A Region On Mars With Recent Water Is About To Get Major Attention Striations exposed on the surface between Martian sand dunes (one pictured at top) in Lucaya Crater indicate fluctuating levels of salty groundwater. At “a” we see possible cross beds which are tilted layers of sand within larger layers deposited by wind or water. At b, dark and light strata are similar to that exposed in the dune at top and resemble the striations seen in the Namib Desert on Earth. The photo was taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in infrared, red and blue light. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Researcher Dr. Mary Bourke from Trinity CollegeRead More →

Ceres Provides First Detection Of Life’s Building Blocks In Asteroid Belt NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been poking around Ceres since it first established orbit in March of 2015. In that time, the mission has sent back a steam of images of the minor planet, and with a level of resolution that was previously impossible. Because of this, a lot of interesting revelations have been made about Ceres’ composition and surface features (like its many “bright spots“). In what is sure to be the most surprising find yet, the Dawn spacecraft has revealed that Ceres may actually possess the ingredients for life. Using data from theRead More →

Earth Just Got A New Continent We tend to lump New Zealand and Australia together. They’re similar culturally and share the same geographical position, relative to North America and Europe, anyway. But according to a new paper published in the Geological Society of America Today, it looks like New Zealand and their neighbor New Caledonia are actually their own continent: ‘Zealandia.’ Continent means something different to geographers and geologists. To be considered a geological continent, like Zealandia, the area in question has to satisfy a few conditions: the land in question has to be higher than the ocean floor it has to include a broadRead More →

The Universe Has A Lithium Problem Over the past decades, scientists have wrestled with a problem involving the Big Bang Theory. The Big Bang Theory suggests that there should be three times as much lithium as we can observe. Why is there such a discrepancy between prediction and observation? To get into that problem, let’s back up a bit. The Big Bang Theory (BBT) is well-supported by multiple lines of evidence and theory. It’s widely accepted as the explanation for how the Universe started. Three key pieces of evidence support the BBT: observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background our growing understanding of the large-scale structureRead More →

Poopy Ideas Net $30,000 For Challenge Finalists You may have thought that whole ‘going to the bathroom in space’ issue had already been resolved, with the International Space Station operating continuously with crew on board since 2000. But as we reported back in December, long-duration, deep-space human missions will create a possible scenario of needing to take care of human waste in a spacesuit longer than just a couple of hours. And so NASA and HeroX issued a Space Poop Challenge, to create an “in-suit waste management system” that can handle six days’ worth of bathroom needs. HeroX announced this week that five thousand differentRead More →

Carnival of Space #497 Welcome, come in to the 497th Carnival of Space! The Carnival is a community of space science and astronomy writers and bloggers, who submit their best work each week for your benefit. I’m Susie Murph, part of the team at Universe Today and CosmoQuest. So now, on to this week’s stories! Over at Planetaria, Paul Scott Anderson reports on New Horizons completes another course adjustment in preparation for 2019 flyby of next KBO. Our friends over at Blasting News have a great list of stories for us this week. First, the Hubble repair mission by Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser mini-shuttle proposed.Read More →

Weekly Space Hangout – February 17, 2017: Samuel Mason, Director of the Tesla Science Foundation Host: Fraser Cain (@fcain) Special Guest: Samuel Mason is the Director of the Tesla Science Foundation, NJ Chapter. The mission of the Tesla Science Foundation is to establish and promote the recognition and awareness of Nikola Tesla’s inventions, patents, theories, philosophies, lectures, and innovations. Guests: Morgan Rehnberg (MorganRehnberg.com / @MorganRehnberg) Kimberly Cartier ( KimberlyCartier.org / @AstroKimCartier ) Their stories this week: Expert panel tells Congress NASA is underfunded for human space flight Will NASA put a crew on the first SLS flight? Fixing the Big Bang’s lithium problem Home-grown organicRead More →

At T Minus 1 Day from ISS Liftoff SpaceX Rolls Falcon 9 to KSC Pad 39A – Feb. 18 Ignition Hinges on FAA License Approval SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rests horizontal atop Launch Complex 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center on 16 Feb 2017 as seen from Launch Complex 39-B. This is the first rocket rolled out to launch from pad 39A since the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttles in July 2011. Liftoff slated for 18 Feb. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Its getting down to the wire at T Minus 1 Day from liftoff for SpaceX and NASA as a FalconRead More →

Will You Be The Discoverer Of Planet 9? Citizen science projects are a great way for anyone to be involved in the scientific process. Average, everyday folks have discovered things like supernovae, previously unseen craters on the Moon and Mars and even new planets orbiting a distant star. Now, you could be part of one of the most exciting quests yet: finding a mysterious, unseen planet in te far reaches of our own solar system. Last year, Caltech astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin found indirect evidence for the existence of a large planet, likely located out past Pluto, and since then, the search hasRead More →

What is the Weather like on Saturn? Welcome back to our planetary weather series! Next up, we take a look at the ringed-beauty, Saturn! Saturn is famous for many things. Aside from its ring system, which are the most visible and beautiful of any gas giant, it is also known for its extensive system of moons (the second largest in the Solar System behind Jupiter). And then there its banded appearance and gold color, which are the result of its peculiar composition and persistent weather patterns. Much like Jupiter, Saturn’s weather systems are known for being particularly extreme, giving rise to features that can beRead More →

