SpaceX plans to send unmanned Dragon spacecraft to Mars by 2018, with humans to follow

SpaceX
By way of tweets and Facebook posts, SpaceX this week announced plans to send its unmanned “Red Dragon” spacecraft to Mars as soon as 2018. Sending this privately-funded craft on a bold, brave, risky trip like this could bring SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk closer to his goal of getting humans to Mars.

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NASA releases 4K high-def video of a recent solar flare, and it's pretty awesome

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Our solar system is awesome.

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Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

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A topographically accurate lunar globe designed with data From NASA

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Oscar Lhermitte and Kudu's MOON lunar globe eclipses every other Kickstarter project currently underway.

MOON is the most accurate lunar globe, using NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter topographic data combined with electronic and mechanical engineering alongside careful craftsmanship in mold making.

MOON is unlike traditional lunar globes that uses 2D photographs or illustrations of the Moon.

1. it is a truly accurate 1/20 million replica of the Moon featuring all the craters, elevation and ridges in accurate 3D.

2. it has a ring of LED lights that revolves around the globe, constantly illuminating the correct face of the moon and recreating the lunar phases as seen from Earth.

The combination of the 3D terrain with a light source is what makes it unique. By projecting the light onto the Moon, all the craters, ridges and elevations are brought into relief by their shadows. This recreates the lunar features as we see them from Earth.

For the first time, MOON allows you to see the side not visible from Earth ("dark side of the Moon" or "far side" to be scientifically correct).

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Scientists create the exotic ices of Pluto

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Tom writes, "Scientists at Northern Arizona U. use a home-made machine to create 'exotic ices.' They're simulating the surface of Pluto to help explain data and pictures sent to Earth by the New Horizons spacecraft." Read the rest

Something just struck Jupiter, and two amateur astronomers captured it on video

665 million km away from Earth something hit Jupiter (arrow). 3 moons L-R, Europa, Ganymede, Io.
Two amateur astronomers in different countries captured space images that astronomers say depicts an amazing cosmic event: something basically crashing into the planet Jupiter.

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Spacefaring and contractual obligations: who's with me?

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I keep having to sign contracts where I waive all rights "throughout the universe." Lately, I've been crossing out "universe" and writing in "solar system." Read the rest

Backyard astronomer discovered 300 asteroids so far

Meet maker Gary Hug who built his own home observatory, including a DIY reflector telescope, and discovered more than 300 asteroids.

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China will displace 9,000 villagers to build $184 million telescope for alien life search

2015 photo of assembly site of  "FAST" in Guizhou Province, China. (Xinhua/Jin Liwang)

Over 9,000 Chinese villagers must leave their homes to make way for aliens “or for the possible echoes of them,” reports Ed Wong in the New York Times.

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Einstein was right about ripples in spacetime!

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Gravitational waves are real, and scientists have detected them. In the video above, PBS Space Time explains the discovery by researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). From the New York Times:

A team of physicists who can now count themselves as astronomers announced on Thursday that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prophecy of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

That faint rising tone, physicists say, is the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago (Listen to it here.). And it is a ringing (pun intended) confirmation of the nature of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits from which not even light can escape, which were the most foreboding (and unwelcome) part of his theory.

More generally, it means that scientists have finally tapped into the deepest register of physical reality, where the weirdest and wildest implications of Einstein’s universe become manifest.

Below, NASA's animated simulation of the black holes merging and releasing the gravitational radiation (background here):

above image credits: R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL Read the rest

Astronomers unofficially designate a David Bowie "constellation"

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Studio Brussels asked astronomers at Belgium's MIRA Public Observatory to select stars that would make a fitting asterism in memory of David Bowie. (Of course, only the International Astronomical Union can officially name stars and other astronomical objects, and it's almost always with a number.)

In any case, this effort was tied to the "Stardust for Bowie" annotation project for Google Sky. There is also an unrelated Change.org petition to "Rename planet Mars after David Bowie."

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Star Wars planetary drinking glasses

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Thinkgeek has extended its solar system drinking glasses with a new link of six 10oz Star Wars glasses that symbolize six of the Lucas mythos's most important celestial bodies: Alderaan, Dagobah, Hoth, Tatooine, Endor, and the Death Star (natch). Read the rest

Astronomer, NASA advisor, and serial sexual harasser Geoff Marcy to resign from UC Berkeley

Geoffrey Marcy, possibly contemplating his next victim. [NASA photo]

Geoff Marcy, a famous and respected American astronomer, has announced his intention to step down as a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley, according to an email obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Marcy also works with NASA on the search for extraterrestrial life, via the NASA Kepler Mission.

Buzzfeed first broke today's news of Marcy's plans to step aside. It is the first real fallout he's facing from sexual harassment claims that the reported victims say were ignored for years.

Why would those claims be ignored by UC Berkeley? Because Marcy is kind of a big deal in the field of astronomy, and his name meant money for the struggling California academic institution. Read the rest

NASA rocket launch to be visible along U.S. East Coast Wednesday night

Predicted visibility map for NASA rocket launch Oct. 7.

If you're on the East Coast, keep your eyes on the skies this evening--you might see something rare up there.

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A distinctive, discontinued telescope: the Edmund Scientific Astroscan

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I am frequently asked about this beautiful telescope! People think it is a bong! The Edmund Scientific Astroscan sits in the center of my living room coffee table.

I have heard astronomy buffs screech like wounded monkeys at the idea of my actually using this telescope to view the skies. I'm no celestial connoisseur, and this beautiful post-modern masterpiece offers me all I need in an at-home or camping telescope. Screw telling you about the optics, how much magnification it offers (variable based on your eyepiece,) or any other technical data! Here is the important thing:

I love how it looks!

Several years ago, I asked Mark what telescope he'd recommend. He sent me a picture of this one and I bought it immediately. Only later did I find out he just liked how it looked, neither of us did a bit of research on its utility as a functional sky viewing telescope.

Honestly, it is fine. Here is a great video that'll tell you more than you need to know:

If you'd like to find an AstroScan, try eBay! Mine is a lovely, functional conversation piece. Do not attempt to use it as a water pipe. Read the rest

Over 8,400 NASA Apollo moon mission photos just landed online, in high-resolution

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Space fans, rejoice: today, just about every image captured by Apollo astronauts on lunar missions is now on the Project Apollo Archive Flickr account. There are some 8,400 photographs in all at a resolution of 1800 dpi, and they're sorted by the roll of film they were on. Read the rest

Scale model of the solar system in Nevada's Black Rock Desert

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“On a dry lakebed in Nevada, a group of friends build the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits: a true illustration of our place in the universe.” A film by Wylie Overstreet and Alex Gorosh [HT: Mark Day]

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