A computer generated image depicting the event horizon around a black hole. The material that is trapped by the black hole’s gravity is accreted around the event horizon, creating a ‘ring’ that astronomers call the event horizon’s “shadow”. The Event Horizon Telescope aims to image the “shadow” of Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole lying at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, possibly producing images such as this. Image: Avery E. Broderick/Perimeter Institute and University of Waterloo
If you want to see a black hole tonight,
just look in the direction of Sagittarius, the constellation.
That’s the center of the Milky Way Galaxy
and there’s a raging black hole at the very center of that constellation
that holds the galaxy together.
- Michio Kaku
Of all the objects in the Universe, black holes can be considered the most fascinating and mystifying. Enchanting scientists and science-fiction writers alike for decades, they comprise the ultimate cosmic paradox: objects that have an infinite density occupying a zero volume, from where nothing, not even light can escape and all known laws of physics break down. Now, scientists aim to directly observe the boundary of a black hole itself for the first time, called the event horizon, as part of an ambitious international project called The Event Horizon Telescope.
Continue reading Probing The Point Of No Return: The Event Horizon Telescope
The Kelly brothers – Scott and Mark (left to right) – pose together in May 2008. In 2015, both will be test subjects aiding researchers in the study of spaceflight’s effects on the human body. Photo Credit: NASA
Identical twins Mark and Scott Kelly share more than just genetics – at one time, they also shared the same careers, and flew in space at the same time. Now, as Scott ramps up for his year-long spaceflight on the International Space Station (scheduled to begin in March 2015 alongside Roscosmos cosmonaut Mikhail Korniyenko), spaceflight’s only twins to fly will contribute to our understanding of the effects of space on the human body. NASA has announced that its Human Research Program (HRP) will fund 10 studies investigating these various effects, partnering with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. The test subjects include both Kelly brothers – of course, one will be in space, while one will remain on Earth.
Continue reading Two of a Kind, But One in Spaceflight: NASA Selects Proposals for Kelly Twin Studies
At the snowy landing site, not far from the Kazakh city of Jezkazgan, Soyuz TMA-10M crewmen Oleg Kotov (center), Sergei Ryazansky (left), and Mike Hopkins (right) clasp hands in a sign of solidarity and recognition of a mission well done. Photo Credit: NASA
After 166 days, six hours, and 27 minutes in flight, and some 2,580 orbits of Earth, the Expedition 38 mission has concluded safely with the touchdown in Kazakhstan of Soyuz TMA-10M and its crew of Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins. The trio landed at 11:24 p.m. EDT Monday (9:24 a.m. local time Tuesday), after a dramatic mission which included dozens of scientific experiments, three Visiting Vehicles—including the first dedicated flight of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Cygnus cargo ship—and multiple EVAs.
Continue reading Soyuz TMA-10M Lands in Kazakhstan After 166-Day Mission
One possible scenario for a future asteroid retrieval mission is pictured here. NASA completed an internal review of asteroid redirect mission concepts this week. Photo Credit: NASA.
NASA’s Asteroid Data Hunter contest series will offer $35,000 in awards over the next six months to citizen scientists who develop improved algorithms that can be used to identify asteroids.
Continue reading Be an Asteroid Hunter in NASA’s First Asteroid Grand Challenge Contest Series
Outgoing Expedition 38 crewmen (bottom row, left to right) Mike Hopkins, Oleg Kotov, and Sergei Ryazansky are pictured with their new Expedition 39 comrades (top row, left to right) Koichi Wakata, Mikhail Tyurin, and Rick Mastracchio. The two crews have worked together as members of Expedition 38 since November 2013. Now, Wakata will lead the station until mid-May. Photo Credit: NASA
Gathered, appropriately, in Japan’s Kibo module, the first Japanese astronaut ever to command the International Space Station (ISS) officially kicked off Expedition 39 yesterday (Sunday) in a moving and humorous ceremony. Koichi Wakata—who was launched aboard Soyuz TMA-11M last November, alongside Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio—will now lead the outpost until mid-May. In the meantime, their three outgoing Expedition 38 crewmates—Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergei Ryazansky and NASA’s Mike Hopkins—are scheduled to undock from the ISS aboard their Soyuz TMA-10M spacecraft late Monday for touchdown on the steppe of Kazakhstan a few hours later. In doing so, Kotov, Ryazansky, and Hopkins will complete 166 days in orbit.
