Friday, May 22, 2015

Going To Pluto

Could humans fly to Pluto any time soon?  It turns out a propulsion scheme exists to allow such a mission.  A ship propelled by a succession of fusion explosions-- thermonuclear bombs-- could reach Pluto in a year or two.

That tells you, by the way, just how far we are from interstellar travel.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Another Mission

The fourth mission of the USAF's X-37B spaceplane is underway.

Unfortunately, we don't know what happened on the first three missions, and the USAF is similarly silent on the goals of this flight, except to say technology will be tested.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Big Planet, Tiny Star

HATS-6 is a red dwarf 500 light years away.  It's about as wide as Jupiter.  In tight orbit around it is a world about the size of Saturn.

Scientists don't know how such a large planet developed around such a small star.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

MARSDROP

A new concept being looked at by NASA is called MARSDROP.  It would put tiny probes packed with instruments under parawings and fly them through the Martian atmosphere to land in spots that are otherwise inaccessible.

The same approach could work on other worlds with atmospheres, like Venus or Titan.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Planetary Defense

NASA and ESA are jointly pursuing a project to practice how to deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.  A NASA probe will slam into an asteroid while an ESA probe observes and collects data.

The encounter is scheduled for 2022.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Black Holes And Dark Matter

A new theory suggests black holes could be used to help finally identify dark matter.  The idea is that if dark matter particles in orbit around a black hole collide and annihilate each other, that would produce gamma rays that could be detected.

One big problem with the theory, however, is that physicists aren't sure the collision of dark matter particles would produce gamma rays.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pluto

NASA's New Horizons probe has begun its search of Pluto's environs for possible additional moons and such.  So far, 5 moons have been discovered.

New Horizons begins its formal encounter with Pluto in July.