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Submission + - ESA wants to take out the trash. The space trash.

The Bad Astronomer writes: The European Space Agency is considering a test mission that will use new technology to help clean up the ever-increasing problem of space debris. The spacecraft, called e.Deorbit, will identify, approach, grapple with, and then dispose of errant space junk by deorbiting it, letting it burn up in Earth's atmosphere. Testing could begin as soon as 2023.

Submission + - Jupiter takes another one for the team: Video of comet/asteroid impact

The Bad Astronomer writes: Two amateur astronomers 2000 km apart confirm that on March 17, 2016, a comet or asteroid impacted Jupiter. The flash of light lasted for about one second, and marked the demise of a chunk of interplanetary debris likely a few tens of meters across. This is the sixth confirmed time such an impact on Jupiter has been seen (counting the fragmented comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 as one event).

Submission + - Astronomers find half the missing mass of the Universe

The Bad Astronomer writes: Astronomers made a cosmic twofer. Fast Radio Bursts are mysterious, rapid blasts of radio energy seen randomly on the sky. A quick response allowed astronomers to determine the location and distance to one seen in 2015: An elliptical galaxy six billion light years away, meaning these are huge explosions possibly related to gamma-ray bursts. The observations also revealed material between Earth and this galaxy, identifying half the "missing" baryons predicted by standard models of cosmology.

Submission + - Small asteroid burns up over Atlantic Ocean

The Bad Astronomer writes: On Feb. 6, an asteroid roughly 6 meters across burned up over the Atlantic Ocean, exploding like a 10 kiloton bomb. Although this was the largest event since the Chelyabinsk superbolide in 2013 (which injured 1000+ people), there were no witnesses. It happened 1000 km off the coast of Brazil, and was reported by the military, though it's unclear how they detected it.

Submission + - Earth Gets Another Quasi-Moon 1

The Bad Astronomer writes: Astronomers have found a new asteroid, 2014 OL339, that is a quasi-moon of the Earth. Discovered accidentally earlier this year, the 150-meter asteroid has an orbit that is more elliptical than Earth's, but has a period of almost exactly one year. It isn't bound to Earth like a real moon, but displays apparent motion as if it did, making it one of several known quasi-moons.

Submission + - New Mars crater spotted in before-and-after pictures

The Bad Astronomer writes: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted a new crater on the surface of Mars, and, using before-and-after pictures, the impact date has been nailed down to less than a day — it happened on or about March 27, 2012. The crater is 50 meters or so in size, and surrounded by smaller craters that may have been caused by smaller impacts due to the incoming meteoroid breaking up. Several landslides were spotted in the area as well, possibly due to the shock wave of the impact.

Submission + - Astronomers determine the length of day of an exoplanet

The Bad Astronomer writes: Astronomers have just announced that the exoplanet Beta Pic b — a 10-Jupiter-mass world 60 light years away -— rotates in about 8 hours. Using a high-resolution spectrometer and exploiting the Doppler shift of light seen as the planet spins, they measured its rotation velocity as 28,000 mph. Making reasonable assumptions about the planet's size, that gives the length of its day. This is the first time such a measurement has been achieved for an exoplanet.

Submission + - Astronomer discovers nearby brown dwarf literally as cold as ice

The Bad Astronomer writes: Using data from the orbiting WISE and Spitzer infrared space telescopes, an astronomer has discovered a brown dwarf that is just 7.2 light years away, making it the seventh closest known interstellar object to the Sun. Not only that, it's cold ; its temperature is likely 240-260 Kelvin, well below the freezing point of water. It's literally as cold as ice.

Submission + - Earth-sized planet discovered in its star's habitable zone

The Bad Astronomer writes: Astronomers have announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a very nearly Earth-sized planet in its star's habitable zone. The planet is the fifth in a system of five orbiting a red dwarf star 500 light years away, and is located in the region where liquid water could exist on its surface. It's not know if this planet is Earth-like — that is, with water and air and the potential for life — but it's the closest we've yet seen where one could be like our own planet.

Submission + - Object seen in skydiver's helmetcam unlikely to be a meteorite 3

The Bad Astronomer writes: The viral video showing what looked like a meteorite falling past a skydiver made quite a splash, with many people assuming it was true. However, further analysis shows that it's also perfectly consistent with being a small (1-3 cm) rock that fell out of the parachute itself, which is a far more likely explanation.

Submission + - New supernova seen in nearby galaxy M82

The Bad Astronomer writes: A new and potentially bright supernova was just discovered in the nearby galaxy M82. This is a Type Ia supernova, the catastrophic explosion of a white dwarf. It appears to be on the rise, and may have been caught as much as two weeks before peak brightness. It's currently already brighter than magnitude 12, and may get to mag 8, easy to see in small telescopes. The galaxy is less than 12 million light years away, so this may become one of the best-studied supernovae in recent times. Type Ia supernovae are used to measure dark energy, so seeing one nearby is a huge boon to astronomy.

Submission + - Exoplanet camera now online

The Bad Astronomer writes: The Gemini Planet Imager is a camera that is designed to take direct photos of exoplanets, alien worlds orbiting other stars. In a test run last November it spotted the exoplanet Beta Pictoris b, a dusty ring around a nearby star, and even snapped a portrait of Jupiter's moon Europa. Up to now, only about a dozen exoplanets have been directly imaged; GPI is expected to find dozens more in the next few years.

Submission + - How astronauts took the most important photo in space history

The Bad Astronomer writes: On December 24, 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts saw the Earth rising over the limb of the Moon. The photo they took of this moment — dubbed Earthrise —has become an icon of our need to explore, and to protect our home world. NASA has just released a video explaining how the astronauts were able to capture this unique moment, which included a dash of both coincidence and fast teamwork.

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