Category Archives: Space

‘Neighborhood watch’: US launches satellites to spy on spy satellites

Reuters reports:

‘Launch of two satellites for the U.S. Air Force’s recently declassified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program, or GSSAP, had been slated for July 23, but was delayed one day to resolve a technical issue with ground support equipment and then three more times by poor weather.

…General William Shelton, head of Air Force Space Command, likened GSSAP to a “neighborhood watch program” that will keep tabs on other countries’ satellites. The program “will bolster our ability to discern when adversaries attempt to avoid detection and to discover capabilities they may have which might be harmful to our critical assets at these higher altitudes,” Shelton said during a speech in February that unveiled the once-classified program.’

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NASA: Solar storm in 2012 nearly ‘knocked modern civilization back to the 18th century’

AFP reports:

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory photos of the sun‘Back in 2012, the Sun erupted with a powerful solar storm that just missed the Earth but was big enough to “knock modern civilization back to the 18th century,” NASA said.

The extreme space weather that tore through Earth’s orbit on July 23, 2012, was the most powerful in 150 years, according to a statement posted on the US space agency website Wednesday.

However, few Earthlings had any idea what was going on.’

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US Military Once Planned on Building Surveillance System on the Moon

Geetika Rudra reports for ABC News:

‘The United States military once planned to build a surveillance station on the moon.

Code named “Project Horizon,” a declassified report released today on the 45th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s historic moonwalk outlines the military’s detailed plans to install a moon-to-Earth surveillance system that would have been used for “facilitating communications with and observation of the earth.”‘

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New super-black material so dark it’s like staring ‘into a black hole’

Sebastian Anthony reports for Extreme Tech:

‘At a nondescript industrial park in south England, scientists have created a new super-black material — fashioned out of carbon nanotubes — that is so dark it’s like “looking at a black hole.” The material, called Vantablack, absorbs all but 0.035% of the incident light that bounces off it, meaning your eyes essentially can’t see it — you can only see the space around it, and then infer that there must be something occupying that eerie abyss. Vantablack’s first customers are in the defense and space sectors, where the material can be used to make a whole variety of stealth craft and weaponry, and more sensitive telescopes that can detect the faintest of faraway stars.’

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Hubble Telescope Finds Universe Is ‘Missing’ 80% Of Its Light

Michael Rundle reports for The Huffington Post:

‘If there’s one thing we know about the universe, is that there are huge swathes of it that we don’t understand — in fact, most of it we can’t even see. We already knew about Dark Matter and Dark Energy, two despairingly complex and confusingly named pillars of the invisible cosmological infrastructure that has so far evaded detection.

Now to their ranks we can add “dark light”, after a team at CU Boulder found using data from Hubble that up to 80% of light in the universe is “missing”. Using the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, a $70 million instrument on Hubble to study the “tendrils” of hydrogen that connect galaxies across the vast wastes of space, the team found an inconsistency that — currently — makes no sense.’

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Potentially Habitable Super-Earth Is “Just” 16 Light Years Away

George Dvorsky reports for i09:

This Potentially Habitable Super-Earth Is Just 16 Light Years Away‘An international team of astronomers has announced the discovery of a potentially-habitable Super-Earth around the nearby red dwarf star Gliese 832. Located 16 light-years from Earth, it’s considered one of the closest and best habitable-world candidates so far.

Gliese 832-c features a brief orbital period of 36 days and a mass at least five times that of Earth’s. This planet may be close to its red dwarf parent star, but it receives about the same average energy as Earth does from the Sun. According to lead astronomer Robert Wittenmyer from UNSW Australia, the planet might have Earth-like temperatures, though with large seasonal shifts (assuming it has an atmosphere similar to ours). More likely, however, is that it’s a Super-Venus — an oversized terrestrial planet with a hot, dense atmosphere that’s hostile to life.’

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The Man Who Introduced the World to Flying Saucers

Megan Garber writes for The Atlantic:

‘[...] Why, if saucers are relatively rare in science, have they been such a long-standing element of science fiction?

If you wanted to put a precise date on the origins of our obsession with saucers, the most-cited contender is June 24, 1947. That was the day that Kenneth Arnold, an amateur pilot from Idaho, was flying his little plane, a CallAir A-2, over Mineral, Washington. The skies were clear; there was a light breeze. Arnold, who was en route to an air show in Oregon, was doing a little exploring on the side, near Mount Rainer: A Marine Corps C-46 transport airplane had gone down in the area recently, and there was a $5,000 reward for the person who found the wreckage.

