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22 news posts in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences

Image: E|A|S (Evolving Asteroid Starships)/Joris Putteneers

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16 Aug 2023

Sustainability in space travel can aid efforts here on Earth

by Angelo Vermeulen/Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: E|A|S (Evolving Asteroid Starships)/Joris Putteneers Dr Angelo Vermeulen is a space systems researcher at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, where he explores advanced concepts for interstellar exploration. Over the past decade, he has collaborated closely with the European Space Agency’s (ESA) MELiSSA program, developing concepts for bioregenerative life support systems for space. In such systems, a variety of microorganisms progressively break down human waste and the resulting compounds are harnessed by plants to produce oxygen and food for the crew. Beyond his scientific pursuits, Dr Vermeulen is also an accomplished artist and a co-founder of the SEADS (Space Ecologies Art and Design) collective. SEADS creates artworks that seamlessly integrate concepts and technologies from a diverse array of scientific disciplines, including biology, neuroscience, computer science, and astrophysics. He is the author of a recently published Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences article in which he and his co-authors describe a new model that theoretically produces all required food and oxygen during long-duration and remote space missions, removing the necessity for resupply from Earth. In this latest entry to the Frontier Scientists series, he has caught up with us on his current […]

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04 Jul 2023

Meet a team of scientists working to prevent interplanetary pollution that could pose a threat to life on Earth and other planets

By Dr Athena Coustenis (CNRS, Paris University), Mr Niklas Hedman (UN Office for Outer Space Affairs), and Prof Peter Doran (University of Louisiana) As the search for life elsewhere in our solar system intensifies, so does the need to keep space exploration safe and sustainable. Planetary protection is, more than ever, a major responsibility for humankind. Ensuring that no alien matter is carried back to Earth by spacecraft returning from an interplanetary mission is not the whole issue, however, as planetary protection also involves making sure that the planets and other celestial bodies that we visit remain pristine, in order not to jeopardize scientific research. Formulating policies for planetary protection issues and keeping them up-to-date is the responsibility of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) panel on planetary protection. In an article in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences, an international group of experts affiliated with COSPAR reviewed the panel’s role, and its Planetary Protection Policy, including recent considerations regarding the Policy for the Moon, Venus, Mars and small planetary bodies. Now writing on the Frontiers news site, the panel’s leadership consisting of chair Dr Athena Coustenis and vice- chairs Niklas Hedman and Prof Peter Doran explain why this endeavor […]

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13 Mar 2023

Why understanding human evolution on Earth will be absolutely essential for any future deep-space colonies to survive and thrive

By Lee G Irons, Norfolk Institute, and Morgan A Irons, Cornell University Photo of Lee and Morgan, Credit: Lee Irons and Morgan Irons Is human migration into space inevitable? Is it based on facts, or is it based upon a belief in human exceptionalism? These are some of the questions explored by Lee and Morgan Irons in a recent article published in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences, asking whether humans’ evolutionary connection to Earth requires us to inhabit space the same way we do here. Lee is a physicist, engineer, and the executive director of Norfolk Institute. Morgan is an astro-ecologist and PhD candidate at Cornell University, a Carl Sagan Institute Fellow, a US National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and a Norfolk Institute Fellow. In this latest guest editorial, they explain why – and why not – space settlement might be possible. How can such a feat be accomplished? Is it just a matter of leveraging the resources of a billionaire and the capital power of the economically developed Earth to ship the materials to Mars to build a city with a dome, followed by pressurizing the dome with an Earth-like atmosphere, and spreading biosolids (ie, sterilized human […]

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10 Feb 2023

Five articles you need to check out on the future of astronomy and astrophysics

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: From uncovering the long-standing mysteries in extra-galactic astrophysics to understanding the properties of the sun’s outer atmosphere, astronomy research aims to help us understand what surrounds us. Frontiers highlights some of the top astronomy articles we have published recently. In a field as vast as space itself, cutting-edge work may be concerned with particles so small they are invisible to the human eye. Similarly, discoveries may be about whole galaxies. Those new findings, as well as advances in the theory, experiment, and methodology enable us to gain a better understanding of outer space. These five articles published recently as part of the Frontiers research topic ‘Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics’ cover important topics at the forefront of astronomy. Some Notes About the Current Researches on the Physics of Relativistic Jets Relativistic jets are powerful plasma jets emitted at the speed of light by black holes of some galaxies, massive stars, and neutron stars. In a review article published in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences, Italian researchers provided an effective critical review about one of the most long-standing mysteries in extra-galactic astrophysics: the origin of these ejections from the centers of galaxies. […]

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03 Aug 2022

‘I got front row seats to the astronomy event of my lifetime, and it didn’t disappoint’

