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Imaging restrictions on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Young lava flows on Mars

In releasing a new set of four captioned images today from the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the captions from each also included this paragraph:

Note: HiRISE has not been allowed to acquire off-nadir targeted observations for a couple of months due to MRO spacecraft issues, so many high-priority science objectives are on hold. What can be usefully accomplished in nadir mode is sampling of various terrains. Especially interesting in this observation are bedrock exposures, which provide information about the geologic history of Mars. “Nadir” refers to pointing straight down.

The image restrictions are probably related to either or both the battery and and reaction wheel issues noted in recent status report. What it means is that though they can still take good and revealing images, like the one to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, showing very young lava flows only a few million years old, scientists have less flexibility in what they can photograph.

If you click on the image you can see the full resolution version. The reason scientists think these are young flows is that they are so few craters here. The lava flows are located in the southern lava flows coming off the large volcano Elysium Mons, which sits due west of Mars’ largest volcano, Olympus Mons. These flows are also in the transition zone between Mars’ low flat northern plains and its high rough southern terrain.

When and if the spacecraft can resume full imaging operations is unknown. Based on the status report, it might never do so.

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SpaceX announces it will build its Big Falcon Rocket in Los Angeles

Capitalism in space: SpaceX has confirmed that it will build its Big Falcon Rocket in the facility it has leased in the port of Los Angeles.

Looking at the string of stories I have just posted on Behind the Black, all describing the space plans of Rocket Lab, Stratolaunch, Orbital ATK, SpaceX, China, and the UAE, all aimed at taking off in the early 2020s, it seems the next decade will be a wild ride for space geeks.

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Stratolaunch to make first flight later this year

Capitalism in space: Paul Allen said at a space conference today that Stratolaunch will likely make its maiden flight later this year.

Actual satellite launches will have to wait until around 2020, however, as the giant plane will first have to be certified by the FAA, a process expected to take one and a half to two years.

The profitability of this launch system at the moment remains an unknown. The only rocket presently set to launch on Stratolaunch is Orbital ATK’s Pegasus, which is designed to launch small to mid-size satellites. Stratolaunch will therefore have to compete with the slew of new smallsat rocket companies that should be becoming operational in the next two years. It will be interesting to see if this air-launched system will be able to compete with them.

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Rocket Lab’s future plans

Capitalism in space: This New Zealand news article provides a good look at Rocket Lab’s future launch plans.

Essentially, they hope to do one launch a month later this year, two launches a month in 2019, and then one launch per week in 2020. The article also states that their Electron rocket could have launched two thirds of all satellites placed in space in 2015.

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The UAE receives more than 4000 astronaut applications

The new colonial movement: More that four thousand citizens of the United Arab Emirates have applied to become one of that nation’s first four astronauts.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) has received over 4,000 applications (aged between 17 and 67) from Emiratis aspiring to join the UAE Astronaut Programme, which was launched in December 2017 and was open for registrations for three months until March 2018. Funded by ICT Fund of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), the programme saw females constitute 34% of applicants.

Qualified candidates will be chosen by a selection committee, following which they will need to pass a basic medical and psychometric test, an initial interview, an advanced medical and psychometric test and a panel interview. The top four candidates who will form the UAE Astronauts Team by the end of 2018 will then undergo a series of training programmes divided into year-long basic training modules and advanced training modules, which will be conducted over three years.

Three years from now the UAE should have have several different manned spaceship options to fly these astronauts on, from government manned capsules from Russia or China or private capsules like SpaceX’s Dragon or Boeing’s Starliner.

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China finally reveals design issue that caused July’s Long March 5 failure

In a report released yesterday China finally revealed that a turbo pump design issue in one of Long March 5’s two first stage engines caused that rocket’s launch failure in July.

The State Administration for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), which oversees China’s space activities, released a report April 16 attributing the failure to a turbopump on one of two liquid-oxygen and hydrogen YF-77 engines powering the rocket’s first stage. The turbopump’s exhaust structure, according to SASTIND, failed while under “complex thermal conditions.”

Redesigned YF-77 engines have already been through hot fire testing at a site in a ravine near Xi’an in north China. The tests have verified the effectiveness of the measures taken, according to the report.

