Space

the moon
Christopher Dart/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

The first lunar landing was almost 50 years ago, and NASA is making plans to return to the moon. This time around, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine says, the agency plans to stay there.

The space agency is planning to build a “lunar gateway,” or a space station, that will orbit the moon and make it easier for astronauts to come and go. It’s part of its long-term plan to develop a lunar outpost.

The world is seeing the first-ever image of a black hole Wednesday, as an international team of researchers from the Event Horizon Telescope project released their look at the supermassive black hole at the center of galaxy Messier 87 (M87). The image shows a dark disc "outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon," the consortium said.

"As an astrophysicist, this is a thrilling day for me," said National Science Foundation Director France A. Córdova.

A team at UT Austin uncovered two hidden planets using the Kepler space telescope archive.
Wendy Stenzel / NASA/JPL-Caltech

A team led by an undergraduate student at UT Austin discovered two hidden planets more than 1,000 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. 

To put that distance in perspective: One light-year is about 6 trillion miles

Blue Origin

Blue Origin will launch its New Shepard rocket in West Texas this morning.

If all goes according to plan, it will be the 10th successful launch for the spaceflight venture founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. This would be the fourth flight for the craft, named for famed astronaut Alan Shepard.

The mission was postponed twice previously late last year, but the New Shepard is set to launch this morning,  carrying eight NASA-sponsored payloads along with it. The launch is set for 8:50 this morning near Van Horn. 

Watch a livestream below courtesy of Blue Origin. 

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Most of President Donald Trump's attention this week has been occupied by the southern border. But on Monday, he took some time to address his plans for another frontier: the great beyond. He said it’s not only important for the United States to be present in space, but to be dominant.

PROLinda Tanner/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard.

Long before David Bowie ever posed the musical question, mankind has been asking, “Is there life on Mars?” After decades of research, including the unmanned Viking missions, rovers and landers, scientists still aren’t sure.

University of Texas at Austin

Astronomers usually study their subject from afar. They peer at stars and planets through telescopes, or rely on physics and math to hypothesize about the universe. Now, a group of researchers at UT Austin hopes to open up a new way of studying space: by re-creating the stuff stars are made of in labs right here on Earth.

Martin Do Nascimento / KUT

From Texas Standard:

It's been 45 years since astronaut Harrison Schmitt set foot on the moon as part of the Apollo 17 mission – and no one's done it since.

If the president gets his way, that will change. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump issued a new space policy directive, with the goal of returning humans to the moon. So why go back after such a long absence?

NASA

An associate professor of astronomy at UT-Austin will lead a study using the powerful successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

The $8 billion James Webb Space Telescope, which is expected to launch in 2019, is said to be 100 times better than the Hubble. It will have a much larger telescope mirror, allowing scientists to see much fainter objects in greater detail.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Austin may not be in best spot to see the solar eclipse Monday, Aug. 21, but there will be a show, nonetheless.

The visible path of the total eclipse runs diagonally across the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina — well to our north — but we’ll still see about 65 percent of the sun obscured by the moon at its peak.

The eclipse will begin in Austin at around 11:41 a.m., reach its maximum at about 1:10 p.m. and then be completely over by 2:39 p.m.

The SpaceX complex at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Bill VanderMolen/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a space shuttle filled with tourists?

While that idea sounds like science fiction, the reality of sending tourists to space is right around the corner – at least if you believe Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. He recently announced that Blue Origin, his private space company, could begin flying private citizens to the edge of the atmosphere by next year.

On This week’s program, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr speaks with Margot Lee Shetterly, author of ‘Hidden Figures: The American Dream And The Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Help Win the Space Race.’

To paraphrase an age-old saying: If at first you don't succeed, well, dust off the historic launch pad and try another liftoff.

Screenshot from spaceexpeditions.XCOR.com

From Texas Standard:

Drive down a windy, muddy road, hidden on the backside of Midland airport’s southernmost tarmac, and you’ll find a shiny new hangar and office building: XCOR Aerospace’s Texas headquarters.

When a robotic probe finally lands on a watery world like Jupiter's moon Europa, what do scientists have to see to definitively say whether the place has any life?

That's the question retired astronaut John Grunsfeld posed to some colleagues at NASA when he was in charge of the agency's science missions.