Continue reading Wakata Assumes First Japanese ISS Command, as Kotov’s Crew Prepares for Monday Night Homecoming
Pictured on the pad at Baikonur, shortly before launch, Voskhod-2 was the Soviet Union’s last major space “first” of the 1960s. The blister at the top of the payload shroud, housing the craft’s airlock, is clearly visible. Photo Credit: Roscosmos
On 18 March 1965, a representative of humanity gained a view that only God or another space traveler had ever experienced: The view of Earth from high above the atmosphere—unhindered by the walls of any spacecraft—was truly remarkable, like a vast atlas, laid out before Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov … without the borders or lines. His Extravehicular Activity (EVA), or “spacewalk,” lasted just 13 minutes and ended as the Voskhod-2 craft passed over the frozen wastes of eastern Siberia, when his commander, Pavel Belyayev, radioed instructions to return inside. The tranquility of floating in the sea of fathomless blackness must have been difficult to leave, but Leonov started his move back toward the airlock. Not until many years later would it become clear how close the world’s first spacewalk came to disaster.
Continue reading To Swim in Space: The World’s First Spacewalk (Part 2)
Forty-nine years ago this month, Alexei Leonov became the first human to see the Earth, unhindered by the confines of a spacecraft, as God or another space traveller might see it. The experience almost cost him his life. Photo Credit: Roscosmos
From the moment he saw it, Alexei Leonov was captivated. He and a dozen other cosmonauts were touring the OKB-1 design bureau, near Moscow, with Chief Designer Sergei Korolev. Unlike the spherical Vostok capsules on the production line, one craft in particular was quite distinct; it possessed a long, cylindrical airlock, with a movie camera jutting out to one side. Korolev explained that sailors had to know how to swim and, by extension, cosmonauts should learn to “swim” in space. Shortly afterward, Leonov found himself in a space suit, practicing how to squeeze in and out of the airlock. When he had finished, someone clapped him on the back. It was his close friend, Yuri Gagarin. In a whisper, Gagarin told him that Korolev had just selected Leonov to perform the world’s first “spacewalk.”
Continue reading To Swim in Space: The World’s First Spacewalk (Part 1)
An artist’s impression of a sunset on Gliese 667 Cc, a habitable Super Earth-sized planet around the triple star system Gliese 667, located 22 light-years away from Earth. Are views, such as this envisioned here, common on planets around red dwarfs stars in the galaxy? Image Credit: ESO/L. Calçada
“Call them the Firstborn.
Though they were not remotely human, they were flesh and blood
and when they looked out across the deeps of space,
they felt awe and wonder – and loneliness.
As soon as they possessed the power,
they began to seek for fellowship among the stars.”
— Arthur C. Clarke, “3001: The Final Odyssey” (1997)
The possibility of life and intelligence appearing very early in the history of the Universe has been pondered in many science fiction stories, from Arthur C. Clarke’s “Odyssey” book series to “Star Trek” and “Babylon 5″ on television. Though speculative, this idea has been given more credence in recent years, with the discovery of many exoplanets around the long-lived red dwarf stars that permeate the galaxy and from a series of studies suggesting that the conditions on at least some of these planets could allow for the emergence and development of life.
Continue reading Bathed in Crimson Light: New Exoplanet Discoveries and the Prospect of Habitability Around Red Dwarf Stars
Scanning electron microscope image from inside the Martian meteorite Yamato 000593 (Y000593), showing the tunnels and micro-tunnels. Image Credit: NASA
The debate over possible evidence for life on Mars is one of the most hotly debated subjects in space science, and some news released Feb. 27 is sure to add fuel to the fire. Studies of a Martian meteorite, known as Yamato 000593 (Y000593), have revealed signs of past liquid water activity as well as possible evidence of actual biological processes.
Continue reading Is This New Evidence for Ancient Life on Mars?
Europa mission concepts under study by NASA. Image Credit: NASA/JPL
For years scientists and dreamers alike have looked toward Jupiter’s moon Europa with a keen interest, because decades of observations and research of the frozen world (thanks to spacecraft like Galileo and Voyager) have shown us that the Jovian satellite is easily one of the most likely places—if not the most likely place—in the Solar System where life might be found (other than Earth, of course). Consistently shrinking budgets, nationwide economic troubles, competing interests for federal dollars, and a large deficit currently hold hostage any future Flagship planetary missions for the next several years, but the Fiscal Year 2015 budget request from the White house includes $15 million in funding for NASA to begin work designing a robotic mission to Europa, with a launch date targeted for the early 2020s.
Continue reading Why NASA’s Plans for an Early 2020s Mission to Europa Are Likely to Happen