Tag: Earth (page 49 of 188)

Scientists: Enceladus may have warm water ocean with ingredients for life


Enceladus ocean
This artist's impression of the interior of Saturn's moon Enceladus shows that interactions between hot water and rock occur at the floor of the subsurface ocean -- the type of environment that might be friendly to life, scientists say. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)



Excerpt from latimes.com

Scientists say they’ve discovered evidence of a watery ocean with warm spots hiding beneath the surface of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus. The findings, described in the journal Nature, are the first signs of hydrothermal activity on another world outside of Earth – and raise the chances that Enceladus has the potential to host microbial life.

Scientists have wondered about what lies within Enceladus at least since NASA’s Cassini spacecraft caught the moon spewing salty water vapor out from cracks in its frozen surface. Last year, a study of its gravitational field hinted at a 10-kilometer-thick regional ocean around the south pole lying under an ice crust some 30 to 40 kilometers deep.

Another hint also emerged about a decade ago, when Cassini discovered tiny dust particles escaping Saturn’s system that were nanometer-sized and rich in silicon.

“It’s a peculiar thing to find particles enriched with silicon,” said lead author Hsiang-Wen Hsu, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In Saturn’s moons and among its rings, water ice dominates, so these odd particles clearly stood out.

The scientists traced these particles’ origin to Saturn’s E-ring, which lies between the orbits of the moons Mimas and Titan and whose icy particles are known to come from Enceladus. So Hsu and colleagues studied the grains to understand what was going on inside the gas giant’s frigid satellite.   
Rather than coming in a range of sizes, these particles were all uniformly tiny – just a few nanometers across. Studying the spectra of these grains, the scientists found that they were made of silicon dioxide, or silica. That’s not common in space, but it’s easily found on Earth because it’s a product of water interacting with rock. 

Knowing how silica interacts in given conditions such as temperature, salinity and alkalinity, the scientists could work backward to determine what kind of environment creates these unusual particles.

A scientist could do the same thing with a cup of warm coffee, Hsu said.

“You put in the sugar and as the coffee gets cold, if you know the relation of the solubility of sugar as a function of temperature, you will know how hot your coffee was,” Hsu said. “And applying this to Enceladus’s ocean, we can derive a minimum [temperature] required to form these particles.”

The scientists then ran experiments in the lab to determine how such silica particles came to be. With the particles’ particular makeup and size distribution, they could only have formed under very specific circumstances, the study authors found, determining that the silica particles must have formed in water that had less than 4% salinity and that was slightly alkaline (with a pH of about 8.5 to 10.5) and at temperatures of at least 90 degrees Celsius (roughly 190 degrees Fahrenheit).

The heat was likely being generated in part by tidal forces as Saturn’s gravity kneads its icy moon. (The tidal forces are also probably what open the cracks in its surface that vent the water vapor into space.)
Somewhere inside the icy body, there was hydrothermal activity – salty warm water interacting with rocks. It’s the kind of environment that, on Earth, is very friendly to life.  

“It’s kind of obvious, the connection between hydrothermal interactions and finding life,” Hsu said. “These hydrothermal activities will provide the basic activities to sustain life: the water, the energy source and of course the nutrients that water can leach from the rocks.”

Enceladus, Hsu said, is now likely the “second-top object for astrobiology interest” – the first being Jupiter’s icy moon and fellow water-world, Europa.
This activity is in all likelihood going on right now, Hsu said – over time, these tiny grains should glom together into larger and larger particles, and because they haven’t yet, they must have been recently expelled from Enceladus, within the last few months or few years at most.

Gabriel Tobie of the University of Nantes in France, who was not involved in the research, compared the conditions that created these silica particles to a hydrothermal field in the Atlantic Ocean known as Lost City.

“Because it is relatively cold, Lost City has been posited as a potential analogue of hydrothermal systems in active icy moons. The current findings confirm this,” Tobie wrote in a commentary on the paper. “What is more, alkaline hydrothermal vents might have been the birthplace of the first living organisms on the early Earth, and so the discovery of similar environments on Enceladus opens fresh perspectives on the search for life elsewhere in the Solar System.”

However, Hsu pointed out, it’s not enough to have the right conditions for life – they have to have been around for long enough that life would have a fighting chance to emerge.

“The other factor that is also very important is the time.… For Enceladus, we don’t know how long this activity has been or how stable it is,” Hsu said. “And so that’s a big uncertainty here.”

One way to get at this question? Send another mission to Enceladus, Tobie said.

“Cassini will fly through the moon’s plume again later this year,” he wrote, “but only future missions that can undertake improved in situ investigations, and possibly even return samples to Earth, will be able to confirm Enceladus’ astrobiological potential and fully reveal the secrets of its hot springs. ”

View Article Here   Read More

Have Aliens Left The Universe? Theory Predicts We’ll Follow

























Excerpt from robertlanza.com

In Star Wars, the bars are bustling with all types of alien creatures. And then, of course, there’s Yoda and Chewbacca. Recently, renowned scientist Stephen Hawking stated that he too believes aliens exist: “To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational.”

