Elon Musk, and NASA both have in mind the idea of doing interplanetary voyages straight away, aiming for Mars, with Obama going so far as to say about the Moon: “But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We’ve been there before.”. If you hold that view, you are undoubtedly in distinguished company.
Now - there are two things here - yes we've been to the Moon before - but is that the end of all interest in it? But first - how ready are we for interplanetary voyages?
The present day habitability of Mars is an area of research that has exploded hugely in the last decade, to the extent that it's often hard to keep track of everything that's going on. This is by way of background material for my other articles on habitability of Mars.
Researchers have used satellite data to detect deposits of glass within impact craters on Mars. Though formed in the searing heat of a violent impact, the glasses just might provide a delicate window into the possibility of past life on the Red Planet.
Over the last few years, several research groups have shown that, here on Earth, ancient biosignatures can be preserved in impact glass. One of those studies, led by Brown geologist Peter Schultz and published last year, found organic molecules and even plant matter entombed in glass formed by an impact that occurred millions of years ago in Argentina. Schultz suggested that similar processes might preserve signs of life on Mars, if indeed they were present at the time of an impact.
When a space hurricane was unleashed from the sun on January 7 2014, space-weather centers around the world sent out warnings
The hurricane was heading directly for Earth and was predicted to produce a strong geomagnetic storm. But then an unexpected thing happened: the storm bypassed Earth and headed for Mars instead.
Many people worry about the possibility of the end of all life on our planet. However, the Earth is by far the most habitable planet in our solar system and there's no reason to expect that to change for hundreds of millions of years.
The Earth may become uninhabitable between 500 million and a billion years from now. That may seem a short time, when you compare it with the billions of years the Earth has evolved for. But compared with the length of time there have been humans on the Earth it's a very long time.
To get an idea of who may need to deal with this issue, the idea is, to look at the last billion years. And then think about where we or our evolutionary cousins might be after another billion years after that. First some background though.
If you lived on one of Pluto's moons, you might have a hard time determining when, or from which direction, the sun will rise each day. Two of Pluto's moons, Nix and Hydra, wobble unpredictably, according to a new data analysis.
When Curiosity's successor and the ExoMars rover land on Mars around 2021, we will see two different approaches to the search for life on the planet side by side. NASA's mission is the first stage of a sample return program. The ESAs ExoMars rover (in partnership with Russia) will explore Mars in situ for biosignatures as well as drill two meters below the surface. Which is the best approach?
A sample return would be great for geology. But would it help with the search for life on Mars? Or is it more of a technology demo for this?
NaSt1, about 3,000 light years away, was discovered a few decades ago and identified as a Wolf-Rayet star, a rapidly evolving star that is much more massive than our Sun.
Wolf-Rayet stars lose their hydrogen-filled outer layers quickly, exposing a super-hot and extremely bright core where helium is fusing into heavier elements. Typically, Wolf-Rayet stars have two outward flowing lobes of material, but in this case, the Hubble observations revealed a pancake-shaped disk of gas encircling the star. This vast disk is more than 3 billion billion kilometers wide. It seems to have formed in the last few thousand years from an unseen companion star that snacked on its outer atmosphere.
The star is so weird that astronomers have nicknamed it “Nasty 1”.
A remote galaxy shining with infrared light equal to more than 300,000,000,000,000 suns has been discovered using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE. The galaxy, belongs to a new class of objects nicknamed extremely luminous infrared galaxies, or ELIRGs.
The galaxy, known as WISE J224607.57-052635.0, may have a behemoth black hole at its belly, gorging itself on gas, but is certainly the most luminous discovered to-date.
Supermassive black holes grow by drawing gas and matter into a disk around them. The disk heats up to beyond-sizzling temperatures of millions of degrees, blasting out high-energy, visible, ultraviolet, and X-ray light. The light is blocked by surrounding cocoons of dust. As the dust heats up, it radiates infrared light.
Our solar system started as a disk of microscopic dust, gas, and ice around the young Sun and the amazing diversity of planets, moons, asteroids, and comets came from this primitive dust.
NASA's Stardust mission has returned to Earth with samples of comet Wild 2, a comet that originated outside the orbit of Neptune and was subsequently kicked closer to Earth's orbit in 1974 when Jupiter's gravity altered Wild 2's orbit.