Space

What are the bright flashes coming from Ceres, the dwarf planet between Mars and Jupiter?

The dwarf planet, Ceres, continues to puzzle NASA scientists as its Dawn spacecraft approaches the planet to begin its orbit around the mysterious object. The latest images from Dawn were taken about 29,000 miles away from Ceres and have revealed two mysterious bright flashes of light on the planet’s surface. The two bright spots of light appear next to each other in the bottom of a huge crater or volcanic depression. Dawn will go into orbit around Ceres on March 6, 2015 after which NASA will receive higher resolution photographs from the spacecraft. NASA explained, "The brightest spot continues to be too small to resolve with our camera, but despite its size it is brighter than anything else on Ceres. This is truly unexpected and…
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Space

Comet Lovejoy photobombs Dark Energy Camera (world’s most powerful camera)

Scientists operating the world’s most power digital camera, the 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera, were “shocked” to find Comet Lovejoy ambling through its field of view this week. Luckily for us however, the photobomb has provided us with a stunning view of Comet Lovejoy. On December 27, 2014 the Dark Energy Survey was scanning the southern sky when Comet Lovejoy pass through the camera’s view. At the time the picture was taken, the comet was 51 million miles away from earth (the Dark Energy Camera is sensitive to light from as far as 8 billion light years away). Given that the comet is only about 3 miles wide, it’s stunning to think something that small could be photographed when it is that far away from us!…
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Space

NASA plans to explorer the moons of Saturn with… a submarine?

Titan, one of Saturn’s 60 something moons, is covered with lakes and seas of liquid methane which means landing a spaceship on Titan would be quite difficult. But landing a spaceship *under* the methane seas of Titan… well, that’s an entirely new set of problems – and NASA intends to figure out how to do it. To explore Titan’s undersea world, NASA proposes development of a submersible autonomous vehicle – in other words, a remote-controlled submarine.  By 2040, they would like to send this submarine to Titan’s largest northern sea, Kraken Mare, which is comparable in size to the Great Lakes in the United States. The submarine will investigate Titan’s ocean to discover and determine its chemical composition, how its currents flow, and what the…
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Space

Scientists discover black hole that is 12 billion times larger than the Sun

Researchers in China have discovered a massive black hole that is 12 billion times the size of the sun. 12 billion times as big as our gigantic Sun! For reference, a billion is a thousand millions or 1 with nine zeroes after it. If you counted every second of your life, you’d only live a bit longer than 2 billion SECONDS. A billion pennies stacked on top of each other would reach 870 miles into the sky. The black hole they found is larger than any of its age ever found. A black hole is a dense region of space that has collapsed in on itself in a way that nothing can escape – not even light. This one was given the typical goofy astronomer…
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Space

New jaw-dropping Hi-Def photo of Eagle nebula’s “Pillars of Creation”

The iconic photo of the Eagle nebula’s “Pillars of Creation”, showing three “trunks” of gas and dust forming new stars, was taken in 1995 by the Hubble telescope. In 2014, after installation of a new camera with twice the resolution of the earlier one, a new hi-def photo of the Pillars of Creation has been released – and this one is just as draw-dropping as the original. Check it out above (the original photo is below).   Sources: NASA
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Space

Greatest meteor shower of the year occurs this weekend – meet the Geminids meteors

Forget the often-disappointing Perseids meteor shower – Geminids is not only better, it’s predicted to be especially cool this weekend. The Geminids shower has been strengthening in recent years and already surpasses every meteor shower of the year. This year, we’re holding out hope that the show is even better than last year’s brilliant display. The space big-wigs are predicting 120 meteors per hour (visible from a dark sky) but more realistically, we can expect to see 60-80 per hour – which is still a lot! Also, unlike most meteor showers which require we wake up early or stay up all night, Geminids produces a good show before midnight. Geminids meteors shoot across the sky at about 22 miles per second. Colors can vary from…
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Space

NASA spots odd circular structure in middle of Mars lava flows

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory published a perplexing photo yesterday along with the question, “What is this enigmatic landform?”  The photo shows a large, mile wide, circular structure surrounded by a sea of smooth-looking lava flows. NASA scientists believe the mound may be lava that has pushed up beneath the lava flow (the lab rats think it’s a a giant mutant Martian amoeba). They noted: “It looks as if material is missing from the mound, so it is also possible that there was a significant amount of ice in the mound that was driven out by the heat of the lava. There are an array of features like this in the region that continue to puzzle scientists.” The image was captured via HiRISE, one of six…
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Space

Comet 67P/C-G sings us an alien song – and it freaks Reeko out

While the Philae probe naps on the surface of Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko, scientists found that the comet is singing a lullaby to the sleepy little probe – albeit not quite the sweet soothing melody your mother sings. Rosetta, the orbiter flying around Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko while Philae sleeps, measured the magnetic field around the comet and found that oscillations in the magnetic field are being emitted at around 40-50 millihertz, too low for humans to hear with their ears (human hearing ranges between 20 Hz and 20 kHz). But a German composer, curious about what the comet was singing to us, increased the frequency of the oscillations about 100 times to produce sound waves in the range that humans can hear. Scientists are not yet…
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Space

Flashing smoke and fire from Uranus is no laughing matter

Scientists using the W. M. Keck II Telescope in August captured some pretty amazing pictures of eight massive bright spots on Uranus. Appearing to be massive firestorms, the bright spots are actually the wavelength of storms in the Uranus atmosphere. Scientists believe the flashes of light are caused by methane gas rising into the atmosphere, freezing into crystals, and then reflecting sunlight away from the planet. The strength of the storms are highly unusual – the intensity of which are normally only seen once every four decades during Uranus’s 42-year equinox (which peaked last in 2007). Sources: Discover
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Space

Amazing Philae comet pictures

The European Space Agency’s Philae comet probe became the first spacecraft to land on a comet on November 12, 2014.  At over 317 million miles away from earth, Philae’s radio signal takes nearly 30 minutes to reach earth.  Here are the most amazing Philae comet pictures to date.  Click on the picture for a full-size view and details about the pic.
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