Hawking thinks we should be cautious about interacting with aliens — that they might raid Earth’s resources, take our ores, and then move on like pirates. “I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.”
But where are they all anyhow?

For years, NASA and others have been searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. The universe is 13.7 billion years old and contains some 10 billion trillion stars. Surely, in this lapse of suns, advanced life would have evolved if it were possible. Yet despite half a century of scanning the sky, astronomers have failed to find any evidence of life or to pick up any of the interstellar radio signals that our great antennas should be able to easily detect.

Some scientists point to the “Fermi Paradox,” noting that extraterrestrials should have had plenty of time to colonize the entire galaxy but that perhaps they’ve blown themselves up. It’s conceivable the problem is more fundamental and that the answer has to do with the evolutionary course of life itself.

Look at the plants in your backyard. What are they but a stem with roots and leaves bringing nutriments to the organism? After billions of years of evolution, it was inevitable life would acquire the ability to locomote, to hunt and see, to protect itself from competitors. 
Observe the ants in the woodpile — they can engage in combat just as resolutely as humans. Our guns and ICBM are merely the mandibles of a cleverer ant. The effort for self-preservation is vague and varied. But when we’ve overcome our struggles, what do we do next? Build taller and more splendid houses?

What happens after life completes its transition to perfection? Perhaps across space, more advanced intelligences have taken the next evolutionary step. Perhaps they’ve evolved beyond the three dimensions we vertebrates know. A new theory — Biocentrism — tells us that space and time aren’t physical matrices, but simply tools our mind uses to put everything together. These algorithms are the key to consciousness, and why space and time — indeed the properties of matter itself — are relative to the observer. More advanced civilizations would surely understand these algorithms well enough to create realities that we can’t even imagine, and to have expanded beyond our corporeal cage.

Like breathing, we take for granted how our mind puts everything together. I can recall a dream I had of a flying saucer landing in Times Square. It was so real it took awhile to convince myself that it was a dream (that I was actually at home in bed). I was standing in a crowd surrounded by skyscrapers when a massive spaceship appeared overhead. Everyone started running. My mind had somehow generated this spatio-temporal experience out of electrochemical information. I could feel the vibrations under my feet as the ship started to land, merging this 3D world with my inner thoughts and sensations.

Although I was in bed with my eyes closed, I was able to run and move my arms and fingers. My mind had created a fully functioning body and placed it in a virtual world (replete with clouds in the sky and the Sun) that was indistinguishable from the one I’m in right now. Life as we know it is defined by this spatial-temporal logic, which traps us in the universe of up and down. But like my dream, quantum theory confirms that the properties of particles in the “real” world are also observer-determined.

Other information systems surely exist that correspond to other physical realities, universes based on logic completely different from ours and not based on space and time as we know it. In fact, the simplest invertebrates may only experience existence in one dimension of space. Evolutionary biology suggests life has progressed from a one dimensional reality, to two dimensions to three dimensions, and there’s no scientific reason to think that the evolution of life stops there.

Advanced civilizations would certainly have changed the algorithms so that instead of being trapped in the linear dimensions we find ourselves in, their consciousness moves through the multiverse and beyond. Why would Aliens build massive ships and spend thousands of years to colonize planetary systems (most of which are probably useless and barren), when they could simply tinker with the algorithms and get whatever they want?

Life on Earth is just beginning to send its shoots upward into the heavens. We’ve even flung a piece of metal outside the solar system. Affixed to the spacecraft is a record with greetings in 60 languages. One can’t but wonder whether some civilization more advanced than ours will come upon it. Or will it just drift across the gulf of space? To me the answer is clear. But in case I’m wrong, I have a pitch fork guarding the ore in my backyard.

View Article Here   Read More

Japan comes closer to beaming solar power from SPACE: Mitsubishi makes breakthrough in sending energy wirelessly



Japanese scientists say they have successfully transmitted energy wirelessly in a breakthrough for future solar space power systems. While the distance was relatively small, the technology could someday pave the way for mankind to tap the vast amount of solar energy available in space and use it here on Earth
Japanese scientists say they have successfully transmitted energy wirelessly in a breakthrough for future solar space power systems. While the distance was relatively small, the technology could someday pave the way for mankind to tap the vast amount of solar energy available in space and use it here on Earth


  • Excerpt from dailymail.co.uk
  • By Ellie Zolfagharifard
  • Microwaves delivered 1.8 kw of power - enough to run an electric kettle
  • Power was sent through the air with to a receiver 170ft (55 metres) away
  • Technology may someday help tap vast solar energy available in space
  • Jaxa's plan is to eventually have sunlight-gathering panels and antennae set up about 22,300 miles (36,000km) from the Earth


Japanese scientists have successfully transmitted energy wirelessly in a breakthrough that could pave the way for space-based solar power systems.

Mitsubishi researchers used microwaves to deliver 1.8 kilowatts of power - enough to run an electric kettle - through the air with pinpoint accuracy to a receiver 170ft (55 metres) away.

While the distance was relatively small, the technology could someday pave the way for mankind to tap the vast amount of solar energy available in space and use it here on Earth.

'This was the first time anyone has managed to send a high output of nearly two kilowatts of electric power via microwaves to a small target, using a delicate directivity control device,' said a spokesman for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) said.

