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Russia will retain part of ISS after operation

February 25, 2015 8:32 am | by Associated Press | News | Comments

Russia's space agency expects the International Space Station (ISS) to stay in orbit through 2024, and plans to create its own space outpost with its segment of the station after that. Roscosmos' scientific council concluded that several Russian modules could eventually be undocked to "perform the task of ensuring Russia's guaranteed presence in space."

Exoplanet could unlock secrets to how our solar system was formed

February 20, 2015 1:27 pm | by Rebecca Wilhelm, The Open Univ. | News | Comments

Exciting new research by astronomers at The Open Univ. and the Univs. of Warwick and Sheffield has opened up the chance to find out what distant planets are made of. The team of astronomers have made observations which can help reveal the chemical makeup of a small rocky world orbiting a distant star about 1,500 light-years away from Earth, increasing our understanding of how planets, including ours, were formed.

Spacecraft catch a solar shockwave in the act

February 20, 2015 1:19 pm | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

On Oct. 8, 2013, an explosion on the sun’s surface sent a supersonic blast wave of solar wind out into space. This shockwave tore past Mercury and Venus, blitzing by the moon before streaming toward Earth. The shockwave struck a massive blow to the Earth’s magnetic field, setting off a magnetized sound pulse around the planet.

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Giving shape to black holes’ intense winds

February 20, 2015 7:41 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

By looking at the speed of ambient gas spewing out from a well-known quasar, astronomers are gaining insight into how black holes and their host galaxies might have evolved at the same time. Using the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), researchers were able to use the x-ray spectra of an extremely luminous black hole (quasar PDS 456) to detect a nearly spherical stream of highly ionized gas streaming out of it.

For the first time, spacecraft catch a solar shockwave in the act

February 19, 2015 9:02 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

New research has shown that a 2013 solar storm produced “ultrarelativistic, killer electrons” in 60 seconds, disrupting Earth's magnetic field and setting off a magnetized sound pulse around the planet. 

Does dark matter cause mass extinctions and geologic upheavals?

February 19, 2015 8:56 am | by NYU | News | Comments

Research concludes that Earth's infrequent but predictable path around and through our Galaxy's disc may have a direct and significant effect on geological and biological phenomena occurring on Earth.

A close call of 0.8 light years

February 17, 2015 12:35 pm | by Leonor Sierra, Univ. of Rochester | News | Comments

A group of astronomers from the U.S., Europe, Chile and South Africa have determined that 70,000 years ago a recently discovered dim star is likely to have passed through the solar system's distant cloud of comets, the Oort Cloud. No other star is known to have ever approached our solar system this close—five times closer than the current closest star, Proxima Centauri.

Satellite images reveal ocean acidification from space

February 17, 2015 8:09 am | by Jo Bowler, Univ. of Exeter | News | Comments

Pioneering techniques that use satellites to monitor ocean acidification are set to revolutionize the way that marine biologists and climate scientists study the ocean. This new approach, published in Environmental Science and Technology, offers remote monitoring of large swathes of inaccessible ocean from satellites that orbit the Earth some 700 km above our heads.

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Mismatched twin stars spotted in the delivery room

February 13, 2015 11:24 am | by Christine Pulliam, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics | News | Comments

The majority of stars in our galaxy come in pairs. In particular, the most massive stars usually have a companion. These fraternal twins tend to be somewhat equal partners when it comes to mass; but not always. In a quest to find mismatched star pairs known as extreme mass-ratio binaries, astronomers have discovered a new class of binary stars. One star is fully formed while the other is still in its infancy.

Global rainfall satellites require massive overhaul

February 13, 2015 10:43 am | by Melissa Osgood, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Circling hundreds of miles above Earth, weather satellites are working round-the-clock to provide rainfall data that are key to a complex system of global flood prediction. A new Cornell Univ. study warns that the existing system of space-based rainfall observation satellites requires a serious overhaul.

Interstellar technology throws light on spinning black holes

February 13, 2015 8:03 am | by American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

The team responsible for the Oscar-nominated visual effects at the center of Christopher Nolan's epic, Interstellar, have turned science fiction into science fact by providing new insights into the powerful effects of black holes.

SpaceX calls off launch of space weather satellite

February 9, 2015 10:36 am | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

SpaceX called off Sunday's planned launch of a deep-space observatory—and a revolutionary rocket-landing attempt—after a critical radar-tracking system failed. Former Vice President Al Gore, who first envisioned the observatory two decades ago, was on hand for the attempt.

Rocket booster aiming for ocean barge in redo of SpaceX test

February 7, 2015 4:19 pm | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

A space weather satellite is poised to blast off Sunday for a destination 1 million miles away, but it's the rocket's ocean landing that is stealing the spotlight. The SpaceX company will take a second stab at landing a booster on a platform floating off the Florida coast; last month's experiment ended in a fireball.

