Nasa is planning an audacious mission to send a manned spacecraft on a one-way trip to permanently settle on other planets.
The ambitious idea is known as the Hundred Years Starship and would send astronauts to colonise planets like Mars, knowing they could never come home.
NASA Ames Director Pete Worden revealed that one of NASA’s main research centres, Ames Research Centre, has received £1million funding to start work on the project.
The research team has also received an additional $100,000 from Nasa. An artist’s impression of a Mars base manned
‘You heard it here,” Worden said at ‘Long Conversation,’ an event in San Francisco.
‘We also hope to inveigle some billionaires to form a Hundred Year Starship fund.’
He added: ‘The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds. Twenty years ago you had to whisper that in dark bars and get fired.’
Archive for the ‘Space’ Category
Last week we were attacked by the sun. For real. Huge solar eruptions sent a blast of radiation toward Earth. Thankfully, the planet’s natural magnetic shield warded off the worst effects. Life went on uninterrupted.
That won’t always be the case. In 1859, Richard Carrington recorded what is now called the “Carrington Effect” — intense solar activity that can disrupt modern life dramatically.
In Carrington’s day, there were few electromechanical systems for intense solar radiation to mess with. The new fangled telegraph systems suffered the most. Solar-induced power surges knocked some operators from their chairs and set fire to the paper rolls used to record dashes and dots.
Fortunately, no Carrington Effect has occurred since the whole world became electrified. But scientists worry about what might happen when a real solar tsunami hits.
It is a real danger. In 2008, the National Academies released a report on the “adverse effects of extreme space weather on modern technology — power grid outages, high-frequency communication blackouts. …” Much of the planet’s energy and communications infrastructure is just too fragile to weather a massive electromagnetic onslaught.
A recently discovered comet is surprising skywatchers by becoming brighter than predictions had first suggested and can now be seen with the unaided eye during the next few weeks.
Comet McNaught, officially catalogued as C/2009 R1, was discovered by Australian astronomer Robert McNaught last September using the using the 0.5-meter Uppsala Schmidt telescope and a CCD camera.
It’s the 51st comet that bears McNaught’s name.
Although initially an extremely faint object, enough observations of the newfound comet were made to allow Brian Marsden of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., to calculate an orbit.
Comet McNaught is expected to pass closest to the sun (perihelion) on July 2, at a distance of 37 million miles (60 million km).
The comet is visible now for people with dark skies away from urban and suburban lighting. By mid-June it may be an easy skywatching target for most people.
A huge fireball has been spotted on Jupiter in yet another collision from space caught on camera and video by amateur astronomers.
The new Jupiter crash occurred on June 3 at 20:31 UT (4:31 p.m. Eastern Time) and was spotted by skywatcher Anthony Wesley in Australia and fellow amateur astronomer Christopher Go in the Philippines.
Wesley’s photos show the Jupiter fireball blazing in the atmosphere of the gas giant planet. So far, no visible scar in the clouds has been reported from the event.
Wesley described the event as a “large fireball” on his website, where he posted the photos taken from Broken Hill, Australia.
This new impact on Jupiter comes less than a year after a spectacular crash on July 19, 2009, when what scientist now think was an asteroid about 1,600 feet (500 meters) wide slammed into the planet.
That collision created a massive bruise the size of the Pacific Ocean. It was Wesley, too, who first spotted the July 2009 collision. His observations kicked off an international observation campaign to study the impact site.
Astronomers initially suspected a comet in last year’s impact, but announced this week that a rogue asteroid was the most likely culprit.
Jupiter has lost one of its iconic red stripes and scientists are baffled as to why.
The largest planet in our solar system is usually dominated by two dark bands in its atmosphere, with one in the northern hemisphere and one in the southern hemisphere.
However, the most recent images taken by amateur astronomers have revealed the lower stripe known as the Southern Equatorial Belt has disappeared leaving the southern half of the planet looking unusually bare.
The band was present in at the end of last year before Jupiter ducked behind the Sun on its orbit.
However, when it emerged three months later the belt had disappeared.
Journalist and amateur astronomer Bob King, also known as Astro_Bob, was one of the first to note the strange phenomenon.
He said: Jupiter with only one belt is almost like seeing Saturn when its rings are edge-on and invisible for a time – it just doesnt look right.
It is not the first time this unusual phenomenon has been noticed.
Jupiter loses or regains one of its belts every ten of 15 years, although exactly why this happens is a mystery.
A website based in India has reported researchers with the Chandrayaan-1 mission may have found “signs of life in some form or the other on the Moon.” DNAIndia.com quoted Surendra Pal, associate director of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Satellite Centre as saying that Chandrayaan-1 picked up signatures of organic matter on parts of the Moon’s surface. “The findings are being analyzed and scrutinized for validation by ISRO scientists and peer reviewers,” Pal said.
At a press conference Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union fall conference, scientists from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter also hinted at possible organics locked away in the lunar regolith. When asked directly about the Chandrayaan-1 claim of finding life on the Moon, NASA’s chief lunar scientist, Mike Wargo, certainly did not dismiss the idea but said, “It is an intriguing suggestion, and we are certainly very interested in learning more of their results.”
Chandrayaan-1’s Moon Impact Probe, or MIP impacted the within the Shackleton Crater on the Moon’s south pole on Nov. 14, 2008. An anonymous Chandrayaan-1 scientist said MIP’s mass spectrometer detected chemical signatures of organic matter in the soil kicked up by the impact.
“Certain atomic numbers were observed that indicated the presence of carbon components. This indicates the possibility of the presence of organic matter (on the Moon),” a senior scientist told DNAIndia.
A meteorite-like object crashed into a meadow in northern Latvia, creating a crater 27 feet (9 meters) wide and 9 feet (3 meters) deep, a geologist who visited the site said Monday.
Uldis Nulle, a scientist at the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Center, said there was smoke coming out of the crater when he arrived at the crash site late Sunday in the Mazsalaca region near the Estonian border.
