Showing posts from November, 2016

Potentially Habitable Planet's Shadow Spotted from Earth

A potentially Earth-like planet circles a bright star 150 light-years away, casting a shadow tracked from space — and now from Earth, too. The planet, called K2-3d, was originally seen crossing in front of its star by NASA's Kepler space telescope during that instrument's ongoing K2 mission. Researchers brought the Okayama Astrophysical Observatory's 188-centimeter (6 feet) telescope to bear on the speck to fine-tune their understanding of the exoplanet's orbit down to a precision of 18 seconds, according to new research. Using this first-ever Earth-based measurement of the planet, the researchers predicted when the planet will cross its star in 2018, when the newly complete James Webb Space Telescope should be able to watch carefully and analyze the planet's atmosphere for potential signs of life or habitability. K2-3d is about 1.5 times the size of Earth and orbits a star half the size of the sun every 45 days. The exoplanet circles closer to its star than

Huge Underground Ice Deposit on Mars Is Bigger Than New Mexico

A giant deposit of buried ice on Mars contains about as much water as Lake Superior does here on Earth, a new study reports. The ice layer, which spans a greater area than the state of New Mexico, lies in Mars' mid-northern latitudes and is covered by just 3 feet to 33 feet (1 to 10 meters) of soil. It therefore represents a vast possible resource for future astronauts exploring the Red Planet, study team members said. "This deposit is probably more accessible than most water ice on Mars, because it is at a relatively low latitude and it lies in a flat, smooth area where landing a spacecraft would be easier than at some of the other areas with buried ice," co-author Jack Holt, of the University of Texas, Austin, said in a statement The researchers, led by Cassie Stuurman of the Institute for Geophysics at the University of Texas, analyzed observations of Mars' Utopia Planitia region made by the ground-penetrating Shallow Radar (SHARAD) instrument aboard NASA&#

Blow It Up: Inflatable Space Station Habitat Shows Promise in Early Tests

An inflatable space habitat that could save weight and volume on future missions is showing how well it can do its job. The verdict: So far, it works, and that gives the habitat a better chance of being part of future space efforts. Called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, the habitat is an inflatable spheroid made of fabric that starts off folded into a shape like a flattish cone with the top cut off. It was originally launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 8. The first tests were in May. Crewmembers aboard the ISS expanded BEAM, using low pressure, and then allowed the air tanks inside the habitat to open and pressurize it to the same level as the space station — approximately one atmosphere. Sensors inside the BEAM checked the module's temperature and how well its structure was responding to pressure. Astronauts didn't enter the BEAM until June, though, as there were extensive checks for leaks. (They found none.) NASA astronaut Jeff

EMDrive Peer-Reviewed Essay May Prove NASA’s ‘Impossible’ Rocket Thruster Really Works

The Journal of Propulsion and Power, a peer-reviewed journal published by American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), published a paper this week asserting that radio frequency cavity thrusters such as the electromagnetic thruster, or EmDrive, are theoretically viable. The possibility of an EmDrive, which provides thrust by containing electromagnetic radiation within a closed microwave cavity, was first presented by British scientist Roger Shawyer in 1999, according to Science Alert. However, Shawyer has faced considerable skepticism and criticism because his theoretical rocket thruster, which would neither require propellent fuel nor produce exhaust, violates a fundamental law of physics. Newton’s Third Law of Physics states, “To each action there’s an equal and opposite reaction.” “But there’s the problem – ‘an equal and opposite reaction’ means something needs to be pushed out the back of propulsion system in order for it to move forwards, and the EMDrive does

We need to leave Earth or humanity will DIE, warns Stephen Hawking

HUMANS only have 1,000 years left on Earth and will have to find another planet if we are to survive, Professor Stephen Hawking has warned. The human race will have to find a new home within a millennium if the species is to continue existing. The shock claim came from Professor Stephen Hawking who warned that Earth’s dominant species will continue to eat through the planet’s resources at an alarming rate, leaving Earth battered and bruised and quickening its inevitable end. Speaking at the Oxford Union, the famed theoretical physicist stated that although it is a "glorious time to be alive and doing research into theoretical physics”, there are problems that humanity will not be able to overcome if were are to be resigned to this planet alone. The 74-year old said: “Our picture of the universe has changed a great deal in the last 50 years and I am happy if I have made a small contribution. ”The fact that we humans, who are ourselves mere fundamental particles of nature,

Scientists are building a telescope to seek another Earth — and you can help

On Valentine’s Day 1990, from a dark and frozen spot on the outer edges of our solar system, the spacecraft Voyager 1 turned around to take one last photo of the world it left behind. Viewed from a distance of almost 4 billion miles, Earth was little more than a pixel, a “mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam,” in the words of Carl Sagan. Although the space program has produced countless gorgeous photographs of our planet — exquisite images of deep blue oceans and swirling clouds, of the incandescent spider web that is human civilization at night — nothing else has captured so starkly the profound loneliness of this precious, pale blue dot we call home. Now scientists want to find a companion for that dot. On Tuesday, a consortium of private research institutions launched a crowdfunding campaign to help build a new space telescope capable of searching for and photographing planets in the star system Alpha Centauri — which holds the closest stars to our sun. They call the mission

