Bi-Weekly Roundup: April 7, 2017

This is our weekly roundup for April 7, 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: University of Arizona GUSTO Mission to be Funded by NASA

“NASA Selects Mission to Study Churning Chaos in Milky Way and Beyond” by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at California Institute of Technology

Published on 3/27/17

NASA has elected to fund the science mission GUSTO, Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory based at the University of Arizona. This mission will “measure emissions from the interstellar medium, which is the cosmic material found between stars.” The data collected will help scientists determine the life cycle of this interstellar gas, such as the formation and destruction of star-forming clouds and how the gas moves in space. It is planned to launch from Antarctica in 2021 and will stay in the atmosphere for 100 to 170 days. In total, from start to finish, this mission is expected to cost around $40 million.

Astronauts Living on a Volcano

“Life on Mars: Get to Know the Crew” by Nick Capezzera and Niko Koppel with NY Times

Published on 4/5/17

This article is a unique story by the New York Times because it is not necessarily a story: it is a 360 degree video of astronauts-in-training. There are six astronauts living in isolation in Hawaii near a volcano, to simulate what life could be life living on Mars. The astronauts are scheduled to live on the island for eight months and in the video, viewers are brought close-up and personal with the astronauts and how they live their lives.

Radiation Device Protecting Astronauts

“NASA’s new spectrometer to help future crews cope with cosmic radiation” by NASA on

Published on 4/5/17

One of the main health concerns with astronauts working and living in space is the high levels of radiation that they are exposed to long-term. NASA scientists have created a new device “to monitor radiation exposure to neutrons and are testing it on the International Space Station.” The device, named the Fast Neutron Spectrometer, is programmed to “detect and measure” the specific energy of neutrons that are known to be harmful to humans. The goal of the device is to protect humans in space and to allow scientists to be able to better plan for future long-term space missions with high radiation levels.

Asteroids in Arizona

“A car-size asteroid just whipped by Earth” by Sarah Lewin with

Published on 4/6/17

On April 4, 2017, a 12-foot-wide asteroid was caught on camera by scientists at the Mount Lemmon Survey in Arizona, as well as by researchers with the Virtual Telescope Project and Tengara Observatories in Arizona. The asteroid, called 2017 GM, approached within 10,100 of Earth at 11.5 miles per second.  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory stated that the asteroid “likely last passed by Earth in March 1961” but way much farther away during that pass-by.

Jupiter and its Giant Red Spot

NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (NASA Goddard)

“NASA’s Hubble takes close-up portrait of Jupiter” by NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center

Published on 4/6/17

On April 3, 2017, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope viewed Jupiter on its nearest approach to Earth since last year. The giant gas planet was 415 million miles away from Earth and, to the naked eye, was brighter in the sky that night than any other time of the year. This close distance allowed Hubble to photograph the “immense and powerful” storms that ravage Jupiter’s atmosphere. It also provided a clear shot to the “Giant Red Spot,” a giant anticyclone, that NASA states has slowly been shrinking since the 1800’s.

Super-Earth Atmospheres

“Atmosphere around super-Earth detected” by Max Planck Society with

Published on 4/6/17

Astronomers have detected an atmosphere around a low-mass super-Earth, called GJ 1132b. The 2.2-m ESO/MPG telescope in Chile was used to take images of the planet’s host star, GJ 1132, and was analyzed and discovered by the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy. This is the first time an atmosphere has been detected around a low-mass super-Earth. In comparison, the GJ 1132b exoplanet is 1.6 Earth masses and 1.4 Earth radii, and our Earth is at a mass and radii of 1. This discovery is a significant next step on the journey to detect life on an exoplanet.