“My first impression is that, yes, it was a meteorite,” he said. “All the evidence suggests this when compared to pictures of real meteorite craters.”
He said the rim of the crater was slightly raised and there was a black-grayish scar at the bottom — both signs of a meteorite impact.
Experts outside Latvia said it was unusual for such a large meteorite to hit the Earth. The planet is constantly bombarded with objects from outer space, but most burn up in the atmosphere and never reach the surface.
An unknown object appears to have punched through one of Saturn’s rings and left a calling card in the form of trailing debris. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft snapped the image on June 11, 2009 during its ongoing tour of Saturn and its moons.
Phil Plait of Discover’s Bad Astronomy likens the event to the “fist of an angry god” messing up Saturn’s F ring. He also raises the question of whether mystery object X has a truly bizarre orbit around the planet which takes it up and down through the rings, or whether it’s a wayward wanderer that was pulled in on collision course due to one of Saturn’s moons.
Such a photo opportunity only became possible because of tomorrow’s approaching Saturn equinox, when the planet turns edge-on toward the sun and effectively makes its rings vanish from Earth’s view in the absence of reflected sunlight, as SPACE.com explains. The event only takes place every 15 years.
This week’s solar eclipse has Indian astrologers predicting violence and turmoil across the world, AFP reported.
In Hindu mythology, the two demons Rahu and Ketu are said to “swallow” the sun during eclipses. It takes the life-giving life and causes food to become inedile and water undrinkable, AFP reported.
Mothers-to-be are told to stay inside so their baby doesn’t develop birth defects and some are worried a major world catastrophe will take place.
Raj Kumar Sharma, a Mumbai astrologer, told AFP, “some sort of attack by (Kashmiri separatists) Jaish-e-Mohammad or Al Qaeda on Indian soil” and a devastating natural disaster in Southeast Asia.
It is often described as “the final frontier”, and not just by those who follow the adventures of Captain Kirk and the crew of the USS Enterprise.
The phrase, though, may take an even more literal meaning for those exploring space in the future. The next generation of astronauts may hurtle through the cosmos for years or decades on a mission to explore distant planets and stars – and never return.
A senior Nasa official has told the Guardian that the world’s space agencies, or the commercial firms that may eventually succeed them, could issue one-way tickets to space, with the travellers accepting that they would not come back.
The prospect of spending years cooped in a spacecraft would not deter people from applying, he said.
“You would find no shortage of volunteers,” said John Olson, Nasa’s director of exploration systems integration. “It’s really no different than the pioneering spirit of many in past history, who took the one-way trip across the ocean, or the trip out west across the United States with no intention of ever returning.”
A number of times in recent weeks a bright, unblinking light has appeared in the night sky of the nation’s capital: a spaceship. Longer than a football field, weighing 654,000 pounds, the spaceship moved swiftly across the heavens and vanished.
Fortunately, it was one of ours. The international space station is by far the largest spacecraft ever built by earthlings.
Circling the Earth every 90 minutes, it often passes over North America and is visible from the ground when night has fallen but the station, up high, is still bathed in sunlight.
After more than a decade of construction, it is nearing completion and finally has a full crew of six astronauts. The last components should be installed by the end of next year.
And then? “In the first quarter of 2016, we’ll prep and de-orbit the spacecraft,” says NASA’s space station program manager, Michael T. Suffredini.
Umm, do you really want *more* government decision-making in your life?
ASTRONOMERS are claiming that Earth is witnessing the biggest and most powerful Sunspot ever seen and the sunspot is yet to peak in intensity.
A sunspot is a magnetic storm on the surface of the sun and the area of the spot is colder than the normal surface.
The normal surface is about 5000 degrees, the temperature of a sunspot is about 3000 degrees.
The size of a sunspot varies, ranging from the size of the moon to 65 times larger than the size of earth and lasts for about a month then fades away.
This newest sunspot is thought to be 60 to 80 times the size of Earth and has occurred on the side of the sun, which is in view of Australia.
Wappa Falls Observatory head astronomer Owen Bennedick describes the sunspot shape like the letter S and thinks it to be approximately 150,000 km long and 30,000 km wide.
“It’s flares have not yet been measured,” Owen Bennedick said, “but it is like hundreds of thousands of hydrogen bombs.”
After one of the longest sunspot droughts in modern times, solar activity picked up quickly over the weekend. A new group of sunspots developed, and while not dramatic by historic standards, the spots were the most significant in many months.
“This is the best sunspot I’ve seen in two years,” observer Michael Buxton of Ocean Beach, Calif., said on Spaceweather.com.
Solar activity goes in a roughly 11-year cycle. Sunspots are the visible signs of that activity, and they are the sites from which massive solar storms lift off.
The past two years have marked the lowest low in the cycle since 1913, and for a while scientists were wondering if activity would ever pick back up.
During 2009 so far, the sun has been completely free of spots about 77 percent of the time. NASA researchers last month said quiet jet streams inside the sun were responsible, and that activity would soon return to normal.
A teenager was hit by a meteorite travelling at 30,000mph – and lived to tell the tale.
The meteorite struck Gerrit on the hand, and buried itself in the road Gerrit Blank was on his way to school when he saw a massive fireball heading straight towards him from the sky.
The white-hot meteorite bounced off the schoolboy’s hand and hit the ground so hard it left a foot-long crater in the tarmac – as well as a three-inch scar on his hand.
Gerrit, 14, said: “At first I just saw a large ball of light and then I suddenly felt a pain in my hand. “Then, a split second after that, there was an enormous bang like a crash of thunder.”
“The noise that came after the flash of light was so loud that my ears were ringing for hours afterwards.
“When it hit me it knocked me flying and then was still going fast enough to bury itself in the road.”
Scientists are now studying the pea-sized meteorite, which crashed to Earth in Essen in Germany. Chemical tests on the rock have now proved it is from outer space.
