Curiosity Captures Gravity Wave Shaped Clouds On Mars This week, from March 20th to 24th, the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference will be taking place in The Woodlands, Texas. Every year, this conference brings together international specialists in the fields of geology, geochemistry, geophysics, and astronomy to present the latest findings in planetary science. One of the highlights of the conference so far has been a presentation about Mars’ weather patterns. As a team of researchers from the Center for Research in Earth and Space Sciences (CRESS) at York University, demonstrated, Curiosity obtained of some rather interesting images of Mars’ weather patterns over theRead More →

SpaceX Outbids ULA for Military GPS Contract Igniting Fierce Launch Competition Upgraded SpaceX Falcon 9 blasts off with Thaicom-8 communications satellite on May 27, 2016 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL. 1st stage booster landed safely at sea minutes later. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The fierce competition for lucrative launch contracts from the U.S. Air Force just got more even intense with the announcement that SpaceX outbid arch rival United Launch Alliance (ULA) to launch an advanced military Global Positioning System (GPS III) navigation satellite to orbit in approx. 2 years. The U.S. Air ForceRead More →

New Study Wants To Rip T-Rex From Its Place On Dino Tree To kids, there are only two kinds of dinosaurs: meat-eaters and plant-eaters. But to paleontologists, those are just diet distinctions. Paleontologists divide dinos into two different groups based largely on pelvic structure: reptile-hipped saurischians, and bird-hipped ornithischians. Those two categories are called ‘clades’, and they’re fundamental to the study of dinosaurs. But a new study is casting doubt on those two groups, as well as moving the infamous Tyrannosaurus Rex to a new spot on the dinosaur family tree. The study, by Matthew G. Baron, David B. Norman & Paul M. Barrett, wasRead More →

Astronauts Capture Great Views of Mount Etna Eruption Mount Etna is Europe’s most active volcano, and it’s been spouting off since late February 2017. It spewed lava and gas with a rather big eruption last week, where 10 people were actually injured. The Expedition 50 crew on board the International Space Station have been able to capture both day and nighttime views of the activity from orbit. The stunning view, above, was taken on March 17, 2017. The original photo, which you can see on NASA’s Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth website is actually a bit hard to make out. But space enthusiast RiccardoRead More →

Curiosity’s Battered Wheels Show First Breaks Since it landed on August 6th, 2012, the Curiosity rover has spent a total of 1644 Sols (or 1689 Earth days) on Mars. And as of March 2017, it has traveled almost 16 km (~10 mi) across the planet and climbed almost a fifth of a kilometer (0.124 mi) uphill. Spending that kind of time on another planet, and traveling that kind of distance, can certainly lead to its share of wear of tear on a vehicle. That was the conclusion when the Curiosity science team conducted a routine check of the rover’s wheels on Sunday, March 19th, 2017.Read More →

Why Doesn’t Earth Have Rings? Before we really get started on today’s episode, I’d like to share a bunch of really cool pictures created by my friend Kevin Gill. Kevin’s a computer programmer, 3-D animator and works on climate science data for NASA. And in his spare time, he uses his skills to help him imagine what the Universe could look like. For example, he’s mapped out what a future terraformed Mars might look like based on elevation maps, or rendered moons disturbing Saturn’s rings with their gravity. Earth’s Rings over San Bernadino. Credit: Kevin Gill (CC BY-SA 2.0) But one of my favorite setsRead More →

SpaceX & NASA Studying 2020 Landing Sites For Dragon As part of their effort to kick-start the eventual colonization of Mars, SpaceX is sending an unmanned Dragon spacecraft to Mars. Initially, that mission was set for 2018, but is now re-scheduled for 2020. Now, SpaceX says they’re working with NASA to select a suitable landing site for their first Dragon mission to Mars. At a presentation in Texas on March 18th, Paul Wooster of SpaceX said that they have been working with scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to identify candidate landing sites on the surface of Mars. In order to aid colonization, theRead More →

What’s the Difference Between a Rocket and Space Plane? Amazing Hand-Drawn Animations Explain It All You gotta love Earth’s atmosphere. It basically makes life (as we know it) possible on our planet by providing warmth and air to breathe, as well as protecting us from nasty space things like radiation and smaller asteroids. But for studying space (i.e., astronomy) or coming back to Earth from space, the atmosphere is a pain. Last year, we introduced you to freelance animator and storyboard artist Stanley VonMedvey, who started creating short, hand-drawn videos to explain a complex topic: how spacecraft work. These videos are wonderfully concise, clear andRead More →

Rosetta Images Show Comet’s Changing Surface Close Up The Rosetta spacecraft learned a great deal during the two years that it spent monitoring Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – from August 6th, 2014 to September 30th, 2016. As the first spacecraft to orbit the nucleus of a comet, Rosetta was the first space probe to directly image the surface of a comet, and observed some fascinating things in the process. For instance, the probe was able to document some remarkable changes that took place during the mission with its OSIRIS camera. According to a study published today (March. 21st) in Science, these included growing fractures, collapsing cliffs, rollingRead More →

