earth sample

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Fossilized, partially recrystallized coral.

Our Asteroid-Bound Mission is Set to Slingshot Around Earth

NASA’s first spacecraft to travel to an asteroid will get a boost from Earth tomorrow, Sept. 22. 

Earth’s gravity is going to slingshot OSIRIS-REx toward its target, an asteroid named Bennu.

Asteroids are relatively small, inactive, rocky bodies that orbit around the Sun. Scientists think asteroids like Bennu may have collided with Earth a long time ago, seeding our planet with the organic compounds that made life possible. That means that there’s a good chance Bennu contains answers to fundamental questions about the origins of life and how our solar system came to be. We sent OSIRIS-REx on a journey to investigate.

One of the best ways to change the trajectory of a spacecraft is by using the gravity of a planet or large moon to catapult it. It sounds like science fiction, but this type of maneuver, called a gravity assist, is a fuel-efficient way of traveling through space.

We’re not using the slingshot to speed the spacecraft, we’re doing it to change its direction. That’s because the asteroid’s orbit is tilted six degrees in comparison to Earth’s orbit. When OSIRIS-REx swings by, Earth’s gravity will lift it up and sling it toward Bennu.

Spot the spacecraft

Because at its closest approach OSIRIS-REx will only be 11,000 miles above Earth, you can see it with a backyard telescope. For most observers, the spacecraft will appear between the constellations Cetus and Pisces, but its exact position in the sky will vary by location.

For specifics on locating and photographing OSIRIS-REx, visit our Spot the Spacecraft page.

Wave to OSIRIS-REx

After its closest approach, OSIRIS-REx flip around and look back at Earth, so here’s your chance to say hello! Take a picture of yourself or your group waving to OSIRIS-REx. Then share your photo using the hashtag #HelloOSIRISREx and tag the mission account on Twitter @OSIRISREx or Instagram @OSIRIS_REx.

To Bennu and back

In about a year from now, OSIRIS-REx will arrive at asteroid Bennu.

After it surveys and maps Bennu, OSIRIS-REx will “high-five” the asteroid with its robotic arm to collect a sample, which it will send to Earth. This asteroid sample will be the largest amount of space material transported to Earth since we brought back rocks from the Moon. High-fives all around!

If everything goes according to plan, on Sept. 24, 2023, the capsule containing the asteroid sample will make a soft landing in the Utah desert. That’s the end of the spacecraft’s seven-year-long journey to Bennu and back.

But the mission doesn’t stop there. On Earth, the sample material collected by OSIRIS-REx will be analyzed to determine the asteroid’s chemical composition. Scientists will look for organic compounds like amino acids and sugars — the building blocks for life. 

Bennu is approximately 4.5 billion years old. Our solar system is 4.6 billion years old. That means that Bennu is made up of some of the oldest stuff in our solar system. So samples from Bennu could tell us more about how our solar system evolved and possibly even how life began on Earth!
Learn more about asteroid Bennu, the OSIRIS-REx mission and the Earth gravity assist. 

Follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates. 

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.

Second Contact

Again, really quick followup to First contact. any suggestions on what might happen next are welcome. I am writing these as first drafts with minimal editing so it is readable, so the quality will never be better than this. sorry.

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It seemed that all specie had a near universal belief that there were monsters where no one had been to before. When they were planetary beings, species generally believed the monsters to be in the distant regions on their home, but when their planet was explored, they pictured the monsters to be above them, beyond the sky. But when they left their planet, the monsters moved to other planets. And so on and so on. It was never anything anyone took seriously, more like children’s fairy tales than anything, but the fear of the unknown was difficult to overcome, even for the most intelligent and rational beings.

But  a year ago, Admiral Hot’ath and his crew seemed to find the monsters. The Dareth Were an ancient species that had once conquered hundreds of galaxies. Though it was so long ago, no one knew anything about them other than that they had existed and were a supreme military force that only were stopped through the combined efforts of every known intelligent species in the universe. Most people had even forgotten about them entirely as they had drifted into legend, then obscurity. And now, Admiral Hot’ath was bringing them back into the intergalactic community. As of yet, no one knew whether this was a good or bad thing, and the Torgians were being pressured by other species to leave them alone and never go back. The problem was that the New Dareths, or humans as they referred to themselves, had already mastered FTL communication, and had colonized all hospitable planets in their solar system, and even a few inhospitable ones. It was only a matter of time before they spread throughout the galaxy, and eventually move beyond. It would be roughly a million years until they reached the known Intergalactic community, but it would happen. It would be better to establish a relationship with them now and perhaps befriend them instead of leaving them to their own devices.