The test, which took place at Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works in Nagoya, Japan, will help Jaxa devise its long-awaited space solar power system.

Solar power generation in space has many advantages over its Earth-based cousin, notably the permanent availability of energy, regardless of weather or time of day.

While man-made satellites, such as the International Space Station, have long since been able to use the solar energy that washes over them from the sun, getting that power down to Earth where people can use it has been the thing of science fiction.

The test, which took place at Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works in Nagoya, Japan, will help Jaxa devise its long-awaited space solar power system. Mitsubishi used microwaves to deliver 1.8 kilowatts of power - enough to run an electric kettle - through the air with pinpoint accuracy to a receiver (right) 170ft (55 metres) away
The test, which took place at Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works in Nagoya, Japan, will help Jaxa devise its long-awaited space solar power system. Mitsubishi used microwaves to deliver 1.8 kilowatts of power - enough to run an electric kettle - through the air with pinpoint accuracy to a receiver (right) 170ft (55 metres) away
The test, which took place at Kobe Shipyard & Machinery Works in Nagoya, Japan, will help Jaxa devise its long-awaited space solar power system. Mitsubishi used microwaves to deliver 1.8 kilowatts of power - enough to run an electric kettle - through the air with pinpoint accuracy to a receiver (right) 170ft (55 metres) away


In a separate project, a Japanese firm last year revealed plans to cover the moon in a huge swathe of solar panels and use them to power homes here on Earth
 In a separate project, a Japanese firm last year revealed plans to cover the moon in a huge swathe of solar panels and use them to power homes here on Earth


But the Japanese research offers the possibility that humans will one day be able to farm an inexhaustible source of energy in space.
The idea, said the Jaxa spokesman, would be for microwave-transmitting solar satellites - which would have sunlight-gathering panels and antennae - to be set up about 22,300 miles (36,000km) from the Earth.

'But it could take decades before we see practical application of the technology - maybe in the 2040s or later,' he said.

'There are a number of challenges to overcome, such as how to send huge structures into space, how to construct them and how to maintain them.'

The idea of space-based solar power generation emerged among US researchers in the 1960s and Japan's SSPS programme, chiefly financed by the industry ministry, started in 2009, he said.

COULD A SOLAR FARM IN SPACE POWER OUR FUTURE?

Space-based solar power – once the stuff of science-fiction – could be available sooner than expected if Japan has its way
Space-based solar power – once the stuff of science-fiction – could be available sooner than expected if Japan has its way


Solar power has had a difficult start on Earth thanks to inefficient panels and high costs. But in space, scientists believe it could transform the way we generate energy.

Now, the space-based solar power – once the stuff of science-fiction – could be available sooner than expected if Japan has its way.

Within 25 years, the country plans to make space-based solar power a reality, according to a proposal from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa).

In a recent IEEE article by Susumu Sasaki, a professor emeritus at Jaxa, outlined the agency's plans create a 1.8 mile long (3 km) man-made island in the harbour of Tokyo Bay.

The island would be studded with 5 billion antennas working together to convert microwave energy into electricity.

The microwaves would be beamed down from a number of giant solar collectors in orbit 22,400 miles (36,000 km) above the Earth. 
Resource-poor Japan has to import huge amounts of fossil fuel.
It has become substantially more dependent on these imports as its nuclear power industry shut down in the aftermath of the disaster at Fukushima in 2011.

In a separate project, a Japanese firm last year revealed plans to cover the moon in a huge swathe of solar panels and use them to power homes here on Earth.

Shimizu Corporation's Luna Ring project would stretch almost 6,790 miles (11,000km) around the moon's equator and a field of solar panels would form a belt.

Energy captured by these panels would then be sent to Earth using microwaves and laser lights could be beamed directly to countries where it is needed.

According to the plans, the project would produce around 13,000 terrawatts of continuous solar energy. At present, the world's population consumes about 15 terawatts of power each year.

The company claims the plans would not only provide an 'almost inexhaustible' energy supply, it would stop the rise of global warming caused by carbon dioxide from current energy sources. 

Shimizu Corporation's Luna Ring project would stretch almost 6,790 miles (11,000km) around the moon's equator and a field of solar panels would form a belt
Shimizu Corporation's Luna Ring project would stretch almost 6,790 miles (11,000km) around the moon's equator and a field of solar panels would form a belt

View Article Here   Read More

Are We An Alien Experiment?

Although its possible those responsible for our Earthen experiment may possess a far different form then we, I feel it more probable we were created in our family's image. Greg  Excerpt from rense.com  Even the most hardened skeptic mus...

View Article Here   Read More

A Complete Guide to the March 20th Total Solar Eclipse


Credit
Totality! The 2012 total solar eclipse as seen from Australia. Credit and copyright: www.hughca.com.



Excerpt from universetoday.com



The first of two eclipse seasons for the year is upon us this month, and kicks off with the only total solar eclipse for 2015 on Friday, March 20th.

And what a bizarre eclipse it is. Not only does this eclipse begin just 15 hours prior to the March equinox marking the beginning of astronomical spring in the northern hemisphere, but the shadow of totality also beats path through the high Arctic and ends over the North Pole.