Large Hadron Collider Discovers 5 New Gluelike Particles Since it began its second operational run in 2015, the Large Hardon Collider has been doing some pretty interesting things. For example, starting in 2016, researchers at CERN began using the collide to conduct the Large Hadron Collider beauty experiment (LHCb). This is investigation seeks to determine what it is that took place after the Big Bang so that matter was able to survive and create the Universe that we know today. In the past few months, the experiment has yielded some impressive results, such as the measurement of a very rare form of particle decay andRead More →

Carnival of Space #501 This week’s Carnival of Space is hosted by Brad Rogers at The Evolving Planet blog. Click here to read Carnival of Space #501. 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,Read More →

Stephen Hawking Is Going To The Edge Of Space Stephen Hawking has spent decades theorizing about the Universe. His thinking on black holes, quantum gravity, quantum mechanics, and a long list of other topics, has helped shaped our understanding of the cosmos. Now it looks like the man who has spent most of his adult life bound to a wheel-chair will travel to the edge of space. In an interview with Good Morning Britain, Hawking said “Richard Branson has offered me a seat on Virgin Galactic, and I said yes immediately.” Hawking added that his “three children have brought me great joy—and I can tellRead More →

Eye Opening Numbers On Space Debris Orbital debris, otherwise known as “space junk”, is a major concern. This massive cloud that orbits the Earth is the result of the many satellites, platforms and spent launchers that that have been sent into space over the years. And as time went on, collisions between these objects (as well as disintegrations and erosion) has created even more in the way of debris. Aside from threatening satellites and posing a danger to long-term orbital missions – like the International Space Station – this situation could pose serious problems for future space launches. And based on the latest numbers releasedRead More →

SpaceX Dragon Splashes Down in Pacific with Treasure Trove of Space Station Science The SpaceX Dragon CRS-10 spacecraft is pictured seconds before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on Mar. 19, 2017 after departing the International Space Station (ISS). Credit: SpaceX KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – SpaceX’s tenth contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station came to a safe conclusion with a splashdown of the Dragon spacecraft in the Pacific Ocean Sunday and successfully returned a treasure trove of more than two tons of precious science experiments and research samples from the space station. Researchers on Earth are eagerly awaiting the science data andRead More →

How Did Uranus Get its Name? The period known as the Scientific Revolution (ca. 16th to the 18th century) was a time of major scientific upheaval. In addition to advances made in mathematics, chemistry, and the natural sciences, several major discoveries were made in the field of astronomy. Because of this, our understanding of the size and structure of the Solar System was forever revolutionized. Consider the discovery of Uranus. While this planet had been viewed on many occasions by astronomers in the past, it was only with the birth of modern astronomy that its true nature came to be understood. And with William Herschel‘sRead More →

Ever Wondered What Final Approach To Mars Might Feel Like? We’ve posted several ‘flyover’ videos of Mars that use data from spacecraft. But this video might be the most spectacular and realistic. Created by filmmaker Jan Fröjdman from Finland, “A Fictive Flight Above Real Mars” uses actual data from the venerable HiRISE camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and takes you on a 3-D tour over steep cliffs, high buttes, amazing craters, polygons and other remarkable land forms. But Fröjdman also adds a few features reminiscent of the landing videos taken by the Apollo astronauts. Complete with crosshatches and thruster firings, this video putsRead More →

Catch Comet 41P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák At Its Best Comet 41P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák glows green (left) and shows its true coma and just the hint of a stubby tail in the negative (red) image (right) from March 19th. Image credit and copyright: Hisayoshi Kato Miss out on comet 45P Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková? Is Comet 2P Encke too low in the dawn sky for your current latitude? Well, the Universe is providing us northerners with another shot at a fine binocular comet, as 41P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák glides through Ursa Major this week. As seen from 30 degrees north, Comet 41P Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák (sometimes called “Comet 41P” or “Comet TGK”) starts the last weekRead More →

Delta IV Delivers Daunting Display Powering International Military WGS-9 SatCom to Orbit ULA Delta IV rocket streaks to orbit carrying the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS-9) tactical communications satellite for the U.S. Air Force and international partners from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl, at 8:18 p.m. EDT on Mar. 18, 2017, in this long exposure photo taken on base. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – On the 70th anniversary year commemorating the United States Air Force, a ULA Delta IV rocket put on a daunting display of nighttime rocket fire power shortly after sunset Saturday, March 19 – powering a highRead More →

A Family Of Stars Torn Apart It sometimes doesn’t take much to tear a family apart. A Christmas dinner gone wrong can do that. But for a family of stars to be torn apart, something really huge has to happen. The dramatic break-up of a family of stars played itself out in the Orion Nebula, about 600 years ago. The Orion Nebula is one of the most studied objects in our galaxy. It’s an active star forming region, where much of the star birth is concealed behind clouds of dust. Advances in infrared and radio astronomy have allowed us to peer into the Nebula, andRead More →

Get Ready For The >100 Planet Solar System Pluto’s status as a non-planet may be coming to an end. Professor Mike Brown of Caltech ended Pluto’s planetary status in 2006. But now, Kirby Runyon, a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University, thinks it’s time to cancel that demotion and restore it as our Solar System’s ninth planet. Pluto’s rebirth as a planet is not just all about Pluto, though. A newer, more accurate definition of what is and what is not a planet is needed. And if Runyon and the other people on the team he leads are successful, our Solar System would have moreRead More →