Space exploration news

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Captain’s Log | September 15, 2017

The end is now upon us. Within hours of the posting of this entry, Cassini will have burned up in the atmosphere of Saturn … a kiloton explosion, spread out against the sky in a pyrrhic display of light and fire, a dazzling flash to signal the dying essence of a lone emissary from another world. As if the myths of old had foretold the future, the great patriarch will consume his child. At that point, that golden machine, so dutiful and strong, will enter the realm of history, and the toils and triumphs of this long march will be done.

For those of us appointed long ago to undertake this journey, it has been a taxing 3 decades, requiring a level of dedication that I could not have predicted, and breathless times when we sprinted for the duration of a marathon. But in return, we were blessed to spend our lives working and playing in that promised land beyond the Sun.

My imaging team members and I were especially blessed to serve as the documentarians of this historic epoch and return a stirring visual record of our travels around Saturn and the glories that we found there. This is our gift to the citizens of planet Earth.

So, it is with both wistful, sentimental reflection and a boundless sense of pride in a commitment met and a job well done that I now turn to face this looming, abrupt finality.

It is doubtful we will soon see a mission as richly suited as Cassini return to this ringed world and shoulder a task as colossal as we have borne over the last 27 years.

To have served on this mission has been to live the rewarding life of an explorer of our time, a surveyor of distant worlds. We wrote our names across the sky. We could not have asked for more.

I sign off now, grateful in knowing that Cassini’s legacy, and ours, will include our mutual roles as authors of a tale that humanity will tell for a very long time to come.

Orion blazing bright in radio light

A team of astronomers has unveiled a striking new image of the Orion Molecular Cloud (OMC) – a bustling stellar nursery teeming with bright, young stars and dazzling regions of hot, glowing gas.

The researchers used the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia to study a 50 light-year long filament of star-forming gas that is wending its way through the northern portion of the OMC known as Orion A.

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This morning, a plucky NASA spacecraft has entered the orbit of one of the oddest little worlds in our solar system.

Ceres is round like a planet, but really small. Its total surface would cover just a third of the United States. And there’s still a lot of work to be done in order to learn how Ceres fits into our solar system.

NASA Probe Reaches Orbit Around Dwarf Planet

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

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Meteor strikes Thailand twice in 3 months.

The first ( seen in the first animation) took place on September 7 and the second one on the second of November. They were initially thought to be some plane crashes, but were later confirmed to be small meteor showers.


Just that you know this happens all the time in our atmosphere and there is nothing to be alarmed about.

EDIT: 

Here is yet another spectacular but dangerous meteorite crash in Russia that occurred waay back in 2012. Caused quite a stir!

Sources: video-1 , video -2 , video-3.

Venus's turbulent atmosphere

International research team sheds light on Earth’s ‘twin planet’

Venus is often referred to as Earth’s twin because both planets share a similar size and surface composition. Also, they both have atmospheres with complex weather systems. 

But that is about where the similarities end: Venus is one the most hostile places in our solar system. 

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Tracking the birth of a 'super-earth'

A new model giving rise to young planetary systems offers a fresh solution to a puzzle that has vexed astronomers ever since new detection technologies and planet-hunting missions such as NASA’s Kepler space telescope have revealed thousands of planets orbiting other stars: While the majority of these exoplanets fall into a category called super-Earths – bodies with a mass somewhere between Earth and Neptune – most of the features observed in nascent planetary systems were thought to require much more massive planets, rivaling or dwarfing Jupiter, the gas giant in our solar system.

In other words, the observed features of many planetary systems in their early stages of formation did not seem to match the type of exoplanets that make up the bulk of the planetary population in our galaxy.

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Nasa just announced an incredible new planet found, how exciting!

Kepler 452b or Earth 2.0 :)

Unlike any other ever found!

* The first planet found that orbits the same type star as our sun (G star)

* The sun is a similar size to our own

* It is almost the same distance away from its sun as we are from ours

* It has a 385 day orbit, only 20 days more than ours

* The planet is 1.5 billion years older than our own, so evolution is promising in the right conditions

So excited right now!

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“JUNO PROBE MAKES HISTORY BY ENTERING JUPITER’S ORBIT AFTER FIVE-YEAR JOURNEY”

