Category Archives: Astronomy

Science: Cloning Saves An Endangered Species And Exoplanet ‘Super-Earths’

On this week’s show: How cloning can introduce diversity into an endangered species, and ramping up the pressure on iron to see how it might behave in the cores of rocky exoplanets.

First up this week, News Intern Rachel Fritts talks with host Sarah Crespi about cloning a frozen ferret to save an endangered species.

Also this week, Rick Kraus, a research scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, talks about how his group used a powerful laser to compress iron to pressures similar to those found in the cores of some rocky exoplanets. If these super-Earths’ cores are like our Earth’s, they may have a protective magnetosphere that increases their chances of hosting life.

Views: James Webb Space Telescope Set To Launch – Will Reveal First Galaxies

The James Webb Space Telescope, a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, is set to launch later this month. Scientists say its technology makes it 100 times more powerful than the Hubble and could give it the ability to see back to the first galaxies in the universe. Illustration: Adele Morgan/WSJ

Astronomy: Stunning ‘Butterfly Nebula’ From Hubble Space Telescope


This celestial object looks like a delicate butterfly. But it is far from serene. What resemble dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to nearly 20 000 degrees Celsius. The gas is tearing across space at more than 950 000 kilometres per hour — fast enough to travel from Earth to the Moon in 24 minutes! A dying star that was once about five times the mass of the Sun is at the centre of this fury. It has ejected its envelope of gases and is now unleashing a stream of ultraviolet radiation that is making the cast-off material glow. This object is an example of a planetary nebula, so-named because many of them have a round appearance resembling that of a planet when viewed through a small telescope. The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), a new camera aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, snapped this image of the planetary nebula, catalogued as NGC 6302, but more popularly called the Bug Nebula or the Butterfly Nebula.

WFC3 was installed by NASA astronauts in May 2009, during the Servicing Mission to upgrade and repair the 19-year-old Hubble. NGC 6302 lies within our Milky Way galaxy, roughly 3800 light-years away in the constellation of Scorpius. The glowing gas is the star’s outer layers, expelled over about 2200 years. The “butterfly” stretches for more than two light-years, which is about half the distance from the Sun to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. The central star itself cannot be seen, because it is hidden within a doughnut-shaped ring of dust, which appears as a dark band pinching the nebula in the centre. The thick dust belt constricts the star’s outflow, creating the classic “bipolar” or hourglass shape displayed by some planetary nebulae. The star’s surface temperature is estimated to be over 220 000 degrees Celsius, making it one of the hottest known stars in our galaxy. Spectroscopic observations made with ground-based telescopes show that the gas is roughly 20 000 degrees Celsius, which is unusually hot compared to a t

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NASA Space Missions: Ten Mysteries Of Venus (Video)

The surface of Venus is completely inhospitable for life: barren, dry, crushed under an atmosphere about 90 times the pressure of Earth’s and roasted by temperatures two times hotter than an oven. But was it always that way? Could Venus once have been a twin of Earth — a habitable world with liquid water oceans? This is one of the many mysteries associated with our shrouded sister world. 27 years have passed since NASA’s Magellan mission last orbited Venus. That was NASA’s most recent mission to Earth’s sister planet, and while we have gained significant knowledge of Venus since then, there are still numerous mysteries about the planet that remain unsolved. NASA’s DAVINCI (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) mission hopes to change that. Video credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Science: Satellite Swarms Block Astronomers Gaze

For millennia, bright lights sprinkled across our celestial sphere have guided great explorers, passed on storied traditions, and lent insight into the nature of our universe. Now, they have competition: thousands of satellites circling the globe in low orbit. Read the story: https://www.science.org/content/artic…

NASA Space Missions: The Search For Life On Venus

NASA is planning two missions to Venus to assess if the now-toxic planet once had an ocean, continents and life. Scientists are beginning the effort on Earth by training sensors and machine learning systems to analyze the building blocks of our own planet. Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann

Astronomy: What’s Inside An Exoplanet? (Video)

Out in the vast universe, unknown billions of strange worlds drift around other stars. Many of them are quite unlike anything in our solar system. While astronomers hope to use immense upcoming observatories to get a better look at their outsides, Federica Coppari has been using the world’s largest laser to investigate their insides. Coppari compresses familiar substances, including rocks and water, into new forms. Her work has yielded insights into the inner workings of frozen giants such as Uranus and Neptune, as well as the potential habitability of super-Earths — rocky planets that dwarf our own. Read more at Quanta Magazine: https://www.quantamagazine.org/federi…

NASA Goddard: ‘A Field Guide To Black Holes’

If you’re looking to find some black holes, it’s always helpful to know exactly what you’re looking for!

To get started on your black hole hunt, first watch this handy video to learn the basics about these strange cosmic objects.

Music: “Perfect Little Monsters” from Universal Production Music Video credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Chris Smith (USRA): Lead Producer Chris Smith (USRA): Lead Animator Chris Smith (USRA): Lead Writer Jeanette Kazmierczak (University of Maryland College Park): Lead Science Writer Scott Noble (NASA/GSFC): Scientist John G. Baker (NASA/GSFC): Scientist Bernard J. Kelly (UMBC): Scientist

Astronomy: ‘Skywatching Tips’ – April 2021 (Video)

What are some skywatching highlights in April 2021? Look for the rosy arch known as the Belt of Venus at sunset, then find the constellation Leo overhead on April evenings. Also, check out Jupiter and Saturn with the Moon on April 6. Additional information about topics covered in this episode of What’s Up, along with still images from the video, and the video transcript, are available at https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/whats-up…