Unfortunately, the report is in Chinese, so I can’t read it. It does appear that the problem was a difficult one that required an engine redesign. That they have solved it is demonstrated by the release of this report. China’s space program functions like the old Soviet Union’s. Details about serious problems were only released, if at all, once the program had successfully overcome them

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Elon Musk hints at using a “giant party balloon” to recover Falcon 9 upper stages

In several tweets yesterday, Elon Musk said that SpaceX is considering using “a giant party balloon” to recover Falcon 9 upper stages.

No timetable was mentioned. It seems that Musk and SpaceX is still looking at ways to reuse the Falcon 9 upper stage. Whether this proposal ever makes it to hardware however is a different question. Musk and his engineers have floated many concepts over the years, not all of which have flown.

The balloon idea has some merit, as it has been successfully used to land landers and rovers on the Moon and Mars.

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Orbital ATK renames its Next Generation Launcher OmegA

At a space conference yesterday Orbital ATK announced that OmegA is the new name for its proposed Next Generation Launcher, based on solid fuel technology and set for launch in 2021.

They also outlined the rocket’s proposed capabilities.

In its intermediate three-stage configuration, OmegA will be powerful: About 2 million pounds of thrust at liftoff with no side-strapped solid rocket boosters. But with the added flexibility of sporting up to six SRBs [solid rocket boosters], that number could more than double and enter heavy-lift territory with around five million pounds of thrust. To provide perspective, SpaceX’s much-vaunted Falcon Heavy rocket launched in February with slightly more than 5 million pounds of thrust.

They are initially focused on winning military contracts.

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Delays in New Shepard program?

In an interview for a Seattle news outlet, a Blue Origin official inadvertently hinted that the program was experiencing delays. Her words:

New Shepard will be flying Blue Origin employees by the end of this year, assuming our test program continues to go well. Within the next year or two, we’ll have paying customers, which is really exciting.

This vague statement confirms an earlier statement by another Blue Origin official, that the first manned test flights will not occur until the very end of this year, and that paying customers might not fly until 2020. It appears that there might be issues that are causing the New Shepard project to slow down. It could be the hardware, or maybe the company is reconsidering the profitability of suborbital tourism. By 2020 both SpaceX and Boeing will have the capability of putting tourists into orbit. The price might be much higher, but a large percentage of the customers who could afford the suborbital flight could also afford the orbital flight, and if they need to pick many are going to go orbital, reducing the customer base for the suborbital business.

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How I spent my Saturday: Removing graffiti in a cave

Yesterday was another of my many cave adventures, but different than most. Instead of exploring and mapping newly discovered or out-of-the-way remote cave passages, I participated in a project of the Central Arizona Grotto (a chapter of the National Speleological Society and located in Phoenix) to remove years of graffiti from Peppersauce Cave. You can see pictures of yesterday’s effort here, published by the Arizona Star.

You won’t see any pictures of me. The younger cavers were far more photogenic.

Peppersauce has become what cavers call a “sacrificial cave.” It is open and ungated, relatively easy to traverse, and very well known throughout the state. Thus, many inexperienced people go there to see it, most of whom know little about caving, the ethics of protecting them, or the proper techniques for caving safely. Yesterday, while we were working to either sand-blast, chemically remove, or grind away old spray-paint (some of which was sadly obscene), I must have seen between 150 to 200 people go by. At least two thirds of them were not wearing helmets. Many clearly had never been in a cave before. Some were not wearing headlamps, carrying flashlights instead (which makes climbing harder because you don’t have use of both hands and can easily lose your light). A few even came in with no lights, depending instead on the lights their companions carried.

Because of this heavy traffic, Peppersauce has been badly trashed. On visits by experienced cavers we routinely carry out bags of trash, only to find that trash reappearing, sometime in mere hours. The walls of the cave had been covered with graffiti, some many layers deep.

Ray Keeler of Central Arizona Grotto (CAG) has organized several projects in the past to remove this graffitti over the past two decades. The effort he is leading this year is the third, and has the help of cavers from grottos throughout the state. This was the fourth clean-up weekend, and the first that I was able to attend (having missed the first three due to scheduling conflicts).

I’ve done similar things before, but never on this scale. It was quite educational using the solvent to remove some graffiti, but unfortunately many types of paint are completely resistant to removal by either sand-blasting or solvent. After awhile I got discouraged doing solvent work. Too often nothing got removed. In the afternoon I switched to our last technique, grinding, and was far more gratified with the results. The grinder, which we do not use on formations, removes only the slightest layer of material, and thus does little damage. It however is very effective in removing all paint, no matter how resistant.