Of course there were other Species that wanted to kill them all now, and even more that wanted to participate in making contact. But as it was a Torgian expeditionary force that found them, it was ultimately the decision of the Torgian King, Gil-tetch. He had since made the decision to send the same fleet back along with a military escort and a diplomatic unit.

Thankfully, they were not going in blind. The Humans were eager to make contact with a foreign intelligence, and gave a mass of information about their home planet and themselves to Hot’ath as a good will gesture.  Though the information was incredibly valuable and provided much insight, it was so bizarre, that half the people who looked at it didn’t believe it was real. But King Gil-tetch did, and that was all that mattered.

Their home planet was a bit of an oddity, its biomes ranging wildly from below freezing to above boiling, and its weather patterns being oddly unpredictable. But it’s most astonishing feature was the level of biodiversity it supported. There were thousands of animal species, and just as many subspecies. Plants were strange as well, few being edible unless the consumer had multiple stomachs. Many were also carnivorous, and a few even seemed to be malicious for non-sentient beings, and the intelligence and capabilities of the fungi would be frightening if it was self aware.

But the humans stood out above all else. They did not remain where they were comfortable, they went EVERYWHERE, even  living in hostile areas for no discernable reason. They seemed to enjoy dangerous environments more than safe ones as shown by finding a way to colonize one of the Gas Giants in their solar system. It was like their very existence was a declaration that they would refuse to die and would prove that nothing would kill them. They ate foods that were inedible, they owned dangerous animals as pets, they fought each other for recreation, they would perform horrifying medical procedures that most other species were incapable of doing, just to keep from dying. And it was Admiral Hot’ath’s job to ensure that they would not kill anyone.

He stood on the bridge staring at the screen showing Prison 1. Or as the Humans called it, Earth. The humans seemed glad that his fleet had returned, and had invited them to come straight to the home world. They had already established a connection with the Information network the humans established and was cross-referencing they information they already had with the human’s open sources. They were traveling at .1 light speed and were now entering orbit of the planet. It would be several days until physical contact was made with any humans, they needed to gather samples to synthesize immunizations so no one died from anything humans were carrying, and they needed to distribute their own immunizations to the humans. This was a lengthy process, and it was possible that it wouldn’t work, and the immunizations would kill people. Hot’ath had a feeling that the humans would take to the immunizations just fine. They were incredibly resilient.  

But even after they overcame that hurdle, the Torgians would never be able to set foot on Earth, or even enter the atmosphere. Earth had a much higher gravity  than what they were used to, approximately five times more in fact. None of them would even be able to stand without exo-suits, but even so, they would probably be crushed against the inside of the suit. Most likely, the humans would come up to their ship, or the Torgians would go to the Earth moon or the planet they named Mars. Until then, they would use holographic conferences.

Once they were settled in orbit, Hot’ath sent a hail signal to the planet. He had diplomats with him, but the King had placed him in charge, so their first real conversation was his responsibility. An image of a man sitting on a large, uncomfortable looking throne made of a dark red wood and ornate silver inlay. “Greetings, I am Emperor Guanwudi, Ruler of the Terran Empire.” The man announced, his lips not matching the audio as it was translated to Standard Intergalactic. Hot’ath recognized him from the Current Events file in the Human’s Information transfer.

Hot’ath bowed as he learned to do in the files, and replied. “I am Admiral Hot’ath. With me are Lady Fer-gin and Sir Hot’gun. We hail from the Torgian Kingdom.”

“May I ask how you found us and what your intentions are?”

“We were an expeditionary force exploring this galaxy, it was believed to be mostly uninhabited until our long range sensors picked up an artificial radiowave. We followed it here and found your system. We have no specific intentions beyond offering friendship.”

The emperor  nodded and moved on to his next question without hesitation, revealing nothing in his face or voice. “Why did you stop at Pluto on your first visit?”

“There was an outpost there that was the gateway to the blackzone. Have you not found it?”

The emperor’s face faintly flinched. “No. Over five hundred years ago, it was decreed that Pluto was to be left alone as the only untouched planet. Have you learned why this was a blackzone since your last visit?”

This threw Hot’ath for a few moments before he remembered that he had told them before that he did not know why the blackzone was in place. “Yes, it seemed that a few hundred million years ago a dangerous species was sent here as a quarantine exile. The outpost was abandoned when it was determined that the species was no longer a threat. It was so long ago, that the records were lost and the entire event was forgotten. But our King has suspended the blackzone until further notice upon learning of your discovery.”

