Before getting to news from and about Space and the Universe(!)… how about a marginally-related overlap of biology, current events and… theology? This from Leviticus 13:45 – 46:
“Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.”
Cover the lower part of their face and social distancing? Alas, Leviticus is only for citing the parts you like at the moment.
More generally/cogently, here's my talk about dozens of biblical riffs you might use to ease your cousins out of the dark corners that their parasite preachers have painted them into, including the War on Science. So You Want to Make Gods... one of my best speeches. Entertaining, funny (if I do say so) and a classic of contrarianism!
== Starship’s ‘mundane’ or Earthly use interests the Air Force ==
Recent ‘justification’ documents suggest Air Force officials are intrigued by the possibility of launching 100 tons of cargo from the United States and having the ability to land it anywhere in the world about an hour later. The described capability – of course – can only be approached by SpaceX. Accordingly, the Air Force science and technology investments will include "novel loadmaster designs to quickly load/unload a rocket, rapid launch capabilities from unusual sites, characterization of potential landing surfaces and approaches to rapidly improve those surfaces, adversary detectability, new novel trajectories, and an S&T investigation of the potential ability to air drop a payload after reentry," the document states.
Available for Kabul? One could dream.
Mysterious Venus was the first planet NASA explored, in the groundbreaking Mariner 2 mission that flew by in 1962, breaking our hearts with news that there were no jungles or oceans of SF fame. Now our hot twin world will get two NASA missions with some concepts we first funded at NIAC. As for those oceans? Well, might a million comet-falls remake them? See my novella "The Tumbledowns of Cleopatra Abyss" (now also a cool screenplay!) in my new Best-of-Brin collection!
Says NASA space biology researcher Chris McKay, the clouds of Venus hold far too little water to support any kind of life we now imagine, but – "Jupiter looks much more optimistic," McKay said. "There is at least a layer in the clouds of Jupiter where the water requirements are met. It doesn't mean that there is life, it just means that with respect to water, it would be OK." High levels of ultraviolet radiation or lack of nutrients could, however, prevent that potential life from thriving, the researchers said, and completely new measurements would be needed to find whether it actually could be there or not.
== Both totally tubular AND globular? ==
Globular clusters are often considered 'fossils' of the early Universe. They're very dense and spherical, typically containing roughly 100,000 to 1 million very old stars; some, like NGC 6397, are nearly as old as the Universe itself.
In any globular cluster, all its stars formed at the same time, from the same cloud of gas. The Milky Way has around 150 known globular clusters; these objects are excellent tools for studying, for example, the history of the Universe, or the dark matter content of the galaxies they orbit.
But there's another type of star group that is gaining more attention - tidal streams, long rivers of stars that stretch across the sky. Previously, these had been difficult to identify, but with the Gaia space observatory… "We do not know how these streams form, but one idea is that they are disrupted star clusters." The Palomar 5 stream appears unique in that it has both a very wide, loose distribution of stars and a long tidal stream, spanning more than 20 degrees of the sky…
... populations of black holes could exist in the central regions of globular clusters, and since gravitational interactions with black holes are known to send stars careening away, the scientists included black holes in some of their simulations. sims suggest more than 20 percent of the total cluster mass is made up of black holes,"
"They each have a mass of about 20 times the mass of the Sun, and they formed in supernova explosions at the end of the lives of massive stars, when the cluster was still very young." In around a billion years, the team's simulations showed, the cluster will dissolve completely. Just before this happens, what remains of the cluster will consist entirely of black holes, orbiting the galactic center. This suggests that Palomar 5 is not unique, after all - it will dissolve completely into a stellar stream, just like others that we have discovered."
== Getting competitive up there? ==
Apparently China is further along in developing reusable rockets than many of us thought. “China conducted a clandestine first test flight of a reusable suborbital vehicle as a part of its development of a reusable space transportation system. The vehicle launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and landed at an airport just over 800 kilometers away at Alxa League in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.”
A burgeoning boom in venture capital and SPAC investment in space-related startups.
Peering inside Mars - an excellent WIRED article updates what has been learned about the Martian interior by the Insight seismic lander.
Long-predicted as the source of type 1a supernovae, a teardrop-shaped star has been found, caused by a massive nearby white dwarf distorting the star with its intense gravity, “which will also be the catalyst for an eventual supernova that will consume both.” As soon as the dwarf has stolen just enough to surpass the Chandrasekhar Limit. And since all such events have exactly the same mass-trigger, supernovas from such star systems can be used as ‘standard candles’ to measure expansion of the universe. HD265435 is located roughly 1,500 light years away, so don’t lose sleep. Over this, at least. But close enough to put on quite a show. (Alas, this article has a couple of boner paragraphs.)
The alternative, a supernova created by a sudden stellar merger… is not quite as ‘standard” as a pure type 1a.
== More space! More space! ==
For the first time, a NASA grant has gone to a joint team of astronomers plus the Breakthrough Listen Project to sift data from the TESS planet hunting mission that might (maybe) indicate alien mega structures. Or else big, natural light-blockers like comets. ‘If alien megastructures exist in our galaxy, there’s a decent chance that they might be hiding in the TESS data. But there’s also the possibility that the Breakthrough Listen team will come up empty-handed just like every SETI search before them.’
The Vasimir electric propulsion engine, ready for prime time, at last?
Caltech is announcing that Donald Bren donated over $100 million to form the Space-based Solar Power Project (SSPP), capable of generating solar power in space and beaming it back to Earth. The donation was made anonymously in 2013, but nears a significant milestone: a test launch of multifunctional technology-demonstrator prototypes that collect sunlight and convert it to electrical energy, transfer energy wirelessly in free-space using radio frequency (RF) electrical power, and deploy ultralight structures that will be used to integrate them. SPP aims to ultimately produce a global supply of affordable, renewable, clean energy.
SSPP aims to ultimately produce a global supply of affordable, renewable, clean energy. The project's first test, in 2023, will launch prototypes solar power generators and RF wireless power transfer, and includes a deployable structure measuring roughly 6 feet by 6 feet.