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A few weeks ago, a team of scientists from Caltech announced that they had successfully transmitted energy from an orbiting satellite down to Earth. It wasn’t a lot of energy, but it showed that it was possible.

Eventually, we might be able to beam energy from solar satellites down to Earth, making solar energy available almost anywhere and helping combat climate change. But there’s another potential use: powering surface probes on Venus.

Everybody knows about Venus. It’s killed multiple landers with its extreme heat and crushing atmospheric pressure. The old Soviet Union sent a series of probes to the planet’s surface, and most of them failed. The most successful one was Venera 13, which survived for just over two hours at 457 °C (855 °F), and was subjected to 9.0 MPa (89 standard atmospheres) of pressure.

Despite Venera 13’s brief but significant success, the planet held onto its secrets, and we’re drawn back to its surface to reveal them. That’s why NASA wants to send a lander to the surface as part of its DAVINCI+ mission (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging.)

But there’s the question of how to power a lander on Venus’ unique, treacherous surface, assuming we can build one that won’t easily succumb to Venus’ nasty conditions. The usual methods—solar power, batteries, radioisotope thermoelectric generators—aren’t up to the task. That’s according to new research published in the journal Acta Astronautica.

The research article is “Feasibility of power beaming through the Venus Atmosphere.” The corresponding author is Erik Brandon from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“State-of-the-art space power technologies comprising solar arrays, batteries and radioisotope thermoelectric generators are not capable of operating on the surface of Venus, limited by the high temperatures, high pressures and corrosive environment,” the authors explain.

Venus is closer to the Sun, but its thick atmosphere means not much solar radiation reaches the surface. About 75% of the Sun’s energy is reflected by Venus’ clouds, and only about 2.5% of the solar flux incident at the top of the atmosphere reaches the surface. Up above the clouds, solar energy is abundant. Venus receives twice as much solar irradiance at the top of its atmosphere as Earth does at the top of its atmosphere.

Despite being next door to us, Venus is shrouded in mystery, and its thick clouds mean that only radar imaging can reveal surface details. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Despite being next door to us, Venus is shrouded in mystery, and its thick clouds mean that only radar imaging can reveal surface details. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Could this abundant energy be harnessed by solar collectors above the clouds and then beamed down to a lander/rover? It would have to make it through a lot of thick clouds. “The feasibility of such an approach and other related mission concepts are discussed herein from a perspective of atmospheric absorption and scattering of the beamed energy,” the paper states.

Beaming energy from one place to another is called wireless energy (or power) transfer. There are two types: near-field and far-field. Near-field is short-distance energy transfer like the type used in charging pads for mobile devices. Far-field energy transfer is also called power beaming, and it uses microwaves or lasers to beam the power from a producer to a receiver.

One problem with beaming energy from an orbital solar collector to a surface vehicle is the complications in a Venus geostationary orbit. The planet rotates so slowly that the geostationary orbit is at a great distance from the planet, making the orbit unstable. Somehow, a solar collector would need to be closer to the planet. Above the upper clouds, at about 60 or 70 km altitude, a collector would essentially receive all available sunlight. Mission design might have to keep the collector, or group of collectors, at the right altitude and position.

An alternate solution is to beam a portion of energy to a lander on each orbit, which could be enough. “100’s of Wh (Watt hours) of energy could be received over the course of several orbital passes of the lander,” the authors explain.

But those are larger issues of overall mission architecture. This research assumes
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Iran Sent a Capsule Capable of Holding Animals into Orbit.

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Despite popular opinion, the first animals in space were not dogs or chimps, they were fruit flies launched by the United States in February 1947. The Soviet Union launched Laika, the first dog into space in November 1957 and now, it seems Iran is getting in on the act. A 500kg capsule known as the “indigenous bio-capsule” with life support capability was recently launched atop the Iranian “Salman” rocket. It has been reported by some agencies that there were animals on board but no official statement has been released.

The Iranian Space Agency (ISA) are gearing up to getting humans into space before 2029 but is testing its launch capability with animal passengers. The capsule was launched on December 6 2023 and attained an orbital altitude of 130 kilometres. According to their Telecommunications Minister Isa Zarepour, it is aimed at sending Iranian astronauts to space by 2029.

The “Salaman” solid-fuelled rocket was designed by the aerospace division of the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology and built and launched by the Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics. It has already been used to launch a data collecting satellite and in 2013 successfully sent and returned monkeys into space.

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Ham, a chimpanzee, became the first great ape in space during his January 31, 1961, suborbital flight aboard Mercury-Redstone 2 (Credit : NASA)

To date, only three counties have human spaceflight capability; USA, Russia and China. India are attempting to become the fourth as they work on their Gaganyaan program. Will Iran become the fifth!? Iran plans further tests with further launches bearing animal occupants before attempting to send humans up.

According to the Iranian Space Agency, its satellite program is purely for scientific research and other civilian applications. There is however, international suspicion because there are suspicions that the Salamn rockets could very easily be converted to long range missiles.

