Randy L. Korotev from the Washington U in St Louis Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences presents this handy flowchart (based on this one by Deborah Guedes) for deflating your excitement at having found rock that may be a meteorite but almost certainly isn't. Today's XKCD offers a handy abridgment if you find this one excessive. Read the rest
In interstellar terms, it couldn't be closer: an Earth-like world orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest sun to our own. Moreover, it's in the system's habitable zone, raising the possibility of liquid water and the conditions to sustain life. But don't get too excited...
Although media reports say the rumored planet orbits in a region that’s potentially favorable for life, these smaller stars are less stable, and Proxima Centauri is known to have violent flares at times. Its occasional tantrums have made astronomers skeptical of finding life around red dwarf stars in the past.
However, skepticism has softened some in recent years, and SETI recently launched a major initiative to search for life around 20,000 red dwarfs, as these stars are the most common in the Milky Way galaxy.
One of the most popular locations in science fiction, a habitable world at Proxima Centauri (or, rather, a generation ship headed for it) was most recently tackled in Ascension.
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Though 1967's Outer Space Treaty says no country can lay claim to the moon (and thus no person can get a deed to lunar territory), the treaty does allow for commercial and scientific installations on Luna, and there are some very small, very valuable bits of crater rim that could be squatted in this way, to the enormous benefit of whomever gets there first (and the detriment of all others). Read the rest
The HiRise imager in orbit around Mars shoots a continuous stream of data about its surface our way. Nasa's posted 44,000 images so far, each available in all sorts of formats and projections. You could have one a day as your desktop background and never run out.
This is cool as hell. “While thousands turned out to watch NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) recently complete a full-scale test of its booster, few were aware of the other major test occurring simultaneously.” NASA’s High Dynamic Range Stereo X (HiDyRS-X) camera project captured the test like we've never seen before, and recorded propulsion video data in unprecedented detail.
One million miles from Earth, hanging in space between Earth's gravitational pull and the sun's, is the DSCOVR satellite and NASA's incredible EPIC camera. Every two hours, EPIC takes a photo of Earth "to monitor ozone and aerosol levels in Earth’s atmosphere, cloud height, vegetation properties and the ultraviolet reflectivity of Earth." The above video combines one year of those images.
From the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center:
The primary objective of DSCOVR, a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force, is to maintain the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities, which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts and forecasts from NOAA.
You can download a high-res model of a 3D scan of the command module “Columbia.” Read the rest
A group of South African astronomers announced on Saturday the discovery of more than a thousand galaxies never before known to have been seen or recorded by human beings. The astronomers “were showing off the first taste of the ultimate cosmic feast of what is to come, at least as seen from this particular dusty crumb called Earth,” writes Dennis Overbye at the New York Times:
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When it’s done, sometime around 2030, the Square Kilometer Array, as it is known, will be the largest telescope ever built on our planet. It will consist of thousands of radio antennas that will collectively cover a square kilometer (hence the name), spread out in mathematically intricate patterns in South Africa and Australia.
The telescope is being built by an international collaboration with its headquarters at the University of Manchester in England. The first phase, to be completed in 2023, will cost 650 million euros.
Astronomers estimate that it will pull some 35,000-DVDs-worth of data down from the sky every second. So much that it would take 2 million years to play on your smartphone.
For now the bounty consists of the radio glow of some 1,300 distant galaxies spotted in a patch of sky about 20 times the size of the full moon, where only 70 galaxies had been counted before.
Having successfully slipped into orbit around Jupiter, Juno sent its first image back to Earth.
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NASA on Tuesday released an image taken by the satellite on Sunday from a distance of 2.7 million miles; it even shows the Great Red Spot, though the famous storm has been shrinking in recent decades and may not be as great as it once was.
“We’re quite pleased that we survived going through Jupiter orbit insertion,” said Candice Hansen-Koharcheck, a scientist at Planetary Science Institute in Tucson who is responsible for the operation of the camera. “The fact it’s a beautiful image is already a good thing.”
Though the code for Apollo 11's "Apollo Guidance Computer" has been online since 2003, when Ron Burkey rekeyed it from the scans that Gary Neff had uploaded, ex-NASA intern Chris Garry's posting of the code to Github last week has precipitated a widespread interest in the code, along with close scrutiny of the code itself. Read the rest