Archive for June, 2020

Credit: SatelliteInternet.com

SatelliteInternet.com has issued “States with the Most UFO Sightings in 2020.”

According to the group, Americans reported almost twice as many UFO sightings last year to the National UFO Reporting Center than the previous year—jumping from 3,456 sightings in 2018 to 6,340 sightings in 2019.

Furthermore, in the first three months of 2020, the number of UFO sightings was 112% higher than the first three months of 2019. “We’ll see how that trend continues throughout 2020—after all, this is the year the world fell apart,” SatelliteInternet.com notes.

Starlink satellites.
Credit: SpaceX

Misidentified

The group explains that most UFOs are later identified as drones, satellites (including the SpaceX Starlink satellite trains), or weather balloons.

SatelliteInternet.com has listed the states with the most UFO sightings:

Idaho
Montana
New Hampshire
Maine
New Mexico
Vermont
Wyoming
Hawaii
Washington
Connecticut

Here are the states with the fewest UFO sightings:

Texas
Louisiana
New York
Maryland
Illinois
California
Alabama
Mississippi
Georgia
North Carolina

To highlight the states with the most UFO sightings, SatelliteInternet.com sourced data from the National UFO Reporting Center. Then, using state population data, the group ranked each state based on the number of UFO sightings per 100,000 people from January 2019 to June 2020.

For more information on their findings, go to:

https://www.satelliteinternet.com/resources/states-with-the-most-ufo-sightings/

Looking back up towards “Bloodstone Hill.” Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2805 tasks.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The robot recently drove about 49 feet (15 meters), reports Catherine O’Connell-Cooper, a planetary geologist at the University of New Brunswick; Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. That drive ended up having the rover with bedrock and sand in its workspace.

“Normally, Fridays are our busiest day in the geology theme group (GEO). We choose targets for contact science, with lots of back and forth between all the geochemistry, camera and engineering teams, to pick the best ones, while the environment theme group (ENV) plans a range of environmental activities,” O’Connell-Cooper adds.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Software updates

“Not this weekend though! Curiosity is taking some time to do routine software updates,” says O’Connell-Cooper, “so the next couple of plans will be concentrating on those, leaving not much room for anything else.”

ENV have planned Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) and Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) environmental monitoring activities, part of their ongoing daily activities.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

“We will still be here next week, and we’ll pick up our contact science at that point, in time for the July 4th U.S. holiday,” O’Connell-Cooper concludes.

 

 

 

New road map

This map shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 2804 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (June 26, 2020).

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up. The scale bar is 1 kilometer (~0.62 mile).

From Sol 2802 to Sol 2804, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 43.05 feet (13.12 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 14.12 miles (22.72 kilometers).

The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B photo taken on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now carrying out Sol 2805 tasks.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“As much as the science team loves seeing Mars up close, sometimes the view isn’t quite as pretty for the engineering team,” reports Fred Calef, a planetary geologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “As the rover gets closer to hills or cliffs, like “Bloodstone Hill” that we just left, we encounter boulders that have rolled downslope (as they are wont to do), creating visual obstacles in our path.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As Curiosity gets closer to hills or cliffs, like “Bloodstone Hill” that the rover just left, Calef adds, “we encounter boulders that have rolled downslope (as they are wont to do), creating visual obstacles in our path.”

It’s also the case that sometimes Mars makes bouldery landscapes, Calef points out, like when the robot drove up towards Vera Rubin Ridge.

Path ahead

“The path ahead is very similar to that. Rover planners only want to drive where they can see in the navigation images from the Mars surface,” Calef explains. “The area that is visible from where you are is called a viewshed. You can imagine that for a big rock, if you’re standing several meters away, you only see one side of it.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Calef notes that for moving the rover, you don’t want to “drive around a corner” and find yourself staring over a cliff, driving over pointy rocks, or ending up embedded in sand!

“Granted, we can see a lot of martian terrain from satellite imagery, but since there’s no tow service or garages in Gale Crater, we have to be cautious,” Calef says.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Longer drive

All that said, the robot’s next drive will be only about 49 feet (15 meters), so researchers can get a better view for a longer drive in the next planning cycle.

The Curiosity schedule plan for Sol 2803 is to scope out some of the local bedrock at the outskirts of Bloodstone Hill with ChemCam on “Powburn,” “Hunterian,” ‘Earl’s Palace,” and “Otterburn” with accompanying Mastcam images.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Left B photo acquired on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The rover arm will be deployed to get some Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) chemistry, microscopic views with the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI), and Mastcam images on “Capercaillie,” a rock with multiple layers.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2804, June 26, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Bloodstone Hill” appears just to the right as well as numerous decimeter-scale bounders on the bumpy road ahead up Mt. Sharp. Curiosity Left Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2802 June 24, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Despite not being able to see too far ahead, we’ll still take some Mastcam mosaics of polygonally fractured bedrock and a look back at Bloodstone Hill. Environmental monitoring will include a line-of-sight view and dust devil search movie with Navcam. After a short drive on Sol 2805, we’ll take some views ahead and do a Mastcam clast survey, looking at the pebbles on the ground,” Calef reports. “Here’s to an expansive view of the road ahead!”

