An astronaut on the International Space Station shows us what she sees many times a day.
(Photo: AP Photo / NASA / Ames / JPL-Caltech)
Space is vast, but it may not be so lonely after all: A study finds the Milky Way is teeming with billions of planets that are about the size of Earth, orbit stars just like our sun, and exist in the Goldilocks zone — not too hot and not too cold for life.
India’s first Mars mission launches flawlessly
India flawlessly launched its first ever mission to Mars today (Nov. 5) to begin a history making ten month long interplanetary voyage to the Red Planet that’s aimed at studying the Martian atmosphere and searching for methane after achieving orbit.
The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) thundered to space atop the nations four stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) precisely on time at 14:38 hrs IST (9:08 UTC, 4:08 a.m. EST) from the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Sriharikota, off India’s east coast.
“Our journey to Mars begins now!” announced an elated ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan at the ISRO spaceport during a live broadcast of MOM’s launch from the mission control center. “We achieved orbit and we can all be proud.”
Image credit: ISRO
Is it possible to be jealous of an inanimate object? If so, then I am jealous of an inanimate object. Specifically, of the Sochi 2014 Olympic flame. Which has spent the past month—and will spend another three months—taking an envy-inducingly epic tour of Earth.
Before it makes its way to the shores of southern Russia in early February, the Olympic torch, with its symbolic flame, will have traveled to the North Pole (on a high-speed, nuclear-powered icebreaker). It will have summited Mount Elbrus, Europe’s highest peak. It will have descended to the bottom of Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake. It will have been transported by plane, train, car, icebreaker, and, yes, reindeer sleigh to more than 130 cities and towns in Russia. It will have traveled nearly 40,000 miles—the longest route in Olympic history—carried by some 14,000 people. It will have gotten to witness some of the most amazing places on Earth.
And also! Some of the most amazing places outside of Earth. Because the Sochi 2014 torch, on top of everything else, is going on a spacewalk.
Astronomers may have identified one of the richest planetary systems yet.
The discovery of a seventh planet around the dwarf star KIC 11442793 could be a record, according to two separate teams of researchers.
The system bears some similarities to our own, but all seven planets orbit much closer to their host star, which lies some 2,500 light-years from Earth.
The crowded solar system is described in two papers published on the pre-print server Arxiv.org.
Laser communications technology could help NASA communicate with farflung spacecraft in the future, including the sending and receiving of data.
B.C. firm finds way to mass produce telescopes that see billions of light years
If the inventors of a so-called game-changing telescope have their way, there will be a lot more discoveries about our solar system, galaxy and the universe.
The British Columbia firm Dynamic Structures has developed a new generation of telescopes that makes them financially feasible to build.
Company CEO Guy Nelson said Friday that many universities dream of having an observatory, but traditional telescopes require heavy mirrors supported by large observatories.
But using robots and the company’s new optical technology, Dynamic said it can mass produce light-weight mirrors with the ability to see millions, and even billions of light years away.
Dynamic Structures founder David Halliday said they’ve developed the 30 Metre Telescope that is able to take atmosphere away with a flexible lens, focusing on nothing but what the viewer wants to see.
"And behind that flexible lens you’ve got a series of actuators — which are little pistons that can move very, very rapidly, these pistons can change the shape of the surface," he explained.
In order for the telescope to get a reference point, a laser is sent into the sodium layer, creating a star of reference, he said.
"So you measure that, it gives you a wave and then through a giant mathematical model you reverse that, and make it even. Now you’ve got a straight line and that information, you poke that back into the servers that control the flexible mirror and if you control it properly, you take the atmosphere away," he said.
The company has always made telescopes, but over the last 20 years has used that technology for amusement rides.
Nelson said it started when Halliday and an engineer with the U.S. government collaborated on a project. That engineer later became the head of “imagineering” at The Walt Disney Company.
He said Dynamic was called in when the engineer thought the firm could solve a problem on one of its rides at Epcot Centre.
Halliday said they’re simply transferring their manufacturing ability, sharing it with academia and converting it into real solutions.
"Many times what happens is it stops at the academic level and you’d not be able to cultivate that into a practical, applied solution. That’s what we’re doing," he said.
The firm, which employees about 130 people in Port Coquitlam, B.C., has a backlog of about $100 million worth of amusement park rides to be exported to the U.S. and China. [x]
First ‘Habitable Zone’ Galactic Bulge Exoplanet Found
For the first time, astronomers have discovered a sun-like star playing host to a “habitable zone” exoplanet located inside the Milky Way’s galactic bulge — some 25,000 light-years distant — using a quirk of Einstein’s general relativity.
But don’t go having dreams of exotic getaways to the glistening lights of the center of our galaxy, this exoplanet is a huge gas giant world, about five times the mass of Jupiter. However, there is something (potentially) very exciting about this new discovery. Like Jupiter, this newly discovered giant exoplanet may possess small satellites; exomoons that could have life-giving potential.
The star GD61 is a white dwarf. As such, it’s insanely dense—similar in diameter to Earth, but with a mass roughly that of the Sun, so that a teaspoon of it is estimated to weigh about 5.5 tons. All things considered, it’s not a particularly promising stellar locale to find evidence of life.
But a new analysis of the debris surrounding the star suggests that, long ago, GD61 may have provided a much more hospitable environment. As part of a study published today in Science, scientists found that the crushed rock and dust near the star were once part of a small planet or asteroid made up of 26 precent water by volume. The discovery is the first time we’ve found water in a rocky, Earth-like planetary body (as opposed to a gas giant) in another star system.
“Those two ingredients—a rocky surface and water—are key in the hunt for habitable planets,” Boris Gänsicke of the University of Warwick in the UK, one of the study’s authors, said in a press statement. “So it’s very exciting to find them together for the first time outside our solar system.”
Why was water found in such a seemingly unhospitable place? Because once upon a time, GD61 wasn’t so different from our Sun, scientists speculate. But roughly 200 million years ago, when it exhausted its supply of fuel and could no longer sustain fusion reactions, its outer layers were blown out as part of a nebula, and its inner core collapsed inward, forming a white dwarf. (Incidentally, this fate will befall an estimated 97 percent of the stars in the Milky Way, including the Sun.)
When that happened, the tiny planet or asteroid in question—along with all the other bodies orbiting GD61—were violently knocked out of orbit, sucked inward, and ripped apart by the force of the star’s gravity. The clouds of dust, broken rock and water that the scientists recently discovered near the star are the remnants of these planets.
Continue reading about this amazing discovery at Smithsonian.com.
Humid, summer weather didn’t burst one veteran astrophotographer’s cosmic bubble when he spent 3 nights capturing this beautiful image of NGC 7635, also known as the Bubble Nebula.
(Photo: Karen Nyberg / NASA via Pinterest)
There is a dinosaur on board the International Space Station where there wasn’t one before.
With a successful docking, Orbital Sciences can now begin to prepare for its first official cargo delivery mission to the space station.
Expedition 37 arrives at International Space Station
NASA: NASA has confirmed that a new trio of Expedition 37 residents has arrived at the International Space Station, docking to the Poisk mini-research module Wednesday at 10:45 p.m. EDT aboard a Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft.
Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineers Mike Hopkins and Sergey Ryazanskiy are scheduled for a five-and-a-half month stay in space, living and working inside the orbital laboratory.
Image via NASA
This Scoop of Mars Soil is Two Percent Water
Yesterday was a BIG day for Mars exploration — the first scoop of Mars soil analyzed by NASA’s Mars Science Lab in October is 2% water by weight. This is groundbreaking as this will be a valuable resource for future colonists and could have ramifications for the continuing search of microbial life on Mars.