Astronomers using a potent NASA space telescope to search for life say they have found planets which are the most Earth-like candidates yet. Two of the five planets orbiting a Sun-like star called Kepler-62 are squarely in the habitable zone – not too hot, not too cold, possibly bearing water – NASA scientists report in the journal Science :: Read the full article »»»»
That last bastion of US ingenuity, NASA will apparently launch a new space mission that intends to grab a small asteroid and tow it into orbit around the moon, as part of a long-range plan towards establishing permanent manned outposts in space.
US Senator Bill Nelson says to get the project off the ground, president Barack Obama will propose around $US100 million for the space agency in his 2014 budget, which he submits to Congress this week.
The proposed plan calls for a robotic-spacecraft to capture an asteroid and tow it back towards Earth, ultimately leaving it in a stable orbit around the moon.
Once there there could be mining activities, research into ways of deflecting an asteroid from striking Earth, and testing to develop technology for a trip to deep space and Mars, Senator Nelson said in his statement :: Read the full article »»»»
A new, super detailed map of the most ancient light-radiation in the cosmos has revealed our universe to be almost 90 million years older than previously thought, providing a more accurate view of the universes standard model.
The 50-million pixel, all-sky snapshot of radiation left over from the Big Bang was compiled from data gathered by the European Space Agency – ESA – Planck satellite, launched four years ago. Planck was created as part of ESA’s Horizon 2000 Scientific Programme.
The snapshot depicts Cosmic Microwave Background – CMB – or relic radiation at a point 380,000 years after the Big Bang, as the newly-formed universe started cooling down.
Planck was launched in May 2009, reaching the Earth/Sun’s L2 point in July, and by February 2010 had successfully started a second all-sky survey. according to the ESA team the universe is 13.798 billion years old, it contains nearly 5 percent ordinary matter, 27 per cent dark matter and a whopping 68 per cent dark energy :: Read the full article »»»»
NASA scientists reckon rock samples from Mars have shown that the dusty red planet would once have been capable of supporting life. Analysis of Mars rocks by the Curiosity Rover uncovered the building blocks of life – hydrogen, carbon and oxygen – and evidence the planet could once have supported organisms, NASA said.
“A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment,” Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program said. “From what we know now, the answer is yes.”
At a televised press conference, the NASA team said this was the first definitive proof a life-supporting environment had existed beyond Earth. Curiosity, a six-wheeled robot with 10 scientific instruments on board, is the most sophisticated vehicle ever sent to another planet.
The sample was drilled from sedimentary bedrock in an area which previous research had shown to be an ancient river system or lake bed. It was found to contain clay minerals, sulfate minerals and other chemicals :: Read the full article »»»»
Two tiny NASA probes have crashed into the Moon after spending months gathering data by orbiting kilometres above the lunar surface, the US space agency said. The site where the probes crashed will be named after astronaut Sally Ride, the first US female in space. The two tiny probes have been dubbed Ebb and Flow :: Read the full article »»»»
NASA’s superneat Mars rover Curiosity has found soil that bears a striking resemblance to volcanic sand in Hawaii. In the first study of the red planet’s soil, Curiosity determined the grains have crystals similar to basaltic soils found in volcanic regions on Earth.
The rover uses an X-ray imager to reveal the atomic structures of crystals in the Martian soil, the first time the technology – x-ray diffraction – has been used to analyse soil beyond our planet.
“The mineralogy of Mars’s soil has been a source of conjecture until now,” Curiosity scientist David Vaniman said, from the Planetary Science Institute.”This interest isn’t just academic,” he added. “Soils on planets’ surfaces are a reflection of surface exposure processes and history, with information on present and past climates.”
The minerals were identified in the first sample of Martian soil ingested recently by the rover. Curiosity used its Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument – CheMin – to obtain the results, which are filling gaps and adding confidence to earlier estimates of the mineralogical makeup of the dust and fine soil widespread on the Red Planet.
NASA plan to use the information about Mars’s minerals to figure out if the planet most like Earth in the solar system could have supported and preserved microbial life :: Read the full article »»»»
WOW, isn’t really a word, it’s more like a thoughtfilled sound, in this case it’s the one I made looking back over this past month of astronomical discoveries. From a diamond encrusted jewel to a new earth sized planet a stones throw from our own blue planet.
News from skywatchers has boomed out through September and October this year, with clever astronomers and planetary scientists pushing the boundaries of computer climate modelling, forecasting weather, climatic change and glacial movements on Mars that just might have valid predictors for climate change on Earth.
A new planet, the closest yet outside our solar system and just an astronomical stone’s throw away at four light years,and according to scientists, seriously raising the chances of finding a habitable planet in Earth’s neighbourhood. Researchers say the new planet is too close to its sun to support any known forms of life, with a surface temperature estimated at 1,200 degrees Celsius.
Previous studies suggest that when one planet is discovered orbiting a sun, there are usually others in the same system. The new Earth-sized planet, announced in science journal Nature by Stephane Udry and Xavier Dumusque at the Geneva Observatory, orbits one of the suns in Alpha Centauri, only 40 trillion kilometres away, visible to the naked eye – though we’d suggest you wear clothes while backyard stargazing – The planet was discovered using the HARPS instrument on a telescope at the ESO’s – European Southern Observatory - La Silla site in Chile. :: Read the full article »»»»