The cave is now about two thirds cleaned. We are racing to finish the rest before the summer, because a typically insane reason forced upon us by the government. You see, according to a law passed by Congress, graffiti that is more than fifty years old is considered historical, and cannot be removed without a great deal of paperwork and complex bureaucracy. Spray paint was invented in the late 1960s (about fifty years ago), and so some of this ugly graffiti, no matter how obscene, is going to be protected by our government beginning later this year. Our goal is to get it removed beforehand, so that the cave can be returned to a more natural state, for future visitors to experience.

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The first sunspots of the next solar cycle

In linking to my sunspot update this week, there has been a lot of speculation at the climate website WattsUpWithThat that the next solar cycle has begun.

Our resident solar physicist, Dr. Leif Svalgaard commented and provided a link to something reported by his colleagues, something that likely would not have been possible without the fantastic solar observations of NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observeratory (SDO). He said: “Cycle 25 has already begun. It looks to me that SC25 will be a bit stronger than SC24, so probably no Grand Minimum this time.” It seems a small sunspot has been observed, that has the opposite polarity of cycle 24 sunspots. [emphasis in original]

The speculation at WattsUpWithThat, which suggested that this sunspot was the first such sunspot this cycle, was not quite accurate however. This sunspot with an opposite polarity, which decayed so quickly that it did not rate getting a sunspot number, was not the first. This week the Solar-Terrestrial Centre of Excellence, a Belgian organization focused on space-solar science, published this very good article discussing not only this sunspot but two others, one of which occurred more than a year ago.
» Read more

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Fueling issue during Electron countdown dress rehearsal

Rocket Lab today experienced a fueling issue during a countdown dress rehearsal in preparation for a April 20th launch.

Rocket Lab chief executive Peter Beck said the company “experienced a minor fuelling issue on the pad today during a wet dress rehearsal” on Sunday. “Our team is working through the data to ascertain the root cause. As per standard procedure, Fire and Emergency New Zealand is on site as a precautionary measure while the team closes out pad activities for the day.”

It is unclear if this unknown issue will effect their launch window, which begins on April 20 and lasts for two weeks.

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NASA might scale down the first manned SLS flight

In order to meet its present schedule and budget, NASA is considering scaling down its first manned SLS flight in 2023 by using the same smaller version of SLS that will fly the first unmanned test flight in 2020.

The SLS has been in development for the last decade, and when complete, it will be NASA’s main rocket for taking astronauts to the Moon and Mars. NASA has long planned to debut the SLS with two crucial test missions. The first flight, called EM-1, will be uncrewed, and it will send the smallest planned version of the rocket on a three-week long trip around the Moon. Three years later, NASA plans to launch a bigger, more powerful version of the rocket around the Moon with a two-person crew — a mission called EM-2.

But now, NASA may delay that rocket upgrade and fly the same small version of the SLS for the crewed flight instead. If that happens, NASA would need to come up with a different type of mission for the crew to do since they won’t be riding on the more powerful version of the vehicle. “If EM-2 flies that way, we would have to change the mission profile because we can’t do what we could do if we had the [larger SLS],” Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, said during a Congressional hearing yesterday.

NASA clarified that astronauts would still fly around the Moon on the second flight. However, the rocket would not be able to carry extra science payloads as NASA had originally planned. “The primary objective for EM-2 is to demonstrate critical functions with crew aboard, including mission planning, system performance, crew interfaces, and navigation and guidance in deep space, which can be accomplished on a Block 1 SLS,” a NASA spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge.

The problem here really is that Congress keeps throwing money at this boondoggle. It will fly, but it will never be able to make the exploration and colonization of the solar system possible. It is simply too expensive and has a far too slow launch rate. Instead, it will allow for NASA to do stunts in space, while elected officials can preen and prance about, bragging about the jobs they brought to their districts.

And the nation’s debt will grow, and grow, and grow.

I hold to my prediction that private companies will bypass SLS in the 2020s, doing far more for far less. The differences between them will become downright embarrassing to SLS and Congress.

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ULA’s Atlas 5 today successfully launched three U.S. military satellites

Three U.S. military satellites, one to provide communications and the other two testing experimental engineering, were successfully launched today by ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

11 China
7 SpaceX
4 ULA
3 Japan
3 Russia
3 Europe
3 India

The U.S. is once again tied with China for the most launches this year.

