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The new telescopes are about to transform the hunt for alien life and our understanding of the universe

From strategic points, on Earth and in space, the next telescopes will depend on next-generation technologies in their attempts to answer some of the most important questions of scientists about dark matter, the expansion of the universe and extraterrestrial life.

Some will provide 100 times more information than today’s most powerful tools for observing the heavens.

The first of these telescopes, the highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope from NASA , will be released in 2021, and then start scanning the atmospheres of distant worlds for clues about extraterrestrial life. Already in 2022, other new telescopes in space will take unprecedented observations of the heavens, while observatories on Earth look back to the ancient universe.

This is what is in process and what these new tools could reveal.

Since its launch in 1990, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered new planets, revealed strange galaxies and provided new insights into the nature of black holes.

It also found that the universe is expanding faster than scientists imagined.

However, many questions remain to be answered. How has the universe evolved over time? Why can’t we see 95% of it? If there are aliens, where are they?

The next generation of telescopes – in space and on land – will try to fill these gaps in our knowledge.

First, NASA is building the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to observe the history of the universe.

It will study how the first stars and galaxies formed, how planets are born and where there could be life in the universe.

The next telescope is fully assembled and now faces a long testing process at the Northrop Grumman facility in California before its launch on March 30, 2021.

A 21-foot-wide beryllium mirror will help the James Webb telescope observe distant galaxies in detail and capture extremely weak signals within our own galaxy.

The farther you look into space, the more the telescope will look back in time, so it could even detect the first flashes of the Big Bang.

JWST will also observe in detail young and distant galaxies that we have never seen before.

Thanks to the new infrared technology, the telescope was able to provide an unprecedented view of the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way.

These images could help answer questions about how the galaxy formed and its black hole.

“Do the black hole comes first and stars form around it? Do the stars come together and collide to form the black hole? These are questions we want to answer, ”said Jay Anderson, a JWST scientist, in an October press release.

JWST will also look for signs of alien life in the atmospheres of exoplanets (the term for planets outside our solar system) – but only those larger than Earth.

By measuring the intensity of the light from the stars that crosses the atmosphere of a planet, the telescope could calculate the composition of that atmosphere.

Scientists have already identified more than 4,000 exoplanets.

But so far, they have not been able to study most of the atmospheres of these planets to look for signs of life, also known as “biosignatures.”

If an exoplanet’s atmosphere contains methane and carbon dioxide, for example, those are clues that there could be life there. JWST will look for signals like that.

Earth’s atmosphere has a lot of oxygen because life has been producing it for billions of years. Oxygen is not stable enough to last a long time on its own, so it must be constantly produced to make it so abundant.

The combination of carbon dioxide and methane (as in Earth’s atmosphere) is even more revealing, especially if there is no carbon monoxide.

This is because carbon dioxide and methane would normally react with each other to produce new compounds. So if they exist separately, something is likely to produce them constantly. That something could be a volcano, but as far as we know, only one way of life could release that amount of methane without also shedding carbon monoxide.

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Space

Elon Musk: ‘I will take a million people to Mars by 2050’

Elon musk, the tycoon and businessman, has surprised once again by tweeting that he will take a million people to Mars by 2050.

In several tweets released on Thursday night, the CEO of Spacex, the company that develops cutting-edge rockets, disclosed more details of its plan to colonize Mars.

As previously indicated, Musk said that in theory, 1,000 spaceships could possibly carry 100,000 people in each orbital synchronization of Earth with Mars.

Elon Musk: «I will take a million people to Mars by 2050»
Artistic representation of a city on Mars. Credit: Max Horbatiuk / artstation.com

According to Musk, the ships would depart from Earth following an orbit in a period of 30 days, taking advantage of the moment when the Earth and Mars are better aligned to make the trip, that is every 26 months.

Musk imagines that these ships will depart from Earth’s orbit for a period of 30 days, the time window when Earth and Mars are better aligned to make the trip, every 26 months.