Ansgar Korte, director of Germany’s Walter Hohmann Observatory, said: “It’s a real meteorite, therefore it is very valuable to collectors and scientists.”
Chances of being struck by a meteorite are around one in 100 million.
Astronomers searching for the building blocks of life in a giant dust cloud at the heart of the Milky Way have concluded that it tastes vaguely of raspberries.
The unanticipated discovery follows years of work by astronomers who trained their 30m radio telescope on the enormous ball of dust and gas in the hope of spotting complex molecules that are vital for life. Finding amino acids in interstellar space is a Holy Grail for astrobiologists, as this would raise the possibility of life emerging on other planets after being seeded with the molecules.
In the latest survey, astronomers sifted through thousands of signals from Sagittarius B2, a vast dust cloud at the centre of our galaxy. While they failed to find evidence for amino acids, they did find a substance called ethyl formate, the chemical responsible for the flavour of raspberries.
Curiously, ethyl formate has another distinguishing characteristic: it also smells of rum.
If the full moon tonight looks unusually large, it is not your imagination ? it is the biggest and brightest full moon to be seen for 15 years.
Each month the Moon makes a full orbit around the Earth in a slightly oval-shaped path, and tonight it will swing by the Earth at its closest distance, or perigee. It will pass by 356,613km (221,595 miles) away, which is about 28,000km closer than average.
The unusual feature of tonight is that the perigee also coincides with a full moon, which will make it appear 14 per cent bigger and some 30 per cent brighter than most full moons this year ? so long as the clouds hold off from blocking the view.
Leave it to English schoolchildren, the scientific minds behind Winnie the Pooh and Paddington, to achieve the latest astronautical milestone — sending teddy bears into space.
On Monday, a helium balloon buoyed a quartet of bears 100,000 feet up, to the edge of space, where they sampled the rarefied top of the atmosphere. Sensors monitored the extreme temperatures they experienced — more than 60 degrees Fahrenheit below zero — though the bears themselves kept snug in foil spacesuits custom-made for them by the preadolescent mission control team.
The protective bubble around the sun that helps to shield the Earth from harmful interstellar radiation is shrinking and getting weaker, NASA scientists have discovered.
New data from the Ulysses deep-space probe show that the heliosphere, the protective shield of energy that surrounds our solar system, has weakened by 25 per cent over the past decade and is now at it lowest level since the space race began 50 years ago.
If the heliosphere continues to weaken, it is feared intergalactic cosmic radiation reaching Earth will increase, disrupting electrical equipment, damaging satellites and potentially harming life.
The solar wind – the stream of charged particles billowing away from the Sun – is at its weakest for 50 years.
Scientists made the assessment after studying 18 years of data from the Ulysses satellite which has sampled the space environment all around our star.
They expect the reduced output to have effects right across the Solar System.
Indeed, one impact is to diminish slightly the influence the Sun has over its local environment which extends billions of kilometres into space.
A privately held rocket company on Wednesday blamed a design error for its latest failure to reach orbit, which caused the loss of three government satellites and human ashes, including the remains of astronaut Gordon Cooper and “Star Trek” actor James Doohan.
The two-stage Falcon 1 rocket, which blasted off from a Central Pacific atoll Saturday night, separated as planned on its way to space, but leftover thrust after engine cutoff caused the first stage to fall back and hit the second stage, according to Hawthorne-based SpaceX.
The rocket, containing the remains of 208 people, dropped in the Pacific and was not recovered.
The family of Doohan, who played Scotty on the television show “Star Trek,” could not be reached Wednesday night.
Diamonds and precious metals found in the eastern United States might have rained down during the last Ice Age after a comet shattered over Canada and set North America ablaze, all leading to a mass die-off of animals and humans.
New chemical analyses of diamond, gold and silver found in Ohio and Indiana reveal the minerals were transported there from Canada several thousand years ago. The question is, how?
“There are no gold mines or silver mines in Ohio that anyone knows of, but there are plenty of them in Canada,” said retired geophysicist Allen West, who was involved in the study.
The discovery is consistent with a theory proposed by West and colleagues that a 3-mile-wide comet splintered over glaciers and ice sheets in eastern Canada about 12,900 years ago and wiped out man and beast.
Summertime — a time for sunny days, beach weekends and of course, leisurely reflections on the end of the world and the monster asteroids that could smack into us. The centennial anniversary of the last big impact, the 1908 Tunguska blast that rocked Siberia, falls Monday, June 30, bringing with it a reminder of the very slight chance that a hunk of space rock out there might have Earth’s number.
The Tunguska “event” leveled nearly 800 square miles of swampy woodland in Siberia, traveling from the northwest to deliver a 5-megaton blast seen by hundreds of witnesses, including one who created a postage stamp of the explosion. A space rock about 50 yards long had zoomed into the Earth’s atmosphere and exploded in mid-air.
“People were knocked off their feet hundreds of miles away,” writes astronomer Phil Plait in his upcoming book Death from the Skies! These are the Ways the World Will End. Years later, a scientific expedition to the remote region found trees knocked sideways in straight lines radiating 15 miles away from the blast.
In a distant galaxy, a star orbiting a massive central black hole strays too close to the insatiable giant and is torn apart. But before it can be devoured, the star lets out one last scream in a flare of light that slowly echoes across the galaxy. Astronomers on Earth pick up this faint call and use it to map the nucleus of the galaxy from which it emanated.
This scenario is no bit of science fiction – a team of astronomers discovered one of these rare and dramatic events while combing through the Sloan Digital Sky Survey last December. Their observations are detailed in the May issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters.
The team is still monitoring the “light echo,” and for the first time, one of these events can be observed in great detail, allowing astronomers “to probe different regions of the galaxy,” said study leader Stefanie Komossa of the Max Planck Institute for extraterrestrial Physics.
