Space

The American flags on the moon – are they still standing?

We’ve all seen the pictures of astronauts triumphantly placing an American flag on the surface of the moon, evidence of mankind’s excursion to a heavenly body far from home. But flag planting wasn’t as easy as the astronauts made it seem. American flags on the moon Apollo 11, the first mission to land on the moon, learned an important lesson about the moon’s surface when they tried to plant the American flag. It has been supposed that the dirt on the moon would be similar to earth’s. It was not and its unusual composition made the flag impossible to plant deeply into the soil. Unlike dirt granules on earth which are roundish, moon dirt is flattened with sharp edges. The granules tend to lock into…
Tell me more Reeko! »
Space

NASA announces its next mission “Dragonfly” – will explore Saturn’s moon Titan with a drone-like lander.

As part of NASA’s New Frontiers program, they have selected their next mission – a drone-like lander that will explore the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan. The Dragonfly mission will send a dual-quadcopter to the surface of Titan. About every 16 days it will fly tens of miles above the surface for about an hour before stopping to rest and recharge. During these “hops”, Dragonfly will sample the moon’s surface material and observe its weather patterns. The Huygens probe (carried by Cassini) was the first to give us a good view of the moon’s surface. It was found that Titan had a thick atmosphere and liquid methane coverings its surface. This interested NASA scientists who have been longing to send a lander to the moon…
Tell me more Reeko! »
Space

NASA launches fastest manmade object in history – Parker Solar Probe will travel more than 400,000 miles per hour and “touch” the Sun!

It hasn’t made it into the popular news channels much which is puzzling (and sad) because the device, and its mission, is so very, very cool. On August 12, 2018, NASA will launch the Parker Solar Probe, a car-sized spacecraft with a mission to examine the Sun’s corona. It’s no small feat and will require the probe maintain speeds of 430,000 miles per hour as it whirls around the sun. The Polar Solar Probe is an attempt to unravel some of the mystery around the Sun’s corona, that layer of hot plasma that floats millions of miles around the sun. The corona is the source of the Sun’s solar wind and is what causes the beautifully, colorful aurorae in the Earth’s magnetosphere. Parker's mission is…
Tell me more Reeko! »
Space

NASA satellite captures comet plunging into Sun at a mind-boggling 373 miles per second!

A sungrazer comet (technically known as Kreutz sungrazers) crashed into the sun on August 4, 2016 and lucky for us, the entire event was captured on video by NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). Analysis of the video shows the comet plunged into the sun at a mind-boggling 373 miles per second! That’s million miles per hour! At that speed, you could drive completely around the earth in about a minute. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments of larger comets, called Kreutz comets, that have broken apart as they neared the sun. When the sun pulls these smaller fragments toward it, they accelerate until eventually, they are vaporized by the intense forces near the sun. Kreutz comets travel around the sun on a path called the Kreutz…
Tell me more Reeko! »
Space

The Mars Curiosity rover happily whiling away its time working in the sand

This past week, NASA's Curiosity rover spent quite a bit of its time happily playing in the sand – on Mars.  In December 2016, Curiosity reached a new frontier on Mars – the Bagnold Dunes.  The dunes are located on the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp (officially given the rather geeky name, Aeolis Mons), a mountain at the center of the Gale Crater, and feature a landscape unlike anything Curiosity has come across before.  In fact, in some photos, the sandy dunes and mountainous Mars terrain in the background look quite earthly.   Here is Curiosity earlier in the year.  You can see the dunes in the distance as Curiosity makes it way toward them.   The dune to the left of Curiosity is Namib…
Tell me more Reeko! »
Space

Here’s what it would have looked like had you been aboard New Horizons as if zoomed past Pluto

As NASA’s New Horizons space probe raced past Pluto, it snapped photos as fast as it could, beaming back pictures to the grinning geeks at NASA.  NASA then took the images and created this animated gif showing what it would look like had you hitched a rid aboard the spacecraft.  Each second of the movie represents about 30 minutes travel time for New Horizons. New Horizons flew about 7,800 miles above Pluto at a speed of about 32,435 miles per hour. It was launched on January 19, 2006 – over 9 years ago!  When it passed Pluto on July 15, 2015, it became the first spacecraft to explore the dwarf planet. New Horizons is alive and well and heading towards the Kuiper Belt.  This month,…
Tell me more Reeko! »
Space

….and here’s the first high-res image of Pluto

  In the NASA press conference running right now, they released the first high-res image of Pluto.  So without further ado…   New Horizons is a space probe that was launched on January 19, 2006, as part of NASA's New Frontiers program.  The spacecraft was launched to study Pluto, its moons and the Kuiper Belt, performing flybys of the Pluto system and one or more Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).
Tell me more Reeko! »
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…
Tell me more Reeko! »
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…
Tell me more Reeko! »
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
Tell me more Reeko! »
12