Showing posts from August, 2016

Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star

Source:   European Southern Observatory eso1629 — Science Release Excerpt: Astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth, [a red dwarf star] Proxima Centauri [just over four light-years from the Solar System]. The long-sought world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than the Earth and is the closest exoplanet to us — and it may also be the closest possible abode for life outside the Solar System. A paper describing this milestone finding was published in the journal Nature on 25 August 2016. ...Proxima Centauri star in the constellation of Centaurus is too faint to be seen with the unaided eye and lies near to the much brighter pair of stars known as Alpha Centauri AB. Although Proxima b orbits much closer to its star than Mercury does to the S

Six Things Dwarf Planets Have Taught Us About the Solar System

Source:   By JoAnna Wendel   Earth & Space News EoS (AGU) Excerpt: 1. Dwarf Planets Are as Complex as Regular Planets. ...2. Dwarf Planets Reveal Neptune’s Orbital Origins. ...3. Dwarf Planets Give Us a Peek into the Early Solar System. ...4. Dwarf Planet Candidates Helped Scientists “Find” Planet 9. ...5. Ceres (We Hope) Will Help Us Understand Icy Ocean Moons. ...6. Dwarf Planets Are Prolific....

Hellish Venus Might Have Been Habitable for Billions of Years

Source:   By Shannon Hall, Scientific American Excerpt: Venus is—without a doubt—Earth’s toxic sibling. Although both worlds are similar in size and density, our planetary neighbor has temperatures so high they can melt lead, winds that whip around it some 60 times faster than the planet itself rotates and an atmosphere that slams down with more than 90 times the pressure found on Earth’s atmosphere. But there have been a few tantalizing hints that billions of years ago Venus might have been more akin to Earth’s twin. ...But a few billion years ago a slightly fainter sun might have allowed for a relatively cool Venus, one where liquid water could have pooled in vast oceans that were friendly to life. A new study recently accepted in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that not only was Venus habitable in the distant past, it could have remained habitable for billions of years. Michael Way from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and his colleagues applied the first three-

Martians Might Be Real. That makes Mars exploration way more complicated.

Source:   By Kevin Carey, WIRED. Excerpt: History will note that the guy who discovered liquid water on Mars was an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, a 20-year-old who played guitar in a death-metal band and worked in a planetary science lab. ...he noticed something odd: a set of dark streaks in the soil that grew in the Martian summer and shrank in the winter. They seemed to flow down the crater’s slope, like a spill. September of 2015, [NASA] called a big press conference. It confirmed ... That was water in that crater. ...About a month after the press conference, a NASA administrator named Cassie Conley was sitting in her office, staring into her computer screen at a crudely designed website called UFO Sightings Daily. ...The item that Conley had come looking for was a photograph taken by the Curiosity rover and annotated by the website’s author. ...that streak in the soil descending from a crook between two rocks? The guy had labeled it “water.” And it really di

Government OK's Moon Express Mission to the Moon

Source:   By Randy Showstack, Earth & Space News EoS (AGU). Excerpt: The U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) announced on 3 August that on 20 July it had approved the first commercial space payload intended to land on the Moon. The agency granted a “favorable payload determination” for Moon Express, a privately funded commercial space company based in Moffett Field, Calif., to launch its coffee-table-sized robotic MX-1E spacecraft. The approval “is a landmark decision by the U.S. government and a pathfinder for private sector commercial missions beyond the Earth’s orbit.” said company cofounder and CEO Bob Richards. “We are now free to set sail as explorers to Earth’s eighth continent, the Moon, seeking new knowledge and resources to expand Earth’s economic sphere for the benefit of all humanity.” ...In 2014, NASA partnered with Moon Express and two other U.S. companies to advance lander capabilities to enable payload delivery to the surface of the Moon. In 2015, the company l