Trump Space Policy To Aim For Mars And Beyond

Will a brash, plain-spoken billionaire finally push Congress off the dime and get NASA astronauts back to the Moon and on to the surface of Mars? Or will soon-to-be President Donald J. Trump relegate American space policy to yet another decade of largely empty sloganeering? Past administrations tended to use space exploration catchphrases to give them a vision statement, but then failed to follow through on their promises. Thus, what can we expect from a Trump Administration — in terms of colonizing the Moon; sending humans to Mars; and developing commercial interests in space? “The specifics of missions will be determined within the overall goal of human exploration of the solar system, but clearly, the long–term, overall goal of Trump space policy anticipates human exploration far beyond low-Earth orbit and even beyond Mars,” former Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Robert Walker and a senior advisor to the Trump campaign, told me. Will space policy be a real part of the Pr

NASA Administrator Bridenstine? His name’s in the mix for Trump’s space team

U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), a member of Congress active on a wide range of space issues, is being considered for key posts in the Trump administration, including NASA administrator. Sources familiar with the transition planning for the Trump administration say that Bridenstine is being considered for both the NASA administrator post as well as Secretary of the Air Force. Bridenstine, in addition to being a member of Congress, serves in the Oklahoma Air National Guard after previously being a pilot in the U.S. Navy. Bridenstine has been active on space issues since first being elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, serving on the House Science Committee and House Armed Services Committee. Those posts have given him a voice on both civil and national security space policy issues. He is best known for the introduction in April of the American Space Renaissance Act, a comprehensive space policy bill that covered topics in national security, civil and commercial spa

What a Trump administration means for space

A space policy of the administration of President-elect Donald Trump is likely to focus more on human spaceflight, technology development and commercialization, and less on Earth science. Trump, the Republican nominee, claimed victory in a speech in New York shortly before 3 a.m. Eastern Nov. 9, after the Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called to concede. The outcome shocked many, given polls generally projected a modest but clear Clinton victory. For most of his campaign, which formally started in June 2015, Trump said little about space, and offered only terse responses to questions about his positions on civil or military space issues. In the final weeks before the election, though, the campaign took space more seriously, bringing on Robert Walker, a former congressman, as its space policy advisor. “I’ve been that for about two weeks,” Walker said of his advisory position in comments at an Oct. 26 meeting of the Federal Aviation Administration’s

NSW telescope captures Earth-like planet

Breakthrough Listen, the UC Berkeley-led 10-year, $100 million search for intelligent life beyond Earth, inaugurated its observations with the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia by homing in on our nearest extrasolar planet, Proxima b, the main destination for a sister project called Breakthrough Starshot. Together with the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, USA and Automated Planet Finer in California, USA, the Breakthrough Listen initiative aims to uncover whether civilizations scattered along the vastness of the universe have developed machines similar to those on earth. The CSIRO said the Parkes telescope was perfectly located to observe parts of the universe that cannot be seen from the northern hemisphere, including the center of our own Milky Way galaxy. Now, Parkes joins once again in expanding human horizons as we search for the answer to one of our oldest questions: Are we alone? The Parkes Radio Telescope would be pointed at the Southern Hemisphere, where there are

Leaked NASA paper suggests the 'impossible' EM Drive really could work

The results of NASA's tests on the 'impossible' EM Drive have been leaked, and they reveal that the controversial propulsion system really does work, and is capable of generating impressive thrust in a vacuum, even after error measurements have been accounted for. The EM Drive has made headlines over the past year, because it offers the incredible possibility of a fuel-free propulsion system that could potentially get us to Mars in just 70 days. But there's one major problem: according to the current laws of physics, it shouldn't work. The issue is the fact that the EM Drive defies Newton's third law, which states that everything must have an equal and opposite reaction. So, according to Newton and our current understanding of the world around us, for a system to produce propulsion, it has to push something out the other way (in space, that's usually combusted rocket fuel). But the EM Drive works without any fuel or propellants at all. It works by si

Construction complete, NASA to test James Webb Space Telescope's stability

"We have spent the last four years preparing for this test," said NASA scientist David Chaney. Construction of the James Webb Telescope is complete. Its mirror array finally assembled, the largest space telescope ever built is now ready to undergo a series of mechanical tests to ensure it can handle the rigors of life in orbit. On Wednesday, NASA engineers finished measuring the curvature of the telescope's mirror panels -- the "center of curvature" test. The array's initial dimensions will be compared to those measured after a series of stress tests. In the coming months, engineers will subject the telescope to sounds and vibrations similar to those experienced by spacecraft. If the mirror is unchanged by the rattling, shaking and sudden jolts, then it will be ready for mounting. If all goes according to plan, JWST will be launched in October 2018. To measure the precise size and shape of the massive mirror without touching it, scientists us