As a Canadian science and space journalist, I’m excited to be bringing you a biweekly synopsis of the top astronomy and space stories.
In the news recently: a Canadian robot installed a commercial space facility, NASA picked a new mission to watch solar storms, and astronomers found galactic jets propelling gas clouds at high speed.
Canadian space advisor joins coronavirus initiative
Dr. Sarah Gallagher, a Western University astronomer and Canadian Space Agency science advisor, has joined the CanCOVID initiative.
The initiative, led by Canada’s chief science officer, promises to “expedite communication and collaboration between the scientific, healthcare and policy communities during the COVID-19 crisis,” according to the CanCOVID website.
The platform aims to promote collaboration, co-ordination and communication between researchers and other key stakeholders, especially in government and health care. Those people who are working on coronavirus research can request access to the initiative’s Slack channel at this link.
The wheels on the Mars rover
NASA’s Perseverance rover (formerly Mars 2020) is still aiming for a summer launch, and has more parts on board now. The rover saw its wheels and parachute added during final assembly and testing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Perseverance is expected to land on Mars in 2021 and start a search for habitable environments. Under advice from a team of scientists, including Canada’s Chris Herd, the rover will cache the most promising samples for a possible sample return mission in a few years.
Canadian space robot installs European commercial laboratory
One of Canada’s robots on the International Space Station, Dextre, installed a new European commercial facility called Bartolomeo on the orbiting complex.
The facility, built and operated by Airbus, aims to provide high-speed data transfer for companies wishing to use space facilities and send the information back to Earth.
The ISS consortium is moving more aggressively into long-term astronaut missions (with stays of approximately a year long, instead of six months) and bumping up commercial opportunities to prepare the coalition for future missions to the moon, where NASA and other partners want to establish a commercial framework.
Source: European Space Agency
New NASA mission to watch solar storms
NASA plans to launch six CubeSats, no earlier than 2023, to learn more about how the Sun generates huge particle storms.
The agency chose the Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment (SunRISE) after evaluating a proposal under NASA’s Mission of Opportunity contract framework, to better understand how the sun influences the Earth. The CubeSat network will work as a giant radio telescope to better understand the Sun’s activity and protect astronauts and space equipment from potentially harmful radiation.
Jetting at high speed
Astronomers snagged the first image of a galaxy’s gas clouds of an object about 11 billion light years away.
It took the powerful capabilities of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array to locate the source of a disturbance to the clouds — jets from a supermassive black hole in the middle of the galaxy. The clouds alongside the jets have a motion as high as 600 kilometres per second, indicating quite the change to their trajectory.
Elizabeth Howell (Ph.D.) is a Canadian space journalist who has been obsessed with the topic ever since she, as a young teenager, saw the movie Apollo 13 in 1996. She grew up wanting to be an astronaut. While that hasn’t happened (yet), Elizabeth has seen five human spaceflight launches — including two from Kazakhstan — and she participated in a simulated Red Planet mission at the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.