An artist’s concept shows Dawn reaching the dwarf planet Ceres. Illustration: NASA
The dwarf planet named after the Roman goddess of motherly relationships will soon have a new friend. And scientists and space-exploration geeks here on Earth can’t wait for that friend, the space probe Dawn, to start dishing.
Dawn, launched in 2007 to visit two bodies within the asteroid belt past Mars, is scheduled to enter an orbit of the dwarf planet Ceres on March 6. Ceres is the largest mass in the asteroid belt and has an icy mantle that may harbor an internal ocean of water under its surface. Talk of water on a planetary body always leads to questions of life.
Ceres has long been a curiosity to astronomers and space observers, and its status — is it an asteroid? a dwarf planet? — has been hotly debated ever since its discovery in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi.
Retro travel posters issued by NASA celebrate some of the discoveries of the Kepler Space Telescope. Illustrations: NASA
The exoplanet known as Kepler-16b is a gas giant near the outer limits of the habitable zone, but why should that discourage you from paying it a visit?
NASA has issued a set of three retro space-tourism posters to celebrate the discoveries of the Kepler Space Telescope, which has laid eyes on more than 1,000 confirmed exoplanets and more than 400 stellar systems.
If 16b — which is said to have a temperature similar to dry ice — doesn’t sound appealing, honeymooners might be drawn to the promise of romance with a double sunset. Kepler-16b orbits a pair of stars, like Luke Skywalker’s native planet Tatooine, and the travel poster serves up this selling point: “Where Your Shadow Always Has Company.”
Two views of the Eagle Nebula from the Hubble Space Telescope, one from 2014, left, and the first in 1995. Photo courtesy of NASA and the European Space Agency
The muse of the Hubble Space Telescope is even more alluring 20 years later.
Of all the breath-taking photos from the telescope’s camera, the blooming pillars of gas of the Eagle Nebula from 1995 became Hubble’s most iconic image, depicted on stamps, tee-shirts and in several cameos for film and television.
Hubble recently took another look at the star-lit towers of gas and cosmic dust – dubbed the Pillars of Creation — with a newer camera (installed in 2009) and captured greater detail that should give astronomers a chance to see how the clouds of oxygen, hydrogen and sulphur have changed since the first photograph.
Flatworms are headed to the International Space Station. Their sacrifice in the name of research gets a salute on the Kentucky Space mission patch. Photo: Kentucky Space
Flatworms are the darlings of the molecular biology field. What scientist doesn’t love a species that can lose an organ or body part — even its head — and grow it back?
It’s quite a trick. We’ll see if they can do it in space.
About 150 planarian flatworms, creatures that are happiest living in rivers or under a log, have first-class tickets aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship, which will take them to the International Space Station for an experiment that could unlock the key to human immortality.
A dance line of NASA interns from a scene in their parody music video called “All About That Space.” From NASA video
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to make a music video, and maybe you shouldn’t be. Turns out, rocket scientists can’t dance. NASA released a parody video on YouTube Thursday called “All About That Space,” designed to raise excitement about Orion’s recent first test flight.
The lyrics of Meghan Trainor’s monster hit “All About That Bass” were re-engineered by the Pathways Interns of NASA’s Johnson Space Center to lead the viewer on a behind-the-scenes look at the men and woman hard at work on space travel.
Screen shot of Orion user interface controls: NASA
NASA’s Orion spacecraft is the most futuristic spacecraft to ever be built, but the tech inside it is shockingly old school, like the onboard computer powering the entire mission, that’s basically only powerful as an 11 year old G3 iBook.
On Earth scientists are all about pursuing the bleeding edge of tech, but in space the number one concern is reliability. Thanks to the higher amounts of radiation astronauts will travel through on the way to Mars, NASA’s engineers have to use a system that’s been tried and test. So to power their computer they’re are using an IBM PowerPC 750FX, that debuted in 2002 and isn’t even as powerful as an iPhone 6.
Orion on the launch pad set for an unmanned test flight. Photo by Kim Shiflett/NASA
When the final Space Shuttle flight landed in July 2011, there was a sadness that America’s future involvement in space exploration would be nothing more than one of our astronauts occasionally hitching a lift on a rickety Russian rocket.
But NASA, partnered with various aerospace companies, has been quietly designing and building a new program that could eventually take humans into deep space.
This drone will decompose in T-minus 10, 9, 8 … Photo: NASA Ames Research Center
While we wait for Amazon to figure out how to drone-deliver our next order of energy drinks or iPhone cases, NASA has been busy coming up with a way to make sure when a quadcopter crash-lands somewhere there will no need to panic about the environmental impact.
That’s because they have made a drone from fungus.
Is there anything cooler than images of our solar system? Especially ones of the actual Sol, or, our sun. No, there is not.
This fantastically seasonal Halloween image was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which does nothing but stare at the sun all day and night in complete disregard of what its mother told it not to do.
Regardless, this image is amazing.
“The active regions in this image appear brighter,” writes NASA on its website, “because those are areas that emit more light and energy. They are markers of an intense and complex set of magnetic fields hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona.”
This image blends the images taken with two different ultraviolet wavelengths highlighted, one at 171 and the other at 193 Ångströms, to create this one-of-a-kind jack-o’-lantern sun.
Whatever — this thing is just creepy cool and I want a giant poster of it.