Suddenly, as Arnold would later recall, he saw a bright light—just a flash, like a glint of sun as it hits a mirror when the glass is angled just so. It had a blue-ish tinge. At first, he thought the light must have been coming from another plane; when he looked around, though, all he could see was a DC-4. It seemed to be flying about 15 miles away from him. It was not flashing. And then the lights came again—this time, in a series. Nine flashes, in rapid succession. What did Arnold see that day? Or, more to the point, what would he say that he’d seen?’

READ MORE @ THE ATLANTIC…

Rivals in ‘knife fight’ for Pentagon cash

Megan R. Wilson reports for The Hill:

‘The United Launch Alliance is caught in a “Beltway knife fight” with SpaceX for some of the most lucrative contracts at the Pentagon. The alliance, which is made up of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, now has sole dominion over contracts with the Defense Department to launch military and spy satellites into space, as they are the only companies certified to provide the services. But that could soon change. SpaceX, a relatively new aerospace company founded by billionaire Elon Musk, argues that Boeing and Lockheed have engineered the system in their favor, and is demanding certification.’

READ MORE @ THE HILL…

NASA’s design for a warp drive spaceship

Fiona MacDonald writes for Science Alert:

fqakg2q4nqjveo3qrf7gThe concept is still in the very early experimental stage, but if these 3D renderings are anything to go by, we’re already SO FREAKING EXCITED.  Dr Harold “Sonny” White is working on the warp drive program at NASA’s Johnson Space Centre, and came up with this concept with 3D artist Mark Rademaker, Jesus Diaz reports for Sploid. You can see more of their amazing images here.’

READ MORE @ SCIENCE ALERT…

US just launched a secret next-generation spy satellite

‘The US’s National Reconnaissance Office just shot a rocket into space with a secret satellite payload on it that they refuse to tell anyone about. They used a very fancy rocket to launch it, had some very cryptic logos made for it, and pointed it due East from Florida. No one knows for sure what the payload is, but many experts and amateurs alike have some good guesses.’ (The Resident)

Former astronauts: Large asteroids hitting Earth more often than we’re told, only ‘blind luck’ has saved cities

Russian deputy PM: Russia plans to get a foothold in the Moon

Neil McAllister reports for The Register:

Russia plans to get a foothold in the Moon - Dmitriy RogozinBarely six weeks after rolling troops into the Crimean Peninsula, an official from Vladimir Putin’s Russia has announced the country’s next expansion target: the Moon. As reported by the Voice of Russia, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told the government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta that establishing a permanent Moon base has become one of the country’s top space priorities.

“The moon is not an intermediate point in the [space] race, it is a separate, even a self-contained goal,” Rogozin reportedly said. “It would hardly be rational to make some ten or twenty flights to the moon, and then wind it all up and fly to the Mars or some asteroids.” Rogozin’s comments were an obvious dig against the US space program. NASA flew its last manned mission to the Moon in 1972 and currently has no plans to return humans to the Earth’s satellite.

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Robotic Telescope Searches Full-time for Habitable Planets

Cameron Scott writes for Singularity Hub:

space-exploration-starsThe Automated Planet Finder, designed by U.C. San Diego astronomer Steve Vogt, began its work early this year at Lick Observatory in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The telescope has already helped Vogt identify two new planetary systems (HD 141399 and GJ 687). Although they are what Vogt calls “garden variety systems,” they serve as proof of concept that the next-gen telescope performs well at its task of identifying potentially habitable planets.

The telescope uses software to determine, based on weather and visibility, which stars — from a list pre-programmed by Vogt and his colleague Geoffrey Marcy — to monitor on a given night. “The planetary systems we’re finding are our nearest neighbors. Those are the ones that will matter to future generations,” Vogt said in a news release.

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Scientists recreate Mars in England

Tim Sandle reports for Digital Journal:

To test out Europe’s first Mars rover, space technologists have attempted to re-create the Martian surface in a tiny area of England.

Airbus Defense and Space have opened an extended “Mars Yard” test area at its site in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, U.K. the area has been developed to see if the European rover can autonomously navigate up to 230 feet a day with no outside guidance from ground control.

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Scientists Make Key Big Bang Discovery

Evann Gastaldo reports for Newser:

Stock imageA dizzying scientific achievement: Astronomers have gotten a look back at what one scientist calls “the beginning of time … the universe at the very beginning.” That is, they’ve detected gravitational waves that could be the first direct evidence that within a fraction of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, the cosmos began to, in the New York Times’ description, “swell faster than the speed of light for a prodigiously violent instant.” Such an event (dubbed “inflation”) was theorized in 1979 by physicist Alan Guth, but finding evidence of it “has been a key goal in the study of the universe,” the AP reports. The findings must still be confirmed by other experiments, though the lead astronomer says there’s only a one in 3.5 million chance the team’s results are a fluke.