NASA To Study Launching Astronauts on 1st SLS/Orion Flight NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) blasts off from launch pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in this artist rendering showing a view of the liftoff of the Block 1 70-metric-ton (77-ton) crew vehicle configuration. Credit: NASA/MSFC KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – In a potentially major change in direction for NASA’s human spaceflight architecture, the agency is officially studying the possibility of adding a crew of astronauts to the first flight of Orion deep space crew capsule and the heavy lift Space Launch System (SLS) rocket currently in development, announced Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. LightfootRead More →

Video of Green Comet 45P Puts You Close To The Action This animation of comet 45P/H-M-P is composed of thirteen delay-Doppler images made during 2 hours of observation using the Arecibo Observatory on Feb. 12. Credit: USRA Comets hide their central engines well. From Earth, we see a bright, fuzzy coma and a tail or two. But the nucleus, the source of all the hubbub, remains deeply camouflaged by dust, at best appearing like a blurry star. To see one up close, you need to send a spacecraft right into the comet’s coma and risk getting. Or you can do the job much more cheaply by bouncingRead More →

India Sets Record With 104 Satellites In Single Launch India’s national space agency – the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) – has come a long way in recent years. In 2008, the agency launched its first lunar explorer, Chandrayaan-1, which also deployed a lander (the Moon Impact Probe) to the surface. And then there was the Mangalayaan mission – aka. the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) – which made history on Sept. 24th, 2014, when it became the first probe to enter orbit around Mars on the first try. In their latest feat, the ISRO established a new record for the number of satellites launched inRead More →

Dream Chaser Spacecraft May Be Used For Hubble Repair Mission The final servicing mission to the venerable Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was in 2009. The shuttle Atlantis completed that mission (STS-125,) and several components were repaired and replaced, including the installation of improved batteries. The HST is expected to function until 2030 – 2040. With the retiring of the shuttle program in 2011, it looked like the Hubble mission was destined to play itself out. But now there’s talk of another servicing mission to the Hubble, to be performed by the Dream Chaser Space System. A view of the Hubble Space Telescope from inside spaceRead More →

Chance Discovery Of A Three Hour Old Supernova Supernovae are extremely energetic and dynamic events in the universe. The brightest one we’ve ever observed was discovered in 2015 and was as bright as 570 billion Suns. Their luminosity signifies their significance in the cosmos. They produce the heavy elements that make up people and planets, and their shockwaves trigger the formation of the next generation of stars. There are about 3 supernovae every 100 hundred years in the Milky Way galaxy. Throughout human history, only a handful of supernovae have been observed. The earliest recorded supernova was observed by Chinese astronomers in 185 AD. TheRead More →

Distance & Speed Of Sun’s Orbit Around Galactic Centre Measured In 2013, the European Space Agency deployed the long-awaited Gaia space observatory. As one of a handful of next-generation space observatories that will be going up before the end of the decade, this mission has spent the past few years cataloging over a billion astronomical objects. Using this data, astronomers and astrophysicists hope to create the largest and most precise 3D map of the Milky Way to date. Though it is almost to the end of its mission, much of its earliest information is still bearing fruit. For example, using the mission’s initial data release,Read More →

Through The Nuclear Looking Glass: The Moon & The Bomb For centuries, scientists have been attempting to explain how the Moon formed. Whereas some have argued that it formed from material lost by Earth due to centrifugal force, others asserted that a performed Moon was captured by Earth’s gravity. In recent decades, the most widely-accepted theory has been the Giant-impact hypothesis, which states that the Moon formed after the Earth was struck by a Mars-sized object (named Theia) 4.5 billion years ago. According to a new study by an international team of researchers, the key to proving which theory is correct may come from theRead More →

Carnival of Space #496 It’s that time again! This week’s Carnival of Space is hosted by Pamela Hoffman at the Everyday Spacer blog. Click here to read Carnival of Space #496. 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 toRead More →

SpaceX Falcon 9 Breaths First Fire at KSC Pad 39A – Successful Static Fire Test Paves Path to Feb. 18 ISS Launch First SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket atop Launch Complex 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center comes to life with successful static hot fire test at 430 p.m. on 12 Feb 2017 as seen from Space View Park, Titusville, Fl. This is the first rocket to stand on pad 39A since the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttles in July 2011. Credit: Ken Kremer/Kenkremer.com SPACE VIEW PARK/KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – For the first time in more than half a decade, a rocket came to lifeRead More →

Asteroid 2017 BQ6 Looks Like A Brick   This composite of 25 images of asteroid 2017 BQ6 was generated with radar data collected using NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar in California’s Mojave Desert. It sped by Earth on Feb. 7 at a speed of around  25,560 mph (7.1 km/s) relative to the planet. The images have resolutions as fine as 12 feet (3.75 meters) per pixel. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR To radar imager Lance Benner at JPL in Pasadena, asteroid 2017 BQ6 resembles the polygonal dice used in Dungeons and Dragons. But my eyes see something closer to a stepping stone or paver you’d use to build a walkway.Read More →