“How far away do you hail from?” he asked, as though the previous question was not asked.

“Approximately 200 billion of what you call lightyears.”

The king gave a faint smile, the change in tone threw off the admiral, who had thought that the human was ready to wage war at any moment. “So even in space, there are explorers.”

“Before we came, were you content to stop where you are now? Or did you look to the stars and find other planets you could go see?” Hot’ath replied with a smile of his own.

“True.” The man conceded. “But we do not know how different our species are. How do you think it would work out if we were to treat you as humans, or you to treat us as Torgian?”

“I am glad to see that you act with forethought. I have made many first contacts, and not all species are so intelligent.”

The emperor laughed, the noise harsh and halting. If Hot’ath had not been thoroughly briefed on Human expression during the several month journey here, then he would have been confused. Of course, all species had odd expressions, but this being the most sensitive and dangerous interaction he had ever had, it paid to be prepared. “I thank you for the compliment.” The man got out as his laughter died down. “So, Admiral, how should we proceed? What are your plans?”

Hot’ath gave a brief overview of the vaccination plan, then went on to explain that they would not be able to set foot on any planet greater than .3 of earth’s mass due to their bodies. They will then survey the system’s resources and see if there is anything of value to the Hot’ath. There were other legal questions involved such as how far theTerran Empires borders stretched past the solar system, and how many other systems they could claim, but that was the job of the Ambassadors. For now, he only requested permission to gather physical samples of earth, plant, and animal tissue from each planet.

“That sounds reasonable.” The Emperor agreed. “I would greatly like to establish trade between our people. If this can be a mutually beneficial relationship all the better. I hope to speak to you again soon, admiral.” He pressed a button that wasn’t visible on the arm of his chair, cutting the communication.

Hot’ath nearly collapsed in relief. They were friendly. They wanted to trade. They were giving him everything he asked for.  He had not expected it to go anywhere close to this well.  “Admiral?” Lady Fir-gin placed a six fingered hand on his back.

“I’m O.K.” he assured everyone. The inhabitants of the bridge were al looking to him. They were just as scared and relieved as he was. “Prepare for Stage 1.” He straightened up, giving out orders. “Have Dr Mon-fit’tch coordinate with the human delegates where the survey droids are to gather their tissue samples, and Dr. Brath’thn send excavation droids out to gather soil samples.

After a moment of silence the bridge started to bustle in activity. Everyone had jobs to do and no time to wait. They had made friends with the monsters.

ritual for meeting in dream
  1. party A: collect a sample of earth from where you live
  2. party B: collect something from a tree from where you live
  3. do not interact for a week
  4. exchange items without making eye contact, speaking, or making skin-to-skin contact
  5. party A: place party B’s item under your pillow
  6. party B: consume party A’s earth
  7. sleep
  8. dream
  9. discuss over a light brunch
  10. go dutch on the bill
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Taking samples from active lava flows, Hawaii

Our future Mars 2020 rover, seen here as imagined through the eyes of an artist, will search for signs of past microbial life. The mission will take the next step in exploring the Red Planet by not only seeking signs of habitable conditions on Mars in the ancient past, but also searching for signs of past microbial life itself. 

The Mars 2020 rover introduces a drill that can collect core samples of the most promising rocks and soils and set them aside on the surface of Mars. A future mission could potentially return these samples to Earth. Mars 2020 is targeted for launch in July/August 2020, aboard an Atlas V 541 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Learn more.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

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When you realize that you should post your own original art too every once in a while. But i never know what to tag ma stuff T^T

Anyway; A level concept for a game i would like to make someday. This is the Earth guardian and a sample of what his level might look like. I had SO MUCH fun doing the sculpt that I would do it again if i can scrounge up more money (hes an expansive boi T^T) based off of the Quetzalcoatl god and many other things.  This accompanies the art of the mangrove i did a WHILE ago BAH.

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Well this is lucky. Apparently for this FossilFriday I’m starting with ammonites in stuff.

This is a look at one of our favourite ammonites, prior to the outer matrix being polished. These ‘Cannon ball’ nodules (rocks) are thought to be exclusive to the Yorkshire Coast, found nowhere else in the world. They rarely contain fossils, but when they do, they typically contain an Eleganticeras sp. ammonite. This fossil here is featured as found. When prepared, the outer pyrite coating of the nodule will be polished, to achieve a golden mirror effect.

