Space.com

NASA’s aging planet-hunting Kepler telescope is struggling to see straight

An artist’s illustration of NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which has discovered about 70 percent of all known exoplanets to date. (NASA) The reign of NASA’s champion exoplanet-hunting telescope Kepler may be coming to an end this month, according to an update from the agency posted yesterday (Sept. 28). That’s because two systems are troubling the aging telescope: New data shows that the instrument is struggling to point precisely across the heavens, even as it continues to run out of fuel, according to the agency statement. The team behind Kepler has turned off the instrument temporarily, then will wake it up again on Oct. 10, when it is due to send its next batch of data back to Earth. At this point, according to NASA, there’s no way to tell whether that pro...

NASA starts 45-day clock to contact Mars Rover Opportunity as dust storm wanes

Tracks from NASA’s Opportunity rover on Mars are visible on the Martian surface in this image taken in June 2017. After months of silence from Opportunity due to a dust storm on Mars, NASA has begun a 45-day campaign to reestablish contact with the rover.  (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.) The planet-enveloping dust storm on Mars has settled enough for NASA to start a 45-day active-listening period in which the agency hopes to make contact with the rover Opportunity after three months of silence, NASA announced yesterday (Sept. 11). So, for the next 45 days, NASA engineers will nudge the spacecraft several times a day, rather than the three times a week that had been the procedure. That schedule is based on the hope that the rover is now harvesting enough solar power to ...

NASA will launch a laser into space next month to track Earth’s melting ice

NASA is preparing to launch a cutting-edge, laser-armed satellite that will spend three years studying Earth’s changing ice sheets from above. Called the Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), the mission is currently scheduled to launch in mid-September. The satellite will be able to measure the changing thickness of individual patches of ice from season to season, registering increases and decreases as small as a fifth of an inch (half a centimeter). “The areas that we’re talking about are vast — think the size of the continental U.S. or larger — and the changes that are occurring over them can be very small,” Tom Wagner, a NASA scientist studying the world’s ice, said during a news conference yesterday (Aug. 22). “They benefit from an i...

Astronaut captures incredible typhoon image from space

Typhoon Soulik swirls in an Aug. 20, 2018, image from the Suomi-National Polar Orbiting Partnership (Suomi-NPP) satellite. Credit: VIIRS/Suomi-NPP/NASA/NOAA NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold caught a spectacular view of Typhoon Soulik swirling toward southern Japan from his post on the International Space Station. Arnold posted the image on Twitter Aug. 20, warning everyone to stay safe in the wake of the whirling storm. According to the Washington Post, Soulik is one of three storms currently churning in the Pacific Ocean — Hurricane Lane, which may hit Hawaii, and typhoons Soulik and tropical storm Cimaron, heading toward East Asia. Soulik’s winds are traveling at 115 mph (185 km/h), which is equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane, and may hit the Amami Islands of Japan as early as Aug. 21...

NASA created a rare, exotic state of matter in space

NASA has cooled a cloud of rubidium atoms to ten-millionth of a degree above absolute zero, producing the fifth, exotic state of matter in space. The experiment also now holds the record for the coldest object we know of in space, though it isn’t yet the coldest thing humanity has ever created. (That record still belongs to a laboratory at MIT.) The Cold Atom Lab (CAL) is a compact quantum physics machine, a device built to work in the confines of the International Space Station (ISS) that launched into space in May. Now, according to a statement from NASA, the device has produced its first Bose-Einstein condensates, the strange conglomerations of atoms that scientists use to see quantum effects play out at large scales. “Typically, BEC experiments involve enough equipment to f...

Nearby alien planet may be capable of supporting life

This artist’s illustration shows the potentially temperate planet Ross 128b, with its red dwarf parent star in the background. Credit: M. Kornmesser/ESO One of the nearest exoplanets to Earth may be a decent abode for life. Ross 128b — which lies just 11 light-years from our planet — is likely a rocky and temperate world, a new study suggests. “Although Ross 128b is not Earth’s twin, and there is still much we don’t know about its potential geologic activity, we were able to strengthen the argument that it’s a temperate planet that could potentially have liquid water on its surface,” lead author Diogo Souto, of the Observatório Nacional in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, said in a statement. [10 Exoplanets That Could Host Alien Life] Ross 128b has excited and intrigued astr...