Last night, NASA and its Juno probe made history by entering a new probe in orbit around Jupiter. The Juno spacecraft, which had left Earth five years ago, finally entered Jovian orbit after a 35 minute rocket engine manoeuvre to slow down its approach to the planet and get caught by its gravity. Unlike other engine firings in the past, Juno’s manoeuvre was especially dangerous since no previous spacecraft had ever dared to pass so close to Jupiter; its intense radiation belts can destroy unprotected electronics. Luckily, since the probe was built like a tank with titanium shielding, a few minutes later, a sequence of tones transmitted from the spacecraft confirmed the braking manoeuvre had been a smashing success prompting wild cheering at NASA’s mission control in Pasadena, California. “All stations on Juno co-ord, we have the tone for burn cut-off on Delta B,” Juno Mission Control had announced. “Roger Juno, welcome to Jupiter.”
Juno’s main objective is to sense Jupiter’s structure and chemistry to gather clues on how the gas giant formed some four-and-a-half-billion years ago. However, much of this observation will not take place until mid-October when Juno performs a second rocket engine burn to tighten its orbit to just 14 days. By then, Juno will be able to answer some interesting questions about the planet including where it formed  in the early Solar System and whether Jupiter has a solid core or a core made of compressed gas. After the mission ends, Juno is scheduled to dive into Jupiter’s atmosphere in February 2018 to ensure that there is no possibility of it crashing into and contaminating any of Jupiter’s large moons.

Read more about this fascinating story on: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-36710768

Planet Nine hypothesis supported by new evidence

Last year, the existence of an unknown planet in our Solar system was announced. However, this hypothesis was subsequently called into question as biases in the observational data were detected. Now Spanish astronomers have used a novel technique to analyse the orbits of the so-called extreme trans-Neptunian objects and, once again, they point out that there is something perturbing them: a planet located at a distance between 300 to 400 times the Earth-Sun separation.

Scientists continue to argue about the existence of a ninth planet within our Solar System. At the beginning of 2016, researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech, USA) announced that they had evidence of the existence of this object, located at an average distance of 700 AU or astronomical units (700 times the Earth-Sun separation) and with a mass ten times that of Earth.

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HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT!

Elon Musk is set to announce his plans for Mars colonization in an hour, at 2:30 Eastern Time. 

Please watch it because this could be history in the making.

The Watery Past of Mars

A new study led by Northern Illinois University geography professor Wei Luo calculates the amount of water needed to carve the ancient network of valleys on Mars and concludes the Red Planet’s surface was once much more watery than previously thought.

The study bolsters the idea that Mars once had a warmer climate and active hydrologic cycle, with water evaporating from an ancient ocean, returning to the surface as rainfall and eroding the planet’s extensive network of valleys.

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SCIENCE: There was excitement today as NASA announced that Edward Burns was the first dickhead big enough to be visible from space.

“This is amazing news.” confirmed Dr. Juan Kerr, Pointless Letters science consultant. “A dickhead big enough and obvious enough to be visible to the crew of the ISS as they pass over. This will redefine our understanding of just how big a dickhead someone can be.”

Galaxy alignments traced back 10 billion years

A new study led by Michael West of Lowell Observatory and Roberto De Propris of the University of Turku, Finland, reveals that the most massive galaxies in the universe have been aligned with their surroundings for at least ten billion years. This discovery shows that galaxies, like people, are influenced by their environment from a young age.

Astronomers have long known that galaxies cluster together into enormous systems – the urban centers of the cosmos – and that the largest galaxies tend to ‘point’ towards their neighbors. But how and when these alignments occur remains a mystery.

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Ingredient of life found around infant Sun-like stars

Two teams of astronomers have harnessed the power of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile to detect the prebiotic complex organic molecule methyl isocyanate [1] in the multiple star system IRAS 16293-2422. One team was co-led by Rafael Martín-Doménech at the Centro de Astrobiología in Madrid, Spain, and Víctor M. Rivilla, at the Osservatorio Astrofisico di Arcetri in Florence, Italy; and the other by Niels Ligterink at the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands and Audrey Coutens at University College London, United Kingdom.

“This star system seems to keep on giving! Following the discovery of sugars, we’ve now found methyl isocyanate. This family of organic molecules is involved in the synthesis of peptides and amino acids, which, in the form of proteins, are the biological basis for life as we know it,” explain Niels Ligterink and Audrey Coutens [2].

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Rover findings indicate stratified lake on ancient Mars

A long-lasting lake on ancient Mars provided stable environmental conditions that differed significantly from one part of the lake to another, according to a comprehensive look at findings from the first three-and-a-half years of NASA’s Curiosity rover mission. While previous work had revealed the presence of a lake more than three billion years ago in Mars’ Gale Crater, this study defines the lake’s chemical conditions and uses Curiosity’s powerful payload to determine that the lake was stratified.

Stratified bodies of water exhibit sharp chemical or physical differences between deep water and shallow water. In Gale’s lake, the shallow water was richer in oxidants than deeper water was.

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Juno mission to Jupiter delivers first science results

NASA’s Juno mission, led by Southwest Research Institute’s Dr. Scott Bolton, is rewriting what scientists thought they knew about Jupiter specifically, and gas giants in general, according to a pair of Science papers released today. The Juno spacecraft has been in orbit around Jupiter since July 2016, passing within 3,000 miles of the equatorial cloudtops.

“What we’ve learned so far is earth-shattering. Or should I say, Jupiter-shattering,” said Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator. “Discoveries about its core, composition, magnetosphere, and poles are as stunning as the photographs the mission is generating.”

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