NASA's Kepler Mission Announces Largest Collection of Planets Ever Discovered

This artist's concept depicts select planetary discoveries made to date by NASA's Kepler space telescope. NASA/W. Stenzel

NASA announced today that the Kepler mission has verified 1,284 new planets -- the single largest finding of planets to date.

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Canada's Fort McMurray wildfire is so massive, you can see it from space

On May 8, 2016, the MODIS instrument on the Terra satellite captured this image of Ft. McMurray Fire in Alberta, Canada.
[NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team]

The massive wildfire that continues to burn in the Fort McMurray area of Alberta, Canada has been captured from space by NASA imaging satellites.

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Look up in the sky! Eta Aquarids meteor shower expected to peak through May 6

An Eta Aquarid meteor streaks over northern Georgia on 29 April 2012. (NASA/MSFC/B. Cooke)

For amateur astronomers, tonight is an exciting night.

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Amazing GoPro video of rocket launched into near space

UP Aerospace Inc. launched a 20-foot tall rocket nearly 400,000 feet into the upper atmosphere to test the re-entry of the capsule. Eventually, such a capsule could bring biological samples back to Earth from space.

More details on the capsule at NASA.

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IMAX's "A Beautiful Planet" is a 3D visit to the International Space Station

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I'm ashamed to admit that I never learned much about the International Space Station. But after seeing the IMAX 3D documentary A Beautiful Planet, I feel like I spent 45 minutes in it, and it was emotional and thrilling. I'm normally not a big fan of 3D movies, but the quality was so high that it didn't bother me and instead made the experience of learning about life inside the ISS that much better.

I was enthralled the entire time I watched the movie. I felt like I was floating in the ISS, observing the astronauts right in front of me as they ate, cut their hair, made espresso, helped each other get into their spacesuits, and played the bagpipes. I remember reading somewhere that one of the requirements of being an astronaut is that you can't be arrogant or have a big ego because those aren't good traits to have when you live in close quarters for months on end with other people. The astronauts on the ISS all seemed very smart, good natured, and kind. I wanted to hug them all.

The movie, which is narrated by Jennifer Lawrence, is called A Beautiful Planet because the main star of the show is our planet as filmed by crew of the ISS. We've all seen images of the Earth from space, but to see them in 3D on giant screen in crystal clarity is another experience altogether. My 13-year-old daughter was shocked by the nighttime footage of South and North Korea. Read the rest

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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CERN scientists release 300 terabytes of Large Hadron Collider data, free and open

A technician cycles in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. [Reuters]

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, has been releasing portions of its research to the public for years. This week's massive 300 terabyte dump of Large Hadron Collider (LHC) data is the biggest yet by a long shot -- and it's all out there, open source, free for the exploration.

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Why did astronauts' space suits leak urine?

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Ariel Waldman, creator of Spacehack, has just published a delightful book titled "What's It Like in Space? Stories from Astronauts Who've Been There?" Illustrated by Brian Standeford, it's a fun collection of astronaut anecdotes on everything from sneezing and farting in zero gravity to weird frights and the necessity of Sriracha in space. Here's an excerpt:

The early male astronauts often had leaky space suits. They would frequently complain about their urine leaking into other areas of the suit. For a while, no one could figure out what was wrong with the spacesuits. NASA eventually realized the leaking was due to the oversized condom catheters the astronauts were using. Turns out that when the astronauts were asked by doctors what size they needed, they would often ask for “large.”

Buy "What's It Like in Space? Stories from Astronauts Who'Ve Been There?" (Amazon)

Excerpted from What's It Like in Space by Ariel Waldman, illustrations by Brian Standeford (Chronicle Books, 2016). Read the rest

Steven Hawking wants to send tiny 'nanocraft' space probes to Alpha Centauri

Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to Earth’s solar system. [European Southern Observatory]

"Today, we commit to this next great leap into the cosmos," Stephen Hawking said today in New York. "Because we are human, and our nature is to fly."

