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Posts Tagged "solar system"

Basic Space

A little perspective on our place in the universe

Saturn, Earth and the moon as seen by Cassini

Here are some things that will give whatever might be on your mind at the moment a little perspective. You’ve probably seen these images plastered all over the Internet already. But seeing as I blogged about the new pale blue dot before it was taken, here they are: That’s Saturn, the Earth and moon as [...]

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Basic Space

Voyager is in a new region of space, and now that place has a name

"Now, voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find"

Say hello to a brand new bit of the solar system, brought to you by that intrepid traveller Voyager 1: the heliosheath depletion region. Ok, the name’s not particularly catchy, but this is exciting news! Voyager launched over 35 years ago, but it was just before that anniversary last year that it entered this new, [...]

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Basic Space

Voyager 1 is still not out of the solar system

"Now, voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find"

Remember when I said back in October that Voyager 1 might have finally left the solar system? Well, it turns out that the spacecraft, which has been skirting the edge of the solar system for a long time now, is finding it difficult to say goodbye. According to scientists working on the mission, Voyager 1 [...]

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Basic Space

Voyager 1: beyond the edge of the solar system at last?

voyager1

It was on my first birthday that the Voyager 1 spacecraft turned around and took a picture of the pale blue dot we call home. That picture was Voyager’s last glimpse of Earth before its camera was switched off and it began to sail, uninterrupted, towards interstellar space. Around the same time Voyager 2 finished [...]

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Basic Space

Voyager: a binary love story

Earth, as seen by aliens in millions of years, hopefully. This photograph is one of many on the Golden Record carried by both Voyager spacecraft. Credit: NASA

On its 35th birthday, the Voyager 1 spacecraft is a little closer to home than we had hoped it would be at this point. The Voyagers, 1 and 2, are right at this moment speeding away from us towards interstellar space. But a paper out in Nature today reports that, despite recently showing signs that [...]

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Basic Space

The Sun’s Bright Idea

Light bulb erupting from the sun

Here’s an eruption from the sun that happened just a few days ago. It is a coronal mass ejection that loops out from the sun, looking slightly like a lightbulb that has just switched on. But it’s a far cry from a 60 watt bulb – the temperature of the solar corona where the bubble [...]

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Basic Space

Could life arise around a dying star?

White dwarf star Sirius B is roughly the same size as Earth but has a mass 98% that of the sun. Credit: {link url="http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/heic0516c/"}ESA and NASA{/link}

In five billion years the sun is going to blow up into a red giant, then collapse back down again into a white dwarf – a dying star roughly the same size as Earth itself. All of the solar system planets up to, and including, Earth will probably be vaporised during this stellar ballooning. We’ll [...]

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Basic Space

A week in space: Dragon docks, dark matter doesn’t not exist (maybe), and the many ways you could have seen the eclipse

The ISS grabs Dragon. Credit: NASA

The Dragon spacecraft finally set off to the International Space Station on Tuesday morning. On Friday, Dragon docked with the ISS and NASA streamed it live. If you want to relive the disappointment/excitement take a look at the NASA coverage. In the run up to the launch, WIRED had a series of Q&As with experts [...]

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Basic Space

They came from Mars

Computer generated image of Mars at daybreak. Credit: {link url="http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/gallery/pia14293.html"}NASA/JPL-Caltech{/link}

A glowing fireball descended through the sky over North Africa last July, accompanied by two sonic booms. Observers saw the fireball turn from yellow to green, then split into two parts before one fell to the ground in a valley and the other crashed into a mountain. And then… nothing, for a while. The rocks [...]

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Basic Space

Cassini spots snowballs punching through one of Saturn’s rings

Six images of the mini jets taken by Cassini between 2005 and 2008. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/QMUL

Objects half a mile in diameter have been spotted punching through Saturn’s outermost ring, the F ring, and leaving glittering trails as they drag icy particles behind them. Scientists are calling these trails mini-jets. The scientists were actually looking at Prometheus, one of Saturn’s small moons, when they saw the first of the trails. They [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Heads Up! Thirteen Years Of Asteroid Impacts On Earth

pia17016-640

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

pia17462-640

                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

image_1348-QF99

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

IMG_0349

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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Life, Unbounded

Summer Astrobiology Roundup #2: Possible ‘Comet Of The Century’ Starts Warming Up

Enhanced Hubble Telescope image of ISON from April 2013, showing a dusty tail and some evidence of volatile sublimation around the nucleus (NASA, ESA)

Back in February these pages discussed a newly discovered long-period comet, ISON (otherwise known as C/2012 s1), that is falling sunwards for what is probably its first passage through the inner solar system later this year – on a beautiful near parabolic orbit. At its closest point it will pass a mere 700,000 miles from [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Return To The Pale Blue Dot

The original pale blue dot - Earth from 3.7 billion miles away (NASA/JPL/Voyager)

One of the most enduring and captivating images from our exploration of space in the late 20th century was Voyager 1′s mosaic of our own solar system – a family portrait from 3.7 billion miles away. Captured in these shots was a faint speck of bluish light, in one single pixel of Voyager’s digital camera, [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Moon has it all: Explosions, Water, and Clues to the Grand Tack

Our high wilderness (Credit: T.A.Rector, I.P.Dell'Antonio/NOAO/AURA/NSF)

It’s only 240,000 miles away, yet this high wilderness still surprises and delights with clues about the origins of the solar system, Earth’s own water, and it even  supplies the occasional brilliant explosion. If you’ve been paying attention recently you’ll have noticed that the Moon is getting a lot of press. One reason is that [...]

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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

12-024FEATURE

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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The Countdown

The Countdown, Episode 4: Cave-Dwelling Astronauts, Two-Star Solar System, Voyager on The Edge, Millions of Quasars, New Mars Mission

Story 5 Astronauts from five different space agencies are participating in the CAVES project, an underground training exercise beneath the island of Sardinia. Links: Astronauts Heading Deep Underground for Spaceflight Training Story 4 Scientists have discovered a two-star solar system orbited by two planets, an astronomical first. Links: Two Alien Planets Found with Twin Suns [...]

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