Credit:
An animation of the March 20th eclipse. Credit: NASA/GSFC/AT Sinclair.


Already, umbraphiles — those who chase eclipses — are converging on the two small tracts of terra firma where the umbra of the Moon makes landfall: the Faroe and Svalbard islands. All of Europe, the northern swath of the African continent, north-central Asia and the Middle East will see a partial solar eclipse, and the eclipse will be deeper percentage-wise the farther north you are .
2015 features four eclipses in all: two total lunars and two solars, with one total solar and one partial solar eclipse. Four is the minimum number of eclipses that can occur in a calendar year, and although North America misses out on the solar eclipse action this time ’round, most of the continent gets a front row seat to the two final total lunar eclipses of the ongoing tetrad on April 4th and September 28th.

How rare is a total solar eclipse on the vernal equinox? Well, the last total solar eclipse on the March equinox occurred back in 1662 on March 20th. There was also a hybrid eclipse — an eclipse which was annular along a portion of the track, and total along another — on March 20th, 1681. But you won’t have to wait that long for the next, as another eclipse falls on the northward equinox on March 20th, 2034.


Credit
The path of the March 20th eclipse across Europe, including start times for the partial phases, and the path of totality, click to enlarge. For more maps showing the percentage of occlusion, elevation, and more, click here. Credit: Michael Zeiler/GreatAmercianEclipse.com.


Note that in the 21st century, the March equinox falls on March 20th, and will start occasionally falling on March 19th in 2044. We’re also in that wacky time of year where North America has shifted back to ye ‘ole Daylight Saving (or Summer) Time, while Europe makes the change after the eclipse on March 29th. It really can wreak havoc with those cross-time zone plans, we know…
The March 20th eclipse also occurs only a day after lunar perigee, which falls on March 19th at 19:39 UT. This is also one of the closer lunar perigees for 2015 at 357,583 kilometres distant, though the maximum duration of totality for this eclipse is only 2 minutes and 47 seconds just northeast of the Faroe Islands.


Credit:
Views from selected locales in Europe and Africa. Credit: Stellarium.



This eclipse is number 61 of 71 in solar saros series 120, which runs from 933 to 2754 AD. It’s also the second to last total in the series, with the final total solar eclipse for the saros cycle occurring one saros later on March 30th, 2033.



What would it look like to sit at the North Pole and watch a total solar eclipse on the first day of Spring? It would be a remarkable sight, as the disk of the Sun skims just above the horizon for the first time since the September 2014 equinox. Does this eclipse occur at sunrise or sunset as seen from the pole? It would be a rare spectacle indeed!


Credit
An equinoctal eclipse as simulated from the North Pole. Credit: Stellarium.






Credit
Practicing eclipse safety in Africa. Credit: Michael Zeiler/GreatAmericanEclipse.com


Safety is paramount when observing the Sun and a solar eclipse. Eye protection is mandatory during all partial phases across Europe, northern Asia, North Africa and the Middle East. A proper solar filter mask constructed of Baader safety film is easy to construct, and should fit snugly over the front aperture of a telescope. No. 14 welder’s goggles are also dense enough to look at the Sun, as are safety glasses specifically designed for eclipse viewing. Observing the Sun via projection or by using a pinhole projector is safe and easy to do.


Credit
A solar filtered scope ready to go in Tucson, Arizona. Credit: photo by author.

Weather is always the big variable in the days leading up to any eclipse. Unfortunately, March in the North Atlantic typically hosts stormy skies, and the low elevation of the eclipse in the sky may hamper observations as well. From the Faroe Islands, the Sun sits 18 degrees above the horizon during totality, while from the Svalbard Islands it’s even lower at 12 degrees in elevation. Much of Svalbard is also mountainous, making for sunless pockets of terrain that will be masked in shadow on eclipse day. Mean cloud amounts for both locales run in the 70% range, and the Eclipser website hosts a great in-depth climatology discussion for this and every eclipse.


Credit
The view of totality and the planets as seen from the Faroe Islands. Credit: Starry Night.


But don’t despair: you only need a clear view of the Sun to witness an eclipse!

Solar activity is also another big variable. Witnesses to the October 23rd, 2014 partial solar eclipse over the U.S. southwest will recall that we had a massive and very photogenic sunspot turned Earthward at the time. The Sun has been remarkably calm as of late, though active sunspot region 2297 is developing nicely. It will have rotated to the solar limb come eclipse day, and we should have a good grasp on what solar activity during the eclipse will look like come early next week.

And speaking of which: could an auroral display be in the cards for those brief few minutes of totality? It’s not out of the question, assuming the Sun cooperates.  Of course, the pearly white corona of the Sun still gives off a considerable amount of light during totality, equal to about half the brightness of a Full Moon. Still, witnessing two of nature’s grandest spectacles — a total solar eclipse and the aurora borealis — simultaneously would be an unforgettable sight, and to our knowledge, has never been documented!