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More delays threaten the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii

The coming dark age: The delaying tactics of the opponents to building the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii has caused the consortium to announce that it now seriously considering moving the telescope to Spain’s Canary Islands.

These have been the most recent delaying tactics:

On Thursday, the Hawaii Senate approved a bill to ban new construction atop Mauna Kea, and included a series of audits and other requirements before the ban could be lifted. But House leaders said they don’t have plans to advance the bill. Democratic House Speaker Scott Saiki told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the “bill is dead on arrival in the House.”

There are also two appeals before the Hawaii Supreme Court. One challenges the sublease and land use permit issued by the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources. The other has been brought by a Native Hawaiian man who says use of the land interferes with his right to exercise cultural practices and is thus entitled to a case hearing.

When the telescope gets moved, expect these barbarians in Hawaii to celebrate loudly, claiming their victory as a victory for “native rights.” What they will really be telling us is two things. First, they are against gaining new knowledge and new technology in a manner that does no one any harm. And two, they put racial rights above all, making them the worst sort of bigots.

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Marshmallow Farming

An evening pause: At first glance you might think this an April Fool’s piece, but it really isn’t. To be a good April Fool’s joke, you have to be fooled for at least a little while, something this does not do. What this video does do however is illustrate in an hilarious way the empty fake nature of television news. This is what they do normally, which has as much reality as this video.

Hat tip Jeff Poplin.

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SpaceX in the news!

Rather than have two more consecutive posts about SpaceX, I’ve decided to post these two together in an effort to avoid making this website look like a site totally devoted only to this one company.

The first story makes it clear that SpaceX will almost certainly fly the first unmanned demo missions of its manned capsule later this year. We should also get an idea whether the first manned flight will occur before the end of the year, or slip into 2019, in May.

The second story reveals once again the robust and growing financial value of SpaceX.

Elon Musk-led SpaceX Corp is raising $507 million in a new round of funding, valuing the company at around $26 billion, according to a filing seen by Reuters. New articles of incorporation filed by the company last week and sent to Reuters by private analytics firm Lagniappe Labs showed the addition of 3 million ‘Series I’ shares from a previous version filed in November.

The filing also gave the initial value of the Series I shares as $169, 25 percent higher than a value given in its previous fundraising round late last year.

As Al Jolson once said, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” I expect that SpaceX’s value will only go up in the coming years.

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Is it a volcano or an impact crater? Mars Express wants to know!

Europe’s Mars Express orbiter has taken a high resolution image of Ismenia Patera, a very large crater located in the Arabia Terra region of Mars, the largest part of the transition zone between the low flat northern plains and the high rough southern terrain.

The crater is intriguing to scientists because they are not sure if it was created by an impact, or a volcano.

Certain properties of the surface features seen in Arabia Terra suggest a volcanic origin: for example, their irregular shapes, low topographic relief, their relatively uplifted rims and apparent lack of ejected material that would usually be present around an impact crater.

However, some of these features and irregular shapes could also be present in impact craters that have simply evolved and interacted with their environment in particular ways over time.

There is also additional evidence that this region was once home to volcanic activity. If so, that activity would have changed the terrain, and thus made its geological history more complex and difficult to decipher, a fact that is important since this is also a region that might have been at the edge of theorized northern Martian Ocean.

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New information on SpaceX’s rocket fairing recovery effort

Link here. In requesting permission to recover Dragon capsules in the Gulf of Mexico, SpaceX submitted a great deal of information to the FAA about its effort to recover and reuse the fairings of its Falcon 9 rocket. Doug Messier of Parabolic Arc has done a nice job of excerpting that information at the link.

For example, SpaceX is not only trying to recover the fairings, it is trying to recover the new fairing drogue chutes that it uses to slow the fairings down and then ejects before splashdown.

To me, however, one tidbit that stood out like a beacon and actually tells us more about SpaceX’s future anticipated launch rate was this quote:

From 2019-2024, SpaceX anticipates the frequency of launches involving fairing recovery to increase. In 2018, SpaceX anticipates approximately two recovery attempts, and from 2019-2024, SpaceX anticipates approximately three recovery attempts per month. Thus, for all seven years, SpaceX anticipates up to 480 drogue parachutes and 480 parafoils would land in the ocean.

