The world’s largest telescope made with data Look up on a starry night and consider this: in our lifetime we just might find the answers to one of life’s biggest mysteries. Dutch research institute, Astron and its international partners are building the world’s largest radio telescope, aka The Square Kilometer Array. This big telescope will be made up of thousands of interconnected smaller telescopes, arranged in fractal patterns, to let us glimpse back in time more than 13 billion years ago—mere seconds after the universe was created. How on Earth is this possible?
The bottom of the ocean may not be the first place you’d look for remnants of ancient star explosions. But that’s exactly what scientists have found in patches of ocean sediment in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans: deposits of an iron isotope called iron-60, produced when a star explodes in a supernova.
Combined with supernova modeling, suggests that million of years ago, at least two stars exploded and some of the elemental debris rained down on Earth. Astronomers estimate the first explosion happened about 2.3 million years ago, and the second about 1.5 million years ago. It’s possible the explosions were close to enough to influence the planet in a number of ways.
Go ahead and pencil in February 18, 2021 on your calendars, because that’s when NASA’s next Mars rover is due to land on the Martian surface.
The Mars 2020 rover is essentially a souped-up version of the Curiosity rover currently roaming the Red Planet. The 2020 rover is estimated to cost $1.9 billion dollars and will carry a suite of 7 specialized instruments that will science the hell out of Mars. A mission of this magnitude takes years of planning, and in order to ensure its success mission managers are learning from experience.
Based on knowledge about the Martian environment gained from Curiosity, NASA is building the next version to even better fit the environment. Equipped with one-of-a-kind sensors, the 2020 rover will provide new insight in the habitability of Mars.
At this year’s meeting of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Earth and Space conference, Luther Beegle, principal investigator for the SHERLOC instrument on Mars 2020 and deputy section manager of planetary science at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, spoke about the importance of this mission.
“Our goal is to do great in-situ science,” he explained to Motherboard after the meeting. “We need to characterize samples and know exactly where they came from. We have pieces of Mars (meteorites) all over Earth, but the problem with them is they have been altered (via processes like impacts) and we don’t know where they came from.”
Today is the anniversary of the discovery of the first modern supernova, currently named SN1987A, located in the Tarantala Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud. It was independently discovered by both Ian Shelton and Oscar Duhalde of the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile on the night of February 23/24, 1987, and within the same 24 hours independently by Albert Jones in New Zealand. Two weeks later, between March 4–12, 1987 it was observed from space by Astron, a large ultraviolet space telescope. The supernova has yet to receive an official name.
While plenty of modern scientific words can be dated accurately, the older a word is (in general) the harder it is to pin down a date. The word supernova however, defies this logic. Late October 1604 (and some sources give the date 6 November 1604) a new and bright object appeared in the sky. German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler (born 27 December 1571-15 November 1630) noticed the ‘new’ object and unsure what exactly it was, simply named it stella nova, from the Latin words for new star. It wasn’t until the 1930s that astronomers Walter Baade and Fritz Zwicky started using the term super-nova and by 1938 the hyphen was dropped and the word became supernova. The first reliably recorded supernova was noted by Pliny in AD 185. Notable supernovae (note the plural maintains the Latin form and does not take the -s that English mostly uses) occurred in 1054, noted mainly by Chinese and Arabic astronomers, and the supernova of 1572 noted extensively by Tycho Brahe.
Time-lapse animation of SN1987A from 1994 to 2009, video compilation courtesy Mark Macdonald, via Larsson, J. et al. (2011). “X-ray illumination of the ejecta of supernova 1987A”. Nature 474 (7352): 484–486., used with permission under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.
1. pertaining to or proceeding from the stars; stellar; star-shaped.
2. Biology: pertaining to, consisting of, or resembling an aster; having a discoid, radiate flower head.
3. Theosophy: noting a supersensible substance pervading all space and forming the substance of a second body (astral body) belonging to each individual. It accompanies the individual through life, is able to leave the human body at will, and survives the individual after death.
Etymology: from Late Latin astrālis, from Latin astrum, “star”, from Greek astron.