We also put together some simulations of the eclipse as seen from Earth and space:




Note that an area of southern Spain may witness a transit of the International Space Station during the partial phase of the eclipse. This projection is tentative, as the orbit of the ISS evolves over time. Be sure to check CALSky for accurate predictions in the days leading up to the eclipse.


Credit
The ISS transits the Sun during the eclipse around 9:05 UT as seen from southern Spain. Credit: Starry Night.


Can’t make it to the eclipse? Live in the wrong hemisphere? There are already a few planned webcasts for the March 20th eclipse:


View Article Here   Read More

Finding the Next Earth ~ The Kepler Mission

The Kepler Space TelescopeClick to zoom

View Article Here   Read More

Earth’s address within a massive supercluster of 100,000 galaxies ~ Video





Excerpt from cnet.com


Astronomers have mapped the Milky Way's position to the outskirts of a supercluster of galaxies, newly dubbed Laniakea, meaning "Immense Heaven".

The distribution of galaxies throughout the universe is not more-or-less even; instead, galaxies tend to cluster together, bound together by the pull of each other's gravity. These groups can be a variety of sizes. The Milky Way Galaxy, for instance, is part of what is called the Local Group, which contains upwards of 54 galaxies, covering a diameter of 10 megalight-years (10 million light-years).

Click to zoom

But this Local Group is just a small part of a much, much bigger structure, which researchers at the University of Hawai'i Mānoa have now mapped in detail. Coming in at over 100,000 galaxies, the massive supercluster has been given the name Laniakea -- "immense heaven" in Hawaiian.
The new 3D map was created by examining the positions and movements of the 8000 closest galaxies to the Milky Way. After calculating which galaxies were being pulled away from us and which were being pulled towards us -- accounting for the universe's expansion -- the team, led by astronomer R. Brent Tully, was able to map the paths of galactic migration -- and define the boundaries of Laniakea.

Traditionally, the borders of galactic superclusters have been difficult to map, but studying the gravitational force acting on our neighbouring galaxies has provided some important clues. All objects inside Laniakea are being slowly but surely drawn to a single point -- a force known as the Great Attractor, a gravitational anomaly with a mass tens of thousands of times the mass of the Milky Way.

Everything that is being pulled towards the Great Attractor is part of Laniakea -- although it's possible that Laniakea itself might in turn be part of a structure that is larger still.

"We probably need to measure to another factor of three in distance to explain our local motion," Tully said. "We might find that we have to come up with another name for something larger than we're a part of -- we're entertaining that as a real possibility."

The full paper, "The Laniakea supercluster of galaxies", can be read online in the journal Nature.

View Article Here   Read More

Surface of Venus revealed by new radio telescope data


http://www.smnweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Surface-of-Venus-revealed-by-new-radio-telescope-data.jpg



Excerpt from smnweekly.com
By David M. DeMar

New radio telescope data from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory has revealed for the first time ever just what Venus has under its thick veil of clouds that otherwise occlude its surface from view.
25 million miles distant from us, Venus looks to the naked eye – or through a light telescope – much like a cloudy marble, thanks to the thick cloudbanks of carbon dioxide ringing the planet. However, the surface underneath, long a mystery to planetary scientists, has been laid bare thanks to the work of Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory radio transmitter and the Green Bank Telescope, a radio telescope located in West Virginia and operated by the National Science Foundation.
The two facilities worked together with the NRAO in order to uncover the hidden surface of Mars. Arecibo sent radar signals to Venus, where they penetrated the thick atmosphere and bounced off the ground. The returning radio signals were picked up by the GBT in West Virginia in a process known as bistatic radar; the result is a radar image that shows craters and mountains strewn across the surface of Venus at a surprisingly high resolution.
The image is bisected by a dark line, representing areas where it’s particularly difficult to receive useful image data through the use of bistatic radar. However, scientists are intending to compare multiple images as time goes by in order to identify any active geologic processes on the surface of Venus such as volcanic activity.
It’s no particularly easy task to compare radar images in search of evidence of any change in this manner says Smithsonian senior scientist Bruce Campbell, but the work will continue. Campbell, who works at the National Air and Space Museum in the nation’s capital and is associated with the center for Earth and Planetary Studies, added that combining images from the latest NRAO endeavor and others will yield large amounts of data on how the surface of Venus might be altered by other processes.
The radar data, and a scientific paper based on it, will be published in April in Icarus, the scientific journal dedicated to studies of the solar system.

View Article Here   Read More

Billionaire teams up with NASA to mine the moon




Excerpt from cnbc.com
By Susan Caminiti



Moon Express, a Mountain View, California-based company that's aiming to send the first commercial robotic spacecraft to the moon next year, just took another step closer toward that lofty goal. 

Earlier this year, it became the first company to successfully test a prototype of a lunar lander at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The success of this test—and a series of others that will take place later this year—paves the way for Moon Express to send its lander to the moon in 2016, said company co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain.

Moon Express conducted its tests with the support of NASA engineers, who are sharing with the company their deep well of lunar know-how. The NASA lunar initiative—known as Catalyst—is designed to spur new commercial U.S. capabilities to reach the moon and tap into its considerable resources.In addition to Moon Express, NASA is also working with Astrobotic Technologies of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California, to develop commercial robotic spacecrafts. 

