Space

Kapteyn's Star, named after Dutch astronomer Jacobus Kapteyn, who discovered it at the end of the 19th century, is the second fastest-moving star in the sky and belongs to the Galactic halo, an extended group of stars orbiting our Galaxy on very elliptical orbits. 

With a third of the mass of the Sun, this red-dwarf can be seen with an amateur telescope in the southern constellation of Pictor. 

An international team of astronomers reports the discovery of two new planets orbiting Kapteyn's Star. One of these planets orbits the star at the right distance to allow liquid water to exist on its surface, a key ingredient to support life. 


In our solar system, there are two basic kinds of planets- smaller, rocky terrestrials like Earth and Mars and then large gas giants like Neptune and Jupiter.

Though a middle ground between those two is missing locally, NASA's Kepler mission has discovered that these types of planets are very common around other stars. The aliens worlds of other systems - exoplanets - include terrestrials and gas giants, like we have, but also mid-sized "gas dwarfs" - based on how their host stars tend to fall into three distinct groups defined by their compositions.


Kim Stanley Robinson in his famous Trilogy Red, Green and Blue Mars describes a science fiction future with Mars changing colour to green and then to blue. But what also about snowball white after a failed terraforming attempt? Or, what about purple, or black (or darker in colour)? Perhaps you can think of other colours it could turn as well?

I thought this would be a great way to explore some of the complexities of planetary transformation, to imagine the possible future colours of Mars - depending on human actions, deliberate or accidental.

You can't seeit from here, but the moon is lopsided; that's because of its gravitational tug-of-war with Earth.

The mutual pulling of the two bodies is powerful enough to stretch them both and they wind up shaped a little like two eggs with their ends pointing toward one another. On Earth, the tension has an especially strong effect on the oceans, because water moves so freely. The moon is the driving force behind tides. 

For the first time, scientists can see the moon's lopsided shape and how it changes under Earth's sway – a response not seen from orbit before. Because orbiting spacecraft gathered the data, the scientists were able to take the entire moon into account, not just the side that can be observed from Earth. 


The slopes of a giant Martian volcano nearly twice as tall as Mount Everest, called Arsia Mons, were once covered in glacial ice and they may have been home to one of the most recent habitable environments yet found on the Red Planet, according to new research.

Arsia Mons is the third tallest volcano on Mars and one of the largest mountains in the solar system. The new analysis of the landforms surrounding Arsia Mons shows that eruptions along the volcano's northwest flank happened at the same time that a glacier covered the region around 210 million years ago. The heat from those eruptions would have melted massive amounts of ice to form englacial lakes — bodies of water that form within glaciers like liquid bubbles in a half-frozen ice cube.


The structures and star populations of massive galaxies appear to change as they age, but much about how these galaxies formed and evolved remains mysterious. Many of the oldest and most massive galaxies reside in clusters, enormous structures where numerous galaxies are found concentrated together. Galaxy clusters in the early universe are thought to be key to understanding the lifecycles of old galaxies, but to date astronomers have located only a handful of these rare, distant structures.

New research from a team led by Carnegie's Andrew Newman has confirmed the presence of an unusually distant galaxy cluster, JKCS 041. It is published in the Astrophysical Journal


Following on from Crew Tether Spin - With Final Stage - On Routine Mission To ISS - First Human Test Of Artificial Gravity?, I've got some great videos to share now, showing the Soyuz and final stage spinning to create artificial gravity, over the turning Earth, against the stars. So, let's take a look at the highlights of the mission in video, ready for the Space Show webinar on artificial gravity.

First, launch sequence, if you haven't seen it yet

SETI scientist Gerry Harp writes of a "secret" experiment involving Kepler 186-f.   The senior scientist look only for a tuning fork like signal.  The least likely signal ET would send. Real signs of ET intelligence will be, and if I am correct are in fact, much fainter and on a broad band like channel.  A serious scientific search should not attempt to rely only on radio data, or look only for a strictly monochromatic, one frequency, radio signal.
You may remember, a while back I talked about Joe Carroll's ingenious idea to do our first ever true experiment in a gravity tether during a routine Soyuz crew transfer to the ISS, His idea is to use the third stage -which goes into orbit anyway, as the counterweight. Remarkably, the whole thing, even including the spin up to create artificial gravity, uses almost no extra fuel over a normal mission to the ISS. This could help with numerous health issues of zero g. 

Images of Saturn's auroras as the planet's magnetic field is battered by charged particles from the Sun have led a team to claim decisive evidence for the hypothesis that Saturn's auroral displays are often caused by the dramatic collapse of its "magnetic tail".

Just like comets, planets such as Saturn and the Earth have a "tail" – known as the magnetotail – that is made up of electrified gas from the Sun and flows out in the planet's wake.

When a particularly strong burst of particles from the Sun hits Saturn, it can cause the magnetotail to collapse, with the ensuing disturbance of the planet's magnetic field resulting in spectacular auroral displays. A very similar process happens here on Earth.