The University of Texas at Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington

UTA Planetarium

UTA Planetarium

Ask the Astronomer Q&A

Tag: "nasa"

  • Has NASA spotted an exoplanet orbiting Alpha Centauri a and b and proxima centauri?
  • Yes! A planet, known as Alpha Centauri Bb, was discovered orbiting around Alpha Centauri B, which is part of a three-star system just 4.3 light-years away from us. Alpha Centauri Bb zips around its star every 3.2 days, orbiting at a distance of just 3.6 million miles (6 million kilometers) and is approximately the same size as Earth. For comparison, Earth orbits about 93 million miles, or 150 million km, from the sun.

    (Tags:  earth  exoplanet  nasa  observatory  planet  star  telescope)
  • Have astronauts ever been to ___?
  • Astronauts have never been anywhere besides the Earth and Moon (but there have been no Moon trips since 1972). There are plans to return to the Moon (possibly by 2020) and then astronauts may travel to Mars. A trip to the Moon takes about three days, but a one-way trip to Mars will take close to nine months.

    (Tags:  astronaut  earth  mars  moon  nasa)
  • How is Hydrogen used in everyday life?
  • Hydrogen has many uses. NASA uses liquid Hydrogen as rocket fuel. Hydrogen is also used to generate electricity. Engineers are working on creating a Hydrogen fuel cell to power our cars. It is used in a variety of applications in industry, including as a coolant. It is even important in the semiconductor industry.

    (Tags:  hydrogen  nasa)
  • The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) scientists mentioned the Moon's craters that have ice in them are probably charged up by static electricity from interacting with the solar wind. Is there a way to measure the voltage from some probe or other?
  • This might be a good one to try to send to the LRO scientists because this will be depend on the amount of ice, as well as electromagnetic field strength caused by the solar wind. Unfortunately, static electricity can’t be measured by probes unless the voltage carrying medium is grounded and discharged. For example, we can’t measure the static electric voltage building up in clouds. However, if we knew the amount of current that was transmitted to a lightning rod by the cloud, then we would be able to estimate the amount of static electricity carried in the cloud just before the lightning.

    (Tags:  moon  nasa  satellite)
  • Will NASA ever get to Mars knowing that it's so far away?
  • I think what you mean to ask is not whether NASA will get to Mars, but will NASA send astronauts to Mars, and I think the answer is yes. We have been sending robotic probes to Mars for decades. Several are on the surface testing the soil and sending beautiful panoramic images back to us on Earth. Others are in orbit, taking high resolution images of the surface from above. The problem with sending astronauts to Mars is that it would be a 1-3 year trip. It all depends on the technology we use and how close Mars and Earth are to each other in our orbits. NASA’s Constellation Program, which was started under the Bush Administration, was a project to take the best of the Apollo and space shuttle missions, and create a spacecraft that could return astronauts to the Moon, and maybe eventually to Mars or some near-Earth asteroids. But the project was over promised, and over budget, so it was removed from the NASA budget. But, the current NASA budget has money set aside for taking us to Mars or near-Earth asteroids, it is just hoping for some help from the commercial market. It may take 10-20 years for the new system to be developed, but we will get to Mars within our lifetime.

    (Tags:  asteroid  astronaut  earth  mars  moon  nasa)