Jain said Moon Express also recently signed an agreement to take over Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral. The historic launchpad will be used for Moon Express's lander development and flight-test operations. Before it was decommissioned, the launchpad was home to NASA's Atlas-Centaur rocket program and its Surveyor moon landers.

"Clearly, NASA has an amazing amount of expertise when it comes to getting to the moon, and it wants to pass that knowledge on to a company like ours that has the best chance of being successful," said Jain, a serial entrepreneur who also founded Internet companies Infospace and Intelius. He believes that the moon holds precious metals and rare minerals that can be brought back to help address Earth's energy, health and resource challenges. 

Among the moon's vast riches: gold, cobalt, iron, palladium, platinum, tungsten and Helium-3, a gas that can be used in future fusion reactors to provide nuclear power without radioactive waste. "We went to the moon 50 years ago, yet today we have more computing power with our iPhones than the computers that sent men into space," Jain said. "That type of exponential technological growth is allowing things to happen that was never possible before."

An eye on the Google prize

Source: MoonExpress

Helping to drive this newfound interest in privately funded space exploration is the Google Lunar X Prize. It's a competition organized by the X Prize Foundation and sponsored by Google that will award $30 million to the first company that lands a commercial spacecraft on the moon, travels 500 meters across its surface and sends high-definition images and video back to Earth—all before the end of 2016.

Moon Express is already at the front of the pack. In January it was awarded a $1 million milestone prize from Google for being the only company in the competition so far to test a prototype of its lander. "Winning the X prize would be a great thing," said Jain. "But building a great company is the ultimate goal with us." When it comes to space exploration, he added, "it's clear that the baton has been passed from the government to the private sector."

Testing in stages

Jain said Moon Express has been putting its lunar lander through a series of tests at the space center. The successful outing earlier this year involved tethering the vehicle—which is the size of a coffee table—to a crane in order to safely test its control systems. "The reason we tethered it to the crane is because the last thing we wanted was the aircraft to go completely haywire and hurt someone," he said. 

At the end of March, the company will conduct a completely free flight test with no tethering. The lander will take off from the pad, go up and sideways, then land back at the launchpad. "This is to test that the vehicle knows where to go and how to get back to the launchpad safely," Jain explained.


Once all these tests are successfully completed, Jain said the lander—called MX-1—will be ready to travel to the moon. The most likely scenario is that it will be attached to a satellite that will take the lander into a low orbit over the Earth. From there the MX-1 will fire its own rocket, powered by hydrogen peroxide, and launch from that orbit to complete its travel to the moon's surface. 

The lander's first mission is a one-way trip, meaning that it's not designed to travel back to the Earth, said Jain. "The purpose is to show that for the first time, a company has developed the technology to land softly on the moon," he said. "Landing on the moon is not the hard part. Landing softly is the hard part." 

That's because even though the gravity of the moon is one-sixth that of the Earth's, the lander will still be traveling down to the surface of the moon "like a bullet," Jain explained. Without the right calculations to indicate when its rockets have to fire in order to slow it down, the lander would hit the surface of the moon and break into millions of pieces. "Unlike here on Earth, there's no GPS on the moon to tell us this, so we have to do all these calculations first," he said. 

Looking ahead 15 or 20 years, Jain said he envisions a day when the moon is used as a sort of way station enabling easier travel for exploration to other planets. In the meantime, he said the lander's second and third missions could likely involve bringing precious metals, minerals and even moon rocks back to Earth. "Today, people look at diamonds as this rare thing on Earth," Jain said.
He added, "Imagine telling someone you love her by giving her the moon."

View Article Here   Read More

Dawn Enters Orbit Around Dwarf Planet Ceres ~ Video

Ceres Dawn




Dwarf Planet Ceres

Excerpt from spacenews.com

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrived in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres March 6, completing a journey of nearly seven and a half years and five billion kilometers.  In a statement, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said Dawn entered orbit about 61,000 kilometers above Ceres at 7:39 am EST March 6, sending a signal to Earth about an hour later confirming it was in orbit and in good health.  “We feel exhilarated,” Dawn principal investigator Chris Russell said in the statement. “We have much to do over the next year and a half, but we are now on station with ample reserves, and a robust plan to obtain our science objectives.”

Dawn will gradually spiral down to its initial science orbit, 13,500 kilometers above Ceres, by April. Later in its mission Dawn will move gradually closer to the surface, eventually moving into an orbit of 375 kilometers.  The Dawn spacecraft, built by Orbital ATK, launched on a United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket in September 2007. After making a gravity assist flyby of Mars in February 2009, it entered orbit around the large main-belt asteroid Vesta in July 2011. It remained there for more than a year, using its ion thrusters to leave orbit in September 2012 to head to Ceres. 

Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, was the first asteroid discovered by astronomers, in 1801. The International Astronomical Union designated Ceres a “dwarf planet” in 2006, a new category of objects that also includes the former planet Pluto.


