Outstanding Opportunity Rover Making ‘Amazing New Discoveries’ 13 Years After Mars Touchdown 13 Years on Mars! On Christmas Day 2016, NASA’s Opportunity rover scans around vast Endeavour crater as she ascends steep rocky slopes on the way to reach a water carved gully along the eroded craters western rim. This navcam camera photo mosaic was assembled from raw images taken on Sol 4593 (25 Dec. 2016) and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo NASA’s truly outstanding Opportunity rover continues “making new discoveries about ancient Mars” as she commemorates 13 Years since bouncing to a touchdown on Mars, in a feat that is “truly amazing” –Read More →

What is a Butte? During the 16h century, Spanish explorers ventured north from Mexico looking for gold and the legendary “Seven cities of Cibola”. What they found instead were some of the most amazing natural formations in the world, which are today known as “buttes”. To the local Hopi, Navajo, and other indigenous nations, these features – which resemble tall, isolated plateaus – have been regarded as sacred sites since time immemorial. By the beginning of the 19th century, the term “butte” entered common parlance and quickly became adopted by the geological community. And while their existence was something of a mystery for thousands ofRead More →

Vortex Coronagraph A Game Changer For Seeing Close In Exoplanets The study of exoplanets has advanced a great deal in recent years, thanks in large part to the Kepler mission. But that mission has its limitations. It’s difficult for Kepler, and for other technologies, to image regions close to their stars. Now a new instrument called a vortex coronagraph, installed at Hawaii’s Keck Observatory, allows astronomers to look at protoplanetary disks that are in very close proximity to the stars they orbit. The problem with viewing disks of dust, and even planets, close to their stars is that stars are so much brighter than objectsRead More →

Carnival of Space #494 This week’s Carnival of Space is hosted by Brian Wang at his Next Big Future blog. Click here to read Carnival of Space #494 And if you’re interested in looking back, here’s an archive to all the past Carnivals of Space. If you’ve got a space-related blog, you should really join the carnival. Just email an entry to carnivalofspace@gmail.com, and the next host will link to it. It will help get awareness out there about your writing, help you meet others in the space community – and community is what blogging is all about. And if you really want to help out, sign upRead More →

SpaceX Shuffles Falcon 9 Launch Schedule, NASA Gets 1st Launch from Historic KSC Pad 39A SpaceX is repurposing historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida for launches of the Falcon 9 rocket. Ongoing pad preparation by work crews is seen in this current view taken on Jan. 27, 2017. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – SpaceX announced Sunday (Jan. 29) a significant shuffle to the Falcon 9 launch schedule, saying that a key NASA mission to resupply the space station is moving to the head of the line and will now be their first mission to launch from historic pad 39ARead More →

What is a Planet? Humanity’s understanding of what constitutes a planet has changed over time. Whereas our most notable magi and scholars once believed that the world was a flat disc (or ziggurat, or cube), they gradually learned that it was in fact spherical. And by the modern era, they came to understand that the Earth was merely one of several planets in the known Universe. And yet, our notions of what constitutes a planet are still evolving. To put it simply, our definition of planet has historically been dependent upon our frame of reference. In addition to discovering extra-solar planets that have pushed theRead More →

Unprecedented Views of Saturn’s Rings as Cassini Dances Death Spiral As the Cassini spacecraft moves ever closer to Saturn, new images provide some of the most-detailed views yet of the planet’s spectacular rings. From its “Ring-Grazing” orbit phase, Cassini’s cameras are resolving details in the rings as small as 0.3 miles (550 meters), which is on the scale of Earth’s tallest buildings. On Twitter, Cassini Imaging Team Lead Carolyn Porco called the images “outrageous, eye-popping” and the “finest Cassini images of Saturn’s rings.” Project Scientist Linda Spilker said the ridges and furrows in the rings remind her of the grooves in a phonograph record. TheseRead More →

Messier 33 – The Triangulum Galaxy Welcome back to Messier Monday! In our ongoing tribute to the great Tammy Plotner, we take a look at the Triangulum Galaxy, also known as Messier 33. Enjoy! During the 18th century, famed French astronomer Charles Messier noted the presence of several “nebulous objects” in the night sky. Having originally mistaken them for comets, he began compiling a list of them so that others would not make the same mistake he did. In time, this list (known as the Messier Catalog) would come to include 100 of the most fabulous objects in the night sky. One of these isRead More →

