50 years ago, on April 12th, a human went into space for the first time. Let’s say that again, for emphasis: a human went into space. In a rocket. To space. His name was Yuri Gagarin and he is an undeniable legend.
Sure, his fame might be overshadowed somewhat by those showoff Americans Buzz Adrin and Neil Armstrong (though we still love you guys, big time), and his tragic death in a plane crash at the age of 31 also limited his potential awesomeness, but there’s no man alive who could deny that Yuri was an absolute boss.
A hero in Russia — more than a hero, in fact, more like a god — he’s celebrated to this day, year after year, for his amazing feat of being the first man in space, and for showing those Yanks the Russkies had the power to send a ruddy bloody man into ruddy bloody space.
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A Jupiter-like gas giant planet orbits a young star in an artist’s conception. Credit: T. Pyle (SSC), NASA/JPL-Caltech
Of the billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy, 15 percent may host “twins” of our solar system, a new study says.
While that might not sound like much, the find suggests that several hundred million star systems look a lot like the one we call home, the study authors say.
The research is based on surveys of stars with gas giant planets—similar to Jupiter and Saturn—that orbit far from their stars.
As in our solar system, vast distances stretch between these stars and their gas giants. This creates ample room for rocky planets to thrive in the stars’ habitable zones, the regions where liquid water can exist.
And that boosts the likelihood that other Earths, and maybe even other forms of life, abound in the Milky Way.
“For the first ten years of planet hunting, we were feeling a bit worried—other systems looked so different from our own solar system,” noted Debra Fischer, an astronomer at San Francisco State University who was not involved in the research.
“[These] results are reassuring us that there are solar systems akin to our own. This is real data that strengthens the hypothesis that there are many habitable worlds like our Earth.”
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Blue lines show Earth’s northern magnetic field and the magnetic north pole in an artist’s rendering. Credit: Stefan Maus, NOAA NGDC
Earth’s north magnetic pole is racing toward Russia at almost 40 miles (64 kilometers) a year due to magnetic changes in the planet’s core, new research says.
The core is too deep for scientists to directly detect its magnetic field. But researchers can infer the field’s movements by tracking how Earth’s magnetic field has been changing at the surface and in space.
Now, newly analyzed data suggest that there’s a region of rapidly changing magnetism on the core’s surface, possibly being created by a mysterious “plume” of magnetism arising from deeper in the core.
And it’s this region that could be pulling the magnetic pole away from its long-time location in northern Canada, said Arnaud Chulliat, a geophysicist at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris in France.
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An unlikely source of energy has emerged to meet international demands that the United States do more to fight global warming: It’s cleaner than coal, cheaper than oil and a 90-year supply is under our feet.
It’s natural gas, the same fossil fuel that was in such short supply a decade ago that it was deemed unreliable. It’s now being uncovered at such a rapid pace that its price is near a seven-year low. Long used to heat half the nation’s homes, it’s becoming the fuel of choice when building new power plants. Someday, it may win wider acceptance as a replacement for gasoline in our cars and trucks.
Natural gas’ abundance and low price come as governments around the world debate how to curtail carbon dioxide and other pollution that contribute to global warming. The likely outcome is a tax on companies that spew excessive greenhouse gases. Utilities and other companies see natural gas as a way to lower emissions — and their costs. Yet politicians aren’t stumping for it.
In June, President Barack Obama lumped natural gas with oil and coal as energy sources the nation must move away from. He touts alternative sources — solar, wind and biofuels derived from corn and other plants. In Congress, the energy debate has focused on finding cleaner coal and saving thousands of mining jobs from West Virginia to Wyoming.
Utilities in the U.S. aren’t waiting for Washington to jump on the gas bandwagon. Looming climate legislation has altered the calculus that they use to determine the cheapest way to deliver power. Coal may still be cheaper, but natural gas emits half as much carbon when burned to generate the same amount electricity.
The ExoMars programme will be launched in partnership with NASA. Credit: ESA
The European Space Agency, in collaboration with NASA, will launch two Mars exploration
missions in 2016 and 2018.
The ExoMars mission will be undertaken to probe the Martian atmosphere, especially astrobiological issues and to develop and demonstrate new technologies for planetary exploration with a long-term view of a future Mars sample return mission in the 2020s, ESA said.
