Yesterday, NASA’s Mars InSight lander successfully touched down on the Martian surface after spending seven long months in space. Over the course of the next few hours, the lander began the surface operations phase of its mission, which involved deploying its solar arrays. The lander also managed to take some pictures of the surface, which showed the region where it will be studying Mars’ interior for the next two years.
Shortly after 4 a.m. on a crisp, cloudless September morning in 1859, the sky above what is currently Colorado erupted in bright red and green colors. Fooled by the brightness into thinking it was an early dawn, gold-rush miners in the mountainous region of what was then called the Kansas Territory woke up and started making breakfast. What happened in more developed regions was even more disorienting, and carries a warning for the wired high-tech world of the 21st century.
The space surrounding our planet is full of restless charged particles and roiling electric and magnetic fields, which create waves around Earth. One type of wave, plasmaspheric hiss, is particularly important for removing charged particles from the Van Allen radiation belts, a seething coil of particles encircling Earth, which can interfere with satellites and telecommunications. A new study published in Journal of Geophysical Research using data from NASA’s Van Allen Probes spacecraft has discovered that hiss is more complex than previously understood.
The first Australian-built satellites to be launched in 15 years are set to take off this week from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Unlike the enormous satellites Australia uses for telecommunications, each of these new satellites is the size of a loaf of bread. But although small, they may provide a key step in enabling Australia’s entry into the global satellite market.
The ancients believed that the Earth was surrounded by celestial spheres, which produced divine music when they moved. We lived, so to speak, in a huge musical instrument. This may sound silly but modern science has proved them right to a certain extent. Satellites recording sound waves resonating with the Earth’s magnetosphere – the magnetic bubble that protects us from space radiation – show that we are indeed living inside a massive, magnetic musical instrument.
Construction of NASA’s Dellingr CubeSat – a miniature satellite that provides a low-cost platform for missions – is complete, and the satellite has just left the lab for environmental testing. This is a key step after any satellite has been built to make sure it can withstand intense vibrations, the extremes of hot and cold, and even the magnetic fields of space – all the rigorous conditions the CubeSat will encounter during launch and spaceflight.