The light echo currently coursing through galaxy SDSSJ0952 2143 likely originated as in the scenario above, with the following details: One of the stars orbiting the galaxy’s central black hole likely strayed off course (perhaps after being nudged into “a fatal orbit,” as Komossa called it, after interacting with another star). Eventually the pull of the black hole would rip the star apart, but before the stellar material was pulled into the accretion disk, it emitted a burst of high-energy radiation.
A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying South Korea’s first astronaut landed on Saturday in northern Kazakhstan 260 miles off its mark and 20 minutes late, Russian space officials said.
A spokesman for mission control, Valery Lyndin, said the crew — Yi So-yeon, a South Korean bioengineering student; Peggy A. Whitson, an American astronaut; and Col. Yuri I. Malenchenko, a Russian flight engineer — was safe, though the three had been subjected to severe G-forces during the re-entry.
The Russian-made Soyuz capsule touched down at 4:51 a.m. Eastern time about 260 miles off target, the spokesman said, which was highly unusual given how precisely engineers plan for such landings. It was also about 20 minutes later than scheduled.
Radivoje Lajic claims he is being targeted by aliens and has reinforced his roof in Gornja Lamovite with a steel girder.
He said: “I am obviously being targeted by aliens. I don’t know what I have done to annoy them but there is no other explanation that makes sense.
“The chance of being hit by a meteorite is so small that getting hit five times has to be deliberate.”
The chances of just one meteor hitting your house is many billions to one.
Belgrade University has confirmed that all the rocks Mr Lajic has handed over were meteorites, but not that they all hit his house.
Astronomers have captured the first footage of a solar “tsunami” hurtling through the Sun’s atmosphere at over a million kilometres per hour.
The event was captured by Nasa’s twin Stereo spacecraft designed to make 3D images of our parent star.
Naturally, this type of tsunami does not involve water; instead, it is a wave of pressure that travels across the Sun very fast.
Details are to be presented at the UK National Astronomy Meeting in Belfast.
In a solar tsunami, a huge explosion near the Sun, such as a coronal mass ejection or flare, causes a pressure pulse to propagate outwards in a circular pattern.
Last year’s solar tsunami, which took place on 19 May 2007, lasted for about 35 minutes, reaching peak speeds around 20 minutes after the initial blast.
“In half an hour, we saw the tsunami cover almost the full disc of the Sun, nearly a million kilometres away from the epicentre.”
“No other known object or type of explosion could be seen by the naked eye at such an immense distance”Sunday, March 23rd, 2008
Astronomers are familiar with seeing amazing things through their telescopes. But nothing prepared them for an incredible explosion detected early Wednesday morning by NASA’s Swift satellite. At 2:12 a.m. EDT, Swift detected an explosion from deep space that was so powerful that its afterglow was briefly visible to the naked eye. Even more astonishing, the explosion itself took place halfway across the visible universe!
Never before has anything so far away come even close to naked-eye visibility. The explosion was so far away that it took its light 7,500,000,000 (7.5 billion) years to reach Earth! In fact, the explosion took place so long ago that Earth had not yet come into existence.
Earth could be in for a neighborhood dispute with a death star, according to an Australian astronomer.
A spectacular rotating pinwheel system just down the astronomical road from Earth — 8,000 light years away — includes an unstable Wolf-Rayet star that could explode.
Eight years ago, WR104 was discovered in the constellation Sagittarius by Sydney University astronomer Peter Tuthill.
A Wolf-Rayet star is the last step on the way to a supernova — the explosion of a star at the end of its life.
Images from the Mauna Kea in Hawaii telescope show that every eight months the two stars at the centre of the pinwheel orbit each other, leaving a trail of hot gas, carbon and dust.
“Viewed from Earth, the rotating tail appears to be laid out on the sky in an almost perfect spiral,” Tuthill said. “It could only appear like that if we are looking nearly exactly down on the axis of the binary system.”
Mysteriously, five spacecraft that flew past the Earth have each displayed unexpected anomalies in their motions.
These newfound enigmas join the so-called “Pioneer anomaly” as hints that unexplained forces may appear to act on spacecraft.
A decade ago, after rigorous analyses, anomalies were seen with the identical Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft as they hurtled out of the solar system. Both seemed to experience a tiny but unexplained constant acceleration toward the sun.
A host of explanations have been bandied about for the Pioneer anomaly. At times these are rooted in conventional science — perhaps leaks from the spacecraft have affected their trajectories. At times these are rooted in more speculative physics — maybe the law of gravity itself needs to be modified.
Now Jet Propulsion Laboratory astronomer John Anderson and his colleagues — who originally helped uncover the Pioneer anomaly — have discovered that five spacecraft each raced either a tiny bit faster or slower than expected when they flew past the Earth en route to other parts of the solar system.
A meteor zipped across the U.S. Pacific Northwest sky early Tuesday morning before exploding, possibly littering eastern Oregon with marble- to basketball-size space rocks, an expert says.
Impact sites are yet to be found, according to Richard Pugh, a scientist with the Cascadia Meteorite Laboratory at Portland State University in Oregon.
Pugh is coordinating a search for potential meteorites. He said 40 to 50 eyewitnesses have contacted his lab to report the fireball.
According to the reports, the event happened around 5:30 a.m. PT on Tuesday. The meteor was first spotted over Washington State moving in an east-southeast direction.
It took just a couple of hours using data available on the internet for University of Sydney scientists to discover that the Milky Way is twice as wide as previously thought.
Astrophysicist Professor Bryan Gaensler led a team that has found that our galaxy – a flattened spiral about 100,000 light years across – is 12,000 light years thick, not the 6,000 light years that had been previously thought.
Proving not all science requires big, expensive apparatus, Professor Gaensler and colleagues, Dr Greg Madsen, Dr Shami Chatterjee and PhD student Ann Mao, downloaded data from the internet and analysed it in a spreadsheet.
“We were tossing around ideas about the size of the Galaxy, and thought we had better check the standard numbers that everyone uses. It took us just a few hours to calculate this for ourselves. We thought we had to be wrong, so we checked and rechecked and couldn’t find any mistakes.”