The project, for which around $1.2 billion (850 million euro) has been sanctioned, will include an Orbiter plus an Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator, to be launched in 2016, and two rovers which would be sent in 2018.
“This marks an important moment for Europe in its steps towards space exploration on the world scale,” David Southwood, Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, said.
“We have been to the planets before, sure. But now we have a plan for exploration ahead to build our technical capability and explore Mars in a long-term partnership,” he said.
Eleven of ESA’s 17 member states are participating in the project.
Source: BNS (Paris)
MOD Director Paul Hill has hinted that there’s a “remote” chance NASA may add one or more shuttle flights, in addition to “under evaluation” STS-135. Mr Hill’s comments came during an address to his team – relating to the upcoming White House decision on NASA’s Human Space Flight program – in which he noted his awareness of discussions relating to a commercial crew launch vehicle for ISS missions.
Mr Hill Address:
The former flight director has made several addresses over the past year, mainly relating to the job losses that will hit the space program – not least with the United Space Alliance (USA) contractor workforce within the Mission Operations Directorate (MOD).
Some workers have already lost their jobs, but the main bulk of layoffs will occur over the next one year period under the current direction of closing down the shuttle program.
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NASA is hoping to launch a new infrared space observatory on Friday, but cloudy weather could delay the flight.
The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) is slated to lift off atop a Delta II rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Dec. 11 between 9:09:33 a.m. and 9:23:51 a.m. EST (1409 and 1423 GMT).
Unfortunately, thick clouds and rain are forecasted, prompting NASA to give the weather an 80 percent chance of preventing the launch. Even if liftoff is delayed for 24 hours, the forecast looks to be similar.
“We’ve got some challenging weather ahead of us,” said launch director Chuck Dovale during a Wednesday briefing.
Most astronomers today believe that one of the most plausible reasons we have yet to detect intelligent life in the universe is due to the deadly effects of local supernova explosions that wipe out all life in a given region of a galaxy.
While there is, on average, only one supernova per galaxy per century, there is something on the order of 100 billion galaxies in the observable Universe. Taking 10 billion years for the age of the Universe (it’s actually 13.7 billion, but stars didn’t form for the first few hundred million), Dr. Richard Mushotzky of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, derived a figure of 1 billion supernovae per year, or 30 supernovae per second in the observable Universe!
Certain rare stars -real killers -type 11 stars, are core-collapse hypernova that generate deadly gamma ray bursts (GRBs). These long burst objects release 1000 times the non-neutrino energy release of an ordinary “core-collapse” supernova. Concrete proof of the core-collapse GRB model came in 2003.
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Even more from NASA here: A Hypernova: The Super-charged Supernova and its link to Gamma-Ray Bursts
Atlantis undocked from the International Space Station at 4:53 a.m. EST Wednesday, ending a successful resupply visit that included three spacewalks. The total docked time was 6 days, 17 hours and 2 minutes.
Atlantis brought to the station about 14 tons of cargo in its payload bay, including two large carriers with heavy spare parts that were installed on the station. The shuttle also carried about a ton of cargo in its crew cabin. It is bringing home about the same weight of cabin cargo from the orbiting laboratory.
Atlantis Commander Charles Hobaugh, Pilot Barry Wilmore and Mission Specialists Leland Melvin, Randy Bresnik, Mike Foreman, Robert Satcher Jr. and Nicole Stott are scheduled to land at 9:44 a.m. Friday at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Tuesday at 10 a.m., European Space Agency astronaut Frank De Winne handed over command of the station to NASA astronaut Jeff Williams. De Winne and Expedition 21 Flight Engineers Roman Romanenko and Robert Thirsk are scheduled to leave the station for return to Earth in a Soyuz capsule on Nov. 30.
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NASA says it would take almost a year using conventional rockets to get to Mars. By that time a human body would likely turn to jello due to exposure to space radiation. But the space agency has come up with a solution – in fact two of them.
First they want to build the nuclear rocket (Project Prometheus) which NASA says would cut in half the amount of time it would take to get to the red planet. With nuclear reactors for engines NASA also says they could carry heavier payloads which would make it possible to “mine the sky” for precious minerals.
The other solution to the space radiation problem seems to rely on testing monkeys by exposing them to doses of radiation so NASA can further study the effects on the human body.
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