Credit: Highlands and Islands Enterprise

There has been a go-ahead for Space Hub Sutherland to be constructed near Melness on the northern coast of Scotland.

Orbex, the UK-based space launch company, has confirmed that Orbex Prime will be the first vertical launch vehicle to fly into orbit from the Space Hub.

The Highland Council’s decision will allow Orbex to complete the detailed scoping of its own launch site installation.

Credit: Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Recoverable and re-usable

Orbex Prime will use renewable biofuels to deliver an ultra-low CO2 footprint. The Orbex vehicle is intended to be recoverable and re-usable, normally leaving no debris in the ocean or in orbit around the Earth.

In January, the European Space Agency awarded Orbex a contract under its Future Launchers Preparatory Program covering the further development of REFLIGHT, a near zero-mass reusability system which will allow stage one boosters to be recovered and reused in multiple missions.

Credit: Orbex

“The Highland Council’s approval of the spaceport is a landmark in the history of spaceflight in Europe and will place the community around Tongue, Melness and Skerray, the Highlands Region, Scotland and the United Kingdom at the very heart of the European space launch industry,” said Chris Larmour, CEO of Orbex, in a press statement.

The planning application for Sutherland Space Hub was submitted by Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Peatland

The first launch could be as early as 2022. Once the spaceport is fully operational, it could host up to 12 launches a year.

Space Hub Sutherland is proposed to be built on an area of peatland next to the A838 on the Melness Crofters Estate on the A’ Mhòine peninsula, around six miles from Tongue.

Launch-related infrastructure will include a control center, over one-and-a half miles (2.5 kilometers) of road and a launch pad, occupying a total of just over 10 acres of the 740-acre site.

A new video of the proposed Space Hub can be found here:

https://vimeo.com/415894044

For more information on Orbex, go to:

https://orbex.space/vehicle

Credit: Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center

 

Joining the U.S. and China in reaching for the Red Planet is the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) – the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation.

EMM’s Mars Hope probe is launching on July 15 from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center.

Hope will reach and orbit the Red Planet in February 2021.

Credit: Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center

Mars climate

The mission of Hope is to build the first full picture of Mars’ climate throughout the Martian year and will include the study of the Martian atmosphere, the relationship between the upper layer and lower layer.

As a result, for the first time, scientists based in over 200 universities globally will have access to a holistic view of the Martian atmosphere at different times of the day, through different seasons.

Credit: Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre

Partners

EMM and the Hope probe is a product of Emirati engineers working with partners (University of Colorado, Boulder, Arizona State University, University of California, Berkeley) to develop the UAE’s spacecraft design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities.

Mars Hope is a fully autonomous spacecraft, carrying three instruments to measure Mars’ atmosphere and weighing some 2,976 pounds (1,350 kilograms).

The scientific team for the mission is 90% female, and 100% Emirati – another first.

The Mars Hope Probe will reach Mars orbit in 2021, the 50th anniversary of The Emirates, which became an independent nation on 2nd December 1971.

For more information, go to:

https://www.mbrsc.ae/emirates-mars-mission

VIPER on the prowl.
Credit: NASA

 

NASA’s go-getting Artemis plan for returning humans to Earth’s Moon in 2024, as well as kick-off an era of sustainable lunar operations, calls for resource extraction and utilization. Turning on the tap of lunar water ice is viewed by many as the elixir of life to support human outposts. This extraterrestrial supply can be altered into oxygen, drinking water, even rocket fuel.

A Lunar Terrain Vehicle (LTV) will be a human-rated, unpressurized (unenclosed) rover that will be used to help astronauts explore and conduct experiments at the lunar South Pole.

Although water ice has been detected at the Moon’s poles, there remains a paucity of in-depth scientific information to truly tag the Moon as a water-rich world. Then there is the irksome question of “economically” extracting that resource – if present and accounted for in the first place. So there are major fundamental unknowns.

Go to my new Scientific American story, NASA’s Hunt for Lunar Water Intensifies, at:

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nasas-hunt-for-lunar-water-intensifies/

Curiosity Right B Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 2800, June 22, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has just started performing Sol 2802 duties.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2800, June 22, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Reports Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland: “Bloodstone Hill continued to present a challenge to us over the weekend, when our second attempt to reach an ideal spot for contact science failed. The hill is steep and rocky, making it harder to gain traction.”

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2800, June 22, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

But ultimately, the sulfate unit is more of a priority to the science team, so the rover will be leaving Bloodstone Hill behind and continuing its journey.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2800, June 22, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Current workspace

Recently, discussion centered on whether to try again or use the bedrock that was available in the current workspace for contact science.

After finding that the robot’s position was stable for contact science, quickly identified was a suitable location for analysis by the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) and the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI).