Well water of the tiny Canadian town of Gypsumville, Manitoba (population 65) has been poisoned by an extraterrestrial.
The invader: A meteorite which struck down almost a quarter-billion years ago, creating the 25-mile-wide (40-kilometer) Lake Martin impact crater.
The ancient impact shattered the granitic ground so that extraordinary amounts of fluoride now taint the well water. Slightly higher than recommended amounts of fluoride can cause mottled teeth, while even higher concentrations can lead to neurological problems and softened bones.
A powerful jet of particles from a “supermassive” black hole has been seen blasting a nearby galaxy, according to findings from the US space agency.
Galaxies have been seen colliding before, but it is the first time this form of galactic violence has been witnessed by astronomers.
This could have a profound effect on any planets in the jet’s path and could also trigger a burst of star formation.
The findings are to be published in the Astrophysical Journal.
The larger of the two galaxies in 3C321 – dubbed the “death star galaxy” by the astronomers – has a jet emanating from the vicinity of the black hole at its centre. The unfortunate smaller galaxy has apparently swung into the jet’s line of fire.
A bright spot in some images shows where the jet has slammed into the side of the companion galaxy, dissipating some of its energy. After striking it, the jet has become disrupted and deflected.
Saturn’s iconic rings may be much older than we thought, scientists say.New data from the Cassini probe shows these thin bands of orbiting particles were probably there billions years ago, and are likely to be very long-lived.
It means we are not in some special time – the giant planet has most likely always provided a stunning view.
Previous data had led researchers to believe the rings were created just 100 million years ago, when a huge moon or comet shattered in Saturn’s vicinity.
NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft has found that our solar system is not round but is “dented” by the local interstellar magnetic field of deep space, space experts said on Monday.The data was gathered by the craft on its 30-year journey into the edge of the solar system when it crossed into a sweeping region called the termination shock, they said.
It showed that the southern hemisphere of the solar system’s heliosphere is being pushed in or “dented.”
Voyager 2 is the second spacecraft to enter this region of the solar system behind Voyager 1, which entered the northern region of the heliosheath in December 2004.
Some of the world’s most famous meteorites are going under the hammer at a New York auction house in what is said to be the first sale of its kind.
The pieces are drawn from collections across the world and many examples are richly coloured and intricately patterned.
Price estimates range from $1.1m (£0.53m) for a 13-kilo (29-pound) piece to pebbles worth a few hundred dollars.
Wooly mammoths, giant sloths, saber-toothed cats, and dozens of other species of megafauna may have become extinct when a disintegrating comet or asteroid exploded over North America with the force of millions of hydrogen bombs, according to research by an international team of scientists.
The blast, which the researchers believe occurred 12,900 years ago, may have also doomed a mysterious early human culture, known as Clovis people, while triggering a planetwide cool-down that wiped out the plant species that sustained many outsize Ice Age beasts, according to research published online yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Villagers in southern Peru were struck by a mysterious illness after a meteorite made a fiery crash to Earth in their area, regional authorities said today.
Around midday Saturday, villagers were startled by an explosion and a fireball that many were convinced was an airplane crashing near their remote village, located in the high Andes department of Puno in the Desaguadero region, near the border with Bolivia.
Residents complained of headaches and vomiting brought on by a “strange odor,” local health department official Jorge Lopez told Peruvian radio RPP.
Astronomers using a NASA space telescope, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer, have spotted an amazingly long comet-like tail behind a star streaking through space. The star, named Mira after the Latin word for “wonderful,” has been a favorite of astronomers for about 400 years, yet this is the first time the tail has been seen.
Galaxy Evolution Explorer–”GALEX” for short–scanned the popular star during its ongoing survey of the entire sky in ultraviolet light. Astronomers then noticed what looked like a comet with a gargantuan tail. In fact, material blowing off Mira is forming a wake 13 light-years long, or about 20,000 times the average distance of Pluto from the sun. Nothing like this has ever been seen before around a star.
A PANEL has found that astronauts were allowed to fly on at least two occasions despite warnings they were so drunk they posed a flight risk, Aviation Week reported today on its website.
The publication said the panel set up by NASA to study astronaut health issues reported “heavy use of alcohol” within 12 hours of launch.
It said flight surgeons and other astronauts warned that the drunken astronauts posed a flight risk when they flew on the two known occasions.
A space program worker deliberately damaged a computer that is supposed to fly aboard shuttle Endeavour in less than two weeks, an act of sabotage that was caught before the equipment was loaded onto the spaceship, NASA said Thursday.
The unidentified employee, who works for a NASA subcontractor, cut wires inside the computer that is supposed to be delivered to the international space station by Endeavour, said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s space operations chief. The worker also damaged a similar computer that was not meant to fly to space.
Scientists need help sorting through an unusual digital photo album: pictures of about 1 million galaxies.
They are asking volunteers on the Internet to help classify the galaxies as either elliptical or spiral and note, where possible, in which direction they rotate. It would be the largest galactic census ever compiled, something scientists say would provide new insight into the structure of the universe.
”We’re in the golden era of astronomy,” said Bob Nichol, an astronomer at the University of Portsmouth in southern England. ”We have more data than we can assimilate, and we need help.”
If you are down for the cause, click here: Galaxy Zoo
Astronomers said on Wednesday they had discovered the best evidence yet of water outside our own solar system — in the atmosphere of a giant planet 60 light years from Earth.
Writing in the scientific journal Nature, researchers said the planet itself, HD 189733b, was unlikely to harbor life but evidence supported the search for life in other solar systems.
“We’re thrilled to have identified clear signs of water on a planet that is trillions of miles away,” Giovanna Tinetti, a European Space Agency fellow at the Institute d’Astrophysique de Paris in France who led the study, was quoted as saying in an accompanying news release.
You don’t have to pack your bags quite yet, but passenger travel to the Moon is on the flight manifest of a space tourist company.
