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Is This Schiaparelli’s Crash Site on Mars?

A pair of high-resolution images taken from high above Mars appears to show the impact site of ESA’s Schiaparelli lander. Schiaparelli, a demonstration module intended to test technologies for landing on Mars, was supposed to thump onto the Red Planet two days ago, then relay images and weather data back to Earth. But engineers at the European Space Agency’s mission control center in Darmstadt, Germany, feared the worst when none of those data came through. Now they’re closer to having answers thanks to a pair of images taken October 19th…

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Big Kuiper Object 2007 OR10 Has a Moon

Hubble images reveal a satellite orbiting one of the Kuiper Belt’s biggest objects. An interesting trend has emerged concerning the largest objects in the distant Kuiper Belt: they have moons. Most notable is Pluto, with five. Haumea has two. Eris, Orcus, Quaoar, and Makemake each have one. In fact, of the eight largest known trans-Neptunian objects, only Sedna and yet-to-be-named 2007 OR10 were considered moonless — and now it’s just Sedna. Little is known about the moon of Kuiper Belt object 2007 OR10, seen here in a Hubble Space Telescope…

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Black Holes intermediate-mass black holes News x-ray astronomy 

Brilliant X-ray Flashes from Faraway Black Holes?

Two sources tens of millions of light-years away have sent puzzling X-ray flares blazing our way. Now astronomers think they might have the answer: intermediate-mass black holes. In this Chandra X-ray Observatory image of the elliptical galaxy Centaurus A, low, medium, and high-energy X-rays are colored red, green, and blue. Students spotted a brilliant flash of X-rays (arrow) from what is probably a dwarf galaxy neighboring Cen A.NASA / CXC / UA / J.Irwin et al. During every second of daylight, more than a trillion photons flood through the pupil…

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ESA’s Schiaparelli Lander: Missing in Action

Here’s what we know so far about the fate European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli mission. Update (October 20th): Well, ESA held the morning briefing as expected at 10:00 a.m. CEST, and the prognosis isn’t good for the Schiaparelli lander. ESA spacecraft operations manager Andrea Accomazzo emphasized that this was an entry and descent test, and that the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter “is working perfectly.” ESA scientists also stressed that data analysis from the descent is still under scrutiny. Initial results suggest that the heat shield and parachute worked properly. Then, Accomazzo said,…

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ExoMars Orbiter Reaches Red Planet

After a 7-month journey from Earth and a 139-minute rocket burn, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has settled in around its new home. An artist’s concept of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter firing its braking rocket.ESA / ATG medialab It was tense day at the European Space Agency’s main control center in Darmstadt, Germany. Some 87 million km away, two spacecraft dispatched from Earth together last March atop a Russian-built Proton rocket were attempting to get to their respective destinations. The main ExoMars craft, called the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO),…

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Moon to Cover Bright Star Aldebaran

This eye-catching occultation occurs late on October 18th (West Coast) and early on the 19th (East Coast). It’s a grazing event as seen from Los Angeles and Denver. The waxing gibbous Moon’s dark limb was just about to occult Aldebaran when Roger Hutchinson took this image on December 23, 2015. This month, the star will reappear from behind the opposite dark limb of the waning Moon. Have you caught an occultation of Aldebaran yet? They’re happening every 27 or 28 days, once per lunar month, in a long series that…

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Dark Streaks on Mars Revisited

New research on seasonal streaks in Martian canyons provides evidence against underground pools of water. The white arrows point out the seasonal dark streaks, called recurring slope lineae (RSL), on the surface of Mars. The Valles Marineris region has the densest population of streaks on the Red Planet. NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona Since 2011, astronomers have seen dark streaks appear and fade on the surface of Mars. These dark streaks, called recurring slope lineae (RSL), show up on the planet’s steep slopes during the warmer months and fade…

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Uh, We’re Going To Need A Bigger Landing Pad

Since 2000, Elon Musk been moving forward with his vision of a fleet of reusable rockets, ones that will restore domestic launch capability to the US and drastically reduce the cost of space launches. The largest rocket in this fleet is the Falcon Heavy, a variant of the Falcon 9 that uses the same rocket core, with two additional boosters that derived from the Falcon 9 first stage. When it lifts off later this year, it will be the most operational powerful rocket in the world. …

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Mars 2020 Rover Construction Moves Ahead

The Mars 2020 rover reaches a third milestone on the path to the launch pad. An artist’s concept of the Mars 2020 rover in action. NASA Things are getting real now. Last week, NASA announced that it will proceed with the final design and construction of the Mars 2020 rover. The announcement comes after intensive engineering and design studies that evaluated proposals for instrument packages. Set to launch in the summer of 2020, the as-yet unnamed Mars 2020 rover will arrive at the Red Planet for its very own “seven…

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News People, Places, and Events 

Antonín Rükl, 1932–2016

A world-renowned lunar cartographer, whose beautiful atlases have become prized possessions, has died at age 83. Known worldwide for his lunar cartography, Antonín Rükl received Cena Františka Nušla in 2012 — the Czech Republic’s highest award for astronomical achievement.Vladimír Libý Antonín Rükl, noted lunar cartographer, selenographer, prolific author, and retired director of the Prague Planetarium, passed away on July 12th at his home in Prague, Czech Republic. Rükl’s loss is being deeply felt by anyone who loves looking at the Moon. Among the books he authored, his legendary Atlas of…

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