Blob of liquid floating in zero gravity

From NASA Johnson: "Astronauts on the International Space Station dissolved an effervescent tablet in a floating ball of water, and captured images using a camera capable of recording four times the resolution of normal high-definition cameras. The higher resolution images and higher frame rate videos can reveal more information when used on science investigations, giving researchers a valuable new tool aboard the space station. This footage is one of the first of its kind. The cameras are being evaluated for capturing science data and vehicle operations by engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama." Read the rest

First image of a newborn planet forming

The ESO's Very Large Telescope captured the first image of a planet forming in the swooshy swirl of space dust surrounding a similarly youthful star. The planet is the blurry yellow blob to the bottom right of center; the black blob in the middle is a blinker used to block direct light from the star, which would otherwise overwhelm the sensor.

It is located roughly three billion kilometres from the central star, roughly equivalent to the distance between Uranus and the Sun. The analysis shows that PDS 70b is a giant gas planet with a mass a few times that of Jupiter. The planet's surface has a temperature of around 1000°C, making it much hotter than any planet in our own Solar System.

Sounds like a great place to visit! Here's video with some more explanations and some artistic renderings of the solar system and the world itself.

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Videos of last night's SpaceX launch

It's an ISS supply run, but what a beautiful boat. Check out the plume -- "Holy Cow, look at that thing!" -- in this clip:

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What do they mean by "enhanced color" in space images?

The striking enhanced color image of blue-hued sand dunes on Mars led some readers to ask what that means. Above is a side-by-side image in what scientists call "true color" on the left and enhanced on the right. The color humans would perceive is probably somewhere between the two, depending on conditions. Here's the difference: Read the rest

Japanese space probe visits diamond-shaped asteroid

After a four-year journey, Japan's Hayabusa 2 returned its first image of Ryugu, a diamond-shaped asteroid far from Earth. Habayusa is going to shoot explosives at the rock, scoop up some of the bits released, then return home with them for study. From the BBC:

A copper projectile, or "impactor" will separate from the spacecraft, floating down to the surface of the asteroid. Once Hayabusa 2 is safely out of the way, an explosive charge will detonate, driving the projectile into the surface.

"We have an impactor which will create a small crater on the surface of Ryugu. Maybe in spring next year, we will try to make a crater... then our spacecraft will try to reach into the crater to get the subsurface material."

"But this is a very big challenge."

Image: JAXA Read the rest

VFX artist demonstrates just how big SpaceX rockets are

Because most people see SpaceX rocket launches on a small screen or from a great distance, here's a better sense of how enormous these vehicles are by adding them to real-world places. Read the rest

Watch a very detailed overview of the latest innovations for power in space

Improved super-thin solar panels and nuclear fission are all in development to handle the massive logistical problems of meeting power needs in space. Fraser Cain takes viewers through the newest developments, including NASA's new Kilopower Reactor. Read the rest

Human civilization likely alone

The good news: it's all ours. The bad news: there's nothing to stop us. A new model of civilization, arrived by taking the Drake equation and plugging in models of chemical and genetic transitions on paths to the origin of life, predicts that humanity is the only advanced one in observable space.

As Dr. Sanberg told Universe Today via email:

“One can answer [the Fermi Paradox] by saying intelligence is very rare, but then it needs to be tremendously rare. Another possibility is that intelligence doesn’t last very long, but it is enough that one civilization survives for it to become visible. Attempts at explaining it by having all intelligences acting in the same way (staying quiet, avoiding contact with us, transcending) fail since they require every individual belonging to every society in every civilization to behave in the same way, the strongest sociological claim ever. Claiming long-range settlement or communication are impossible requires assuming a surprisingly low technology ceiling. Whatever the answer is, it more or less has to be strange.”

