Saturday, February 28, 2015

Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy, the actor best known for his portrayal of the legendary Mr. Spock of STAR TREK, has died of pulmonary disease.

Nimoy, who had a successful, varied career beyond Spock, was 83.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ceres Bright Spots

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has spotted two distinct bright spots in one crater on the dwarf planet Ceres.  Scientists aren't sure whether the spots are ice deposits, evidence of vulcanism, or something else.

Dawn begins its formal mission at Ceres next week.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Another Spacesuit Leak

A spacewalking astronaut had his spacesuit leak water into his helmet yesterday, but NASA says he was never in any danger from the leak.

The same spacesuit had a similar leak in December, 2013.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Moon Law

The gathering drive, largely by private groups, to settle the Moon is fomenting a debate about the legal rights involved-- resource use, private property rights, the right to bring profits back to Earth, etc.

The debate will likely be settled by Congress, through statute and treaty.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hawking On Aggression

Stephen Hawking recently said one of the major threats to the long term survival of humanity is human aggression.  He has also said that technologically advanced aliens are likely to be aggressive.  He seems to be given to making big statements.

Why the media give those statements play is an interesting question.  Hawking is a remarkable man and a brilliant physicist, but that doesn't mean he necessarily has insight into the human capacity to adjust over millenia, let alone into alien psychology.  Of course, journalists are hungry for headlines, and they tend to see scientists-- Hawking, Einstein, Sagan-- as objective, informed sources even when they talk about subjects outside their areas of expertise.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Comet Structure

Researchers are finding that comets seem to have an interior of a special form of ultracold water ice that is surrounded by rock and organic molecules.

Some liken the arrangement to fried ice cream.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Scholz's Star

Scholz's Star is a tiny red dwarf and its brown dwarf companion.  The duo is currently 29 light years  away, but a recent study of its motion suggests it passed within a single light year of the Sun 70,000 years ago.

The mass and luminosity of the star are so low, however, that the close encounter probably had little to no effect on the Solar System.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Searching For Europan Life

NASA is looking at searching for life on Europa during its proposed flyby mission by collecting and analyzing material thrown out of Europa's subsurface ocean in geyser-like plumes.

The problem is the plumes may not, in fact, exist, or they may be sporadic in nature.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Finding Lunar Water

Researchers say there may be more water ice on polar-facing slopes on the Moon than on equator-facing ones.

The conclusion is based on the apparent distribution of hydrogen on the lunar surface, which may or may not be a good marker for water.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Martian Haze

Scientists have found a large patch of haze high in the upper atmosphere of Mars, where the air is so thin no clouds or haze should exist.

They're still trying to figure this one out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mars One 100

Mars One has cut its potential colonist base from 202,000 applicants down to 100-- 50 men and 50 women.

The project intends to land its first colonists on Mars in 2025.  There are no plans to bring any of them back to Earth.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Chelyabinsk Plus Two

Two years ago, a small asteroid exploded in the air over Chelyabinsk, Russia, injuring about 1,200 people.

Astronomers don't yet know the origin of the asteroid, but the event has sparked an international discussion about planetary defense.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Gravitational Waves

Scientists are working hard to find gravitational waves as a way to confirm the faster-than-light expansion of the extremely young universe.  A recent purported detection has since been proven erroneous.

Still, scientists expect to make the real discovery soon.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Mixed Results For SpaceX

SpaceX successfully launched the DISCOVR space weather satellite this week, but didn't attempt to land the booster on a platform due to bad weather.

The booster was brought down softly and upright into the ocean.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Life Around Red Dwarfs

New research indicates that red dwarf stars may not foster life bearing planets in their early years.  They are brighter and hotter in their youths, which could destroy likely planetary atmospheres.

That said, they are still potentially good places to look for life.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Moon Versus Mars

The debate still rages about the next logical goal for manned spaceflight-- the Moon or Mars.  Each side has its arguments and visions.

OPINION: The answer is to do both.  Go back to the Moon led by private and commercial groups, and give the early stages of manned Mars exploration to an international effort led by NASA, ESA, etc.  We can do two things at once.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Drilling Mars

Curiosity has now drilled into two rocks on the flanks of Mount Sharp, taking samples.  Both samples carried evidence of water.

The second sample suggested more acidic water.  Scientists are still working on explaining that.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Launch Delay

SpaceX has delayed its next rocket launch until Tuesday.

The company will try again, after the launch, to soft land the rocket.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mock Mars Mission

A mock Mars mission run by The Mars Society to test technologies and techniques that might be used in actual Mars expeditions begins today in Utah.

All seven crewmembers of the mock mission are astronaut candidates for the Mars One project.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Moonless Earth

A new study finds that even without the Moon to help stabilize it as it spins on its axis, Earth could probably still support life.

So, Earth-like exoplanets with no large moons could still be abodes of life.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

FAA Green Lights Bigelow

The FAA has said it will support Bigelow Aerospace and the effort to commercially develop the Moon, a big first step.

The agency also said, however, that the current U. S. regulatory regime is inadequate for such a task.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

NASA To Europa

Included in the proposed new Federal budget is White House support for a mission to Europa, Jupiter's ice covered moon that might harbor life in a water ocean beneath its ice shell.

NASA currently envisions a mission to Jupiter that would include 45 flybys of Europa that could launch in 2022.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Super Saturn

Astronomers have found a world 433 light years away that is larger than Saturn or Jupiter and has a ring system about 200 times larger than Saturn's.

There is also a possibility it has a moon as massive as Mars, or even Earth.

Monday, February 2, 2015


Twelve years ago yesterday, Columbia and its crew were lost during re-entry.

The tragedy proved to be a turning point in manned spaceflight.  The space shuttle was put on the road to retirement, and America is still trying to decide its future in space.  Commercial efforts may well lead the way from now on.