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Bake: An amazing space-themed Hubble cake

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Baker/cookbook author Heather Baird was so inspired by a book of photos from the Hubble space telescope that she created a "Black Velvet Nebula Cake" that is studded with edible white confetti sprinkles to create a starscape that shoots right through the whole cross-section, while the surface is intricately painted with gorgeous nebulae made from tinted edible gels. Read the rest

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

What's it like in space? Astronauts answer in new book

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Ariel Waldman, creator of Spacehack, has just published a delightful book titled "What's It Like in Space? Stories from Astronauts Who'Ve Been There?" Illustrated by Brian Standeford, it's a fun collection of astronaut anecdotes on everything from sneezing and farting in zero gravity to weird frights and the necessity of Sriracha in space. Here's an excerpt:

While performing a spacewalk is an exciting experience, it is also a very serious operation that is meticulously scripted for astronauts. The only time astronauts might get a chance to look around at where they are is when there’s a glitch in equipment and they get a few spare minutes while someone makes a repair. Astronaut Chris Hadfield found an opportunity to look around during one of his spacewalks:

“The contrast of your body and your mind inside . . . essentially a one-person spaceship, which is your space suit, where you’re holding on for dear life to the shuttle or the station with one hand, and you are inexplicably in between what is just a pouring glory of the world roaring by, silently next to you—just the kaleidoscope of it, it takes up your whole mind. It’s like the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen just screaming at you on the right side, and when you look left, it’s the whole bottomless black of the universe and it goes in all directions. It’s like a huge yawning endlessness on your left side and you’re in between those two things and trying to rationalize it to yourself and trying to get some work done.”

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Google Autocomplete interview with astronauts who are in space

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From our friend Joe Sabia, a wonderful video his team created with WIRED:

NASA astronauts Tim Kopra and Jeff Williams and European Space Agency astronaut Tim Peake are currently living on board the International Space station and answer the internet’s most searched questions in the latest installment of WIRED’s Google Auto Complete Interview.

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Animated interview with Carl Sagan about extraterrestrial life, Hollywood, and God

"A literal reading of the Bible simply is a mistake; I mean it’s just wrong," Sagan told Studs Terkel in 1985. (Blank on Blank)

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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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Watch it live, 5:30am ET: Cygnus Supply Craft Rendezvous With Space Station

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“A new shipment of science, spacewalk gear and crew supplies is on its way to the International Space Station,” NASA says. Astronauts on the International Space Station will grapple an arriving Cygnus supply spacecraft this morning, with coverage starting at 5:30 a.m. EDT (0930 GMT).

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Tiny satellite that spews out tinier sensors onto moon's surface

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In the late 2020s, NASA plans to send a probe to Jupiter's moon Europa to determine if there's oceanic life beneath its crust. Before then, Draper Laboratory hopes that its novel sensor system of CubeSats, satellites smaller than a shoebox, and postage-stamp size sensors, called ChipSats, could be the basis of a complementary $10 million mission to inform the big 2020 effort, expected to cost $2 billion. Draper's idea is that CubeSats could be delivered to Europa's orbit to identify areas on the moon with the thinnest ice. As data comes in about what's below, the CubeSats would then dump hundreds of the tiny ChipSats onto the moon's surface. Those ChipSats would then identify the best location for the later NASA probe to penetrate the surface. (Insert requisite "2010: Odyssey Two" reference here.) From Draper Laboratory, developers of the system:

Initial indications suggest that (ChipSats') small size and lack of moving parts may make them highly capable of surviving impact on a planetary surface without any dedicated protection system, (Draper researcher Brett) Streetman said. The low cost of ChipSats would enable scientists to use a large batch, reducing the consequences of losing some upon impact, he said.

Additionally, this capability could provide a quick-response solution for researchers who study events on Earth that are difficult to predict, and thus difficult to reach quickly with personnel and in-situ sensors, such as volcanic eruptions and algae blooms, said John West, who leads advanced concepts and technology development in Draper’s space systems group.

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