The price per seat will slap your wallet or purse for a swift $100 million – but you’ll have to get in line as the first voyage is already booked.
Space Adventures, headquartered in Vienna, Virginia, is in negotiations with the customers who will fly the first private expedition to circumnavigate the Moon.
“I hope to have those contracts signed by the end of the year,” said Eric Anderson, Space Adventures’ president and CEO.
Our solar system is travelling in a different direction to the rest of the Milky Way, scientists say.
When they used radio signals from two spacecraft nearing interstellar space to map the route, they had some unexpected results.
The researchers determined that the magnetic field in interstellar space is propelling our solar system along at a 60-90° angle to the rest of the galaxy.
That’s happening because the part of the interstellar magnetic field that comes closest to our system is not parallel to the spiraling arms of the galaxy, as it appears to be elsewhere.
As a result, our solar system has taken on a bullet-shaped appearance as it soars through space, says Dr Merav Opher, an assistant professor from George Mason University in Virginia, who publishes the research in the journal Science.
A French space-surveillance radar has detected 20-30 satellites in low Earth orbit that do not figure in the U.S. Defense Department’s published catalogue, a discovery that French officials say they will use to pressure U.S. authorities to stop publishing the whereabouts of French reconnaissance and military communications satellites.
After 16 months of operations of their Graves radar system, which can locate satellites in orbits up to 1,000 kilometers in altitude and even higher in certain cases, the French Defense Ministry says it has gathered just about enough information to negotiate an agreement with the United States.
An unprecedented computer failure in the Russian segment of the International Space Station has engineers at space centers in Houston and Russia racing the clock to solve the problem before the Space Shuttle Atlantis undocks on June 19.
Cmdr. Fyodor Yurchikhin stayed up all night to work with flight controllers in Russia’s Mission Control to repair the problem.
All three computers for command and control, plus three guidance computers, which provided triple redundancy for vital space station functions, have failed; repeated attempts to force the computers to reboot have failed.
UPDATE: Apparently nobody involved (Russians, Germans, Americans) ever heard of surge suppressors!
A mini-meteorite has left a bullet-sized hole in a module of the
International Space Station (ISS), but the three-person US-Russian team of astronauts inside are not in danger, a Russian official said Wednesday.
The puncture, in an outer pumping component on the module, was detected in the Russia “Zaria” module of the station during a spacewalk by the two Russian cosmonauts on board, the spokesman for the Russian space agency, Vladimir Solovyev, said.
It was the first time a meteorite hole had been found on a module of the ISS. Several holes have been observed on the big solar panels that spread out from the orbiter.
Our Milky Way galaxy is headed for a sedate collision with its neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy, billions of years earlier than was previously thought. The earlier date means that the Sun will still be alive when the two collide; and a new computer simulation shows what could happen to our star.
There’s a good chance that it will be flung towards the outer edge of our galaxy, researchers say, and a tiny chance that it will be ‘kidnapped’ by Andromeda.
“The merger will take place before the Sun burns out, so that future astronomers within the Solar System can witness it,” says Abraham Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Although this will be tens of millions of lifetimes from now, it is conceivable that humans may still exist when the two galaxies finally meet.
In a cascade of superlatives that belies the traditional cerebral reserve of their profession, astronomers reported Monday that they had seen the brightest and most powerful stellar explosion ever recorded.
The cataclysm – a monster more than a hundred times as energetic as the typical supernova in which normal massive stars end their lives – may be an example, they said, of a completely new type of explosion.
The ashes of Star Trek actor James Doohan have been successfully launched into space from a site in New Mexico, watched by cheering fans. Part of the remains of the actor, who played Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, were sent about 70 miles above the earth on a private SpaceLoft XL rocket. His widow Wende was there to witness her husband going on his final voyage. Doohan’s ashes were accompanied by the remains of former US astronaut Gordon Cooper and those of 200 other people.
For the first time astronomers have discovered a planet outside our solar system that is potentially habitable, with Earth-like temperatures, a find researchers described Tuesday as a big step in the search for “life in the universe.” The planet is just the right size, might have water in liquid form, and in galactic terms is relatively nearby at 120 trillion miles away. But the star it closely orbits, known as a “red dwarf,” is much smaller, dimmer and cooler than our sun.
Private space exploration took a potentially significant step forward this week as Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace announced plans to send a series of inflatable space stations into orbit over the next decade.
The spacecraft, initially designed by NASA for use with the International Space Station, would be available to train astronauts from nations not currently active in space, as well as companies that could manufacture unique products in weightlessness.
“We think the time will come when orbiting space complexes won’t be considered a novelty, but a necessity,” said company President Robert Bigelow, who made a fortune as founder of Budget Suites hotel chain.
“When the first satellites went up, they were a novelty too,” he said. “Now they are a major business with enormous commercial importance. This is a logical next step.”
Water has been detected in the atmosphere of an alien world for the first time, a new analysis of Hubble Space Telescope data suggests. Water was widely believed to exist on the planet, but previous observations with other telescopes had failed to find it.The planet, called HD 209458b, is about 70% as massive as Jupiter and is scorched by the heat of its parent star, which it orbits 9 times as close as Mercury does to the Sun.
Because it is one of a small number of extrasolar planets observed to pass directly in front of and behind their parent stars as seen from Earth, astronomers have been able to glean a lot of information – such as its size and mass – about the distant world.
The first rocket launch to memorialize James Doohan by taking a portion of his cremated remains into space has been set for Saturday, April 28, in New Mexico, with a public memorial planned for the day prior.
The memorial service will be held at the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo on Friday, April 27. The Saturday launch will take place at New Mexico’s new “Spaceport America” location adjacent to the White Sands Missile Range. A specific time of day has not yet been set for either event. Both the memorial and viewing of the launch will be open to the general public. Doohan’s widow, Wende, will be present at both events, and other special guests may be announced later.
