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Space weather’s effects on satellites

September 18, 2013 7:31 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Is your cable television on the fritz? One explanation, scientists suspect, may be the weather. The weather in space, that is. Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers are investigating the effects of space weather on geostationary satellites, which provide much of the world’s access to cable television, Internet services and global communications.

New aquifers found in desert-dry region of Kenya

September 12, 2013 3:58 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

A remote region of Kenya that suffers from frequent droughts may soon be flush with water after the discovery of huge underground aquifers. Two aquifers have been identified in the Turkana region of Kenya by using satellite exploration technology. Three other aquifers have been detected but need to be confirmed through drilling.

Scientists strike scientific gold with meteorite

September 11, 2013 11:40 am | News | Comments

An important discovery has been made concerning the possible inventory of molecules available to early Earth. Scientists at Arizona State Univ. have found that the Sutter’s Mill meteorite, which exploded in a blazing fireball over California last year, contains organic molecules not previously found in any meteorites. These findings suggest a far greater availability of extraterrestrial organic molecules than previously thought possible.

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NASA launches robotic explorer to moon

September 6, 2013 11:44 pm | by MARCIA DUNN - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

NASA's newest robotic explorer rocketed into space late Friday in an unprecedented moonshot from Virginia. The LADEE spacecraft, which is charged with studying the lunar atmosphere and dust, soared aboard an unmanned Minotaur rocket a little before midnight. It was a change of venue for NASA, which normally launches moon missions from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

SpaceShipTwo successfully completes second flight test

September 6, 2013 3:09 pm | News | Comments

On Thursday, Virgin Galactic demonstrated the SpaceShipTwo’s full technical mission profile in a single flight for the first time. The second rocket-powered, supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reusable space vehicle marked the first high altitude deployment of the unique wing “feathering” re-entry mechanism and achieved the highest altitude and greatest speed to date.

SpaceshipTwo successfully completes second flight test

September 6, 2013 3:04 pm | Videos | Comments

On Thursday, Virgin Galactic demonstrated the SpaceShipTwo’s full technical mission profile in a single flight for the first time. The second rocket-powered, supersonic flight of its passenger carrying reusable space vehicle marked the first high altitude deployment of the unique wing “feathering” re-entry mechanism and achieved the highest altitude and greatest speed to date.

Inflatable antennae could give CubeSats greater reach

September 6, 2013 7:53 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The future of satellite technology is getting small. CubeSats, and other small satellites, are making space exploration cheaper and more accessible. But with such small packages come big limitations: namely, a satellite’s communication range. Now researchers have developed a design that may significantly increase the communication range of small satellites.

Eleven spacecraft show interstellar wind changed direction over 40 years

September 5, 2013 4:51 pm | by Karen C. Fox, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

Like the wind adjusting course in the middle of a storm, scientists have discovered that the particles streaming into the solar system from interstellar space have most likely changed direction over the last 40 years. Such information can help us map out our place within the galaxy surrounding us, and help us understand our place in space.

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NASA aiming for moon again, this time from Va.

September 5, 2013 1:58 pm | by MARCIA DUNN - AP Aerospace Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

NASA is headed back to the moon, this time to explore its thin atmosphere and rough dust. The robotic spacecraft LADEE, will fly to the moon by way of Virginia's Eastern Shore. Liftoff is set for late Friday night from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.

Terramechanics research aims to keep Mars rovers rolling

September 5, 2013 11:34 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In May 2009, the Mars rover Spirit cracked through a crusty layer of Martian topsoil, sinking into softer underlying sand. The unexpected sand trap permanently mired the vehicle. The mission mishap may have been prevented by a better understanding of terramechanics, which describes the interaction between vehicles and deformable terrain.

Researchers take a step closer to finding cosmic ray origins

September 3, 2013 8:38 am | News | Comments

The origin of cosmic rays in the universe has confounded scientists for decades. But a study by researchers using data from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole reveals new information that may help unravel the longstanding mystery of exactly how and where these “rays”, which are actually high-energy particles, are produced.

New research supports theory that life started on Mars

August 29, 2013 2:09 pm | News | Comments

Steven Benner of Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology will tell geochemists gathering Thursday at the annual Goldschmidt conference that an oxidized mineral form of the element molybdenum, which may have been crucial to the origin of life, could only have been available on the surface of Mars and not on Earth.

Space laser to prove increased broadband possible

August 29, 2013 12:07 pm | by Dewayne Washington, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

When NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) begins operation aboard the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), it will attempt to show two-way laser communication beyond Earth is possible, expanding the possibility of transmitting huge amounts of data. This new ability could one day allow for 3-D high-definition video transmissions in deep space to become routine.

