Weekly News Roundup: March 24th, 2018

The following stories are a small collection of the news from the last week. This is not an exhaustive list, but represents some of the highlights.


Hungry Astronomy

Radio Echoes of a Black Hole Feasting on a Doomed Star

Published March 19th, 2018


Image Credit: NASA/Honeywell Maw-Q Digital Group/Dana Berry

Black holes are hungry things. Nothing escapes once it is pulled in, even light. Hence their name. Scientists have been observing one black hole in particular as it consumes a nearby star. What they have noticed is a relation between the X-rays of consumed material and high-energy particles thrown into space. It seems that the more material a black hole “eats,” the more particles it shoots out. There must be a connection, and the current thinking is that it has to do with how fast the black hole is consuming matter. Perhaps these are black hole…burps?


Goodbye to Yerkes

Yerkes Observatory is Closing its Doors

Published March 20th, 2018


Image Credit: Internet Archive Book Images

All good things come to an end, and unfortunately time is almost up for Yerkes Observatory. As of October 1st, the University of Chicago will cease operations at the facility. The facility opened in 1897, and at the time it was the pinnacle of telescope engineering. But as more powerful telescopes have come online, it has been falling more and more into obsolescence. Once its doors close, it isn’t entirely clear what will happen to the observatory. Here’s hoping someone else steps in and maintains the facility for the education and history it can provide for future generations.




An Orbit of Trash

Space Junk Could Be This Company’s Treasure

Published March 21st, 2018


When we think of space, most of the time we think about the empty and almost unknowable vastness of it. And while it is true that most of space has very little matter hanging around,

Image Credit: NASA

the space above the Earth is getting crowded. Satellites, pieces of spacecraft, and even stray nuts and bolts orbit our planet: millions upon millions of them. If that wasn’t bad enough, they are traveling at speeds of up to ~18,000 miles per hour (for reference, a bullet travels at about 1,700 mph). This poses an obvious problem if your spacecraft has a thin hull. A single hit is more than enough to disintegrate most satellites and other ships. That’s why companies like Astroscale are coming into existence. They are planning to tackle the problem of space junk, and are already testing methods to do so.



Digging into Mars

InSight Lander: Probing the Martian Interior

Published March 22nd, 2018


Scientists studying Mars are constantly searching for new ways to learn about the Red Planet. We have mapped it from orbit, rolled around and taken samples of rock, and generally searched a small part of the surface.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

One of the things we haven’t done very much is sit around and study the large scale geology of Mars. That’s what InSight is going to do. It is designed to run several experiments meant to determine whether the Red Planet has a liquid metal core, the thickness and structure of its crust and mantle, and how warm the core actually is. Maybe we will be able to learn just a little more about our planetary sibling.