Monthly Archives: December 2014
Far beyond the orbit of Neptune, trillions of comets left over from the formation of the solar system lie in wait in a region known as the Oort cloud. Here they are kept in relatively stable orbits around the sun, posing little threat to Earth save for the occasional icy rock that ventures inwards. But in the blink of a cosmic eye that could all change.
There are myriad reasons why getting from Earth to Mars is hard, but chief among them are two 1) the massive amount of fuel needed and 2) a launch window that is limited to every 26 months, when the two planets are in optimal alignment. A couple of mathematicians have calculated a new path to Mars that solves both — and it’s far from a straight line.
In a recent development that Hollywood could only hope for, a former NASA employee is claiming that there was a secret manned mission in the 1970s, and that the space agency covered it up. The woman, identified only as “Jackie,” said she was part of the team monitoring the Viking Lander expedition in 1979, and that she saw human figures on Mars.
Thanks to NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover, we’re learning new things about the red planet nearly every day. However, we’re also learning a few new details about ancient Mars here on Earth, thanks to a meteorite from the planet discovered over 30 years ago.
A black hole is a large amount of matter squeezed into a tiny area with an enormous gravitational pull for its size. Many black holes form from dying giant stars that collapse in on themselves. But even as black holes, they continue to orbit and exert the same gravitational pull on objects around them. Not all scientists believe in black holes. But for those who do, the surprises just keep coming.
During his six-month “Blue Dot” mission on the International Space Station, German astronaut Alexander Gerst would often leave his camera running while he worked and did experiments.
The Milky Way, the galaxy we live in, is part of a cluster of more than 50 others that make up the ‘Local Group’, a collection that includes the famous Andromeda Galaxy and many other far smaller objects. Now a Russian-American team have added to the canon, finding a tiny and isolated dwarf galaxy almost 7 million light-years away.
Keeping warm? 21/12 marked the start of astronomical winter for the northern hemisphere, meaning long nights and (hopefully) clear, cold skies. But we’ve also got another reason to brave the cold this week, as Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy is set to put on a show for northern hemisphere observers.
Since it was launched in 2009, the Kepler space telescope has found nearly 1,000 planets in distant solar systems. However, in May 2013, the spacecraft was temporarily shut down due to a hardware malfunction. In May 2014, NASA scientists devised a solution and turned it back on — and Thursday, they announced the telescope has found yet another exoplanet.
NASA’s focus for human spaceflight seems to change every few years as we learn something new about what it will take to keep human beings alive out there. However, NASA usually picks one of a few targets. Will we go to Mars next, maybe back to the Moon, or perhaps an asteroid is a better option? NASA’s Langley Research Center has put forward an interesting proposal — instead of the traditional choices, why not make the trip to Venus?
Astronomers have been eyeing the Eta Carinae, a huge star weighing 120 times that of the Sun and is dubbed as the “Death Star,” for many years. Social media sectors are alarmed with the fact that the flare that would be generated by the collapse of Eta Carinae could end life on Earth. It is said that the flare would be 100 times bigger than the Earth and could produce a radiation enough to kill all the people in the world.
A NASA spacecraft that recently arrived in orbit around Mars is already helping to solve a Martian mystery. Scientists are using the space agency’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft to gather more data about how Mars’ atmosphere bled molecules out into space over time.