Astronomers with NASA’s Kepler mission have confirmed the existence of an Earth-like planet in a “habitable zone” around a star not unlike our own.
The planet, Kepler 22-b, lies about 600 light years away, about two-and-a-half times the size of Earth, with a temperature of about 22 degrees Celsius, allowing liquid water to exist on the surface. Its year is about 290 days long. This is the first time the Kepler mission has detected a potentially habitable world orbiting a Sun-like star, scientists reported in findings to be published in The Astrophysical Journal. Read the full article »»»»
The human senses are a marvel of natural design but they are limited by their physical qualities. Perfectly adapted to life on the surface of the planet Earth, not so great if you want to listen to faint stars on the other side of the universe. Luckily enough one of humanities greatest survival techniques is making use of other sensory systems.
Whether it be listening for the bark of a guard dog to pointing the largest telescope in the world at just the right bit of the sky humanity has always made use of tools to extend our senses. The latest addition to our extra sensory abilities is the Worlds Largest Millimeter / Sub-Millimeter Radio Telescope in Chile, The Atacama Large Millimeter/sub millimeter Array – ALMA – sits upon the high planes of the Chajnantor plateau in northern Chile.
At an altitude of 5000 meters.in the middle of an isolated plateau the ALMA telescope has one of the clearest sky to look through. The array itself consists of 66 individual radio telescopes networked together, with their combined power being pointed at a single point they are able to produce the highest resolution images possible of the furthest reaches of our universe. Helping us look at the coldest darkest parts of the Universe with new clarity. ALMA joins other great names such as Hubble and SDO in our list of most valuable scientific instruments, or was that most popular scientific instruments :: Read the full article »»»»
On March 28 2011, NASA’s Swift telescope detected several bright bursts of X-rays coming from a patch of the sky where no such rays have been detected before. NASA said the galaxy is so far away, it took the light from the event approximately 3.9 billion years to reach Earth. The event was the start point of one of te most destructive events any place in this big bad universe, the destruction of a star by a black hole. Thanks to the barely funded NASA it’s wonderfilled technology, hardware and associated ubergeeks, humanity now has some pretty amazing graphics of this inter-galactic spectacular !
Two teams of scientists, led by David Burrows of Pennsylvania State University and Ashley Zauderer of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, say the bursts observed were probably chunks of a star that was ripped apart as it wandered too close to the black hole. Scientists have witnessed the aftermath of this event many times over, but never have they seen the destruction from the onset. The source of the high-energy emissions has been named Swift J1644+57. It has been identified as a previously dormant black hole in the Draco constellation 3.9 billion light years from Earth. Read the full article »»»»
Asteroid dust collected by a Japanese spacecraft – HAYABUSA – has given scientists their first look into the outer covering of an asteroid.
The asteroid explorer HAYABUSA – previously named Muses-C – was launched in 2003 by JAXA – Japanese Aerospace Agency – The craft succesfully rendezvoused with Asteroid 25143-Itokawa, located some 320 million km from Earth in 2005. Hayabusa successfully re-entered Earth’s atmosphere in June 2010. As Hayabusa burnt up she dropped her payload- a heat resistant capsule – safely at Woomera in outback South Australia.
“Until now, asteroid exploration had been a one-way trip; however, the Hayabusa is a round-trip space mission. We’re now designing an improved next-generation space ship and are expecting the arrival of the Grand Navigation Era to the Solar System, such as a round trip to a main belt asteroid or to Venus, or a round trip via a deep space port” said project manager Junichiro Kawaguchi Read the full article »»»»
The satellites and space craft that we launch to observe our world are our eyes and ears in space. Advances in satellites pointed at the Sun have been enormous over the last decade. The latest satellite gathering solar information is NASA’s SDO. Chances are you have seen footage produced by this high-tech observer, all of the solar flare footage used by media channels lately have been thanks to NASA’s SDO satellite. The quality of the footage is incredible, only matched by the sheer amount of information this satellite is sending back to earth, over a terabyte of data a day. The data that this satellite collects will help us understand what drives our most important neighbour, the Sun.
After SDO’s first year of operation NASA released a compilation of jaw dropping footage of the sun. ‘First Light’ was the original footage released by NASA, this footage was mixed down –edited– into the punchy little two-minute ‘Haunting Images from the Sun’ by SpaceRip, infamous science documentary re-releaser on YouTube. SDO has since produced even more spectacular footage – see video below ‘Sun Sends Out X6.9 Class Solar Flare’, the monster flare occurred August 9, 2011.
Assembled at the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland and launched February 11, 2010 from Cape Canaveral SDO was initially placed in low Earth orbit. Eventually it will slowly be maneuvered into it’s final circular geosynchronous orbit –stays facing the sun while the Earth turns– at an altitude of 36,000 km, giving SDO a permanent view of the Sun. The data collected by SDO is part of the ‘Living with a Star’ program which aims to understand the sun and it’s influence on the Earth, the Earth-Sun relationship.
Building on the technology of the previous solar observing satellite SOHO, SDO improves on SOHO‘s instruments and adds new sensors to the study of the sun. Three instrument suites are onboard for observing; Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) , Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) making SDO the most advanced solar observatory ever. These three sets of sensors are each recording a different perspective of the sun in real-time, HMI listens to the Suns magnetic fields while EVE and AIA watch and photograph the Sun’s outer layers. The sensors collect and send back over a Terabyte of data per day. Once the data is received at the Goddard flight control centre it’s stored and served up to various research facilities. Individually each of the sensors produces spectacular images, together they are stunning. Read the full article »»»»