One million people to Mars

One of the users of Twitter asked Musk, if he thinks he could take a million people to Mars, taking into account the equivalence of years and possible trips; Musk simply answered with a “yes”.

Musk said he will need his rockets to have a large load capacity to meet the goal of building a colony on Mars or on another planet.

Calculations indicate that each ship could support more than 100 tons per flight, resulting in the need that each ship might need one megaton per year in orbit, Musk indicated.

But overcoming the difficult and long journey, and once humans reach the red planet, Musk says that the work will begin.

Musk tweeted:

There will be many jobs to do. ”

Although for now, everything is based on theories and calculations, the engineers of Spacex They must work hard in these missing decades to achieve Elon Musk’s dream goal: colonize Mars.

Source: cnet


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‘A world with two stars’: a teenager discovers an unusual planet while doing internships at NASA

A 17-year-old teenager from New York (USA) discovered a planet while searching for stars as an intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the space agency reported this week.

Wolf Cukier, a junior in high school, had received the task of examining variations in the brightness of the stars captured by the Traffic Exoplanet Inspection Satellite (TESS). While exploring a star system located 1,300 light years from Earth, he observed what appeared to be a slight spot on one of the suns of the system called TOI 1338.

“At first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet, ”said Cukier.

“The planet blocked the light of those two stars, which caused a small decrease in the amount of light that reached the telescope. That was what I noticed at the beginning, ”he explained later to CBS.

Difficult to detect

Once he communicated the discovery to his mentors, they spent several weeks verifying his observation. They finally concluded that what he had discovered was a planet 6.9 times larger than ours that orbits around two stars, in what is known as a circumbinary planet.

Because these binary stars orbit each other every 15 days, it was not an easy task to distinguish the transit events from the only known planet in such a system, dubbed TOI 1338-b. Planets that orbit two stars are harder to detect than those that orbit only one.

In this case, the largest star is approximately 10% larger than our Sun, while the smallest, approximately one third of that mass, is colder and dimmer.

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Mars is losing its water much faster than previously thought

It turns out that Mars is losing its water much faster than previously thought. It is not clear if there will be any water left when the eventual human colonization of the Red Planet is undertaken.

On January 13, 2020, NASA proudly announced that it had finally selected 13 men and women, some of whom would fly to the moon and / or Mars, as part of the Artemis Program in the 2030s.

Meanwhile, an article has been published in the Science journal that the Martian colonists will have serious problems, combined with deadly space radiation and unresolved difficulties in maintaining the life of the station.

The survival ob the Red Planet is also related to water. In most cases, Mars water is in the form of ice and is not deep below the surface, but is mostly preserved in the form of ice caps at the poles. However, even there, it constantly evaporates and goes into space.

Scientists have known about this evaporation before, but it has recently turned out to be much faster than expected.

Martian Polar Cap

According to most projects, Martian colonists have to extract water from these ice caps, but when it comes time for them to be on Mars, there may no longer be any water on the planet. What will happen to the colonists? They will not be able to live long without water even if they process their urine.

Researchers led by Frank Montmesin, a scientist at the French University of Paris-Sackle, understand this threat by examining data from the Martian atmosphere over the past two years. This data is obtained from the Trace Gas Orbiter apparatus flying in orbit on the Red Planet.

It turns out that the upper atmosphere of Mars contains much more water vapor than the planet’s surface, about 10-100 times more than expected. The difference in values ​​depends on the position of the planet. Particularly rapid evaporation occurs during the Martian perihelion, when the planet is closest to the Sun.

Mars has low gravity, so it is not surprising that residual water quickly evaporates from its surface. At the same time, when getting into the upper atmosphere, under the influence of solar ultraviolet radiation, water vapor decomposes into oxygen and hydrogen atoms, which allows it to leave the Martian atmosphere even faster.

For how long Mars will have water under these conditions is still unknown. Now, however, future colonists will have to consider this Martian anomaly as well.

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