The Daily Dose: Did the Blue Screen of Death just hit the Hubble Space Telescope?

The source of some of the most iconic images of space in the past quarter century has run into some problems. How serious they are remains to be seen. According to the Associated Press, “The Hubble Space Telescope has been hit with computer trouble, with all astronomical viewing halted, NASA said Wednesday. The orbiting observatory has been idle since Sunday when a 1980s-era computer that controls the science instruments shut down, possibly because of a bad memory board.” NASA did not mention whether they attempted the CTRL-Alt-Delete route.

Researchers were startled when they first noticed that a familiar star was appearing to grow dimmer. Now they have an explanation, and it isn’t terrible news. Per the BBC, “Astronomers say they’ve put to bed the mystery of why one of the most familiar stars in the night sky suddenly dimmed just over a year ago. Betelgeuse, a red supergiant in the constellation of Orion, abruptly darkened in late 2019, early 2020. The behaviour led many to speculate that it might be about to explode. But a team using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile says the cause was almost certainly a giant dust cloud between us and the star.” Thank goodness.

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Sometimes, the best discoveries come when researchers looking for A inadvertently discover B. This may have happened on Mars as a result of their drone tests. Per Nature, “Ingenuity, NASA’s pint-sized Mars helicopter, has kicked up some surprising science on its flights over the red planet. When whizzing through the Martian air, its blades sometimes stir up a dust cloud that envelops and travels along with the tiny chopper. In several videos of Ingenuity’s flights, planetary scientists have seen dust whirling beneath the helicopter’s rotors — even when Ingenuity is flying as high as 5 metres above the Martian surface. That suggests that dust can get lifted and transported in the thin Martian air more easily than researchers had suspected.”

The wonders of ancient DNA continue to yield enlightening results. Newly decoded Neanderthal familial genomes may have provided a glimpse into the hominin’s social structure. Per Science, “The genomes also offer the first real clues to the social structure of a group of Neanderthals. In addition to identifying the first father-daughter pair, the genetic evidence suggests these males stayed in their family groups as adults, like men in many modern human societies, says geneticist Laurits Skov of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. He presented the work in a virtual talk at the ninth International Symposium on Biomolecular Archaeology earlier this month.”

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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