Click to zoom
Dawn will gradually spiral down to its initial science orbit, 13,500 kilometers above Ceres, by April. Later in its mission Dawn will move gradually closer to the surface, eventually moving into an orbit of 375 kilometers.
The Dawn spacecraft, built by Orbital ATK, launched on a United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket in September 2007. After making a gravity assist flyby of Mars in February 2009, it entered orbit around the large main-belt asteroid Vesta in July 2011. It remained there for more than a year, using its ion thrusters to leave orbit in September 2012 to head to Ceres.
Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, was the first asteroid discovered by astronomers, in 1801. The International Astronomical Union designated Ceres a “dwarf planet” in 2006, a new category of objects that also includes the former planet Pluto.
- See more at: http://spacenews.com/dawn-enters-orbit-around-ceres/#sthash.yoclEQI4.dpuf
WASINGTON — NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrived in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres March 6, completing a journey of nearly seven and a half years and five billion kilometers.
In a statement, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said Dawn entered orbit about 61,000 kilometers above Ceres at 7:39 am EST March 6, sending a signal to Earth about an hour later confirming it was in orbit and in good health.
“We feel exhilarated,” Dawn principal investigator Chris Russell said in the statement. “We have much to do over the next year and a half, but we are now on station with ample reserves, and a robust plan to obtain our science objectives.”
- See more at: http://spacenews.com/dawn-enters-orbit-around-ceres/#sthash.yoclEQI4.dpuf

View Article Here   Read More

Exoplanet Bonanza Boosts Count by 1,200

Excerpt from news.discovery.comDozens of candidate worlds reside within the "habitable zones" of their parent stars. THE GIST - NASA's Kepler telescope has found more than 1,200 extrasolar planet candidates. - Smaller worlds, like Earth,...

View Article Here   Read More

Chances of Exoplanet Life ‘Impossible’? Or ‘100 percent’?


Kepler’s Exoplanets: A map of the locations of exoplanets, of various masses, in the Kepler field of view. 1,235 candidates are plotted (NASA/Wendy Stenzel)


 news.discovery.com 

Just in case you haven’t heard, our galaxy appears to be teeming with small worlds, many of which are Earth-sized candidate exoplanets and dozens appear to be orbiting their parent stars in their “habitable zones.”

Before Wednesday’s Kepler announcement, we knew of just over 500 exoplanets orbiting stars in the Milky Way. Now the space telescope has added another 1,235 candidates to the tally — what a difference 24 hours makes.

Although this is very exciting, the key thing to remember is that we are talking about exoplanet candidates, which means Kepler has detected 1,235 exoplanet signals, but more work needs to be done (i.e. more observing time) to refine their orbits, masses and, critically, to find out whether they actually exist.

But, statistically speaking, a pattern is forming. Kepler has opened our eyes to the fact our galaxy is brimming with small worlds — some candidates approaching Mars-sized dimensions!

Earth-Brand™ Life

Before Kepler, plenty of Jupiter-sized worlds could be seen, but with its precision eye for spotting the tiniest of fluctuations of star brightness (as a small exoplanet passes between Kepler and the star), the space telescope has found that smaller exoplanets outnumber the larger gas giants.

Needless to say, all this talk of “Earth-sized” worlds (and the much-hyped “Earth-like” misnomer) has added fuel to the extraterrestrial life question: If there’s a preponderance of small exoplanets — some of which orbit within the “sweet-spot” of the habitable zones of their parent stars — could life as we know it (or Earth-Brand™ Life as I like to call it) also be thriving there?
Before I answer that question, let’s turn back the clock to Sept. 29, 2010, when, in the wake of the discovery of the exoplanet Gliese 581 g, Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at University of California Santa Cruz, told Discovery News: “Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances for life on [Gliese 581 g] are 100 percent. I have almost no doubt about it.”

Impossible? Or 100 Percent?

As it turns out, Gliese 581 g may not actually exist — an excellent example of the progress of science scrutinizing a candidate exoplanet in complex data sets as my Discovery News colleague Nicole Gugliucci discusses in “Gliese 581g and the Nature of Science” — but why was Vogt so certain that there was life on Gliese 581 g? Was he “wrong” to air this opinion?

Going to the opposite end of the spectrum, Howard Smith, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, made the headlines earlier this year when he announced, rather pessimistically, that aliens will unlikely exist on the extrasolar planets we are currently detecting.
“We have found that most other planets and solar systems are wildly different from our own. They are very hostile to life as we know it,” Smith told the UK’s Telegraph.

Smith made comparisons between our own solar system with the interesting HD 10180 system, located 127 light-years away. HD 10180 was famous for a short time as being the biggest star system beyond our own, containing five exoplanets (it has since been trumped by Kepler-11, a star system containing six exoplanets as showcased in Wednesday’s Kepler announcement).

One of HD 10180′s worlds is thought to be around 1.4 Earth-masses, making it the smallest detected exoplanet before yesterday. Alas, as Smith notes, that is where the similarities end; the “Earth-sized” world orbiting HD 10180 is too close to its star, meaning it is a roasted exoplanet where any atmosphere is blasted into space by the star’s powerful radiation and stellar winds.
The Harvard scientist even dismissed the future Kepler announcement, pointing out that upcoming reports of habitable exoplanets would be few and far between. “Extrasolar systems are far more diverse than we expected, and that means very few are likely to support life,” he said.

