Last night, light from a new supernova reached astronomers on Earth. Its origin: the nearby galaxy M82, some 3.5 megaparsecs away (11.4 million light years). It is one of the closest and brightest supernovae seen from Earth since a monster exploded in 1987 just 168,000 light years away. Astronomers say that the latest supernova is of the type 1a class, and may help reveal how such supernovae form. Moreover, because these supernovae are used as cosmic measuring sticks, understanding them better may help clarify the shape of the Universe.
In 1969, the third man to walk on the moon, astronaut Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr., also became the first lunar archaeologist. As part of the Apollo 12 crew, he examined an earlier robotic lander, Surveyor 3, and retrieved its TV camera, aluminum tubing and other hardware, giving NASA scientists back on Earth the evidence they needed to study how human-made materials fared in the lunar environment.
This week’s planned robotic landing by the Chinese National Space Agency, the first controlled landing since the 1976 Luna 24 mission, signals a renewal of sophisticated lunar exploration. This time around, more countries will be involved, as will commercial entities. Private organizations are in hot pursuit of the Google Lunar X Prize, which offers cash rewards for achieving technical milestones, one of which is landing near the Apollo sites. A recent bill introduced in the House, called the Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act, proposes a novel form of protection. Unfortunately, it appears to interfere with existing space law. Continue reading
Spain’s National Research Council (CSIC) and Germany’s Max Planck Society agreed late last month to major budget cuts at the Hispano-German Astronomical Observatory at Calar Alto, Spain. Continue reading
Water ice on the moon may be more widespread than previously thought. Permanent shadows have been spotted far from the lunar poles, expanding the number of sites that would be good candidates for exploration by robotic rovers — or even for the locations of lunar bases.
Researchers have known for decades that the Moon’s poles host craters with lofty rims that shield their floors from sunlight, so searches for shadowed areas harbouring water ice have focused on the poles. But over the past few months, researchers have built a catalogue of permanently shadowed regions elsewhere on the Moon.