A mysterious giant hexagon lies above Saturn’s north pole, captured by cameras on Nasa’s Cassini Orbiter. Spanning 25,000km – equivalent to the width of two planet Earths – the bizarre geometric feature appears to remain virtually still in the atmosphere as clouds swirl around it.
In labs at Johnson Space Center, away from the buzz about NASA’s new spaceship and its new missions to the moon and Mars, a group of engineers are plodding away at another piece of the puzzle: spacesuits.
Astronaut apparel has evolved over the decades from Mercury’s aluminum foil-looking outfits to the bulky, 275-pound whites now used on jaunts outside the space station. While it’s too early in the process to know how the new suits will look, the space agency is hoping to make new suits both high-tech and low-maintenance.
Hinode, the newest solar observatory on the space scene, has obtained never-before-seen images showing that the sun’s magnetic field is much more turbulent and dynamic than previously known.
Hinode, Japanese for ’sunrise’, was launched on 23 September 2006 to study the sun’s magnetic field and how its explosive energy propagates through the different layers of the solar atmosphere.
“For the first time, we are now able to make out tiny granules of hot gas that rise and fall in the sun’s magnified atmosphere,” said Dick Fisher, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division. “These images will open up a new era of study on some of the sun’s processes that effect Earth, astronauts, orbiting satellites and the solar system.”
Scientists studying pictures from Nasa’s Odyssey spacecraft have spotted what they think may be seven caves on the surface of Mars. The candidate caves are on the flanks of the Arsia Mons volcano and are of sufficient depth their floors mostly cannot be seen through the opening.
The caves may be the only natural structures capable of protecting primitive life forms from micrometeoroids, UV radiation, solar flares and high energy particles that bombard the planet’s surface.
The spacecraft spotted what seemed to be vertical “skylight” entrances to caves below the surface.
There is a sheer drop of between about 80m and 130m or more to the cave floors below.
The impact of a giant asteroid could explain why Mars has two very different faces – but only if it struck the planet with a glancing blow, computer simulations suggest.
A longstanding puzzle about Mars is why its northern and southern hemispheres are so different. The northern hemisphere is much flatter and lies lower than the southern hemisphere, with a difference in elevation between the two of about 5 kilometres.
In the 1980s, scientists suggested a giant impact by an asteroid about 300 kilometres across in Mars’s early history could have led to a permanent depression in the planet’s northern hemisphere.
Now, two teams of scientists have created the first computer simulations testing whether such an impact could have produced the observed differences.
Mars is unlikely to sport beachfront property any time soon, but the planet has enough water ice at its south pole to blanket the entire planet in more than 30 feet of water if everything thawed out. With a radar technique, astronomers have penetrated for the first time about 2.5 miles (nearly four kilometers) beneath the south pole’s frozen surface. The data showed that nearly pure water ice lies beneath.
If it happened to Mars, it could happen to us. Count your blessings that we are neither frozen solid nor submerged!
Berlin plans to levy a flat rate daily tax on prostitutes from April to raise some extra revenues for its strained finances.
Following a model used by Cologne, which collected over $1 million (514,000 pounds) last year with its own flat tax, the German capital plans to tax prostitutes 30 euros (20 pounds) per working day. Berlin has rising debts of more than 60 billion euros.
Prostitution is legal in most places in Germany and sex workers are required to pay income tax as well as value-added tax (VAT). However, tax collectors have long suspected their income and VAT was not being fully reported on tax returns.
Astronauts are always are on guard against toxic spills that could contaminate the International Space Station.
But there is nothing in their training manuals about how to clean up flying wasabi. The spicy greenish condiment was squirted out of a tube while astronaut Sunita Williams was trying to make a pretend sushi meal with bag-packaged salmon. The three space station crew members are given a certain number of bonus packs of their favourite foods to help endure their months in space.
Since everything is weightless, spilled food is no ordinary clean-up challenge.
Williams reports it took a while to get rid of the smell of wasabi in the station.
Simultaneous warming on Earth and Mars suggests that our planet’s recent climate changes have a natural—and not a human-induced—cause, according to one scientist’s controversial theory.
Earth is currently experiencing rapid warming, which the vast majority of climate scientists says is due to humans pumping huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Mars, too, appears to be enjoying more mild and balmy temperatures. In 2005 data from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide “ice caps” near Mars’s south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.
Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.
“The long-term increase in solar irradiance is heating both Earth and Mars,” he said.
Something strange is happening in the outer reaches of our solar system. The Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft are not where they are supposed to be. These missions, launched in 1972 and 1973, have covered hundreds of millions of kilometers, heading toward the edge of our solar system. But something is holding them back. Each year, they fall behind in their projected travel by about 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles).
Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist John Anderson and his colleagues have been searching for an explanation since 1980. But as of yet, they have found nothing conclusive; no spacecraft behavior or previously unknown property of the outer solar system can explain the deceleration of the Pioneer spacecraft. Scientists are being forced to consider the unthinkable: something may be wrong with our understanding of the laws of physics. An important line of inquiry will be to study mounds of Doppler (velocity) data and spacecraft status data (like temperatures) that have been unavailable to researchers—but that is about to change
What would happen if an astronaut became mentally unstable in space and, say, destroyed the ship’s oxygen system or tried to open the hatch and kill everyone aboard?
That was the question after the apparent breakdown of Lisa Nowak, arrested this month on charges she tried to kidnap and kill a woman she regarded as her rival for another astronaut’s affections.
It turns out NASA has detailed, written procedures for dealing with a suicidal or psychotic astronaut in space. The documents, obtained this week by The Associated Press, say the astronaut’s crewmates should bind his wrists and ankles with duct tape, tie him down with a bungee cord and inject him with tranquilizers if necessary.
Astronauts could be trained to cross-country ski across the surface of the moon as preparations for the next generation of lunar missions take shape, a conference heard Saturday.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced plans last year to build a base on the moon by 2020, hoping to use the lunar outpost as a launchpad for exploring the solar system in future generations.