Researchers from a number of schools and organizations scanned 2% of the sky with a telescope at the South Pole for three years to arrive at their findings, looking for a specific light-wave pattern in the microwave radiation remaining from the Big Bang. That pattern is caused by gravitational waves (“ripples in the interweaving of space and time that sprawls through the universe,” as the AP puts it), which have been called the Big Bang’s first tremors; they’ve never before been detected. If verified, one scientist says this could be one of the greatest discoveries “in the history of science”; Wired compares its significance to the discovery of the Higgs boson. TheTimes has a great graphic that explains the theory of inflation in layman’s terms … using coffee.

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Population of Known Alien Planets Nearly Doubles as NASA Discovers 715 New Worlds

Mike Wall writes for Space.com:

This NASA artist concept depicts multiple-transiting planet systems, which are stars with more than one planet. The planets eclipse or transit their host star from the vantage point of the observer. This angle is called edge-on.

Credit: NASA

The 715 newfound planets, which scientists announced today (Feb. 26), boost the total alien-world tally to between 1,500 and 1,800, depending on which of the five main extrasolar planet discovery catalogs is used. The Kepler mission is responsible for more than half of these finds, hauling in 961 exoplanets to date, with thousands more candidates awaiting confirmation by follow-up investigations. “This is the largest windfall of planets — not exoplanet candidates, mind you, but actually validated exoplanets — that’s ever been announced at one time,” Douglas Hudgins, exoplanet exploration program scientist at NASA’s Astrophysics Division in Washington, told reporters today.

About 94 percent of the new alien worlds are smaller than Neptune, researchers said, further bolstering earlier Kepler observations that suggested the Milky Way galaxy abounds with rocky planets like Earth. Most of the 715 exoplanets orbit closely to their parent stars, making them too hot to support life as we know it. But four of the worlds are less than 2.5 times the size of Earth and reside in the “habitable zone,” that just-right range of distances that could allow liquid water to exist on their surfaces.

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U.S. Air Force reveals ‘neighborhood watch’ spy satellite program

Credit: NASAFrom Reuters:

The United States plans to launch a pair of satellites to keep tabs on spacecraft from other countries orbiting 22,300 miles above the planet, as well as to track space debris, the head of Air Force Space Command said. The previously classified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) will supplement ground-based radars and optical telescopes in tracking thousands of pieces of debris so orbital collisions can be avoided, General William Shelton said at the Air Force Association meeting in Orlando on Friday.

He called it a “neighborhood watch program” that will provide a more detailed perspective on space activities. He said the satellites, scheduled to be launched this year, also will be used to ferret out potential threats from other spacecraft. The program “will bolster our ability to discern when adversaries attempt to avoid detection and to discover capabilities they may have which might be harmful to our critical assets at these higher altitudes,” Shelton said in the speech, which also was posted on the Air Force Association’s website.

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Islamic clerics ban Muslims from living on Mars

From Haaretz:

Humankind’s quest to visit Mars suffered a setback this week, when Muslim clerics issued a fatwa against setting up home on the red planet. A group called the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment, based in the United Arab Emirates, has ruled that an attempt to dwell on the planet would be so hazardous as to be suicidal – and killing oneself is not permitted by Islam.

The ruling came in response to an announcement by the Dutch-based Mars One project, which proposes to send people on one-way trips to colonize the planet, according to the Khaleej Times, an English-language newspaper published in the UAE. “Protecting life against all possible dangers and keeping it safe is an issue agreed upon by all religions and is clearly stipulated in verse 4/29 of the Holy Quran: ‘Do not kill yourselves or one another. Indeed, Allah is to you ever Merciful,’ “the authority said. “Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life, and that can never be justified in Islam. There is a possibility that an individual who travels to planet Mars may not be able to remain alive there, and is more vulnerable to death.”

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Report: Human Body Not Prepared For Life In Outer Space

Photo by NASA via Getty ImagesFrom CBS News:

Recently, a not-for-profit organization known as Mars One released the list of 1,058 applicants who could be selected for colonization on Mars. Over 200,000 applications were said to have been received by the organization, which aims to “establish human life on Martian soil.”

“We’re extremely appreciative and impressed with the sheer number of people who submitted their applications,” Mars One co-founder Bas Lansdorp was quoted as saying in a press release. “However, the challenge with 200,000 applicants is separating those who we feel are physically and mentally adept to become human ambassadors on Mars from those who are obviously taking the mission much less seriously.”