By Colm Gorey, Frontiers science communications manager/Dr Susan Mullally, STScI Image: Dr Susan Mullally, STScI The successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope earlier this year captivated the world’s attention, promising a revolutionary view deep inside our mysterious universe. One of those involved in the hugely important project was Dr Susan Mullally of the Space Telescope Science Institute who now speaks to Frontiers about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Last month, a new chapter in humanity’s understanding of the cosmos began when the first images taken by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) were released to the world. Surpassing the capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope, JWST will directly observe a part of space and time never seen before and will gaze into the epoch when the very first stars and galaxies formed, more than 13.5bn years ago. Dr Susan Mullally of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) was among those with backstage access to this latest piece of space history, and is currently the deputy project scientist for JWST working to ensure the scientific productivity of the mission. Previously, she worked in the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) as the lead for archiving the data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet […]

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27 Jul 2022

Key to life found at the centre of our galaxy and bee ‘waggle dances’: Most viewed articles of July 2022

By Colm Gorey, Frontiers science communications manager Image: Each month, Frontiers shines a spotlight on some of the leading research across a wide range of topics. Here are just some of the highlights that resonated strongly with readers on our news site in the month of July. Building blocks for RNA-based life abound at center of our galaxy Nitriles, a class of organic molecules with a cyano group, that is, a carbon atom bound with an unsaturated triple bond to a nitrogen atom, are typically toxic. But paradoxically, they are also a key precursor for molecules essential for life, such as ribonucleotides, composed of the nucleobases or ‘letters’ A, U, C, and G, joined to a ribose and phosphate group, which together make up RNA. Now, a team of researchers from Spain, Japan, Chile, Italy, and the US show in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences that a wide range of nitriles occurs in interstellar space within the molecular cloud G+0.693-0.027, near the center of the Milky Way. Article link: 2. Bees’ ‘waggle dance’ may revolutionize how robots talk to each other in disaster zones Where are those flowers and how far away are they? This is the […]

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27 Apr 2022

Solar energy is superior to nuclear for powering crewed mission to Mars, show scientists

By Peter Rejcek, science writer A crewed mission to Mars will require transporting equipment for creating electricity to power life support systems. The choice for the type of device used will require a tradeoff between mass and energy efficiency. Researchers here show that a photovoltaic system using compressed hydrogen energy storage can compete with nuclear energy across about 50% of the Red Planet. No other planet in our solar system has sparked the human imagination more than Mars. While modern science has debunked the Red Planet as a likely source of an alien invasion, today’s technology is bringing us closer to a crewed mission. A research team out of the University of California, Berkeley published a paper in the journal Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences that argues a human expedition on the surface could be powered by harvesting solar energy. The concept is not new. The main source of power for some NASA Mars rovers comes from a multipanel solar array. But, in the last decade or so, most people had assumed that nuclear power would be a better option than solar energy for human missions, according to co-lead author Aaron Berliner, a bioengineering graduate student in the Arkin […]

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22 Mar 2022

‘Science is a measure of our ignorance: the more we know, the more we realize how little we know’

By Dr Gianluca Calcagni, IEM-CSIC Image: Writing as part of our Frontier Scientists series, Dr Gianluca Calcagni of IEM-CSIC in Madrid gives us an insight into his research that aims to find answers to some of the most puzzling and complex mysteries that makes up almost everything in the universe. Dr Gianluca Calcagni obtained his degree in physics in Italy at Padua University and, in 2005, his PhD at Parma University. He has worked at a number of research institutes in Japan, the UK, the US, Germany and Spain and is now a faculty member of the Instituto de Estructura de la Materia, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (IEM-CSIC) in Madrid. As a member of the LISA and Einstein Telescope consortia, his research areas are gravitational waves, nonlocal quantum gravity, multifractal spacetimes, cosmologies beyond the standard model, and string theory. He has published three books and more than 100 papers in physics since 2003. Since 2016, he has also been doing research in behaviural and clinical psychology, in which he has a degree, an MSc and three published papers. Last year, he was awarded with a Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences Diversity Award for his community engagement as […]

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28 Jan 2022

Extremely harsh volcanic lake shows how life might have existed on Mars

By K.E.D. Coan, science writer Fieldwork at Laguna Caliente, Poás volcano, Costa Rica. Credit: Justin Wang Only a few microbes inhabit Earth’s most extreme environments, but they have varied adaptations to do so, reports a new study. Hydrothermal hot springs such as at the Poás volcano in Costa Rica provide an opportunity not only to explore life on Earth, but also to understand how life might have evolved on Mars. A few specialist microbes survive conditions analogous to those of Mars’ early history, reports a new publication in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences — and this may be thanks to a broad range of adaptations. One of the most hostile habitats on Earth The hydrothermal crater lake Laguna Caliente of the Poás volcano in Costa Rica is one of the most hostile habitats on the planet. The water is ultra-acidic, full of toxic metals and the temperatures range from comfortable to boiling. In addition, recurrent ‘phreatic eruptions’ cause sudden explosions of steam, ash and rock. Despite such deadly eruptions, hydrothermal environments may be where the earliest forms of life began on Earth — and potentially also on Mars, if there ever was life. Beyond discovering how life can survive […]