Monday, November 30, 2015

Alien Megastructure

A new study of the oddly dimming star found by the Kepler spacecraft suggests the dimming may be due to comets passing between us and the star.

The study could not rule out a huge structure orbiting the star, however.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Profits From Space

President Obama has signed the 2015 Commercial Space Act into law, thus allowing American companies to use extraterrestrial resources to make profits from space.

Some have compared this law in importance to the 1862 Homestead Act, which opened the American West to settlement.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Golden Dozen

So far, using Kepler data, scientists have found roughly a dozen worlds similar in size to Earth that orbit within their stars' habitable zones.

That increases the odds that we are not alone.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Rings Of Mars

In a few tens of millions of years, Mars might have rings like Saturn has now.

The tiny moon Phobos is slowly spiraling closer to Mars, and a new study suggests that Mars' gravity will ultimately break Phobos apart, and a ring will form.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Major Blue Origin Success

Blue Origin accomplished a major milestone in the opening of space yesterday.  Launching from its site in Texas, a rocket successfully completed its mission, and was flown back to the site and landed softly and upright, allowing it to be used again.

Reusable launchers are a major key to lowering the cost of access to space.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Manned Dragon

NASA has given Space-X the go ahead to proceed with the first manned launch of its Dragon capsule.

The first manned flight is scheduled for sometime in 2017.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Surface Water On Mars

A new study suggests liquid water could exist for some period of time on the surface of Mars today, given the right local circumstances.

That has implications for both extant Martian life and eventual human colonization.

Friday, November 20, 2015


This month marks the one hundredth anniversary of Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity, which completely changed our concepts of space, time, and the nature of the universe.

Relativity has been tested numerous times in various experiments over that century, and each time has been confirmed with precision.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Titanic Cloud

A huge ice cloud has formed over the south pole of Saturn's moon, Titan.

The cloud indicates the winter there will be even colder than scientists had predicted.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Kepler 438b

Kepler 438b is one of the most Earth-like exoplanets yet found, but a new study suggests it may not be able to support life.

It closely orbits a red dwarf which may periodically eject mass from its corona.  Such flying mass could strip away the world's atmosphere.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Legal Step Forward

Congress has passed the 2015 U. S. Commercial Space Act, which, among other things, gives private companies legal claim to extraterrestrial resources, thus beginning to establish a legal framework supporting asteroid mining, lunar settlement, etc.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill shortly.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Opportunity Update

Just to note, NASA's rover Opportunity is still actively exploring Mars.

Opportunity has been at it for over a decade on a mission scheduled to last 90 days-- a remarkable achievement.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Earth's Volatiles

A new study of the collision that created the Moon suggests Earth would have retained the volatiles, including water.

Of course, we now think the Moon has a fairly substantial amount of water, but that could have come later, in impacts of comets and asteroids.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Way Out There

Astronomers have found an object half the size of Pluto that is two or three times more distant than Pluto.

That puts the object along the inner edge of the Oort Cloud, the realm of comets that may potentially stretch halfway to the next star.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


GJ1132b is a world that orbits a tiny M-type star 39 light years away. It is only slightly more massive than Earth.

Though it might be more similar to Venus because of its proximity to its star, GJ1132b is the closest thing to Earth yet found.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Pluto's Moons

Pluto has five known moons.  The largest, Charon, is tidally locked to Pluto, which is fairly normal, but the other four tiny ones have wildly different spin rates, axial tilts, and even shapes.

Likely, those bodies were captured by Pluto-Charon, perhaps recently, but scientists are still working the problem.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Mountaiins On Pluto

The New Horizons probe imaged two mountains that tower 4 miles above the surface of Pluto.

They bear a strong resemblance to Earthly shield volcanoes, which suggests they may be ice volcanoes.

Monday, November 9, 2015


NASA is looking at a new deep space propulsion system called the e-sail in which miles-long, positively charged wires, half the width of a human hair, interact with the solar wind to push probes to enormous speeds.  E-sails could allow missions to the outer Solar System to be completed in less than a decade.

NASA should know in a year or two whether the system is actually viable.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

No Alien Signals

The SETI Institute has been listening to a star some thought might have a huge structure orbiting it.  After two weeks, no alien signals have been picked up.

Observations will continue.  The fundamental question is interesting: Is an unlikely natural explanation more likely to be the correct answer than a plausible unnatural one?

Friday, November 6, 2015


Scientists using data from NASA's MAVEN spacecraft think early Mars was a warm, wet world that lost most of its atmosphere to space due to a shutdown of its protective magnetic field and a Sun that was much more active than it is today.

They did not rule out the possibility that life could have arisen on Mars.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Astronauts Wanted

NASA will be taking applications for its next astronaut class between December and February.

There are currently 47 NASA astronauts.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Asteroids And Life

Researchers studying lunar impact craters have found evidence suggesting there were fewer giant asteroids in the early Solar System than there are today.

That, in turns, means there were fewer chances of a single collision ending all life on Earth.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Trek Returns To TV

Another STAR TREK television series is set to premiere in Janiary, 2017.  The first series debuted in 1966.

The first episode of the new series will air on CBS, while the subsequent episodes will run on CBS Air Access.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Movie Stuff

THE MARTIAN was the top box office draw last weekend, four weeks after its release.

So far, it has taken in over $180 million.