Those in the former category may want to read a new report regarding the effects of outer space on the human body, however, which states that being in outer space could cause long-term health problems. The report, which was first published in the New York Times, cites multiple negative effects of outer space on the human body, including the swelling that occurs in the human head – due in part to the fact that humans did not evolve outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.

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Has the Sun gone to sleep?

Scientists are saying that the Sun is in a phase of “solar lull” – meaning that it has fallen asleep – and it is baffling them. History suggests that periods of unusual “solar lull” coincide with bitterly cold winters. Rebecca Morelle reports for BBC Newsnight on the effect this inactivity could have on our current climate, and what the implications might be for global warming. (BBC News)

China Moon Landing Moment Of Great National Pride For Chinese People

Financial astrology on Wall Street

A zodiac clock with Winston Churchills face in the centre at Bracken House in London (Photo: ALAMY)From The Telegraph:

[...] Donald Bradley’s method of foreseeing changes in the market involved assigning a numerical value to the position of the planets and stars and plotting the values on a graph. The peaks and troughs of that line should, in theory, plot “turns” in the fortunes of stocks, bonds and commodities. It sounds utterly mad, but the model has been described by market watcher Peter Eliades as “eerily accurate”.

I wanted to do a statistical analysis of his method and use it if it worked,” says Crawford. Back in the library, Crawford found records of the Dow Jones going back to 1885 and a book outlining the details of planetary positions. After comparing the two, he was impressed.

So Crawford began using astrology alongside his technical analysis. Over the years, Crawford found his predictions working out so well that, in 1977, he set up business as a full-time astrological adviser. He’s since been named “Wall Street’s best-known astrologer” by Barron’s.

Today around 2,000 traders from the United States, Britain, Australia and Japan pay to receive his subscription newsletter. He says, “I’ve got major traders from all the Wall Street companies.” And Crawford’s not the only one. The newsletter of Michigan “astro-finance consultancy” MMA Cycles claims 7,000 subscribers. Commodities trader Henry Weingarten charges up to $1,000 a session at his New York Astrology Center.

In Britain, soothsayers such as Christeen Skinner offer the same service to City traders, entrepreneurs and private investors. According to the Financial Times, financial astrology is “growing in popularity and complexity”.

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Simulations back up theory that Universe is a hologram

At a black hole, Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity apparently clashes with quantum physics, but that conflict could be solved if the Universe were a holographic projection.(ARTIST’S IMPRESSION BY MARKUS GANN/SHUTTERSTOCK)

From Nature:

A team of physicists has provided some of the clearest evidence yet that our Universe could be just one big projection.

In 1997, theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena proposed that an audacious model of the Universe in which gravity arises from infinitesimally thin, vibrating strings could be reinterpreted in terms of well-established physics. The mathematically intricate world of strings, which exist in nine dimensions of space plus one of time, would be merely a hologram: the real action would play out in a simpler, flatter cosmos where there is no gravity.

Maldacena’s idea thrilled physicists because it offered a way to put the popular but still unproven theory of strings on solid footing — and because it solved apparent inconsistencies between quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of gravity. It provided physicists with a mathematical Rosetta stone, a ‘duality’, that allowed them to translate back and forth between the two languages, and solve problems in one model that seemed intractable in the other and vice versa. But although the validity of Maldacena’s ideas has pretty much been taken for granted ever since, a rigorous proof has been elusive.

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Astronomers discover ‘accidental’ giant planet ‘that should not be’

This is an artist's conception of a young planet in a distant orbit around its host star. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech)From RT:

A giant planet that has been found orbiting its star at 650 times the average Earth-Sun distance has stirred immense confusion in the minds of US astronomers, making them question planet formation theories.

The planet – currently known as HD 106906 b – weighs in at 11 times the mass of Jupiter and is orbiting its star at a massive distance of 60 billion miles – a much further distance than any planet has ever previously been seen orbiting its star.

The planet has been described as unlike anything astronomers have ever seen before.

“This system is especially fascinating because no model of either planet or star formation fully explains what we see,” said Vanessa Bailey, the team’s lead researcher with the University of Arizona’s astronomy department in a news release.

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The Next Space Race, Brought To You By Google

From Business Insider:

Moon Express, a company competing for a piece of the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, revealed images and blueprints for a lunar probe it plans to launch in 2015 in a steps towards commercializing this country’s access to outer space. 