Could self-repairing ‘Star Wars’ droid L3-37 come to life? Not quite

Phoebe Waller-Bridge plays L3-37 in “Solo: A Star Wars Story”  (Lucasfilm) Is the newest droid in the “Star Wars” universe the future of modern robotics? In the recently released film “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” the droid L3-37, also known as L3 or Elthree, showcased a unique set of traits among “Star Wars” robots. The intelligent pilot droid is always changing, improving and repairing itself with found scraps from other bots. L3 is also one of the first bots in the “Star Wars” franchise to bring feminine programming to a major role. L3 is a hodgepodge of various droids and astromechs, which are robots typically used for repairs aboard starships in “Star Wars.” She’s “a bit of a mutt,” as the film̵...

Apollo Moon rock rediscovered in Cambodia debuts on display

Encased in lucite, this 1.142-gram moon rock was returned to Earth by Apollo 17 in 1972 and presented to Cambodia a year later.  (U.S. Embassy in Cambodia via collectSPACE.com) A small moon rock gifted to Cambodia by the United States amid the Vietnam War has resurfaced after being all but lost to time and strife. Officials representing the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh and the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia unveiled the museum’s display of the “goodwill” moon rock on Monday (June 18), following an extensive effort to determine its origin. “Last fall, the National Museum approached the U.S. Embassy to investigate the background of this unique artifact,” said Michael Newbill, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy. “The history and background r...

Why does Venus spin so weirdly?

A composite image of Venus as seen by Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft. Venus’ spin varies because of atmospheric waves over the planet’s mountains, according to a new study.  (JAXA) For years, scientists have been unable to agree on the length of a day on Venus, but one new study might put an end to this confusion. The planet Venus rotates very slowly, with a single revolution taking about 243 Earth days, and this rotation rate varies. Additionally, while the planet turns slowly, its atmosphere moves dramatically faster, making a complete rotation in only four Earth days, according to a statement about the new study. However, while we can follow the planet’s changing rotation, until now, scientists weren’t able to clearly explain why the rate changes.   Thanks to ...

Seasonal changes in exoplanet’s atmosphere could signal alien life

This contrasting artistic image of an early Martian environment with a thicker atmosphere (left) and the cold, dry Mars of today (right) shows how atmospheric changes affect a planet’s ability to hold life.  (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center) Seasonal changes in an alien planet’s atmosphere could signal the presence of extraterrestrial life, new research suggests. Researchers aim to expand our ability to hunt for aliens by creating a new search protocol to be used with next-generation telescopes. As described in a paper published yesterday (May 9) in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, a research team at University of California, Riverside’s (UCR) Alternative Earths Astrobiology Center has used the way Earth’s atmosphere changes from season to season to devel...

SpaceX set to debut newest Falcon 9 Rocket: ‘Block 5’

SpaceX’s first Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket rolls to its launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  (Elon Musk/Instagram) SpaceX is set to debut the latest, most advanced version of its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket this Thursday (May 10). The company determined that its first Falcon 9 “Block 5” booster is ready to go, after analyzing data from a routine prelaunch static-fire test that occurred Friday (May 4) at historic Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “Targeting Falcon 9 Block 5 launch of Bangabandhu Satellite-1 on May 10 from Pad 39A in Florida,” SpaceX representatives wrote on Twitter today (May 7). [6 Fun Facts About SpaceX] Bangabandhu 1 is a communications satellite that SpaceX is launching for the government of B...

‘Mars ain’t gonna be easy’: What Apollo 17 leaders are saying about future space exploration

Apollo 17 flight director Gerry Griffin (left), retired astronaut Jack Schmitt (center) and backroom scientist James Head held a panel discussion for the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 17 mission at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, on March 21, 2018.  (National Institute of Aerospace/Lunar and Planetary Institute ) THE WOODLANDS, Texas — To commemorate the 45th anniversary of Apollo 17 — the last time astronauts walked on the moon — three key figures from the historic mission held a panel discussion here at the 49th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference on Wednesday (March 21). Apollo 17 flew to the moon in December 1972 and marked the end of NASA’s Apollo program. The lunar module pilot Harrison “Jack” Schmitt and Cmdr. Gene Cer...

  • 1
  • 2