A comparison of planetary system KOI-351 with our own Solar System. Image Credit: German Aerospace Center.
“Second star to the right, and straight on ’till morning.”
— Captain James T. Kirk, ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’ (1991).
It is unclear which types of planets did the fictional Enterprise crew discover around the star that their captain was referring to. But in real life, a new research being published by European astronomers, using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, points toward a star that is home to a planetary system very similar in architecture to our own.
Continue reading Solar System 2.0: Planetary System Discovered With Architecture Similar to Our Own
Liftoff of China’s Chang’e 3 and their “Jade Rabbit” Yutu rover to the surface of the Moon from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China. Image Credit: CCTV
Today, under cover of darkness, China successfully launched their first robotic lunar rover atop a powerful Long March-3B rocket from the country’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China. The mission, which is named after the Chinese goddess of the Moon in ancient myth, would make China the third country (after the United States and Soviet Union) to land on the Moon. The last lunar landing was performed by the Soviet Union on the Luna 24 sample return mission in 1976, and the United States remains the only country to have ever landed humans on the lunar surface (last human mission to the Moon was NASA’s Apollo 17 in December 1972).
China, however, has ambitious plans to join America as having landed humans on the lunar surface within the next decade.
Continue reading China Launches Chang’e 3 on Country’s First Mission to Land on the Moon
Spectacular view of Skylab, as seen from the departing crew of Gerry Carr, Ed Gibson, and Bill Pogue on 8 February 1974. This would be the last occasion that Skylab was ever seen, up close, by human eyes. Photo Credit: NASA
Forty years ago this week, in November 1973, NASA launched its third and final crew to the Skylab space station. As recounted in last weekend’s history articles, Commander Gerry Carr, Science Pilot Ed Gibson,and Pilot Bill Pogue were tasked to complete a mission of at least 60 days, open-ended to 84 days, either of which would produce a new world endurance record. The enormous success of Skylab’s first and second crews—who repaired and revived the crippled station, then went on to accomplish 150 percent of their science goals—imbued NASA with a false sense of confidence that it could fully load the final crew with an excessive amount of work. As circumstances would transpire, the experience of Carr, Gibson, and Pogue would teach the agency to regard long-duration spaceflight in a quite different manner to its earlier, shorter-duration missions.
Continue reading All the King’s Horses: The Final Mission to Skylab (Part 4)
Although the first hurdle for the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) has been overcome, the next 10 months are fraught with difficulty. Image Credit: ISRO
In a historic event, India has become only the fourth discrete nation or group of nations—after the United States, Russia, and the European Space Agency (ESA)—to successfully despatch a homegrown spacecraft en-route to the Red Planet. Its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also known as “Mangalyaan” (Hindi for “Mars Craft”), completed its critical Trans-Mars Injection (TMI) maneuver early Sunday, 1 December, India Standard Time (IST), burning its 440-Newton-thrust Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) for 1,328.89 seconds—more than 22 minutes—to increase the spacecraft’s velocity by 2,125.85 feet per second (647.96 meters per second) to depart Earth’s gravitational influence and begin its 10-month journey.
Continue reading India Enters Fourth Place By Setting Spacecraft En-Route to Mars
The leftovers of comet ISON are fading from view very quickly as the debris races away from the Sun. Photo Credit: NASA / ESA / SOHO
Comet ISON—or whatever is left of it—is fading fast, and the latest images from the NASA/ESA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) LASCO-C3 camera may be showing us our final images of the “dud of the century.”
The following update is from Karl Battams of the Naval Research Laboratory, who is also the solar spacecraft lead for NASA’s Comet ISON Observing Campaign and the leading authority on all things ISON. You can read the full version of his latest blog post here. The below excerpt touches on many questions we all have about ISON and what may happen in the coming days.