This is further confirmation of SpaceX’s public prediction that it will soon be launching about 30 to 40 times per year. These numbers also equal the best yearly rates the entire United States launch industry ever achieved, and suggest that the entire launch industry in the next decade will be experiencing a significant boom, since aggressive competition usually causes an increase in business for all competitors.

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New method for scrubbing CO2 out of the air

Researchers have devised a new much more efficient technique for removing carbon dioxide from the smoke of power plants.

The memzyme meets the Department of Energy’s standards by capturing 90 percent of power plant carbon dioxide production at a relatively low cost of $40 per ton. Researchers term the membrane a “memzyme” because it acts like a filter but is near-saturated with an enzyme, carbonic anhydrase, developed by living cells over millions of years to help rid themselves of carbon dioxide efficiently and rapidly.

“To date, stripping carbon dioxide from smoke has been prohibitively expensive using the thick, solid, polymer membranes currently available,” says Jeff Brinker, a Sandia fellow, University of New Mexico regents’ professor and the paper’s lead author. “Our inexpensive method follows nature’s lead in our use of a water-based membrane only 18 nanometers thick that incorporates natural enzymes to capture 90 percent of carbon dioxide released. (A nanometer is about 1/700 of the diameter of a human hair.) This is almost 70 percent better than current commercial methods, and it’s done at a fraction of the cost.”

The article also notes at the end that this technology could also be adapted to scrubbing CO2 from spacecraft atmospheres.

Hat tip to reader MarcusZ1967.

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Environmental activists to build methane-detecting satellite

What could possibly go wrong? The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), historically one of the U.S.’s most partisan and aggressive environmental activist groups, has announced that it has raised millions to build a satellite to measure atmospheric methane, with a launch aimed for 2020.

The EDF, which is based in New York City, aims to launch the satellite as early as 2020. The environmental group and its scientific partners at Harvard University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, say that their planned ‘MethaneSAT’ will make the most precise measurements of methane yet from space. Their goal is to monitor emissions from roughly 50 major oil and gas fields that account for around 80% of the world’s oil and gas production. But the satellite could also be used to estimate emissions from landfills and agriculture.

“We need good solid data so that we really can support global action on climate change, and we’ve got to do it fast,” says Steven Hamburg, the EDF’s chief scientist.

MethaneSAT is an offshoot of the EDF’s research on greenhouse-gas emissions from US oil and gas facilities. In 2012, the group spearheaded a collaboration with industry and academic scientists to better quantify methane emissions and identify leaky infrastructure, from the wellhead all the way to the urban distribution system. That work is ongoing, but suggests that methane emissions from oil and gas facilities exceed US government estimates. Last year, the EDF helped to launch another collaboration with industry partners, governments and academics to carry that research forward internationally. [emphasis mine]

While I applaud their effort to do real research, I have serious concerns about the objectivity of their work. It appears they are aiming this satellite to look specifically at oil and gas facilities, the big enemies of the global-warming community, and clearly wish to document evidence for human-caused global warming. Thus, it will not be surprising if their research results end up biased in these directions.

Nonetheless, this project’s funding, much of it from private sources, highlights the on-going shift away from government money for the funding of space missions, as did my previous post As noted at the link above,

The EDF declined to provide a precise cost estimate for its satellite because the design remains in flux, but said that it is likely to be in the tens of millions of dollars. The group is seeking extra support from philanthropists to operate the satellite once it’s in orbit. All the data will be freely available. Hamburg says that the project provides a new model for funding targeted space missions. “We’re going to be the first, but I think we’re going to see this approach be used by others as well,” he says.

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Private space raised nearly $1 billion the first quarter of 2018

Capitalism in space: A survey of the money raised in the first quarter of 2018 has found that commercial space has raised nearly $1 billion, all from non-government sources.

The April 10 report by Space Angels, a fund that invests in early-stage space companies, concluded that there was $975.8 million in non-government equity investment in space companies in the first quarter of 2018. That would put the industry on a pace for nearly $4 billion for the year, a figure similar to the estimate made by Space Angels for investment in the industry in 2017.

Just over half of that total for the first quarter, though, came from a single investment identified by Space Angels: a $500 million investment in SpaceX led by Fidelity Investments. That investment is intended “to drive development of their satellite communications network, Starlink,” the report stated.

