NASA’s Juno space probe recently captured an incredible image of two powerful storms brewing near Jupiter’s iconic Red Spot during a recent flyby in late December. It was approximately 23,000 to 34,000 miles from the top of the planet’s clouds at the time. “Two massive storms in Jupiter’s turbulent southern hemisphere appear in this new image captured during my latest flyby of the planet. The storm reached its current size when three smaller spots collided and merged in the year 2000. The Great Red Spot, which is about twice as wide as Oval BA, may have formed from the same process centuries ago,” said NASA. Read more for a video and additional information.
Ever wonder what it would be like to stand on Saturn’s ring system? If so, this video should provide some insight, thanks to data gathered by the Cassini-Huygens mission. For those who don’t know, this mission was a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) to send a probe to study the planet Saturn and its system, including its rings and natural satellites. It’s been active in space for nearly 20-years, with 13-years spent orbiting Saturn, studying the planet and its system after entering orbit on July 1, 2004. Read more for another video and additional information.
NASA’s Space Launch System rocket has gone vertical at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and this 200-foot-tall liquid hydrogen tank stores cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen that will feed the vehicle’s four RS-25 engines. This test system is nearly identical to the flight version of the tank that consists of two-thirds of the final SLS core stage. This SLS vehicle, named Block 1, can transport more than 57,000 pounds to orbits beyond the Moon. The next iteration, called the Block 1B crew vehicle, uses a more powerful Exploration Upper Stage (EUS) for carrying the Orion crew vehicle along with exploration systems like a deep space habitat module beyond Earth orbit. Read more for a video tour of the Orion spacecraft, additional pictures and information.
Startup Orion Span plans to launch its “Aurora Station” space hotel in late 2021 and begin accommodating guests by 2022. One caveat: a 12-day stay aboard Aurora Station will cost you at least $9.5 million. Still, compared to trips taken by other orbital tourists who have paid anywhere between $20 million – $40 million each time, this is still relatively affordable to the wealthy. (These private missions were brokered by the Virginia-based company Space Adventures and employed Russian Soyuz spacecraft and rockets.) “We are launching the first-ever affordable luxury space hotel,” said Orion Span founder and CEO Frank Bunger. Read more for another video and additional information.
A conjunction is a celestial event that occurs when two astronomical objects or spacecraft have either the same right ascension or the same ecliptic longitude, usually as observed from Earth. This year, Jupiter and Venus will shine brightly together before dawn on Tuesday, January 22, after the Super Blood Wolf Moon on Sunday. Despite rising together, climbing above the horizon by 5 a.m. local time, and then appearing to be close, the two planets are actually 400-million miles apart. “The Jupiter and Venus conjunction will be easily bright enough to see from any location, even large cities,” said NASA. Read more for a NASA video explaining what exactly a conjunction is.
Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard University’s Astronomy Department and friend of late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, claims that the mysterious interstellar object Oumuamua is actually a spaceship sent be extraterrestrials, and it uses a solar sail for propulsion. “The Spitzer Space Telescope found no evidence of heat emission from the object, and that means that it is at least 10 times more reflective than a typical comet or asteroid. What we have, then, is a thin, flat, shiny object. So I arrived at the idea of a solar sail: A solar sail is a spaceship that uses the sun for propulsion. Instead of using fuel, it is propelled ahead by reflecting light. In fact, it’s a technology that our civilization is developing at this very time,” said Loeb. Read more for a video giving ten reasons why Oumuamua will blow your mind.
It’s official, cotton seeds carried by China’s Chang’e 4 lunar lander have been captured sprouting, marking the first instance of biological matter growing on the moon. Chongqing University’s Liu Hanlong, a professor who led the research, stated that rapeseed and potato seeds had also germinated, but the cotton seeds were the first to sprout.”First in human history: A cotton seed brought to the moon by China’s Chang’e 4 probe has sprouted, the latest test photo has shown, marking the completion of humankind’s first biological experiment on the moon,” said the People’s Daily, China. Read more for a video and additional information.
China wants to be the first country to officially establish a moon base, and they’ll accomplish this monumental task using 3D printing technology. Before this happens, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) plans on returning to the moon by the end of 2019 on the Chang’e-5 mission as well as Mars in 2020. “Chang’e-5 will return mission sampling from the surface of the moon around the end of this year. Our country’s first Mars exploration mission will take place before and after 2020,” said Dr. Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the National Space Administration and deputy commander of lunar exploration projects. Read more for a video about the 3D-printed bricks they’ll use to construct the base and additional information.
A supermassive black hole is basically the largest type of black hole, containing a mass of the order of hundreds of thousands, to billions times, the mass of the Sun. There are two theories that attempt to explain the formation of supermassive black holes: the first being that the seeds grow from black holes with a mass about 10-100 times greater than the sun and continue growing through mergers with other small black holes: the second being that extremely large black hole seeds with 100,000 times the mass of the sun formed directly when a massive cloud of gas collapses. However, neither theory explains how supermassive black holes can start growing unexpectedly for extended periods, until now. Tel Aviv University researchers published today in Nature Astronomy finds that some of these supermassive black holes are triggered by suddenly devouring a large amount of gas in their surroundings. Read more for another video and additional information.
NASA says Bennu, nicknamed the ‘apocalypse asteroid’, could wreak havoc on Earth, as there is a 1-in-2700 chance of it colliding with the planet. Should that happen, the gigantic asteroid would release 80,000 times more energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The OSIRIS-Rex space probe is currently orbiting it on an observatory mission, and will eventually land on its surface some time in 2020 tocollect samples of the rock before returning to Earth. Read more for another video and additional information.