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Scientists predict Earth-like planets around most stars

February 6, 2015 11:32 am | by The Australian National Univ. | News | Comments

Planetary scientists have calculated that there are hundreds of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy which might support life. The new research, led by The Australian National Univ., made the finding by applying a 200 year old idea to the thousands of exoplanets discovered by the Kepler space telescope.

Hubble captures rare triple-moon conjunction

February 6, 2015 10:11 am | by Ray Villard, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Firing off a string of action snapshots like a sports photographer at a NASCAR race, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured the rare occurrence of three of Jupiter's largest moons racing across the banded face of the gas-giant planet: Europa, Callisto and Io.

Astronomers find new details in first known spiral galaxy

February 4, 2015 10:56 am | by Kevin Mayhood, Case Western Reserve Univ. | News | Comments

Case Western Reserve Univ. astronomers peered deep into space to discover new features of a galaxy that's been sketched and photographed for 170 years. The researchers were able to see faint plumes extending from the northeast and south of the nearby spiral galaxy M51a, also called the "Whirlpool Galaxy," by taking what is essentially a photograph made by a 20-hr exposure.

Meteorite may represent ‘bulk background’ of Mars’ battered crust

February 2, 2015 9:29 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

NWA 7034, a meteorite found a few years ago in the Moroccan desert, is like no other rock ever found on Earth. It’s been shown to be a 4.4 billion-year-old chunk of the Martian crust, and according to a new analysis, rocks just like it may cover vast swaths of Mars.

Scientists retract high-profile cosmic claim

February 2, 2015 8:37 am | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Scientists who made headlines last March by announcing that they'd found long-sought evidence about the early universe are now abandoning that claim. New data show that their cosmic observations no longer back up that conclusion, they say.

Satellite to help manage water woes

February 2, 2015 8:30 am | by Associated Press | News | Comments

A NASA satellite lifted off this weekend with the hope it will transmit data that will help the world do a better job of preparing for floods and droughts. The satellite is on a three-year mission to track the amount of water locked in soil, which may help residents in low-lying regions brace for floods or farmers get ready for drought conditions.

CAT scan of nearby supernova remnant reveals frothy interior

January 30, 2015 8:00 am | by David A. Aguilar, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics | News | Comments

Cassiopeia A, or Cas A, is one of the most well-studied supernova remnants in our galaxy. But it still holds major surprises. Harvard-Smithsonian and Dartmouth College astronomers have generated a new 3-D map of its interior using the astronomical equivalent of a CAT scan. They found that the Cas A supernova remnant is composed of a collection of about a half dozen massive cavities—or "bubbles."

Gully patterns document Martian climate cycles

January 29, 2015 8:06 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Geologists from Brown Univ. have found new evidence that glacier-like ice deposits advanced and retreated multiple times in the mid-latitude regions of Mars in the relatively recent past. For the study, the researchers looked at hundreds of gully-like features found on the walls of impact craters throughout the Martian mid-latitudes.

Some potentially habitable planets began as gaseous, Neptune-like worlds

January 29, 2015 7:45 am | by Peter Kelley, News and Information, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Two phenomena known to inhibit the potential habitability of planets might instead help chances for life on certain planets orbiting low-mass stars, Univ. of Washington astronomers have found. The astronomers say tidal forces and vigorous stellar activity could combine to transform uninhabitable “mini-Neptunes” into closer-in, gas-free, potentially habitable worlds.

Ancient star system reveals Earth-sized planets forming near start of universe

January 28, 2015 10:34 am | by Verity Leatherdale, Univ. of Sydney | News | Comments

A sun-like star with orbiting planets, dating back to the dawn of the galaxy, has been discovered by an international team of astronomers. At 11.2 billion years old it is the oldest star with Earth-sized planets ever found and proves that such planets have formed throughout the history of the universe. The discovery used observations made by NASA's Kepler satellite.

Research recreates planet formation, giant planets in the laboratory

January 23, 2015 9:14 am | by Breanna Bishop, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

New laser-driven compression experiments reproduce the conditions deep inside exotic super-Earths and giant planet cores, and the conditions during the violent birth of Earth-like planets, documenting the material properties that determined planet formation and evolution processes. The experimentsreveal the unusual properties of silica under the extreme pressures and temperatures relevant to planetary formation and interior evolution.

Black hole on a diet creates a “changing look” quasar

January 22, 2015 11:18 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Univ. astronomers have identified the first “changing look” quasar, a gleaming object in deep space that appears to have its own dimmer switch. The discovery may offer a glimpse into the life story of the universe’s great beacons. Quasars are massive, luminous objects that draw their energy from black holes. Until now, scientists have been unable to study both the bright and dim phases of a quasar in a single source.

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