Photo: ESA/Gaia/DPAC Read the rest

Mars has blue-hued sand dunes

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped this giant Martian sand dune that has a turquoise blue hue in enhanced color. Read the rest

Rosetta probe's last images before colliding with comet

Now that's a pretty comet. ESA:

Enjoy this compilation of with the last images taken by Rosetta’s high resolution OSIRIS camera during the mission’s final hours at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. As it moved closer towards the surface it scanned across an ancient pit and sent back images showing what would become its final resting place. Browse all images via the Archive Image Browser: https://imagearchives.esac.esa.int

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Hi rez images from NASA's 1967/8 Lunar Orbiters were withheld to hide US spying capabilities

In 1967, the Lunar Orbiter missions sent back exciting -- but grainy and low-rez -- photos of the moon's surface. Read the rest

Tiny home inspired by a lunar lander

Boat designer Kurth Hughes designed and built this far out home on the Columbia River in central Washington. It's just 250-square-feet but contains a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and dining nook with a table fashioned from Hughes's first sailboat. The geodesic dome skylight provides plenty of sunlight and a glorious view of the starry night. (Zillow)

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Why do cosmonauts piss on a wheel of the bus transporting them to the launch pad?

Apparently it's a tradition for cosmonauts to urinate on the rear right tires of the bus transporting them to the launch pad. Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev reportedly did just that Wednesday before the Expedition 56/57 crew took off for the International Space Station. While male cosmonauts release the stream directly from the source, females carry a cup of urine that they pour onto the tire. Space.com explains why:

(They are) paying tribute to the first human in space — Yuri Gagarin. The cosmonaut, who launched April 12, 1961, from the same cosmodrome, had to "go" on the way to the rocket … and the rest is history.

Various other Gagarin tributes also come into play for launch crews — they also visit Gagarin's grave in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis in Moscow. And after arriving in Baikonur, they plant a tree in the same grove where Gagarin planted his; and they visit his office, which has been preserved since his death in 1968.

"Why Cosmonauts Pee on the Bus That Picks Them Up for Launches" (Space.com) Read the rest

Life's building blocks discovered on Mars

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has dug up organic molecules, the raw building blocks of life. The robot drilled out the organic carbon samples from 3-billion-year-old sediments in Mars’s Gale Crater that was once filled with water. From the New York Times:

That does not prove that life has ever existed on Mars. The same carbon molecules, broadly classified as organic matter, also exist within meteorites that fall from space. They can also be produced in chemical reactions that do not involve biology.

But the discovery, published on Thursday by the journal Science, is a piece of the Mars puzzle that scientists have long been seeking. In 1976, NASA’s two Viking landers conducted the first experiments searching for organic matter on Mars and appeared to come up empty.

“Now things are starting to make more sense,” said Jennifer L. Eigenbrode, a biogeochemist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and lead author of the Science paper. “We still don’t know the source of them, but they’re there. They’re not missing any more.”

"Life on Mars? Rover’s Latest Discovery Puts It ‘On the Table’" by Kenneth Chang (NYT) Read the rest

The Right Stuff: Adam Savage and astronaut Jim Newman talk with Ariel Waldman

On Tested's Offworld, Boing Boing pals Ariel Waldman and Adam Savage talk with astronaut Jim Newman about the 1983 film The Right Stuff, early NASA missions, and how "astronaut culture" has changed over the years.

Alan Shepard: Dear Lord, please don't let me fuck up.

Gordon Cooper: I didn't quite copy that. Say again, please.

Alan Shepard: I said everything's A-OK.

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Asteroid discovered just before it impacted earth's atmosphere

Over the weekend, Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey spotted a near-earth asteroid just a few hours before its impact trajectory took it right into our atmosphere. Luckily, it burned up before impact. Read the rest

NASA photographer's camera cooked by last week's SpaceX rocket launch

Senior NASA photographer Bill Ingalls apparently set up his Canon EOS 5DS at an unlucky spot near yesterday's SpaceX rocket launch. He placed it outside the pad perimeter yet the launch sparked a small brush fire that cooked the camera. "I had many other cameras much closer to the pad than this and all are safe," Ingalls wrote.

Fortunately, the SD cards didn't melt and he was able to access the final photos taken by the camera before its untimely death. Two of them are below.

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