Stars die and reborn…They get so hot that the nuclei of the atoms fuse together deep within them to make the oxygen we breathe, the carbon in our muscles, the calcium in our bones, the iron in our blood. All was cooked in the fiery hearts of long vanished stars…The cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.
— 

Carl Sagan

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Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star

So this is kind of a big deal. Astronomers have just discovered a new planet orbiting the closest star to our Sun, Proxima Centauri. The planet is called Proxima b and orbits the star every 11.2 days. It has a mass that is estimated to be 1.3 times the Earth’s. Unlike the Earth, though, it’s only 7.3 million kilometers from the star—much closer than Earth to the Sun—but Proxima is so faint and cool it receives about two-thirds the amount of light and heat the Earth does. Essentially that means that it’s in Proxima’s habitable zone which opens the possibility of liquid water on its surface.

Researchers estimate that if the planet has an atmosphere (which isn’t confirmed), it may be between 86 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit on the surface. Without an atmosphere, it could be -22 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that in perspective, Earth would be -4 degrees if it didn’t have an atmosphere.

Before we go all Interstellar and have Matthew McConaughey check it out, though, it is 40 trillion km away, which means even the fastest ship would still take tens of thousands of years to get there! 

LEARN MORE (via Slate)

Jeff Williams: Record Breaker

Astronaut becomes U.S. record holder for most cumulative time in space!

The Olympics are over, but Americans are STILL breaking records. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams just broke Scott Kelly’s record of 520 cumulative days spent in space. When Williams returns to Earth on Sept. 5, he will have racked up 534 days in space. To celebrate this amazing achievement, here are some of the best images taken during his four spaceflights.

STS-101 Atlantis:

During May 2000, Williams made his first spacewalk during space shuttle Atlantis’ STS-101 mission. On this 10-day mission, Williams’ first spacewalk lasted nearly seven hours. He is pictured here outside the space station.

Expedition 13:

Williams experienced his first long-duration mission in 2006, when he served as flight engineer for Expedition 13 space station mission. During his time in orbit, he performed two spacewalks, saw the arrival of two space shuttle missions and resumed construction of the orbiting laboratory during his six-month tour. While on one of those spacewalks, Williams took this selfie.

Expedition 21/22:

Williams returned to space for another six-month mission in 2009 as a flight engineer on Expedition 21 and commander of Expedition 22. During that time, he hosted the crews of two space shuttle missions. The U.S.-built Tranquility module and cupola were installed on station. Here is an image of the then newly installed cupola.

Expedition 47/48:

This time around, Williams has been onboard the space station since March 2016, where he served as flight engineer for Expedition 47 and now commands Expedition 48. With over 7,000 retweets on Williams’ photo of an aurora from space, his Twitter followers were clearly impressed with his photography skills.

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The Swirling Core of the Crab Nebula : At the core of the Crab Nebula lies a city-sized, magnetized neutron star spinning 30 times a second. Known as the Crab Pulsar, it’s actually the rightmost of two bright stars, just below a central swirl in this stunning Hubble snapshot of the nebula’s core. Some three light-years across, the spectacular picture frames the glowing gas, cavities and swirling filaments bathed in an eerie blue light. The blue glow is visible radiation given off by electrons spiraling in a strong magnetic field at nearly the speed of light. Like a cosmic dynamo the pulsar powers the emission from the nebula, driving a shock wave through surrounding material and accelerating the spiraling electrons. With more mass than the Sun and the density of an atomic nucleus, the spinning pulsar is the collapsed core of a massive star that exploded. The Crab Nebula is the expanding remnant of the star’s outer layers. The supernova explosion was witnessed on planet Earth in the year 1054. via NASA

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Scientists find monster young star that’s 30 times the mass of our sun

Scientists just discovered a star more than 30 times the mass of the sun, and it’s probably not done growing yet. The star is still just a “protostar,” or a baby star that doesn’t have a fusion-powered core yet, so this is a rare opportunity for scientists to study how giant stars like this one form. They also spotted a “Keplerian” disc around the star.

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