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NASA Confirms That Voyager 1 Is Soaring Through Interstellar Space

VoyagerVoyager 1 already had the distinction of being the man-made object that has travelled further from Earth than anything else we, as a species, have ever flung out into space, but that isn’t going to stop it from travelling deeper and deeper into the unknown. NASA confirms that the probe is indeed now travelling through interstellar space.

Back in August of 2012, Voyager made international headlines when it was announced that it had actually left the heliosphere. This is essentially a giant bubble of magnetic fields and charged particles that surround our sun and extends far past Pluto. Plasma from the sun, so-called solar wind, pushes against the pressure of the interstellar medium, which is the hydrogen and helium mixture that makes up much of our galaxy. Interstellar space begins where the heliosphere ends.

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Today In 1633 Galileo Was Deemed A Heretic

galileo and jupiterCopernicus wasn’t the first person to theorize that the Earth revolved around the sun, but he was the first person to publish support for the theory that anyone paid attention to. In 1543, he published De revolutionibus orbium coelestium libri VI (“Six Books Concerning the Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs”), which asserted the idea Philolaus and Hicetas, Greek philosophers stargazing in about 500 BC, first posited: that the Earth is round, and that it revolved around a “central fire” that holds the universe together. Even though the heliocentric model of the universe was first conceived long, long ago, it wasn’t until Galileo came along in the 1600s and proved it that people’s views began to shift. Of course, Galileo paid a price for his work: 381 years ago today, the Vatican declared him a heretic.

The heliocentric model had a few sticking points: that the earth wasn’t the center of the universe, of course, but also that the positions of the stars seemed never to change, regardless of Earth’s supposed orbit around the sun. It was in response to that second item that Claudius Ptolemy theorized that if Earth were fixed, and everything else revolved around it, then that would explain why the stars never moved. This made sense to folks, so the geocentric theory reigned for almost 1,500 years.

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The House Seems To Be Supporting Manned Flight To Mars

man on marsPerhaps the recent National Research Council report lambasting NASA’s plan to get humans to Mars was the wake-up call the government needed. That report (which somewhat ironically cost upwards of $3 million to assemble) couldn’t have been clearer in stating that, under current circumstances, NASA’s manned Mars missions were nothing but a pipe dream, and an invitation to “failure, disillusionment, and the loss of the longstanding international perception that human spaceflight is something the United States does best.” Yikes. But sometimes, a kick (or ten) in the ass is what the government needs, and when the House passed a new NASA reauthorization bill last week, it took the step in providing a more feasible budget for putting people on Mars.

Just before the bill passed the House, Steven Palazzo, Chairman of the Space Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said, “We are committed to once more launching American astronauts, on American rockets, from American soil,” and argued that the bill would “serve as a pathway to Mars.” The bill also reinforces Obama’s previous commitment to developing a cutting-edge heavy-lift rocket launcher, as well as the new generation of Orion spacecraft, which is currently undergoing testing.

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First Vine From Space Shows Endless Sun

We’ve got plenty of images and video from space, but now we’ve got the first Vine of the cosmos, courtesy of astronaut Reid Wiseman, who landed on the International Space Station just a couple weeks ago.

It’s a great condensed view of one ISS revolution around the Earth, which takes roughly 92 minutes. That means astronauts on the ISS are treated to 15 or 16 sunrises in a 24-hour period — like at the end of Chris Hadfield’s explanation about how to puke in space. But on Wiseman’s Vine, you’ll notice that the sun never sets. Because space is magical. And because the space station’s orbit aligned with the line between light and dark on Earth, otherwise known as the day/night terminator line.

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A Galactic Particle Collider And An Image Of 10,000 Galaxies

I just got back from a local art fair, so it occurs to me that the Hubble is kind of like its own ready-made exhibit. I get lost in those images more than any paintings or sculptures, and space never fails to generate paradoxes and mind-boggling patterns. Today’s space news involves two such offerings: a particle collider and the best picture of the Milky Way, along with thousands of other galaxies.

While we have painstakingly created our own impressive particle colliders, the cosmos can do us one better. Five billion light years away, there’s a collision of galaxy clusters that are forming an accelerator estimated to be a million times stronger than the Large Hadron Collider. Clusters of this sort are the largest structures in the universe, and can consist of thousands of galaxies that continue piling up over billions of years as a result of collisions between smaller groupings.

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Researchers Find Evidence Of The Planet That Crashed Into Earth To Form The Moon

MoonBack in the 1970s, scientists first hypothesized that the moon was formed when another planet, now called Theia, collided with a young Earth, roughly 4.5 billion years ago. The problem with that theory, though, is that computer models indicated that the moon would then have the same composition as the other planet, but the Earth and the moon are very similar in composition. In 2012, scientists found a way to reconcile that discrepancy — if the Earth was rotating much faster than it is now, then a big chunk of Earth’s mantle broke off during the collision, slowing the Earth’s rotation down and explaining why the Earth and the moon are so similar. But now, there’s another explanation — researchers have found material from Theia in a lunar rock found by Apollo astronauts, and it turns out Theia’s composition isn’t so different from Earth’s.

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