Moon Express’s MX-1 will apparently be able to do a lot of things, and has been described in a number of ways. Fox News said it “is big enough to scoop up some rocks and dirt, store them in an internal compartment, and return it to Earth,” and that it “looks for all the world like a pair of donuts wearing an ice cream cone.” Moon Express CEO and co-founder Bob Richards said “we call it the iPhone of space,” adding that it is “very small.” Small like an iPhone? No, small like “You and I could put our arms around it.” 

Fast Company described it as “a futuristic machine that looked to be part hovercraft, part Mars rover.” According to Fast Company, an engineer said that MX-1 is a lunar lander, clarifying ““Well, like, it goes to the moon.” 

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NASA shares image of massive ‘Hexagon’ on Saturn

NASA's new images of the From CNN:

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has provided your multicolored space distraction of the day: images of a swirling, six-sided weather feature on the surface of Saturn.

Scientists say the “Hexagon,” the formation’s working title at NASA, is unlike anything they’ve seen elsewhere.

They say the feature is “turbulent and unstable,” packing 200-mph winds. That’s nearly 50 mph stronger than the wind speed required for a Category 5 hurricane.

“A hurricane on Earth typically lasts a week, but this has been here for decades — and who knows — maybe centuries,” said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini team member at the California Institute of Technology.

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Is China mulling a military base on the moon?

Moon as seen by Apollo 12From Examiner.com:

A Taiwan newspaper called the Want China Times ran an article on December 2, 2013 to the effect that officials in the Chinese Peoples’ Liberation Army would like to make the moon a military base. The article speaks of China desiring to turn the moon into a “Death Star” from which ballistic missiles could be lobbed at Earth.

The Want China Times is owned by the Want Want Group, a Taiwanese conglomerate in turned owned byTsai Eng Meng, a billionaire who favors closer economic and political ties between China and Taiwan. China regards Taiwan as a rebel province which it would like to one day regain control of. Taiwan has been a separate country since the Communist takeover of China in the late 1940s.

The article’s description of a Chinese military base on the moon sounds remarkably like an American plan hatched in the 1950s called “Project Horizon.” The plan was abandoned because of the great expense and the fact that missiles launched from the moon would take days to reach targets on Earth.

In any case the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 prohibits the construction of military bases on the moon. China would have to withdraw from that treaty should it choose to do what the Want China Times suggests some elements in the PLA want.

Japanese engineers plan to turn the moon into a giant solar panel station

From The Independent:

It sounds like a tale from a science fiction novel, but a team of Japanese engineers really is hoping to turn the moon into a giant solar panel.

Shimizu, a giant civil engineering and construction firm, plans to install a ‘solar belt’ around the moon’s equator.

To be built almost entirely by remote-controlled robots, the Luna Ring would run around the 6,800 mile lunar equator and be 248 miles in width.

The solar energy collected would converted and beamed back to earth as microwaves and laser, where it would then be converted into electricity and then potentially supplied to the national grid.

Shimizu says the Luna Ring could generate a massive 13,000 terra watts of energy. The Sizewell B nuclear reactor in Suffolk produces 1,198 megawatts (MW).

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Moon gardens: NASA to sow 1st seeds of future habitat

Plant growth chambers and kits (image from www.nasa.gov)From RT:

NASA is bravely venturing into new scientific territory with a plan to start growing plants on the moon no later than 2015. The experiment is designed to yield important knowledge about life’s long-term chances in space – including for us.

The initiative comes courtesy of the Lunar Plant Growth Habitat team – a small group of scientists, students, volunteers and contractors – who plan to install specially-designed containers about the size of a coffee can, in which the plants will be encased, complete with sensors, cameras and other devices that will be relaying information down to Earth.

This is to be the first life sciences project conducted on another world and is ambitious about exploring opportunities for future human life support, apart from the obvious benefits of learning more about growing life in extreme temperatures.

The dream is to be able to freely live on the moon for decades on end – instead of hours. Follow-up experiments are already in the making.

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Nasa’s Maven mission to study Mars’ lost atmosphere

Nasa's Maven space craftFrom BBC News:

We know Mars as a dusty seemingly dead planet. But there is growing evidence that it was not always so.

Most planetary scientists believe the Red Planet was once not unlike the Earth. There is evidence that it was once habitable – a world that had a thick atmosphere and water that flowed across its surface.

But around four billion years ago, it is thought that Mars lost its magnetic field – possibly due to a massive asteroid impact.

The field acted as a protective shield against the Sun’s corrosive solar wind and without it, the Martian atmosphere was gradually ripped away. So the theory goes.

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