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A piece of music I made for DR01D; an upcoming puzzle game by Prism Studios (creators of Portal Stories: Mel). =)

New light shed on how Earth and Mars were created

Analysing a mixture of earth samples and meteorites, scientists from the University of Bristol have shed new light on the sequence of events that led to the creation of the planets Earth and Mars.

Planets grow by a process of accretion – a gradual accumulation of additional material – in which they collisionally combine with their neighbours.

Keep reading

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ken1_koba11 pyritized ammonite fossil and pyritized dinosaur bone fossil reached here today!


That dinosaur bone looks like a triforce…

Why Sequencing DNA in Space is a Big Deal

… And How You Can Talk to the Scientists Who Made It Happen

Less than one month ago, DNA had never been sequenced in space. As of today, more than one billion base pairs of DNA have been sequenced aboard the International Space Station, Earth’s only orbiting laboratory. The ability to sequence the DNA of living organisms in space opens a whole new world of scientific and medical possibilities. Scientists consider it a game changer

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, who has a background in genomics, conducted the sequencing on the space station as part of the Biomolecule Sequencer investigation. A small, commercial, off-the-shelf device called MinION (min-EYE-ON), manufactured by Oxford Nanopore Technologies in the UK, was used to sequence the DNA of bacteria, a virus and rodents. Human DNA was not sequenced, and there are no immediate plans to sequence human DNA in space. 

(Image Credit: Oxford Nanopore Technologies)

The MinION is about the size of a candy bar, and plugs into a laptop or tablet via USB connection, which also provides power to the device. The tiny, plug and play sequencer is diminutive compared to the large microwave-sized sequencers used on Earth, and uses much less power. Unlike other terrestrial instruments whose sequencing run times can take days, this device’s data is available in near real time; analysis can begin within 10-15 minutes from the application of the sample.

Having real-time analysis capabilities aboard the space station could allow crews to identify microbes, diagnose infectious disease and collect genomic and genetic data concerning crew health, without having to wait long periods of time to return samples to Earth and await ground-based analysis.

The first DNA sequencing was conducted on Aug. 26, and on Sept. 14, Rubins and the team of scientists back at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston hit the one-billionth-base-pairs-of-DNA-sequenced mark.

Have more questions about how the Biomolecule Sequencer works, or how it could benefit Earth or further space exploration? Ask the team of scientists behind the investigation, who will be  available for questions during a Reddit Ask Me Anything on /r/science on Wednesday, Sept. 28 at 2 p.m. EDT. 

The participants are:

Dr. Aaron Burton, NASA Johnson Space Center, Planetary Scientist and Principal Investigator

Dr. Sarah Castro-Wallace, NASA Johnson Space Center, Microbiologist and Project Manager

Dr. David J. Smith, NASA Ames Research Center, Microbiologist

Dr. Mark Lupisella, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Systems Engineer

Dr. Jason P. Dworkin, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Astrobiologist

Dr. Christopher E. Mason, Weill Cornell Medicine Dept. of Physiology and Biophysics, Associate Professor

9 Unexplainable Facts About the Moon

1. Initially it was thought that the Moon was born in the same cloud of dust as the Earth, 4.6 billion years ago. Another theory says that the moon is the “ baby ” of the Earth, but the moment that the first stones were collected from the Moon, these theories have turned to pieces. The oldest stones date back 5.3 billion years. This is strange , because this means that the Moon was born long before our planet. Upon this discovery, Dr. Robin Brett, NASA specialist , said that “it is easier to explain the absence of the Moon than its existence.”

2. Rocks collected during the Apollo 11 mission were extracted from the area called the Sea of Tranquility. At that time several samples were taken also from the ground. In laboratory tests it was found that the rocks are much older than the soil from which they were taken. The difference is billions of years. This seems especially impressive given that it was shown that the stones were not brought by meteorites.

3. Is the Moon hollow ? The answer seems to be yes, at least this is what most scientists say. During missions that targeted Earth’s natural satellite, when the lunar modules touched the surface of the Moon, the sound they made was similar to a hammer hitting an empty bell.

4. The dark area of the Moon is another shocking mystery . When we tried to map it, we not only failed to fully do so, but we have also found traces of titanium, zirconium, yttrium, and beryllium. These metals require temperatures above 4500 degrees Celsius to fusion and to exist in the form in which they were found on the Moon. We also know that such temperatures are impossible not only the Moon, but on any planet in our solar system.

5. Russian space probe Zond 20 brought back to Earth many pure iron samples taken from the Moon. Pure iron, the one that never oxidizes, is a mystery for today’s scientific world. How can such a material exist on the Moon ?

