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Posts Tagged "solar system"

Life, Unbounded

Comet 67P Only Looks Gray, It’s Actually Black

Comet 67P in all its colourful glory (Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission has now released the first narrow-angle color composite image of Comet 67P – taken through a set of red, green, and blue filters. And here it is, in all its glory from a mere 120 kilometers away, with a roughly 3.9 meter per pixel resolution. You might be forgiven [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Interview: The New Moon

moon

Think you know about the Moon? I did, but then I started reading ‘The New Moon: Water, Exploration, and Future Habitation‘ (Cambridge University Press, 2014) and realized that my knowledge amounted to a teensy scrap of lunar dust. For the past few years my colleague Prof. Arlin Crotts has been assembling an astonishingly detailed look [...]

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Life, Unbounded

New Horizons Mission Catches Pluto And Charon Waltzing

Pluto and Charon in their orbits, taken July 2014 (Credit: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI)

After a ten year journey, NASA’s New Horizons mission is still 420 million kilometers from the Pluto system – but that’s close enough to begin to see the orbital dance of an icy world and its major moon. This far out from the Sun it’s easier for planetary objects to hold onto satellites, so even [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Heads Up! Thirteen Years Of Asteroid Impacts On Earth

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Since the Chelyabinsk event in early 2013, when a brilliant meteor fireball streaked across Russian skies and exploded with the energy of thirty Hiroshima bombs, humans have paid slightly more attention to the potential danger of asteroids than before. A combination of media attention and the viral spread of eyewitness videos and photos perhaps did [...]

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Life, Unbounded

What do NYC Streets and Asteroids Have in Common?

800px-Newport_Whitepit_Lane_pot_hole

                    Fatigue, that’s what. As a particularly frigid winter recedes across the north and east of the United States (we’ve become accustomed to milder weather in past years), the abuse suffered by asphalt roads is becoming apparent. If you’ve taken any form of surface transport recently [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Unstoppable Extinction And Fermi’s Paradox

Really, this is what I evolved into? (Images used: Stephen Ausmus, USDA ARS, Matt Martyniuk)

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the evidence that we are currently within a period of mass extinction, the kind of event that will show up in the fossil record a few million years from now as a clear discontinuity, a radical change in the diversity of life on the planet. This [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Your Friendly Neighborhood Asteroid Swarm

(NEAR Project, NLR, JHUAPL, Goddard SVS, NASA)

The solar system is full of bits and pieces, remnants of its heyday of activity 4.5 billion years ago. Planets are the most noticeable fossil leftovers, with giant Jupiter being two and a half times more massive that the sum total of the other major worlds. There’s also a vast assortment of far smaller bodies, [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Voyager Has Entered The Interstellar Medium

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                After many claims and statements over the past few years that Voyager 1, our most distant operating spacecraft, has ‘left the solar system’ (it hasn’t, as I explain here), it does now seem that as of August 2012 this extraordinary vehicle has entered the interstellar medium. This [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Greeks, Trojans, and a Temporary Companion for Uranus

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A telescopic survey looking for trans-Neptunian objects has chanced across a 37 mile wide chunk of rock and ice that instead moves around the sun in the same orbit as Uranus, just further ahead of the planet. This discovery is notable because such objects cannot stay in place for long – unlike planets such as [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Summer Astrobiology Roundup #3: The Ripening Of The Planets

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Although NASA’s planet hunting mission Kepler seems unlikely to return to a fully functioning state, after another reaction wheel failure, it has already yielded an extraordinary crop of new worlds. In fact, as well as finding many remarkable individual systems (from those orbiting binary stars to those laden down with planets), Kepler has provided a [...]

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Observations

Voyager 1′s Whereabouts: No News, but Plenty of Noise

Voyager 1 and the solar system

Tracking the location of the Voyager 1 spacecraft can be exhausting for a science journalist, and I can only imagine how confusing it gets for the interested reader. The relevant question pertaining to Voyager 1’s location is this: Has the venerable NASA spacecraft exited the heliosphere, the sun’s plasma cocoon in space, and crossed into [...]

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Observations

“Once in a Civilization” Comet to Zip past Earth Next Year

Comet Hartley 2

As it flares out of the distant Oort Cloud, the newly discovered comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) appears to be heading on a trajectory that could make for one of the most spectacular night-sky events in living memory. Why is this comet expected to be so unique? Two reasons: Astronomers predict that the comet will pass [...]

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Observations

NASA’s Voyager 1 Spacecraft May Not Be Near Edge of Solar System after All [Updated]

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 in relation to the solar system

It’s been a long, strange trip out of the solar system for NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, and it may be a bit longer still. Voyager 1, which launched 35 years ago today, has ventured farther from Earth than any other spacecraft in history. Voyager 1 is now 18.2 billion kilometers from Earth—so distant that it [...]

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Observations

Which near-Earth asteroids are ripe for a visit?

Near-Earth asteroid Eros

In April 2010, amid mounting criticism that his space plan lacked direction, President Barack Obama gave a speech in Florida to lay out a few ambitious goals he had in mind for NASA. The details of how those targets would be met remain somewhat sketchy even today, but the goals themselves were clear—sometime around 2025, [...]

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Observations

Are Mars and Titan geologically dead?

mars-viking-dust-devil

PASADENA—They say that null results never get published, either in science or in journalism. Well, I’m about to break that rule. Some of the most interesting results to come out of the Division for Planetary Sciences meeting this week concern non-discoveries. In recent years, planetary scientists have gotten excited by the prospect that Mars and [...]

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Observations

What caused Saturn to lurch? Second dispatch from the annual planets meeting

Rings of Saturn

FAJARDO, Puerto Rico—I first heard about Matt Hedman’s talk while going out to dinner on Tuesday night. Best talk of the meeting, I was told. Everywhere I went yesterday, I kept hearing about this guy Matt Hedman. A former professor of mine chided me for missing his presentation. The problem with the Division for Planetary [...]

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Symbiartic

SciArt of the Day: On the Brink

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This week, the space probe Voyager 1 turned 35. In the years since its launch, it completed its mission to document Saturn and Jupiter and has continued on to the brink of our solar system. Now, it is poised to reach farther than any man-made object to date, exiting the solar system and entering the [...]

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