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Neutron stars in the computer cloud

August 29, 2013 9:24 am | News | Comments

The combined computing power of 200,000 private PCs helps astronomers take an inventory of the Milky Way. The Einstein@Home project connects home and office PCs of volunteers from around the world to a global supercomputer. Using this computer cloud, an international team analyzed archival data to discover 24 pulsars which has been previously missed by astronomers.

Cassini data from Titan indicates a rigid, weathered ice shell

August 28, 2013 2:35 pm | by Tim Stephens, UC Santa Cruz | News | Comments

An analysis of gravity and topography data from Saturn's largest moon, Titan, has revealed unexpected features of the moon's outer ice shell. The best explanation for the findings, say scientists, is that Titan's ice shell is rigid and that relatively small topographic features on the surface are associated with large roots extending into the underlying ocean.

California vies for new space industry

August 28, 2013 7:52 am | by Mihir Zaveri, Associated Press | News | Comments

As several new private ventures to take people on trips to space come closer to becoming reality, California lawmakers are racing other states to woo the new space companies with cushy incentives. They are debating a bill now in Sacramento that would insulate manufacturers of spaceships and parts suppliers from liability should travelers get injured or killed on a voyage, except in cases such as gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing.

Astronomers produce highest-ever resolution photos of the night sky

August 22, 2013 8:56 am | News | Comments

After 20 years of effort, a team of astronomers from three institutions have put to use a new type of telescope camera that makes higher resolution images than ever before. The team has been developing this technology at telescope observatories in Arizona and now has deployed the latest version of these cameras in the high desert of Chile at the Magellan 6.5-m telescope. Several upcoming publications will feature these new images.

NASA spacecraft captures Earth-bound coronal mass ejection

August 21, 2013 9:45 am | News | Comments

On Tuesday, the sun erupted with an Earth-directed coronal mass ejection or CME, a solar phenomenon which can send billions of tons of particles into space that can reach Earth one to three days later. These particles cannot travel through the atmosphere to harm humans on Earth, but they can affect electronic systems in satellites and on the ground.

New theory points to “zombie vortices” as key step in star formation

August 21, 2013 7:47 am | News | Comments

A new theory by fluid dynamics experts at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, shows how “zombie vortices” help lead to the birth of a new star. In a recent report, a UC Berkeley-led team shows how variations in gas density lead to instability, which then generates the whirlpool-like vortices needed for stars to form.

Telescope captures dramatic moment of starbirth

August 20, 2013 2:11 pm | by Marcia Dunn, AP Aerospace Writer | News | Comments

The ALMA telescope in Chile has captured a close-up of the glowing material spewing from a newborn star. Astronomers say the illuminated jets are spewing out faster than ever measured before and are more energetic than previously thought.

Waking up to a new year

August 19, 2013 8:38 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In the time it takes you to complete a single workday, or get a full night’s sleep, a small fireball of a planet 700 light-years away has already completed an entire year. Researchers have discovered an Earth-sized exoplanet named Kepler 78b that whips around its host star in a mere 8.5 hours, one of the shortest orbital periods ever detected.

Spaceflight alters bacterial social networks

August 15, 2013 3:03 pm | by Gianine M. Figliozzi, NASA Ames Research Center | News | Comments

In two NASA-funded studies, biofilms made by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa were cultured on Earth and aboard space shuttle Atlantis in 2010 and 2011 to determine the impact of microgravity on their behavior. After comparing the biofilms grown on the ground with those grown on space station-bound shuttles, study results show for the first time that spaceflight changes the behavior of bacterial communities.

Study: Voyager 1 has left the Solar System

August 15, 2013 1:58 pm | News | Comments

Carrying Earthly greetings on a gold plated phonograph record and still-operational scientific instruments NASA's Voyager 1 has traveled farther from Earth than any other human-made object. And now, researchers say, it has begun the first exploration of our galaxy beyond the Sun's influence. The finding could be, however, somewhat controversial.

Around the world in four days: Tracking Chelyabinsk meteor plume

August 15, 2013 12:50 pm | by Kathryn Hansen, NASA's Earth Science News Team | News | Comments

A meteor weighing 10,000 metric tons exploded 14 miles above Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2013. Unlike similar past events, this time scientists had the sensitive instruments on the Suomi NPP satellite to deliver unprecedented data and help them track and study the meteor plume for months.

Mars food study researchers emerge from dome

August 14, 2013 9:14 am | by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Associated Press | News | Comments

Six researchers have spent the past four months living in a small dome on a barren Hawaii lava field at 8,000 feet, trying to figure out what foods astronauts might eat on Mars and during deep-space missions. They emerged on Tuesday with their recipes and without the space suits they were required to wear each time they ventured onto the northern slope of Mauna Loa—an active volcano that last erupted in 1984.

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