6. Apollo 15 astronauts found traces of huge radioactivity on the Moon. Nobody could explain this finding, for which it was forgotten.

7. Anomalies on the Moon have been observed since ancient times. In the past, people used to look to the Moon using rudimentary telescopes and several times claimed to have seen dense clouds. This is impossible because the Moon’s atmosphere can not support clouds. Moreover, NASA astronauts told in their flight reports that they have often found huge clouds of water vapor. The only place from which they come is inside the Moon.

8. Most of the Moon’s surface looks as if it was coated in a layer of glaze. This proves that the Moon has been exposed to extremely high temperature. Scientists have observed that the glaze was not born as a result of nuclear explosions.

9. Another interesting fact about the Moon is that it has no magnetic field. Even so, the analyzed rocks are strongly magnetized and no one can explain why.

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Pulling out samples during core drilling

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Learn more about our Deep Space Network, where to watch the Ursid meteor shower, Cassini’s ring-grazing at Saturn and more.

1. A Deep Space Anniversary

On Dec. 24, 1963, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Deep Space Information Facility was renamed the Deep Space Network. And, it’s been humanity’s ear to the skies ever since.

+ History of the Deep Space Network 

2. Ursid Meteor Shower 

The best time to view the Ursids, radiating from Ursa Minor, or the little Dipper, will be from midnight on December 21 until about 1a.m. on December 22, before the moon rises.


3. At Saturn, the Ring-Grazing Continues

Our Cassini spacecraft has completed several orbits that take it just outside Saturn’s famous rings. The first ring-grazing orbit began on November 30. The spacecraft will repeat this feat 20 times, with only about a week between each ring-plane crossing.

+ Learn more

4. Preparing for the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse

Next year North America will see one of the most rare and spectacular of all sky events. Learn how to prepare.

+ 2017 Solar Eclipse Toolkit

5. Searching for Rare Asteroids

Our first mission to return an asteroid sample to Earth will be multitasking during its two-year outbound cruise to the asteroid Bennu. On February 9-20, OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer) will activate its onboard camera suite and begin its search for elusive “Trojan,” asteroids, constant companions to planets in our solar system as they orbit the sun, remaining near a stable point 60 degrees in front of or behind the planet. Because they constantly lead or follow in the same orbit, they will never collide with their companion planet.

Discover the full list of 10 things to know about our solar system this week HERE.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com

‘Sling-shot’ show for NASA spacecraft over Australia

Stargazers will be treated to a rare skyshow when NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft ‘sling-shots’ its way over Australian skies on September 23.

Using Earth’s gravity to give it an orbital boost, OSIRIS-REx will rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2018. The Earth flyby will give astronomers and those with high-end cameras a chance to view this rare encounter.

OSIRIS-REx is on an extraordinary journey to bring back to Earth a sample from the surface of the carbonaceous asteroid Bennu that could potentially record the early history of the solar system and molecular precursors to the origin of life.

The ‘sling-shot’ or Earth Gravity Assist manoeuvre will bring OSIRIS-REx close enough to Earth to be viewed through high-end cameras, where Desert Fireball Network (DFN) team members will be stationed across Australia in strategic locations to optimise viewing angles, creating a 3D triangulated track above Australia and demonstrating the capabilities of the DFN system.

Curtin University Professor Phil Bland, team leader of the Desert Fireball Network, and member of the OSIRIS-REx science team, said the rare encounter would offer an opportunity to highlight the capabilities of the DFN and planetary science research in Australia.

“The teams will be equipped with high-end DSLR cameras that will work together to track the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft across the sky from each viewpoint, enabling the DFN team to create a 3D triangulated track of its sling-shot around the Earth,” Professor Bland said.

“This important milestone furthers the work of planetary research here at Curtin and our relationship with NASA.

“We know very little about how the planets came together and why the Earth has the composition that it does. The samples that OSIRIS-REx delivers may hold the key to some of these answers.”

The DFN project is based at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, and aims to unlock the mysteries of our universe by studying meteorites, fireballs and their pre-Earth orbits.

Together with NASA, the DFN is expanding to a Global Fireball Observatory through the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). SSERVI’s science and technical research focuses on the connection between planetary exploration and human exploration via funded US teams and a large network of international partners.

The apparent pathway of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft over Australian skies will take an hour, beginning over Rockhampton at 00.22am (AEST) and exit over Adelaide at 00.53am local time on September 23.