Project 404/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

It's been a long time since kids sat with parents on living room couches watching live pictures from Mission Control in Houston. Even though NASA no longer looms in the American imagination as much as it once did, with a Mars expedition in the works and the rise of Space X and Blue Origin among others, a powerful case can be made that a renaissance is just around the corner.

Houston-area U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, who's chair of the House Space subcommittee, has launched a new mission on Capitol Hill.


Tom Michael for Marfa Public Radio

From Marfa Public Radio: It’s a warm afternoon on top of Mount Locke in Far West Texas, but inside and under the dome of the oldest telescope here, astronomer Stephen Odewahn shivers, “It is cold. Yeah, we’re in the dome of the 82-inch telescope, the first observatory out here. And it’s cold, because usually all of the domes, we try to condition them through the day, to have the temperature that it’s going to be at night, when you open up.”


Image via NASA (Public Domain)

From Texas Standard:

Today in 1986, the Challenger space shuttle broke apart over the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida. Just 73 seconds after the shuttle's lift-off, its seven crew members were dead.

NASA

From Texas Standard:

Big news this morning from NASA’s planet-hunting mission: The Kepler Space Telescope at the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory has revealed the most Earthlike planet found to date, researchers say. The planet, called Kepler-452b, lies in the constellation Cygnus, about 1,400 light years from Earth. It qualifies as super-Earth-sized, as it's about 1.6 times larger than Earth, and its orbital period is quite similar to ours, at 385 days.

The Kepler scope was launched in 2009 to detect Earth-size planets in or near the habitable zones of distant stars — planets that have the potential to sustain life like that on Earth.

“We are pushing toward Earth 2.0,” McDonald Observatory astronomer Michael Endl said in a press release. “This planet is probably the most similar to Earth yet found.”

gsfc/flickr

From Texas Standard:

When you think of space, what do you see? Planets, stars, maybe a satellite or a shuttle? Well, some business people are seeing green. A group of space entrepreneurs is meeting in Austin this week to lay the framework for how Texas could be the launch pad for the private space industry.

Hundreds of millions of miles from Earth, a man-made object was flung at a comet Wednesday — and now it's sticking to the rock as it hurtles through space.

"We are on the comet," Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager, announced Wednesday, marking a historic achievement.

Ivan Ramirez/Tim Jones/McDonald Observatory

When Ivan Ramirez started his search about a year ago, he really didn’t think he’d find much.

"We expected it to be either one or zero," says Ramirez, an astronomer at UT-Austin.

Ramirez and his crew were looking through thousands and thousands of stars – all in order to find just the right one. 

“We're looking for the stars that were born with the sun," he says. "Because our sun, like most other stars, was born in a cluster – probably a thousand to ten thousand other stars. We know that there are a few that we can detect that are nearby, but it’s been a really tough job to do."

GMTO.org

Update: UT-Austin has received the green light to participate in the construction of the Giant Magellan Telescope. When constructed, it will be the world's largest telescope. 

The UT System Board of Regents authorized UT-Austin to put $50 million of its research reserves toward the project, and allowed the university to raise an additional $50 million in donations. 

“Being a charter investor in this remarkable scientific tool will benefit our students, our faculty and the whole university,” UT-Austin President Bill Powers said in a statement Friday.“Not only will we be helping to answer the most basic questions about our universe, but our involvement will underscore our status as a top world university. This is the leading edge of science, and it is where Texas must be.”

V. Tilvi, S.L. Finkelstein, C. Papovich, and the Hubble Heritage Team

A team led by a UT Austin astronomer has identified and measured the distance to the most distant galaxy found so far.

The galaxy — designated z8_GND_5296 — is so far away from Earth that the light we are now able to see from it was emitted more than 13 billion years ago. So we're seeing it as it was in the distant past.

"We're seeing it very close to the Big Bang. About 700 million years after the Big Bang," says UT astronomer Steve Finkelstein, who led the project. He says ultimately, far, far away galaxies like this one may help us understand things closer to home. “We want to study very distant galaxies to learn how galaxies change with time, which helps us understand how the Milky Way came to be.” 

Luke Quinton/KUT News

How big is a satellite? Well, that depends. The University of Texas’s Satellite Design Lab just won a competition for its “cube satellite.” So just how small is a cube?

“The dimensions of the spacecraft are essentially the size of a loaf of bread,” said Katharine Brumbaugh, a Ph.D. student at the satellite lab. Her team’s cube satellite, Armadillo, just won a competition run by the Air Force, beating out nine other universities in the “cubesat” category.