Explore other star systems' habitable zones -- and our own billions of years hence

earth

The Circumstellar Habitable Zone Simulator provides detailed views of six star systems known to have exoplanets. You can change the stars' mass and the planetary distances and fool around with Goldilocks' breakfast, but it's the timeline control that's scary: drag it right to fly through the billions of years, watching the habitable zone head out of town as the star goes nova then contract to nothing. Read the rest

NASA launches OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample mission now speeding toward Bennu rendezvous

Image: NASA

NASA reports that its first ever asteroid sampling mission launched into space at 7:05 p.m. EDT Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, “beginning a journey that could revolutionize our understanding of the early solar system.”

OSIRIS-REx, which is short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, is headed to the near-Earth asteroid called Bennu.

The probe's job: Touch the asteroid (after asking consent first, and with a platonic vibe) so we can bring a small sample back to Earth for study. If all goes as planned after today's launch, the spacecraft will reach Bennu in 2018 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

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Recreating Our Galaxy in a Supercomputer

Simulated view of our Milky Way galaxy, seen from a nearly face-on angle. This image was created by simulating the formation of our galaxy using a supercomputer, which, in this case, consisted of 2,000 computers linked together.(Hopkins Research Group/Caltech)

Astronomers at Caltech have created the most detailed computer simulation yet of how our Milky Way galaxy was formed, from inception billions of years ago as a loose collection of matter to its modern state as a massive, spiral disk of stars.

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Images from Saturn Cassini probe reveal Titan's dunes and frigid landscape in new detail

cassini

“Frigid alien landscapes” are coming to light in new radar images of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, captured from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

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This Podcast Was Written by an AI

Today we do something weird, in honor of the end of the second season of Flash Forward! Instead of coming up with a future and then finding experts to talk about it, I asked an AI to write a future for us. And the AI apparently wants us to talk about space travel, witches, and the occult.

Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon | Reddit

In this episode we feed all the past Flash Forward episodes to a neural network, and ask it to write a script for us. And that script is full of space travel, Mars conspiracy theories, future witches, and a whole lot of theories about cutting someone’s hands off.

▹▹ Full show notes

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SpaceX rocket explodes on launchpad; Facebook satellite destroyed

NASA

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and its payload—a communications satellite backed by Facebook—were destroyed this morning during launch tests at Cape Canaveral, Fla. No-one was hurt in the explosion. Read the rest

ISS captures three hurricanes in time-lapse video, two in Pacific and one in Atlantic

L-R: Hurricanes Lester, Madeline and Gaston seen from ISS Aug. 30. [NASA]

Cameras on the International Space Station captured this footage of three major hurricanes on Earth on August 30. Two of these storms are in the Pacific Ocean, and one is in the Atlantic Ocean. Read the rest

SpaceX Dragon Splashes Down with Crucial NASA Research Samples

Image from NASA's live coverage: SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft departing the ISS at 6:10 am EDT Friday, Aug. 26, 2016, after successfully delivering almost 5,000 pounds of supplies and scientific cargo on its ninth resupply mission to the orbiting lab.
Another successful SpaceX mission to resupply the ISS ended today with a splashdown in the Pacific, southwest of Mexico's Baja Peninsula. Here's an update from NASA.

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NASA's Juno to Soar Closest to Jupiter This Saturday

This dual view of Jupiter was taken on August 23, when NASA's Juno spacecraft was 2.8 million miles (4.4 million kilometers) from the gas giant planet on the inbound leg of its initial 53.5-day capture orbit. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS

An update on the Juno mission, from NASA.

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NASA: 35 Years On, Voyager's Legacy Continues at Saturn

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

An update on the Voyager exploration program of Saturn from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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Test for Damp Ground at Mars' Seasonal Streaks Finds None, Reports NASA JPL

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A Mars science news update from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California.

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You didn't find a meteorite

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

Fun retro-future space posters

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Lynx Art Collection has some fun retro-future space posters in their collection, like this one titled Astronaut Hang Time. They also have a bunch of cool travel posters, like this one for Mars: Read the rest

Earth-like planet "might" be orbiting Proxima Centauri, "only" 4 light years away

NASA/Penn State University

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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Kepler Space Telescope Watches Stellar Dancers in the Pleiades Cluster

This image shows the famous Pleiades cluster of stars as seen through the eyes of WISE, or NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer.Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Here's a wonderful feature about my favorite constellation and the galaxy's most awesome telescope (at least one of them!) from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

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Luna's prime real-estate and how to seize it

South_Pole-Aitken_basin_rim_As08-13-2319hr

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

NASA publishes 44,000 Mars surface images

mars

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.

Gullies in Dunes Dubbed Kolhar.

Yardangs South of Olympus Mons

Crater-Exposed Rocks of Yalgoo Crater in Isidis Basin Read the rest

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