The Lunar Crater Radio Telescope would allow astronomers to study the cosmic dark ages for the first time.

An artist’s concept of the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT). Image credit: Vladimir Vustyansky

Following the Big Bang, our budding Universe slowly cooled, and the first atoms took shape. Gravity gradually pulled on clumps of hydrogen and helium gas, forming the earliest stars. This era, lasting a few hundred million years prior to the large-scale formation of stars, is called the cosmic dark ages.

The Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT), an ambitious concept to place a massive radio telescope on the far side of the Moon, would study the Universe during this ancient era in detail…


A yellow supernova shows what a hydrogen-poor supernova can do.

A mysterious, unseen star may be behind an intergalactic mystery! Image credit: KAVLI IPMU/Aya Tsuboi

As they near the end of their lives, cool yellow stars are typically enshrouded in hydrogen, concealing their hotter, blue, interiors.

However, one yellow star found 35 million light years from Earth, 2019yvr, experienced a supernova explosion without such a layer of hydrogen.

“If a star explodes without hydrogen, it should be extremely blue — really, really hot. It’s almost impossible for a star to be this cool without having hydrogen in its outer layer. We looked at every single stellar model that could explain a star like this, and…


Having a “look” inside Saturn using computer modeling, astronomers uncover mysteries of the gas giant.

An artist’s concept of the Cassini spacecraft, readying for its final plunge into Saturn, valiantly pointing its antenna to Earth, carrying out science until its final moments. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Saturn, the second-largest planet in our solar system, presents a myriad of mysteries for astronomers seeking to understand this gas giant. An atmosphere several times deeper than the Earth is wide both provides opportunity for complex physics and chemistry, as well as forming a shroud keeping these processes frustratingly invisible to astronomers.

Simulations recently conducted at Johns Hopkins University suggest intriguing processes happening beneath the cloudy, outer layer of the Ringed Planet.

“By studying how Saturn formed and how it evolved over time, we can…


Why should we start living on Mars? It’s our best chance to save Earth — and humanity

Once we start living on Mars, we might make our first homes in Martian colonies like these, seen in an artist’s concept of a future NASA-designed homestead. Image credit: NASA

Exploring other worlds and moving humans onto the Moon and Mars may seem foolish in light of the significant challenges we face as a species. On the surface, it might seem superfluous to bring humans to the Moon and start living on Mars, while hunger, disease, and poverty affect billions of people worldwide.

This feeds a dangerous trend, however — an anti-scientific backlash against space exploration. …


Tianhe, the core of the Chinese space station, launched into orbit, breaking ground on the Middle Kingdom’s ambitious new home in space. Keep your eyes up — the booster is going to crash.

The launch of the Tianhe core module for the Chinese Space Station used a Long March 5 rocket, like the one shown here lifting the Tianwen-1 spacecraft to Mars. Image credit: CNSA

On April 28, on China’s southern province island Hainan, massive engines ignited beneath a Long March 5B rocket, lifting Tianhe (Heavenly Harmony) into orbit. This core module successfully reached orbit eight minutes later, readying to become the central node for the Chinese Space Station.

During 10 additional missions over the next 18 months, The China National Space Agency (CNSA) will build upon this central core. Flights will…


The Interstellar probe will go further than any spacecraft before it — much further. Much, much further. And it could happen soon.

The Interstellar Probe could change our view of the Solar System. Literally. Image credit: JHUAPL

The edge of our solar system is home to just a handful of robotic explorers. Pioneer 10 and 11 were launched in the early 1970s, and the two Voyager craft followed in 1977. Now, New Horizons, the first spacecraft to visit the dwarf planet Pluto, is quickly headed outward into the void between the stars.

At these distances, it is convenient to measure distances in terms of astronomical units (AUs) the mean distance between the Earth and Sun…


Oxygen on Mars is one step closer to reality for future inhabitants of the Red Planet, thanks to MOXIE

The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) instrument being readied for installation into the Perseverance rover. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Oxygen on Mars is is essential for future space travelers, and a proof-of-concept experiment carried out aboard the Perseverance rover succeeded in producing a small amount of the essential gas for the first time.

The atmosphere of Mars contains about 96 percent carbon dioxide. This molecule can be converted into oxygen and carbon monoxide (a waste product) though chemical processes. However, this has never been done on another world — until now.

MOXIE — Without the Terrible Aftertaste

On April 20, The Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment…


The Chinese Space Station Telescope will provide the Middle Kingdom with a Hubble-class view of the heavens

An artist’s concept of the CSST. Image credit: CNSA

Commonly known as the Chinese Space Station Telescope (CSST), Xuntian (Heavenly Cruiser) is readying to become China’s first major telescope in space. Unlike previous space telescopes such as Hubble, this orbiting observatory, due for launch in 2024, will be orbiting alongside the Chinese large modular space station, able to dock with the outpost when needed.

One of the most-important characteristics of a telescope is its diameter — which limits how much light it can take in at a single time. The main mirror…


Could a missing supernova show us how neutrinos could affect supernova eruptions?

An artist’s concept of the Chandra X-ray telescope, providing data about energetic events around the Cosmos for over 20 years. Image credit: NASA/CXC/NGST

Cassiopeia A, one of the best-studied supernova remnants in the galaxy, may have revealed secrets of supernova eruptions. This magnificent collection of gas and dust sits roughly 11,000 light years from Earth. At radio frequencies above one gigahertz, Cassiopeia A is the brightest object in Earth’s sky.

NASA’s flagship X-ray telescope, Chandra, launched in 1999, remains in operation more than 20 years later. The very first target imaged by this craft was the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (often called Cas A). …


New Horizons, the only spacecraft to ever visit Pluto, has now reached a new landmark at the edge of our planetary system.

The New Horizons spacecraft at the edge of our planetary family reached a new landmark in its exploration of space. Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

In 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft became the first robotic explorer ever to visit the the dwarf planet Pluto, and its family of five moons.

On April 17, at 8:42 pm EDT, New Horizons became just the fifth spacecraft to travel more than 50 times further from the Sun than the Earth. In order to mark the occasion, mission controllers took a view around another robotic explorer in the void — Voyager 1.

At a distance of around…

James Maynard

Writing about space since I was 10, still not Carl Sagan. Weekly video show, podcast, comics, more: www.thecosmiccompanion.net

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