Continue reading Ghost of Comet ISON Fading Fast
The final Skylab crew was tasked with its first EVA only a week after arriving in space. It was only the start of an overloaded work schedule which Ed Gibson later described as “a 33-day fire drill.” Photo Credit: NASA
Forty years ago this week, in November 1973, NASA launched its third and final crew to the Skylab space station. As recounted in last weekend’s history articles, Commander Gerry Carr, Science Pilot Ed Gibson, and Pilot Bill Pogue were tasked to complete a mission of at least 60 days, open-ended to 84 days, either of which would produce a new world endurance record. The enormous success of Skylab’s first and second crews—who repaired and revived the crippled station, then went on to accomplish 150 percent of their science goals—imbued NASA with a false sense of confidence that it could fully load the final crew with an excessive amount of work. As circumstances would transpire, the experience of Carr, Gibson, and Pogue would teach the agency to regard long-duration spaceflight in a quite different manner to its earlier, shorter-duration missions.
Continue reading All the King’s Horses: The Final Mission to Skylab (Part 3)
ISON appears as a white smear heading up and away from the Sun. ISON was not visible during its closest approach to the Sun, so many scientists thought it had disintegrated, but images like this one from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory suggest that a small nucleus may be intact. Image/Caption Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO/GSFC
Yesterday afternoon the comet that has caught the world’s attention, ISON, went through a hellish encounter with the Sun. After falling for millions of years from the deepest, darkest depths of the outer Solar System’s Oort cloud—which is believed to extend halfway to the nearest star—ISON came within 730,000 miles of the Sun’s surface, slingshotting around it at over 200 miles per second while many here at home were preparing Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. But did the sungrazer survive its extreme close encounter with our star?
Continue reading Ghost of Comet ISON Rises Like an Icy Phoenix After Suicidal Kamikaze Visit With the Sun
After two eventful countdowns on Monday and tonight, the Falcon 9 v1.1 has demonstrated the efficacy of its safety systems and remains primed to fly another day. Photo Credit: SpaceX
For only the second time in spaceflight history, Cape Canaveral was rocked by the roar of rocket engines on Thanksgiving, as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 came close—but not quite close enough—to embarking on its second mission to deliver its first payload to geostationary transfer orbit. Liftoff from the Cape’s storied Space Launch Complex (SLC)-40 was dramatically halted at T+2 seconds, after the ignition of the nine Merlin-1D engines on the rocket’s first stage, and although the countdown clock was recycled out to T-13 minutes in hopes that another attempt might be viable, later in tonight’s “window,” it was not to be. Like Monday’s attempt, tonight’s second effort to get the Falcon airborne fell foul to technical troubles and the time limits of an ever-diminishing launch window. Ironically, weather conditions were near-perfect, and according to Falcon 9 Product Director John Insprukter, the SpaceX may make another attempt “probably in a few days.”
Continue reading SpaceX Gives Thanks as Falcon 9 Safety System Cuts In to Halt Problematic Countdown
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory Lab under the Aurora Australis. Its Neutrino Detector found evidence of very high-energy neutrinos, coming from outside of the Solar System. Image Credit: Keith Vanderlinde. IceCube/NSF.
To most people the idea of burying a telescope in the ice would not be the best of ways at looking at the Universe. But, contrary to optical telescopes that are built in high-elevation sites around the world, when it comes to neutrino telescopes the deeper they are buried underground, the better. And a recent study published earlier this month reports that the biggest of these facilities, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica, has detected its first extraterrestrial neutrinos coming from outside of the Solar System.
Continue reading It Came From Outer Space! Neutrino Detector Finds Its First Evidence of Intergalactic Neutrinos
VIDEO: Comet ISON moves ever closer to the Sun in this movie from the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, captured in the early hours of Nov. 27, 2013. A coronal mass ejection explodes off the Sun; it is unlikely to damage ISON even if they cross paths. Image Credit/Caption: ESA/NASA/SOHO
The moment of truth is approaching fast for Comet ISON (officially identified as comet C/2012 S1) as it continues its suicidal plunge toward the Sun at an incredible velocity of over 200 miles per second. Now, after falling toward the Sun from the depths of the outer Solar System over millions of years, ISON is less than 24 hours from passing within less than 1 million miles of the Sun’s surface on Thanksgiving Day.
Continue reading All Eyes on Comet ISON as It Plummets Toward Thanksgiving Day Brush With the Sun