Both Right and Wrong

So what can we learn about the disparity between Vogt and Smith’s opinions about the potential for life on exoplanets, regardless of how “Earth-like” they may seem?

Critically, both points of view concern Earth-Brand™ Life (i.e. us and the life we know and understand). As we have no experience of any other kind of life (although the recent eruption of interest over arsenic-based life is hotly debated), it is only Earth-like life we can realistically discuss.

We could do a Stephen Hawking and say that all kinds of life is possible anywhere in the cosmos, but this is pure speculation. Science only has life on Earth to work with, so (practically speaking) it’s pointless to say a strange kind of alien lifeform could live on an exoplanet where the surface is molten rock and constantly bathed in extreme stellar radiation.

If we take Hawking’s word for it, Vogt was completely justified for being so certain about life existing on Gliese 581 g. What’s more, there’s no way we could prove he’s wrong!

But if you set the very tight limits on where we could find Earth-like life, we are suddenly left with very few exoplanet candidates that fit the bill. Also, just because an Earth-sized planet might be found in the habitable zone of its star, doesn’t mean it’s actually habitable. There are many more factors to consider. So, in this case, Smith’s pessimism is well placed.

Regardless, exoplanet science is in its infancy and the uncertainty with the “is there life?” question is a symptom of being on the “raggedy edge of science,” as Nicole would say. We simply do not know what it takes to make a world habitable for any kind of life (apart from Earth), but it is all too tempting to speculate as to whether a race of extraterrestrials, living on one of Kepler’s worlds, is pondering these same questions.

View Article Here   Read More

Habitable’ Super-Earth Might Exist After All


Artist's impression of Gliese 581d, a controversial exoplanet that may exist only 20 light-years from Earth.



Excerpt from news.discovery.com

Despite having discovered nearly 2,000 alien worlds beyond our solar system, the profound search for exoplanets — a quest focused on finding a true Earth analog — is still in its infancy. It is therefore not surprising that some exoplanet discoveries aren’t discoveries at all; they are in fact just noise in astronomical data sets.

But when disproving the existence of extrasolar planets that have some characteristics similar to Earth, we need to take more care during the analyses of these data, argue astronomers from Queen Mary, University of London and the University of Hertfordshire.

In a paper published by the journal Science last week, the researchers focus on the first exoplanet discovered to orbit a nearby star within its habitable zone.

Revealed in 2009, Gliese 581d hit the headlines as a “super-Earth” that had the potential to support liquid water on its possibly rocky surface. With a mass of around 7 times that of Earth, Gliese 581d would be twice as big with a surface gravity around twice that of Earth. Though extreme, it’s not such a stretch of the imagination that such a world, if it is proven to possess an atmosphere and liquid ocean, that life could take hold.

And the hunt for life-giving alien worlds is, of course, the central motivation for exoplanetary studies.

But the exoplanet signal has been called into doubt.
Gliese 581d’s star, Gliese 581, is a small red dwarf around 20 light-years away. Red dwarfs are known to be tempestuous little stars, often generating violent flaring outbursts and peppered in dark features called starspots. To detect the exoplanet, astronomers measured the very slight frequency shift (Doppler shift) of light from the star — as the world orbits, it exerts a tiny gravitational “tug”, causing the star to wobble. When this periodic wobble is detected, through an astronomical technique known as the “radial velocity method,” a planet may be revealed.

Last year, however, in a publication headed by astronomers at The Pennsylvania State University, astronomers pointed to the star’s activity as an interfering factor that may have imitated the signal from an orbiting planet when in fact, it was just noisy data.

But this conclusion was premature, argues Guillem Anglada-Escudé, of Queen Mary, saying that “one needs to be more careful with these kind of claims.”

“The existence, or not, of GJ 581d is significant because it was the first Earth-like planet discovered in the ‘Goldilocks’-zone around another star and it is a benchmark case for the Doppler technique,” said Anglada-Escudé in a university press release. “There are always discussions among scientists about the ways we interpret data but I’m confident that GJ 581d has been in orbit around Gliese 581 all along. In any case, the strength of their statement was way too strong. If the way to treat the data had been right, then some planet search projects at several ground-based observatories would need to be significantly revised as they are all aiming to detect even smaller planets.”

The upshot is that this new paper challenges the statistical technique used in 2014 to account for the signal being stellar noise — focusing around the presence of starspots in Gliese 581′s photosphere.

Gliese 581d isn’t the only possible exoplanet that exists around that star — controversy has also been created by another, potentially habitable exoplanet called Gliese 581g. Also originally detected through the wobble of the star, this 3-4 Earth mass world was found to also be in orbit within the habitable zone. But its existence has been the focus of several studies supporting and discounting its presence. Gliese 581 is also home to 3 other confirmed exoplanets, Gliese 581e, b and c.

Currently, observational data suggests Gliese 581g was just noise, but as the continuing debate about Gliese 581d is proving, this is one controversy that will likely keep on rumbling in the scientific journals for some time.

View Article Here   Read More

Older posts Newer posts

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License
.
unless otherwise marked.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy



Up ↑