UFO Buster Radio News – 418: Lakes on Mars, Crew Goblin, SN8 Shorter Flop, and New Planet Different Galaxy
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Water on Mars: discovery of three buried lakes intrigues scientists
Researchers have detected a group of lakes hidden under the red planet’s icy surface.
Two years ago, planetary scientists reported the discovery of a large saltwater lake under the ice at Mars’s south pole, a finding that was met with excitement and some scepticism. Now, researchers have confirmed the presence of that lake — and found three more.
The discovery, reported on 28 September in Nature Astronomy1, was made using radar data from the European Space Agency’s Mars-orbiting spacecraft, called Mars Express. It follows the detection of a single subsurface lake in the same region in 2018 — which, if confirmed, would be the first body of liquid water ever detected on the red planet and a possible habitat for life.
But that finding was based on just 29 observations made from 2012 to 2015, and many researchers said they needed more evidence to support the claim. The latest study used a broader data set comprising 134 observations from 2012 to 2019.
“We identified the same body of water, but we also found three other bodies of water around the main one,” says planetary scientist Elena Pettinelli at the University of Rome, who is one of the paper’s co-authors. “It’s a complex system.”
The team used a radar instrument on Mars Express called the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) to probe the planet’s southern polar region. MARSIS sends out radio waves that bounce off layers of material in the planet’s surface and subsurface. The way the signal is reflected back indicates the kind of material that is present at a particular location — rock, ice or water,
NASA targeting Halloween for next SpaceX Crew Dragon astronaut launch
NASA now plans to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on October 31, a Halloween flight that will mark the first operational use of the capsule following a successful piloted test flight earlier this summer.
By delaying the Crew Dragon flight to October 31, the station crew and flight controllers in the U.S., Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan will get a chance to catch their collective breath while allowing additional time to resolve any open issues.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew 1 astronauts (L-R): Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi. Hopkins, Walker and Noguchi are space flight veterans while Glover, an accomplished military test pilot, is making his first.
Crew 1 commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi now plan to blast off from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 2:40 a.m. on October 31.
Docking at the space station is expected around 5 a.m. on November 1. They will be welcomed aboard by Rubins and her two crewmates, Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. Whether they might welcome their new crewmates aboard with any Halloween treats is not yet known.
SpaceX scales back plans for Starship’s first high-altitude flight
A 50,000-foot trip won’t be quite as ambitious.
You might want to dial back your expectations for the first high-altitude SpaceX Starship flight. Elon Musk now says the flight with the SN8 prototype will top out at 15km, or close to 50,000ft, instead of the 18km and 60,000ft he’d mentioned earlier. It’s not clear what prompted the lowered expectations, but Musk added that the rocket would get its nosecone and front flaps “next week.”
While a 50,000-foot trip won’t be quite as ambitious, the goal should remain the same. SpaceX wants to show that Starship can perform more than short hops. If the high-altitude test is successful, it’s much closer to providing a fully operational rocket. The company is betting its future on Starship in hopes it will enable space tourism and interplanetary trips, and that won’t happen without major milestones like this.
An SN9 prototype is due in October.
First Evidence of a Planet in Another Galaxy
The Milky Way is filled with planets. Now astronomers have found the first candidate planet in another galaxy.
The M51 Whirpool Galaxy
Since the first detection of the first exoplanet in 1992, astronomers have found thousands of others. Indeed, they estimate that the Milky Way is home to 40 billion worlds.
So it’s easy to imagine that planets must be common in other galaxies, particularly those that seem similar to our own. But when it comes to spotting these planets, there is a problem.
Other galaxies are so far away and the stars crammed into such a small region of space, as seen from Earth, that it is hard to identify individual ones let alone the effects of any planets around them. So extragalactic planets have sadly eluded astronomers.
Now Rosanne Di Stefano at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics along with several colleagues, say they have found a candidate planet in the M51 Whirlpool Galaxy some 23 million light years from Earth near the constellation of Ursa Major. This alien world, christened M51-ULS-1b, is probably slightly smaller than Saturn and orbits a binary system at a distance of perhaps ten times Earth’s distance from the Sun.
The observation was possible because of a special set of conditions. The planet’s host binary system consists of a neutron star or black hole which is devouring a massive nearby star at a huge rate. The infall of stardust releases huge amounts of energy, making this system one of brightest sources of X-rays in the entire Whirlpool Galaxy. Indeed, its X-ray luminosity is roughly a million times brighter than the entire output of the Sun at all wavelengths.
Hugely bright x-rays sources are rare and sparsely distributed throughout the Whirlpool Galaxy. That means they are easy to isolate against the backdrop of ordinary stars.
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