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Peak season

Beyond the contact science, there’s a busy plan scripted with three Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) targets and a large Mastcam mosaic of the layers in Bloodstone Hill, notes Guzewich

Also on tap is a dust devil movie and two images of the crater rim to monitor dust in the atmosphere.

Curiosity Front Hazard Avoidance Camera Right B image taken on Sol 2801, June 23, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We’re seeing lots of dust devil activity lately,” Guzewich concludes, “as we’re in the peak season for them on Mars and also seem to be near an area that is conducive for their formation.”

New road map

This map shows the route driven by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity through the 2800 Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission on Mars (June 22, 2020).

Numbering of the dots along the line indicate the sol number of each drive. North is up. The scale bar is 1 kilometer (~0.62 mile).

From Sol 2797 to Sol 2800, Curiosity had driven a straight line distance of about 7.63 feet (2.33 meters), bringing the rover’s total odometry for the mission to 14.07 miles (22.65 kilometers).

The base image from the map is from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera (HiRISE) in NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2800, June 22, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Curiosity Left B Navigation Camera image acquired on Sol 2800, June 22, 2020.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Chang’e-4 landing site

The substance found on the farside of the Moon by China’s lunar rover Yutu-2 might be breccia, experts at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center have stated according to China Central Television (CCTV).

China’s champion – long duration Yutu-2 rover.
Credit: CNSA/CLEP

During the eighth lunar day of exploration, the Yutu-2 rover found colloidal substance in a pit on the Moon’s surface, and after further research, experts believe that it might be breccia formed by impact.

Sawn surface of fragmental lunar breccia 14306 illustrating the nature of lunar brcccias. This is a sample of the Fra Mauro Formation and is typical of ejecta from large basins. Credit: NASA photo no. 72-22103

Smashing, melting and mixing

Lunar breccias are rocks produced by the smashing, melting, and mixing of the lunar surface materials by large and small meteoric impacts. Most of the breccias returned by the Apollo missions were formed in the ancient lunar highlands about 3,900 to 4,000 million years ago.

Up to now, Yutu-2 rover has worked on the Moon’s farside for 18 lunar days.

China’s Chang’e-4 probe and Yutu-2 rover resumed work on June 15, and entered their 19th lunar day of exploration.

SETI searches have the potential to detect whether the neighboring M31 Andromeda Galaxy is a locale of advanced technology and civilizations.
Credit: Bill Schoening, Vanessa Harvey/REU program/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Detecting other starfolk out there isn’t easy. But new research is focused on far out reflecting solar panels, and evidence of extraterrestrial industrial activity – measurements to produce the first entries for an online technosignatures library.

The first Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)-specific NASA grant in over three decades has been awarded to Harvard & Smithsonian and the University of Rochester – a project to search the universe for signs of life via technosignatures.

The study, “Characterizing Atmospheric Technosignatures,” will initially focus on searching for two particular signatures that may indicate the presence of technological activities on extrasolar planetary bodies: solar panels and pollutants!

Credit: Center for Astrophysics/Harvard & Smithsonian

Solar power signature

“If a civilization wants to illuminate or warm up the night side, they would place photovoltaic cells on the day side and transfer the electric power gained to the night side,” said Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, and the primary recipient of the grant.

Frank feels that now we know where to look. There are thousands of exoplanets including planets in the habitable zone where life can form. “The game has changed,” he believes.

Frank adds in a press statement: “Our job is to say, ‘this wavelength band’ is where you would see sunlight reflected off solar panels. This way astronomers observing a distant exoplanet will know where and what to look for if they’re searching for technosignatures.”

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Industrial activity

“My hope is that, using this grant, we will quantify new ways to probe signs of alien technological civilizations that are similar to or much more advanced than our own,” says Avi Loeb, Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard.

The other signature tactic is to survey planetary atmospheres that might show detectable signs of artificially produced molecules that nature is very unlikely to produce spontaneously, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). The presence of CFCs—or refrigerant—therefore, could indicate the presence of industrial activity.

Technosignatures library

Loeb, Frank, and Jason Wright of Penn State University are joined by Mansavi Lingam of the Florida Institute of Technology, and Jacob Haqq-Misra of Blue Marble Space.

The study aims to eventually produce the first entries for an online technosignatures library.

For more information, go to:

https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2020-12


Webinar:

Mars Exploration: Blueprint for the Red Planet

Wednesday, June 24 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern

Author and award-winning space journalist Leonard David and SpaceNews Editor-in-Chief Brian Berger will be joined by the director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program and the project scientist for the soon-to-launch Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission to discuss the status of the mission, next steps in robotic exploration, and how it leads to sending humans to Mars.

Guests

Jim Watzin
Director – Mars Exploration Program
NASA Headquarters

Ken Farley
Project Scientist, Mars 2020 Perseverance rover
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Richard (Rick) Davis, Jr.,
Assistant Director for Science and Exploration
NASA Headquarters

Advanced registration required.
Go to:
https://spacenews.com/webinar-mars-exploration-blueprint-for-the-red-planet/