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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Astronomers are worried the influx of new satellites in the coming years could impede the hunt for asteroids near Earth.
What's happening: Companies like SpaceX and Amazon are planning to launch thousands of internet-beaming satellites to low orbits.
Why it matters: Scientists have spotted most of the largest known asteroids near our planet, but there are still thousands of smaller, possibly dangerous ones they've yet to find.
How it works: Ground-based telescopes hunt for asteroids by taking photos of the sky over the course of a night in order to pick out faint asteroids near Earth.
The big picture: For decades, radio astronomers have had to contend with radio signals emitted by satellites, but astronomers working with visible light haven't necessarily had to worry too much about satellites.
Yes, but: Companies responsible for these satellites say they want to be sure to protect astronomers' view of the night sky even with thousands of new spacecraft up in orbit.
What's next: If these mega-constellations do interfere with ground-based asteroid detection, it places more importance on launching a space-based asteroid-detecting telescope, experts say.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are casting the fortunes they've spent on building new rockets to help humankind escape our home planet as a far greater legacy than funding more terrestrial good deeds, Axios editor-in-chief Nick Johnston writes.
The big picture: They're reframing for-profit businesses — SpaceX and Blue Origin — in philanthropic terms.
Musk spent $100 million to get SpaceX off the ground in 2006.
Bezos has reportedly funneled $1 billion a year into Blue Origin — compared with recent grants of $98.5 million focused on homelessness and education from his year-old philanthropy, the Bezos Day One Fund, that was seeded with $2 billion.
Both billionaires believe the only way for humanity to survive as a species is to go to space — to provide an insurance policy against damage to Earth or allow harmful activities to be moved off-world.
Keep in mind: SpaceX brings in billions from government and commercial contracts, and Blue Origin is chasing after those contracts to get its launch business up and running.
The bottom line: The Bezos-and-Musk brand of philanthropy says, in effect: “My big contribution to human knowledge and understanding is my space company.”
Go deeper: Read more about philanthropy in our latest Axios Deep Dive.
A before/after showing the Vikram lander's crash site. Gif: NASA/Goddard/ASU
The final resting place of India's failed lunar lander has been found.
The big picture: The Vikram lander was India's bid to become the fourth nation to land and operate a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon.
What's happening: On Sept. 26, NASA released a mosaic image taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that included Vikram's presumed crash site.
Background: Vikram wasn't the only lunar lander to fail this year. Israel's Beresheet spacecraft also crashed into the Moon during its attempt at a landing.
The galaxy NGC 6240. Photo: NASA/ESA/STScI/AURA
A galaxy with three supermassive black holes swirling within it could help astronomers piece together just how some of the largest galaxies formed.
Why it matters: The discovery in the NGC 6240 galaxy located about 400 million light-years away marks the first time three supermassive black holes have been found in such close proximity to one another.
What they found: Scientists originally thought the galaxy was host to two supermassive black holes, but new, more detailed mapping revealed the third, they report in a study in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
What's next: After millions of years, the three black holes are expected to merge with one another, potentially creating strong gravitational waves that ripple the fabric of space and time.
Layers of haze above Saturn's moon Titan. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SScI
Go ahead, take a spin on Titan (Dennis Overbye, New York Times)
Listen to the sound of Earth’s magnetic field as it’s pummeled by a solar storm (Neel V. Patel, MIT Technology Review)
Why Cloud Constellation turned down $100 million (Caleb Henry, Space News)
In a deepfake, Nixon laments a Moon catastrophe that wasn't (Kaveh Waddell, Axios)
Photo: Pieter van Dokkum/Cheng-Han Hsieh/Shany Danieli/Gregory Laughlin
An interstellar comet spotted earlier this year is on its way to its close approach to the Sun this month, giving astronomers a close-up view of the visitor from outside our solar system.
So far, scientists have found that the comet appears to look quite similar to those found in our solar system, but as the interstellar visitor gets even closer, telescopes should be able to take more images, revealing not-yet-seen details about the object.
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