Source : Iran says it sent a capsule capable of carrying animals into orbit as it prepares for human missions

The post Iran Sent a Capsule Capable of Holding Animals into Orbit. appeared first on Universe Today.

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What Could a Next Generation Event Horizon Telescope Do?

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Telescopes have come a long way in a little over four hundred years! It was 1608 that Dutch spectacle maker Hans Lippershey who was said to be working with a case of myopia and, in working with lenses discovered the magnifying powers if arranged in certain configurations. Now, centuries on and we have many different telescope designs and even telescopes in orbit but none are more incredible than the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). Images las year revealed the supermassive black hole at the centre of our Galaxy and around M87 but now a team of astronomers have explored the potential of an even more powerful system the Next Generation EHT (ngEHT).

There is no doubt that our understanding of the processes within our Universe have come on leaps and bounds since the invention of the telescope. The resolution of these space piercing instruments is dictated by the telescope’s aperture. The technique known as interferometry hooks individual telescopes together and combines their signal so they act as one BIG telescope, boosting the resolution. 

Telescopes like the EHT have been using interferometry to great advantage to study black holes. These enigmatic and mysterious stellar corpses defy our probing; we do not fully understand their origins and processes and indeed our laws of physics break down if you get too close to the point source in the centre, the singularity. Due to their interaction with space and time, understanding the full nature of black holes will – hopefully – unlock our understanding of the Universe. 

Previously, observations have only revealed the movement of stars around galactic centre suggesting an object was lurking there weighing in at around 4 million times the mass of the Sun. Data from the EHT collected during 2022, finally revealed an image of the object at the centre – SgrA* – a super massive black hole and the matter in the immediate vicinity of the event horizon. Whilst this image did not reveal the black hole itself – another article required to explain that – it certainly revealed the telltale signs. 

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Sag A* compared to M87* and the orbit of Mercury. Credit: EHT collaboration

A recently published paper explores the possibilities of the ngEHT and how they might be able to unpick some of the physics around black holes. The ngEHT will increase the geographical footprint of EHT by 10 further instruments that span across the Earth.  Making use of the significant improvement in resolution, the ngEHT will also improve image dynamics range, provide a multi-wavelength capability and facilitate long term monitoring. 

The team conclude that future enhancements in measurement sensitivity and data analysis techniques in ngEHT will substantially advance our understanding of black holes and the immediate environments surrounding them with particular focus on the photon ring, mass and spin analysis, binary supermassive black holes and more besides.

Source : Fundamental Physics Opportunities with the Next-Generation Event Horizon Telescope

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Déjà vu All Over Again: Backpacking in Glacier National Park

By Michael Lanza

In the second week of September, the cool air in the shade of the forest nips at our cheeks as we leave our first night’s camp beside Glenns Lake in the backcountry of Glacier National Park, starting at a reasonably early hour for a day where we will walk nearly 16 miles and 6,000 feet of combined uphill and downhill. I’m hiking in a fleece hoodie, pants, and gloves and my friends Pam Solon and Jeff Wilhelm are similarly layered up. Once the sun reaches us within an hour, we’ll strip down to shorts and T-shirts.

Where the trail crosses a meadow, the expansive view west across a calm and insistently blue Cosley Lake reveals what looks like a long wall of overlapping stone shields jammed into the earth, each 2,000 or more feet tall and tilting at different angles. At the lake’s outlet—now in warm sunshine—we ford the Belly River, ankle- to calf-deep here with just a few tiny riffles and not very cold. More hiking through quiet forest brings us to the refrigerated, cliff-shaded alcove below Dawn Mist Falls, which spills thunderously over a sheer drop and crashes onto fallen boulders at its base, its force releasing a perpetual mist. Moss wallpapers the alcove’s short cliffs.

A backpacker hiking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.
” data-image-caption=”Pam Solon backpacking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.
” data-medium-file=”″ data-large-file=”″ src=”″ alt=”A backpacker hiking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.” class=”wp-image-61144″ srcset=” 1024w, 300w, 768w, 150w, 1200w” sizes=”(max-width: 900px) 100vw, 900px” data-recalc-dims=”1″ />Pam Solon backpacking the Ptarmigan Tunnel Trail in Glacier National Park.

After a thoroughly relaxing lunch break on the pebbly beach at Elizabeth Lake—where the perfect combination of solar warmth and soft breeze probably converts in direct value to about a thousand hours of counseling—we start the long climb to the Ptarmigan Tunnel. Reaching the open alpine terrain, I repeatedly stop to spin 180 degrees and take big bites of our view of the valley of Helen and Elizabeth lakes and the peaks on the other side, which shelter what remains of a couple of glaciers in the shade of north-facing cliffs just below the mountaintops.

I’ve backpacked this trail before; this isn’t new to me. But time slowly renders a bit fuzzier the memory of how constantly breathtaking it is—which is, in a funny way, a gift to us: We get to experience that awe anew each time.

Everyone laughed when the legendary Yogi Berra said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again,” but I think I knew what he meant.

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