NASA Tribute Exhibit Honors Fallen Crew 50 Years After Apollo 1 Tragedy The new tribute to Apollo 1 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center was opened during a dedication ceremony on Jan. 27, 2017, 50 years after the crew was lost – with a keynote speech by Kennedy Space Center Director and former astronaut Bob Cabana. The entrance to the Apollo 1 tribute shows the three astronauts who perished in a fire at the launch pad on Jan. 27, 1967 during training for the mission. The astronauts are, from left, Gus Grissom, Ed White II and Roger Chaffee. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX,Read More →

A Proposal For Juno To Observe The Volcanoes Of Io To accomplish its science objectives, NASA’s Juno spacecraft orbits over Jupiter’s poles and passes repeatedly through repeatedly hazardous radiation belts. Two Boston University researchers propose using Juno to probe the ever-changing flux of volcanic gases-turned-ions spewed by Io’s volcanoes. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Jupiter may be the largest planet in the Solar System with a diameter 11 times that of Earth, but it pales in comparison to its own magnetosphere. The planet’s magnetic domain extends sunward at least 3 million miles (5 million km) and on the back side all the way to Saturn for a total ofRead More →

Harvard Physicist Creates Metallic Hydrogen Using Diamond Vise For some time, scientists have been fascinated by the concept of metallic hydrogen. Such an element is believed to exist naturally when hydrogen is placed under extreme pressures (like in the interior of gas giants like Jupiter). But as a synthetic material, it would have endless applications, since it is believed to have superconducting properties at room temperature and the ability to retain its solidity once it has been brought back to normal pressure. For this reason, condensed matter physicists have been attempting to create metallic hydrogen for decades. And according to a recent study published inRead More →

Four Planet System Directly Imaged In Motion Located about 129 light years from Earth in the direction of the Pegasus constellation is the relatively young star system of HR 8799. Beginning in 2008, four orbiting exoplanets were discovered in this system which – alongside the exoplanet Formalhaut b – were the very first to be confirmed using the direct imaging technique. And over time, astronomer have come to believe that these four planets are in resonance with each other. In this case, the four planets orbit their star with a 1:2:4:8 resonance, meaning that each planet’s orbital period is in a nearly precise ratio withRead More →

JPL Needs Citizen Scientists To Hunt Martian Polygonal Ridges Mars has some impressive geological features across its cold, desiccated surface, many of which are similar to featured found here on Earth. By studying them, scientists are able to learn more about the natural history of the Red Planet, what kinds of meteorological phenomena are responsible for shaping it, and how similar our two planets are. A perfect of example of this are the polygon-ridge networks that have been observed on its surface. One such network was recently discovered by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in the Medusae Fossae region, which straddles the planet’s equator. MeasuringRead More →

Boeing Unveils Blue Spacesuits for Starliner Crew Capsule Chris Ferguson, Boeing director of Starliner Crew and Mission Systems and a former NASA astronaut and Space Shuttle commander wears the brand new spacesuit from Boeing and David Clark that crews will wear on Starliner missions to the ISS. Credit: Boeing Boeing has unveiled the advanced new lightweight spacesuits that astronauts will sport as passengers aboard the company’s CST-100 Starliner space taxi during commercial taxi journey’s to and from and the International Space Station (ISS) and other low Earth orbit destinations. The signature ‘Boeing Blue’ spacesuits will be much lighter, as well as more flexible and comfortableRead More →

What’s That Bright Star in the Sky? Every few months a bright star appears in the sky. Sometimes it’s off to the East, bright in the morning before the Sun rises. Other times, you can see it in the West right after the Sun sets. Experienced stargazers know this isn’t a star at all, of course, it’s Venus. That horrible twin planet, surrounded by a toxic choking atmosphere of superheated carbon dioxide. For a while it becomes the fourth brightest object in the sky: after the Sun, Moon and the International Space Station, if you can believe it. In dark skies, Venus gets so brightRead More →