Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Volcanic Mercury

Scientists using data from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft have found there were explosive volcanoes on Mercury for far longer than originally thought.

The standard view has been that Mercury lost most of its volatiles early in its history, but researchers have found pyroclastic ash-- evidence of volcanic eruptions-- in areas that suggest volcanism was active on Mercury for a billion years longer than thought.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Definiing The Oort Cloud

Astronomers in recent years have discovered two dwarf planets researchers suggest may mark the inner edge of the Oort Cloud, the realm of comets.

They also think there could be hundreds of bodies out there 200 miles or more in diameter, plus maybe one or two as big as Earth or Mars.  Many of the bodies observed so far also sport ultra-red material on their surfaces, which might be organics.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lunar Base?

President Obama cancelled NASA's lunar base program in 2010 in favor of a more flexible approach to manned space exploration, with the ultimate goal being landing on Mars in the 2030s.

Many experts, however, say building a manned lunar base should be the next step out.  Such a base, they argue, would serve as a testbed for technologies and techniques for future Mars missions as well as being a focal point for scientific research and further lunar exploration.  Several nations have expressed an interest in participating in an international lunar base program, and some members of Congress favor the lunar base approach, as do some private companies.  There's some chance, therefore, that Mr. Obama's plan will not survive after his administration.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Possible Added Spacewalk

NASA is considering adding a spacewalk to repair a backup computer system on ISS.

The station's primary computer system is operating normally, and the crew is safe-- or as safe as they can be in space-- but having a functioning backup computer is obviously important.

Friday, April 11, 2014

First Exomoon?

Astronomers may have found the first moon orbiting a planet outside our solar system.  If so, it's in an interesting place.  The exoplanet involved would be a rogue planet-- a world whizzing through space on its own terms, not orbiting a star.

Alternatively, the pair of objects could be a failed star and its planet.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Another Mars Rock

The Curiosity rover has come upon a rock on Mars that bears a strong resemblance, in its shape, to Australia.

Is that some sort of sign from a higher intelligence?  Well. yes-- but the intelligence is not alien.  The human brain is excellent at recognizing patterns, and may be just as good at making up patterns where none exist.  That's something to keep in mind whether the subject is Martian geology or Earthly politics.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Mars Light

The Curiosity rover took pictures on consecutive days of a bright light on the distant Martian surface.  NASA says it was sunlight glinting off a rock, or perhaps sunlight entering the camera at just the right angle.  UFO researchers are saying it's something else.

We know what Mars is like now, however.  There is no civilization on the surface.  UFOlogists will  have to do much better than this to make their case.