space and science news
Astronaut Bill Pogue (1930-2014)
(Mar 4, 2014) Veteran astronaut
Bill Pogue, who served on the final Skylab mission and as a support
crewmember for several Apollo missions, has passed away; he was
more (Spaceflight Insider)
Evidence of water in meteorite revives debate over life
(Mar 3, 2014) A team of scientists
at NASA's Johnson Space Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory
in Pasadena has found evidence of past water movement throughout
a Martian meteorite (the Yamato meteorite), reviving debate in
the scientific community over life on Mars.
715 new planets announced in one day
(Feb 26, 2014) The science team
sifting data from NASA's Kepler space telescope says it has identified
715 new planets beyond our Solar System – a huge new haul.
In the nearly two decades since the first exoplanet was first
discovered, researchers had claimed the detection of just over
1,000 new worlds.
Biggest lunar impact ever observed
(Feb 25, 2014) Scientists say
they have observed a record-breaking impact on the Moon. Spanish
astronomers spotted a meteorite with a mass of about half a metric
ton crashing into the lunar surface last September.
First rocket to "extraterrestrial space"
(Feb 24, 2014) On this day in
In 1949, "the first recorded man-made object to reach extraterrestrial
space" was launched from the White Sands Proving Grounds, New
Mexico. The two-stage rocket, known as Bumper WAC Corporal Round
5 (like the one shown here), had a first stage that was a German
V-2 rocket with the warhead replaced by a launching compartment.
After the V-2 reached its highest altitude, the second stage –
a modified WAC Corporal sounding rocket – separated from
it to complete the journey into space. It sent telemetry to groud
stations, including high-altitude temperature measurements, and
reached a record speed of 5,150 mph and record altitude of 244
Speeding star creates showy shock wave
(Feb 21, 2014) Roguish runaway
stars can have a big impact on their surroundings as they plunge
through the Milky Way galaxy. Their high-speed encounters create
arcs, as seen in this newly released image from NASA's Spitzer
Space Telescope. In this case, the speedster star is known as
Kappa Cassiopeiae, or HD 2905. It is a massive, hot supergiant
moving at around 2.5 million mph relative to its neighbors. But
what really makes the star stand out in this image is the surrounding,
streaky red glow of material in its path. Such structures are
called bow shocks, and they can often be seen in front of the
fastest, most massive stars in the galaxy.
A runaway pulsar and its extraordinary jet
(Feb 20, 2014) An extraordinary
jet trailing behind a runaway pulsar is seen in this composite
image that contains data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory
(purple), radio data from the Australia Compact Telescope Array
(green), and optical data from the 2MASS survey (red, green, and
blue). The pulsar - a spinning neutron star - and its tail are
found in the lower right of this image. The tail stretches for
37 light years, making it the longest jet ever seen from an object
in the Milky Way Galaxy.
2000 EM26: 'potentially hazardous' asteroid to fly close
(Feb 18, 2014) A "potentially
hazardous" asteroid the size of three football fields will pass
2.1 million miles (8.8 the distance of the Moon) from the Earth
early on Tuesday (or late Monday evening, depending where you
are. Although 2000 EM26 poses no threat, its size (270 meters,
or 885ft, across) and speed (27,000 mph) are a reminder of what
damage could be inflicted by direct impact of such an object.
Mystery of Mars 'jelly doughnut' solved
(Feb 16, 2014) When a rock suddenly
appeared in front of the Opportunity rover on Mars last month,
scientists were puzzled. Now, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion
Lab say they've solved the mystery. The rover, it seems, rolled
over a larger rock, first breaking it, and then kicking a fragment
– Pinnacle Island, as the rock eventually became known –
over with its wheel to land right in front of the camera at just
the right moment.
Experiment passes nuclear fusion 'ignition' milestone
(Feb 13, 2014) US researchers
have achieved a world first in an ambitious experiment that aims
to recreate the conditions at the heart of the sun and pave the
way for nuclear fusion reactors. The scientists generated more
energy from fusion reactions than they put into the nuclear fuel,
in a small but crucial step along the road to harnessing fusion
Best evidence yet for present-day water flows on Mars
(Feb 11, 2014) NASA spacecraft
orbiting Mars have provided some of the strongest clues to date
that liquid water may exist on the Red Planet today. Dark, finger-like
markings have been seen advancing down some Martian slopes when
temperatures rise. The new clues include corresponding seasonal
changes in iron minerals on the same slopes and a survey of ground
temperatures and other traits at active sites. These support a
suggestion that brines with an iron-mineral antifreeze, such as
ferric sulfate, may flow seasonally, though there are still other
A history of curious artifacts sent into space
(Feb 10, 2014) Since the dawn
of the Space Age in 1957, thousands of artifacts and memorabilia
have been flown into space. Some have been hoisted on brief suborbital
flights, while others have been flung out of the solar system,
never to return. Here are some of the more unusual and memorable
more (Universe Today)
First weather map of a brown dwarf
(Feb 8, 2014) ESO's Very Large
Telescope has been used to create the first ever map of the weather
on the surface of the nearest brown dwarf to Earth. An international
team has made a chart of the dark and light features on WISE J104915.57-531906.1B,
which is informally known as Luhman 16B and is one of two recently
discovered brown dwarfs forming a pair only six light-years from
Kepler finds a very wobbly planet
(Feb 6, 2014) Imagine living on
a planet with seasons so erratic you would hardly know whether
to wear Bermuda shorts or a heavy overcoat. That is the situation
on a weird, wobbly world found by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler
space telescope (now defunct). The planet, called Kepler-413b,
precesses wildly on its spin axis, so that its axis can vary by
as much as 30 degrees over 11 years, leading to rapid and erratic
changes in seasons.
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