Hubble Captures Supernova in NGC 2525
Galaxy NGC 2525, nearly 70 million light-years from Earth, is part of the constellation Puppis in the southern hemisphere. On the left is the supernova, formally known as SN2018gv and first spotted in mid-January 2018. (ESA/Hubble Space Telescope)

Sky News This Week: October 7, 2020

In the news this week: a new toilet flew to the International Space Station, a Martian moon rover was tested in a German laboratory, and the Hubble Space Telescope caught the light of a fading supernova explosion.

New toilet flies to space station

A Cygnus cargo spacecraft docked with the International Space Station on October 5 carrying a new toilet. The toilet will be compact and will automate waste management and storage, allowing for more crew members to stay on the space station at one time. The toilet comes to space around the same time that NASA commercial crew missions are starting to ramp up, potentially bringing larger crews to the ISS on a regular basis.

Source: NASA

Lakes on Saturn moon stratify, just like Earth

Layers of liquid methane, ethane and nitrogen can stratify in lakes on Titan, a moon of Saturn. On Earth, stratification usually happens becuase of temperature. But on Titan, the stratification happens as the layers interact with atmospheric nitrogen. Different surface liquids dissolve different amounts of the atmosphere, leading to the layering. It is an interesting finding for a moon that is often hailed by scientists as showing precursor chemistry to that which is needed for life.

Source: Planetary Science Institute

Martian moon rover design tested in the lab

A model of the German-French Martian Moons eXploration rover was tested on simulated terrain that is supposed to represent the moon Phobos, where MMX will land after its launch in 2024. The rover could hit the surface at an angle, and engineers wanted to make sure no matter how it lands, it can right itself safely. The rover includes a honeycomb structure to absorb the initial shock of landing, while mechanisms on the rover will allow it to right itself in different orientation. Early tests of the rover design in Bremen, Germany went well. MMX is managed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, while the rover is a collaboration between the German space agency (DLR) and the French space agency (CNES).

Source: DLR

Exoplanet’s mass and brightness measurements reveal a mystery

Astronomers uncovered a challenge after imaging the first exoplanet that previously was only detected from the spectrum of its star. The planet, called beta Pictoris c, has a similar mass to a sister planet called beta Pictoris b. But beta Pictoris c’s brightness is six times lower. This may point to different formation histories for the two planets, which is not what astronomers expected.

Source: Max Planck Institute for Astronomy

Hubble captures supernova explosion time lapse

The Hubble Space Telescope watched a supernova fade away in a spiral galaxy roughly 70 million light years from Earth, capturing a time lapse of its diminishing light. The supernova, called SN2018gv, was first found in January 2018. It is part of a type of supernova explosions that are used to catalogue cosmic distances because the supernova type always explodes with the same brightness, allowing astronomers to use the explosion as a “standard candle” for distance. Understanding the path of the explosions could therefore make cosmic measurements more precise.

Source: Hubble Space Telescope (European Space Agency)

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.