Weekly Space Hangout – Apr. 22, 2016: Mike Simmons highlights Global Astronomy Month

Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain) Special Guest: Mike Simmons, Founder and President of Astronomers without Borders (http://astronomerswithoutborders.org), will be joining us to discuss the 2016 Global Astronomy Month (GAM)! GAM is organized each April by Astronomers Without Borders and is the world’s largest global celebration of astronomy. Find out about the amazing GAM events going on […]

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China Plans Space Telescope That Will Dock With Their Space Station

Will China's new space telescope out-perform the Hubble? Image:

China has plans to build a new space telescope which should outperform Hubble. According to the Chinese English Language Daily, the new telescope will be similar to Hubble, but will have a field of view that is 300 times larger. The new telescope, which has not been named yet, will have the ability to dock with China’s modular space station, the Tiangong.

The China National Space Administration has come up with a solution to a problem that dogged the Hubble Telescope. Whenever the Hubble needed repairs or maintenance, a shuttle mission had to be planned so astronauts could service it. China will avoid this problem with its innovative solution. The Chinese telescope will keep its distance from the Tiangong, but if repairs or maintenance are needed, it can dock with Tiangong.

No date has been given for the launch of this new telescope, but its plans must be intertwined with plans for the modular Tiangong space station. Tiangong-1 was launched in 2011 and has served as a crewed laboratory and a technological test-bed. The Tiangong-2, which has room for a crew of 3 and life support for twenty days, is expected to be launched sometime in 2016. The Tiangong-3 will provide life support for 3 people for 40 days and will expand China’s capabilities in space. It’s not expected to launch until sometime in the 2020’s, so the space telescope will likely follow its launch.

The telescope, according to the People’s Daily Online, will take 10 years to capture images of 40% of space, with a precision equal to Hubble’s. China hopes this data will allow it to make breakthroughs in the understanding of the origin, development, and evolution of the universe.

This all sounds great, but there’s a shortage of facts. When other countries and space agencies announce projects like this, they give dates and timelines, and details about the types of cameras and sensors. They talk about exactly what it is they plan to study and what results they hope to achieve. It’s difficult to say what level of detail has gone into the planning for this space telescope. It’s also difficult to say how the ‘scope will dock with the space station.

It may be that China is nervous about spying and doesn’t want to reveal any technical detail. Or it may be that China likes announcing things that make it look technologically advanced. (China is in a space race with India, and likes to boast of its prowess.) In any case, they’ve been talking about a space telescope for many years now. But a little more information would be nice.

Come on China. Give us more info. We’re not spies. We promise.

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China to Relocate Thousands for World’s Largest Radio Telescope

China's new radio telescope, the world's largest, should be completed by September 2016. Image: FAST

China is building the world’s largest radio telescope, and will have to move almost 10,000 people from the vicinity to guarantee the telescope’s effectiveness. The telescope, called the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), will be completed in September, 2016. At 500 meters in diameter, it will surpass the workhorse Arecibo radio observatory in Puerto Rico, which is 305 meters in diameter.

China has routinely moved large amounts of people to make room for developments like the Three Gorges Dam. But in this case, the people are being moved so that FAST can have a five kilometre radio-quiet buffer around it.

According to China’s news agency Xinhua, an unnamed official said the people are being moved so that the facility can have a “sound electromagnetic wave environment.” Common devices and equipment like microwave ovens, garage door openers, and of course, mobile phones, all create radio waves that FAST will sense and which can interfere with the telescope’s operation.

The telescope’s high level of sensitivity “will help us to search for intelligent life outside of the galaxy,” according to Wu Xiangping, director-general of the Chinese Astronomical Society. But aside from searching for radio waves that could be from distant alien civilizations, like SETI does, the enormous dish will also to be used to study astronomical objects that emit radio signals, like galaxies, pulsars, quasars, and supernovae. The radio signals from these objects can tell us about their mass, and their distance from us. But the signals are very weak, so radio telescopes have to be huge to be effective.

Radio telescopes are also used to send out radio signals and bounce them off objects like asteroids and the other planets in our Solar System. These signals are detected by the telescope when they return to Earth, and used to create images.

