SpaceX today published some wonderful new footage of its recent successful Falcon 9 launch and landing.
Three strange metal spheres fell from the sky in Vietnam's Tuyen Quang province. They range in size and weight, with the smallest at 250 grams and the largest at 45 kilograms. According to the Ministry of Defense, they are likely compressed air tanks from an aircraft or rocket. That said, Nguyen Khoa Son of the National Research Program on Space Science and Technology suggests that they could be debris from a failed satellite launch. Apparently the balls were made in Russia.
Every other week, it seems, an exciting new discovery crops up in a distant star system. The latest is Wolf 1061c, the closest Earth-like world yet found, barely a probe's throw away at 14 light years. But this got me thinking: which is the least interesting exoplanet yet discovered?
To my inexpert eye, OGLE 2005 BLG-390Lb looks like a terrifically boring world. Though it was scientifically interesting early in the exoplanetary race due to its tiny size and vast distance from Planet Earth, this merely makes it the Rand Paul of planets.
It's at least 18,000 light years away, so we're not getting there until we can reach billions of other, more interesting worlds. And when someone does get there, they'll find what appears to be rocky blob well out of its star's habitable zone.
It's covered in abundant elements such as ammonia and nitrogen, all frozen solid because it's so cold. Its star is believed to be a red dwarf, which is to say, very boring in its own right.
"I wish I'd had a chance to visit OGLE 2005 BLG-390Lb," no-one will ever say.
But I could, of course, be completely wrong. I'm not an astronomer, after all. Tell us in the comments which exoplanet you are most bored by!
You can now view NASA rocket launch videos in 4K high-definition glory, online.
NASA just released this beautiful composite infrared view of Saturn's moon Titan. The Cassini spacecraft captured the image last month during its flyby about 6,200 miles above the moon's surface. From NASA:
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The view looks toward terrain that is mostly on the Saturn-facing hemisphere of Titan. The scene features the parallel, dark, dune-filled regions named Fensal (to the north) and Aztlan (to the south), which form the shape of a sideways letter "H."
Several places on the image show the surface at higher resolution than elsewhere. These areas, called subframes, show more detail because they were acquired near closest approach. They have finer resolution, but cover smaller areas than data obtained when Cassini was farther away from Titan.
Did Ridley Scott plan the most brutally delicious revenge against JPL or am I just making this stuff up? Read the rest
The Kepler telescope has found 685 systems with 1705 exoplanets, and you can watch them whirr around together in this mesmerizing animation by astrocubs.
The fact that the worlds and systems we've observed are so different from our own is a limitation of our observations, not of the universe.
The orbits are shown to scale, but the planets are much larger than the orbits would suggest. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to see them. The planets are not to scale with one another, either. Also, the orbits wouldn't be perfectly circular, though I guess the animator might have made the simulation adhere to the laws of planetary motion an all the observed worlds have roughly-circular orbits. Of course the solar systems aren't this close tog—look, sshhhh, just watch it, it's pretty. Read the rest
Mirror Lake will make a procedurally generated bowl for you. Sometimes the bowl is empty, which sounds like a parable, but mostly it is just a bowl. Sometimes it is in space.
Click again, and you'll be greeted with another bowl. Other features of its landscape may include: mountains, trees, stones, ponds, birds, comets, planets, stars.
Mirror Lake was created by Katie Rose Pipkin for the recent Procedural Generation Jam, which encouraged people to make generative games, tools and art—to "make something that makes something." In this case, hauntingly pretty monochromatic space bowls.
If you want to see Mirror Lake in all its odd glory, trying expanding it to full screen; make sure the sound is up so you can hear the ambient hum. Even the bugs are nice to look at:Read the rest
"Rocket" is not one of the 1,000 most common words in the English language, so it's called an "up goer" in the excellent xkcd video that explains space travel in simple terms. It's adapted from xkcd creator Randall Munroe's book, Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words." Read the rest
Astronomers have spied a cold world three times as distant from the Sun as Pluto. Read the rest
Are you planning on taking a trip to the Moon? If so, you'll want to create a commemorative photo album.
The moon is a pretty desolate place and the truth is, you just don’t have a whole lot to work with. You’ve got moon dust, some craters and if you’re lucky, you’ve got some shadow and light.
The space exploration game Sun Dogs comes with a promising description: "Sun Dogs is about exploring our inner solar system, altering your body, and embracing death." After playing, I deem it accurate. Read the rest
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in orbit keeps a constant vigil on the Sun to help us understand how solar variations impact life on Earth. Launched in 2010, the SDO is part of NASA's Living With a Star (LWS) Program. NASA just released this magnificent 4K video shot by the SDO of our star's nuclear fire. It's titled "Thermonuclear Art."
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