It appears from the article that the bulk of the investment capital went, not to launch rocket projects, but to satellite proposals. Even so, those satellites will have to get launched, so investment in private rockets is sure to go up in the coming years.

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Another smallsat rocket company enters the fray

Capitalism in space: A new smallsat rocket company, EXOS Aerospace Systems & Technologies, has announced that it will do a test launch out of Spaceport America on May 5, the anniversary of Alan Shepard’s first suborbital flight, of a rocket it dubs SARGE.

The press release did not specifically say whether the test launch would be suborbital or not, though I strongly suspect so. Nor can I find any details about this rocket or the launch at the company’s website. The company sells itself as building reusable rockets, and the press release includes a video of a hover static fire test of one rocket. Other videos at the company’s website show short clips of other flights were an earlier rocket returned to Earth by parachute. They state that SARGE is an upgrade, so maybe they are going to use its engines to slow the landing.

Either way, the smallsat launch industry is getting very crowded. This company seems right now aimed at capturing the suborbital science and school portion of the market that is looking for cheap quick ways to get payloads up into space for very short periods at very low cost.

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The search for exoplanets at Alpha Centauri

The search for new exoplanets orbiting the three stars of the Alpha Centauri star system is intensifying, despite significant viewing challenges and solar activity that precludes life around one star.

The system’s two sunlike stars, Alpha Centauri A and B, orbit each other closely while Proxima Centauri, a tempestuous red dwarf, hangs onto the system tenuously in a much more distant orbit. In 2016, astronomers discovered an Earth-mass planet around Proxima Centauri, but the planet, blasted by radiation and fierce stellar winds, seems unlikely to be habitable. Astrobiologists think the other two stars are more likely to host temperate, Earth-like planets.

Maksym Lisogorskyi, an astronomer at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, U.K., tried to find them with an instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO’s) 3.6-meter telescope in Chile. He and his colleagues looked for Doppler shifts in the spectral lines of the stars’ light that would be caused if a planet tugged them back and forth. But Lisogorskyi told the meeting that the stars’ surfaces are turbulent, and prone to flares that also jiggle the spectral lines, masking the subtle signals from any Earth-size planets. “The lines do all kinds of things,” he says. Although Alpha Centauri has been a primary target for the planet-finding instrument since it was inaugurated in 2005, it has seen nothing so far.

Also hampering observations are the current positions of the two stars. As viewed from Earth, they are very close together, making them harder to study individually, Lily Zhao of Yale University told the meeting. More precise observations should become possible as their 80-year orbit carries them farther apart. In the meantime, Zhao and her colleagues have succeeded in ruling out the presence of giant planets around either star, based on a decade’s worth of data from three instruments on different telescopes. “There are no Jupiters in the system, but there may be plenty of Earth-sized planets still to discover,” she said.

I am skeptical of the conclusions of the astrobiologists who think there may be habitable Earth-like planets in orbit around the close binary. Binary formation makes planetary formation difficult, and even if they are there the stars’ orbits would make stable orbits unlikely. Nonetheless, the research is good, as the techniques learned will be applicable elsewhere.

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India’s PSLV successfully launches GPS satellite

India’s PSLV rocket tonight successfully launched a replacement GPS satellite for its navigational system, replacing the satellite lost on a PSLV launch last year.

The leaders in the 2018 launch standings:

11 China
7 SpaceX
3 Japan
3 Russia
3 ULA
3 Europe
3 India

It surely is getting crowded near the bottom. It is also interesting that nations like India and Japan are still running neck and neck with Russia and Europe. Just last year their total launches didn’t match Europe’s, and was just a touch over half of Russia’s.

Update: News articles today say that, according to the head of ISRO, India is aiming for another 9 launches in 2018, for a total of 12, a new record for that country, while Russia’s space chief says they will complete 30 launches before the end of the year. I think India’s prediction is accurate, while Russia’s is hogwash.

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Jimi Hendrix On An Acoustic Guitar

An evening pause: There are two clips, with the second beginning at 4:37. This is I think more interesting than good. The first clip is well shot, but it clearly is an unfinished music video because Hendrix himself I think was unsatisfied with his performance. The second is better performed, as it is a improvised performance at what appears to be a party. Regardless, they are worth watching because even when he played below par you can see he is playing at a level above most.

Hat tip Michael Nelson.

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