Space

Did our two Viking landers find life on Mars in 1976? Astonishingly, thirty seven years later, we still haven't sent anything to Mars able to answer this question for sure.  None of our spacecraft since Viking would be able to spot life which we now know exists in the driest deserts on Earth, and only one of the experiments on Viking had this capability. There are  hypotheses about what they found, but no definite proof.

A few years back, to everyone's complete surprise, Joseph Miller, specialist in rhythms of life, spotted smooth daily cycles in the data from 1976, strongly suggesting life processes. So did Viking spot life or are these smooth cycles signs of something else, perhaps some complex chemistry?

BICEP, the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization, is an experiment that used almost 100 detectors to scan the sky at microwave frequencies ( 100 GHz and 150 GHz, angular resolutions of 1.0° and 0.7°) in order to measure the polarization of the cosmic microwave background (CMB).

There's a cosmic war happening between
highly luminous O-type stars and nearby protostars in the Orion Nebula
.

The Orion Nebula is home to hundreds of young stars and even younger protostars known as proplyds. Many of these nascent systems will go on to develop planets, while others will have their planet-forming dust and gas blasted away by the fierce ultraviolet radiation emitted by massive O-type stars that lurk nearby.


Calling H.P. Lovecraft: Galaxies in the vast empty regions of the Universe are actually aligned into tendrils. 

A team of astronomers based at The University of Western Australia node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) has found short strings of faint galaxies in what were previously thought to be extremely empty parts of space. The Universe is full of vast collections of galaxies that are arranged into an intricate web of clusters and nodes connected by long strings. This remarkably organized structure is often called the 'cosmic web', with busy intersections of galaxies surrounding vast spaces, empty of anything visible to us on Earth.


When astronauts get sick from zero g during long duration flights in zero g, the best medicine is to return them to Earth and full gravity. So, what if they could spend a few hours or minutes a day in artificial gravity during the flight?

It's far easier to do this if humans can tolerate fast spin rates, say as fast as 30 rpm, at least for a short while. Artificial gravity varies as the square of the spin rate, for instance, at 30 rpm you get full g in a centrifuge with a diameter of 2 meters- while at 3 rpm, you need a diameter of 200 meters (nearly three times the size of the ISS).

Joseph Carroll's ingenious idea is to attach a tether from the crewed Soyuz spaceship to its final stage - and use this as a counterweight to do the first ever real experiment in tethered artificial gravity. He has found a way to do this without using a drop of extra fuel.

A vast belt of carbon monoxide located at the fringes of the Beta Pictoris system is concentrated in a single clump located about 8 billion miles from the star, or nearly three times the distance between the planet Neptune and our sun.

The total amount of CO observed exceeds 200 million billion tons, equivalent to about one-sixth the mass of Earth's oceans.

The presence of all this gas is interesting because ultraviolet starlight breaks up CO molecules in about 100 years, much faster than the main cloud can complete a single orbit around the star.


The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a never-before-seen break-up of an asteroid,  P/2013 R3, which has fragmented into as many as ten smaller pieces.

Although fragile comet nuclei have been seen to fall apart as they approach the Sun, nothing like the breakup of P/2013 R3 has ever been observed before in the asteroid belt.


In a new Hubble telescope image, spiral galaxy ESO 137-001 is zooming toward the upper right, in between other galaxies in the Norma cluster located over 200 million light-years away.

The road is perilous: intergalactic gas in the Norma cluster is sparse, but so hot at 180 million degrees Fahrenheit that it glows in X-rays.

The spiral plows through the seething intra-cluster gas so rapidly, at nearly 4.5 million miles per hour, that much of its own gas is caught and torn away. Astronomers call this "ram pressure stripping." The galaxy's stars remain intact due to the binding force of their gravity.


This continues from my earlier article "Ten reasons not to live on Mars, great place to Explore." Many of the ideas in that article apply not just to Mars but to the solar system generally.