Jupiter doesn’t orbit the Sun. The other planets in our solar system are so much smaller than the Sun that their centers of mass are deep inside of it. Jupiter, however, is so huge that it has the same center of mass as the Sun. Basically, they both orbit the same point, which is just above the Sun itself. Source Source 2 Source 3

Demonstration from NASA:

Deep space travel might increase heart risk for astronauts

A new study suggests traveling beyond Earth’s magnetic shield can actually compromise long-term cardiovascular health. Scientists are starting to learn more about the toll space travel takes on the human body. When, earlier this year, astronaut Scott Kelly returned to Earth after nearly a year in space, his vertebrae had expanded and he’d grown 2 inches. In short, microgravity really screws with you.

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Jerry Doyle: NASA’s Good Luck Charm

On one of the few occasions I had the good fortune to hang out with Jerry Doyle, he told me a very cool story. It’s been 16 years since he told it to me, so I may get some specifics wrong, but it’s worth sharing nonetheless.

Jerry was very, very into NASA. He went to some dozen Space Shuttle launches–and every time he was there, the Shuttle actually launched. We don’t do launches any more, so it’s easy to forget, but launches get scrubbed a lot. If things aren’t optimal, they abort (and, as we know, even when conditions are green across the board, accidents still occur). Jerry went to a enough launches that the fact that the launch went off every time he was present was actually notable statistically.

There came a mission when the Shuttle was unable to launch for various reasons several times in a row. So NASA called him and asked him to come for the next launch window. They explicitly told him that they wanted him there because the Shuttle always launched when he was in attendance. He came, of course–and the Shuttle did indeed launch.

I dearly love this story, not only because it shows that even rocket scientists can be superstitious, but because Jerry told it with such aplomb and genuine glee at being able to be a part of NASA, even as a human rabbit’s foot. R.I.P.


July 29, 1958 

President Dwight Eisenhower signs the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 which creates the  National Aeronautics and Space Administration, better known as NASA. NASA was created in response to the Soviet Union’s successful launching of the first satellite, Sputnik, into space in 1957. The launch stunned the US and the world. In response to the launch, the US-Soviet Space Race began, and NASA was the method on the part of the Americans to ensure a coordinated and organized attempt to win the Space Race.   

Since then, NASA has led the US efforts on space exploration as well as advances in science and technology. It has successfully landed a man on the moon and sent a rover to Mars. More importantly, NASA has expanded the bounds of human knowledge of our planet, our solar system, and our cosmos. 

Happy birthday, NASA!

On July 29, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the the National Aeronautics and Space Act, in which “Congress hereby declares that it is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind” and established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to fulfill this policy. Since then, NASA’s space explorations, landing missions, and discoveries have been out of this world!

Image: “AS16-113-18339 - Apollo 16 - Apollo 16 Mission image - Astronaut John W. Young, commander of the Apollo 16 lunar landing mission, leaps from the lunar surface as he salutes the United States flag at the Descartes landing site during the first Apollo 16 extravehicular activity (EVA-1)

The Hunt for Exoplanets Turns to Earth’s Backyard via Space.com

NASA’s next planet-hunting mission will take a census of Earth’s cosmic neighborhood.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite(TESS), which is scheduled to launch to Earth orbit in 2017 or 2018, will observe at least 200,000 relatively nearby stars during its two-year mission, and it should end up finding thousands of alien worlds, NASA officials said.

“The cool thing about TESS is that, one of these days, I’ll be able to go out in the country with my daughter and point to a star and say, ‘There’s a planet around that one,’” TESS project scientist Stephen Rinehart, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement.