifically to peer at black holes. Read more for a video and additional information.
Johannesburg-based photographer Cory Schmitz managed to capture a rare Saturn occultation, or to be more specific, an event that occurs when one object is hidden by another object that passes between it and the observer. Missed this one? Well, you’re in luck, as the Moon will pass in front of Saturn for every lunar month in 2019. “The raw view through my planetary imaging telescope from South Africa of the Saturn conjunction and occultation by Earth’s moon,” said Cory. Read more for the video and additional information.
After Venera 13’s launch in 1981 and a four-month cruise to Venus, the descent vehicle separated from the cruise stage and plunged into the Venusian atmosphere on March 1, 1982. After entering the atmosphere, a parachute was deployed at an altitude of 31 mi and simple air-braking was used to slow its journey to the surface. The lander was equipped with cameras to take photograph the ground, while spring-loaded arms measured the compressibility of the soil. Once it landed, an imaging panorama was started and a mechanical drilling arm obtained a sample, which was deposited in a hermetically sealed chamber. Read more for a video and additional information.
A self-driving spacecraft, called “Hera,” will be used in a planetary defense mission that would visit the 2,550-foot-wide asteroid 65803 Didymos and its tiny satellite, a 525-foot (160 m) object informally nicknamed “Didymoon.” This spacecraft features a built-in automatic navigation system that allows it to steer itself in real-time rather than waiting for human signals sent from Earth.
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has successfully completed its second close approach to the Sun, called perihelion, and is now entering the outbound phase of its second solar orbit. At 6:40 p.m. EDT on April 4, 2019, the probe passed within 15 million miles of our star, and sent back beacon status “A” throughout its second perihelion, indicating that it’s operating well and all instruments are collecting science data. Read more for a video and additional information.
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 space probe has successfully “bombed” asteroid Ryugu, which is speeding 186 million miles from Earth, in an attempt to retrieve material that could offer scientists new clues about the origins of life on our planet. It released the device – called a small carry-on impact – on Friday as it hovered 500 meters above the asteroid. This cone-shaped impactor was fitted with a copper explosive the size of a baseball and programmed to detonate 40 minutes after it was released, gouging a crater into the asteroid’s surface. Read more for a video and additional information.
University of Central Florida researchers have discovered a way to make pulses of light travel 30-times faster than normal, slow it down to half the speed of light, and even send it backwards. “We’re able to control the speed of the pulse by going into the pulse itself and reorganizing its energy such that its space and time degrees of freedom are mixed in with each other. We’re very happy with these results, and we’re very hopeful it’s just the starting point of future research,” said researcher Ayman Abouraddy. Read more for another video and additional information.