Huge radio telescopes like FAST can only be built in certain places. They require a large, naturally dish-shaped area for construction. (Arecibo is built in a huge karst sinkhole in Puerto Rico.) Though FAST is in a fairly remote location, where there are no major cities or towns, there are still approximately 10,000 people who will have to be moved. Most of the people moved will be compensated to the tune of  $2500, with some receiving more than that.

The FAST facility is part of a concerted effort by China to be a dominant player in space study and exploration. The Chang e 3 mission to the Moon, with its unmanned lander and rover, showed China’s growing capabilities in space. China also plans to have its own space station, its own space weather station at LaGrange 1, and a mission to Mars by 2020, consisting of an orbiter and a rover.

Construction on FAST began in 2011, and will cost 1.2 billion yuan ($260 million) to build.

 

 

 

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China Shares Stunning New Moon Photos With the World

This image shows the Yutu rover leaving the lander area and making its way on the lunar surface. Image: Chinese Academy of Sciences/China National Space Administration/The Science and Application Centre for Moon and Deep Space Exploration/Emily Lakdawalla.

China has released hundreds of images of the Moon, taken by its Chang’e 3 lander and its companion rover, Yutu. It’s been 50 years since the first lunar photos were taken by astronauts on NASA’s Apollo 11 mission. China is the third nation to land on the Moon, with the USA and the USSR preceding them.

Even though the Yutu rover’s engine failed after a short time on the lunar surface, the mission’s camera systems have captured hundreds of images.

Thanks to the hard work of Emily Lakdawalla at The Planetary Society, who wrestled with a somewhat cumbersome Chinese website, and stitched some of these images together, we can get a first-hand look at what Chang’e 3 and Yutu were up to.

Here are some of our favourites.

 

Emily Lakdawalla talks more about the camera systems here, and talks about what other images might be coming soon.

Universe Today reported on the Chinese Moon mission here.

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Weekly Space Hangout – Jan. 8, 2016: Dr. Steve B. Howell from Kepler

Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain) Special Guest: Dr. Steve B. Howell, Project Scientist on Kepler to discuss the great new results coming form the K2 mission – the repurposed Kepler mission. Guests: Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg ) Alessondra Springmann (@sondy) Paul Sutter (pmsutter.com / @PaulMattSutter) Kimberly Cartier (@AstroKimCartier ) Dave Dickinson (@astroguyz / www.astroguyz.com) Their […]

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Weekly Space Hangout – Jan. 8, 2016: Dr. Steve B. Howell from Kepler

Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain) Special Guest: Dr. Steve B. Howell, Project Scientist on Kepler to discuss the great new results coming form the K2 mission – the repurposed Kepler mission. Guests: Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg ) Alessondra Springmann (@sondy) Paul Sutter (pmsutter.com / @PaulMattSutter) Kimberly Cartier (@AstroKimCartier ) Dave Dickinson (@astroguyz / www.astroguyz.com) Their […]

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Weekly Space Hangout – Oct 2, 2015: Water on Mars, Photos of Charon, & More Space News Goodness

Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain) Guests: Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg ) Pamela Gay (cosmoquest.org / @cosmoquestx / @starstryder) Kimberly Cartier (@AstroKimCartier ) Brian Koberlein (@briankoberlein / briankoberlein.com) Alessondra Springmann (@sondy) (…)Read the rest of Weekly Space Hangout – Oct 2, 2015: Water on Mars, Photos of Charon, & More Space News Goodness (319 words) © […]

China Plans Lunar Far Side Landing by 2020

China aims to land a science probe and research rover on the far side of the Moon by 2020, say Chinese officials. Chinese scientists plan to carry out the highly complex lunar landing mission using a near identical back up to the nations highly successful Chang’e-3 rover and lander – which touched down in December […]

Weekly Space Hangout – May 23, 2015: Dr. Rhys Taylor

Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain) Special Guest:Dr. Rhys Taylor, Former Arecibo Post Doc; Current research involves looking for galaxies in the 21cm waveband. Guests: Morgan Rehnberg (cosmicchatter.org / @MorganRehnberg ) Alessondra Springmann (@sondy) (…)Read the rest of Weekly Space Hangout – May 23, 2015: Dr. Rhys Taylor (426 words) © Fraser for Universe Today, 2015. | […]