Bi-Weekly Roundup: March 24, 2017

This is our weekly roundup from March 24, 2017. Over the past two weeks, there were many stories published in national new sites about astronomy-related events. In case you missed them, here are some of our highlights:

Featured Story: Cassini, Saturn, & Pan

“Pan” (Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech, via Space Science Institute)

“Pan, Moon of Saturn, Looks Like a Cosmic Ravioli (or Maybe a Walnut)” by Kenneth Chang with NY Times

Published on 3/10/17

            NASA’s Cassini spacecraft took photographs of “Pan” on a fly-by and sent back stunning photos of Saturn’s moon. The pictures are extremely detailed and scientists are excited to be able to see evidence of ridges and curves on the moon’s surface; it supports theories that there was once water on its surface. Discovered in 1990, Pan is roughly the size of New York City and is one of Saturn’s many moons. Cassini has been orbiting Saturn since 2004 and will be completing more moon fly-bys until it will ultimately be sent to dive into Saturn in the upcoming months.

NASA Study: Biofuels & Pollution

“NASA Study Confirms Biofuels Reduce Jet Engine Pollution” published by NASA

Published on 3/15/17

            In a recent study conducted with NASA’s aeronautics research, biofuels have been found to be helpful in reducing the particle emissions from jet engine exhaust. The study was conducted by a cooperative international research program, including Germany and Canada. The reduction could be from 50 to 70 percent, and NASA is applying this information to get engine contrails. Contrails evolve into cirrus clouds and have the most impact on Earth’s atmosphere “than all the aviation-related carbon dioxide emissions since the first powered flight by the Wright brothers.” Researchers will continue to study biofuels as a possible alternative and/or potential benefit to current fuels in aircrafts.

SpaceX Capsule “Dragon” Safely Returns from ISS

“SpaceX capsule returns space station science to Earth” by the Associated Press on

Published on 3/19/17

            The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship landed in the Pacific on Sunday, near the southern California coast. The capsule was fully loaded with space station science samples to be further studied on Earth’s surface. The Dragon capsule launched from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, over a month ago from the same launch pads used in Apollo lunar missions.

President Trump Signs NASA Bill

“Trump signs NASA bill aimed at sending people to Mars” by Sarah Kaplan with the Washington Post

Published on 3/21/17

            On March 21, President Trump signed a bill officially authorizing $19.5 billion of NASA funding for 2017. In the bill, astronauts will receive health care for life and the National Space Council will be relaunched, which is program that connects NASA to the White House that was decommissioned during Obama’s presidency. The Asteroid Redirect Mission that was meant to send humans to the moon again has officially died – President Trump wants astronauts to go directly to Mars. And lastly, NASA could soon begin to charter commercial flights to the ISS. Have you ever wanted to go to space?

Gravitational Waves & Black Holes

“Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core” by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center on

Published on 3/23/17

            Astronomers have discovered a supermassive black hole that has been pushed out of the center of a distant galaxy. This black hole is not the first to have been suspected to be “propelled” out, although none have been confirmed. The discovery was made by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, which has helped locate other astronomical objects light-years away, and supports Albert Einstein’s theories on gravitational waves. The propulsion of the black holes could help prove the “power” of gravitational waves and that supermassive black holes can merge together.