Apollo 17 astronaut Harry Schmitt said that future inhabitants of the moonbase should be taught Nordic skiing to travel around the moon, where lower gravity means large distances can be covered with minimum effort.
“If I was running the astronaut office I certainly would recommend cross-country skiing, yes,” Schmitt told reporters during a presentation at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting.
A suspected meteorite killed two nomads and injured five others on Thursday in the northern Indian desert state of Rajasthan, a report said.
A NASA astronaut is charged with attacking her rival for another astronaut’s attention early Monday at Orlando International Airport, the Orlando Sentinel has learned.Lisa Marie Nowak drove from Texas to meet the 1 a.m. flight of a younger woman who had also been seeing the male astronaut Nowak pined for, according to Orlando police.
Nowak — who was a mission specialist on a Discovery launch last summer — was wearing a trench coat and wig and had a knife, BB pistol, rubber tubing and plastic bags, reports show. Once U.S. Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman arrived, Nowak followed her to the airport’s Blue Lot for long-term parking, tried to get into Shipman’s car and doused her with pepper spray, according to reports.
From southeastern Wisconsin to as far as Des Moines, Iowa and St. Louis, people reported seeing balls of fire, possibly meteors, streaking across the sky last night. No major meteor showers were expected in the northern hemisphere on Sunday night, said Jim Lattis, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison astronomy department’s Space Place. But he said it was possible that a minor shower may have been what prompted calls to authorities.
Lunar colonists could be in for a nasty shock — literally. A team of US scientists has found that the Moon’s surface can become charged with up to several thousand volts of static electricity
This charging could release sparks that disable electronic equipment — including monitors, space buggies or even the front door of a Moon base. And it could cause dust clouds that clogs up instruments. What’s worse, it can be caused by bad weather in space: just when astronauts need their equipment to give them warning and allow them to shelter from the radiation.
Data gleaned from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express Orbiter has revealed that the Red Planet might hold large underground reservoirs of water and carbon dioxide that once formed the planet’s ancient atmosphere.
Stas Barabash and colleagues from the Swedish Institute of Space Physics who studied the data said, of the water and carbon dioxide that once existed on the planet, only a small amount was likely lost to the effects of solar wind over the past 3.5 billion years.
Mars is losing little water to space, according to new research, so much of its ancient abundance may still be hidden beneath the surface. Dried up riverbeds and other evidence imply that Mars once had enough water to fill a global ocean more than 600 metres deep, together with a thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide that kept the planet warm enough for the water to be liquid. But the planet is now very dry and has a thin atmosphere.
Massive stars and their dead brethren are teaming up to build a colossal space bubble outside our Milky Way galaxy. Expanding envelopes of gas and dust shed by massive stars and supernovas are in the act of merging in a peculiar region of the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of two dwarf galaxies near the Milky Way.
Two nearby galaxies – long thought to be true companions of the Milky Way – may instead be drifters, passing through the cosmic neighbourhood. Astronomers say the Magellanic Clouds may be moving too fast to be gravitationally bound to our galaxy.
By analysing the COSMOS survey – the largest ever survey undertaken with Hubble – an international team of scientists has assembled a three-dimensional map that offers a first look at the web-like large-scale distribution of dark matter in the Universe. This historic achievement, one of the most important results in cosmology, accurately confirms standard theories of structure formation.
A spent Russian booster rocket re-entered the atmosphere Thursday over Colorado and Wyoming, the North American Aerospace Defense Command said. Eyewitnesses reported seeing flaming objects in the sky at the time the rocket was re-entering, NORAD spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Sean Kelly said. “It was pretty spectacular,” said Riverton Police Capt. Mark Stone, who said he saw the burning object while he was retrieving his newspaper. “My first concern is that we had some sort of aircraft that was coming down. It was definitely leaving a burning debris trail behind it.”
A metal, rock-like object about the size of a golf ball and weighing nearly as much as a can of soup crashed through the roof of a Monmouth County home, and authorities on Wednesday were trying to figure out what it was. The rough-feeling object, with a metallic glint, was displayed Wednesday by police. “There‘s some great interest in what we have here,” said Lt. Robert Brightman. “It‘s rather unusual. I haven‘t seen anything like it in my career.”
Their 90-day warranties expired long ago. But NASA’s six-wheeled Martian rovers still are going strong. After a bleak winter on the fourth rock from the sun, Spirit and Opportunity are rolling again.
Three years ago, when the first of the two rovers bounced to a landing on Mars, scientists hoped one of them might last long enough to transmit a few hundred pictures from the surface and help them decide where the arid planet’s water went.
Few dared dream that, come Wednesday, they would be celebrating the third anniversary of operations by two rovers on opposite sides of the planet.
So far, the two little robots have beamed back 160,000 pictures. NASA now aims to keep the solar-powered robots running through September.
If a group of Marine Corps visionaries have their way, however, 30 years from now, Marines could touch down anywhere on the globe in less than two hours, without needing to negotiate passage through foreign airspace. The breathtaking efficiency of such a delivery system could change forever the way the U.S. does battle. The proposal, part of the Corps’s push toward greater speed and flexibility, is called Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion, or Sustain. Using a suborbital transport—that is, a vehicle that flies into space to achieve high travel speeds but doesn’t actually enter orbit—the Corps will be able, in effect, to instantaneously deliver Marine squads anywhere on Earth.
Detailed observations from the first comet samples returned to Earth are debunking some of science’s long-held beliefs on how the icy, celestial bodies form.Scientists expected the minute grains retrieved from a comet Wild 2 to be made up mostly of interstellar dust — tiny particles that flow through the solar system thought to be from ancient stars that exploded and died.
Instead, they found an unusual mix of primordial material as if the solar system had turned itself inside out. Hot particles from the inner solar system migrated out to the cold, outer fringes beyond Pluto where they intermingled and congealed to form a comet.