Space News - Space, Astronomy, Space Exploration

Phys.org provides the latest news on astronomy and space exploration.

12/09/2017 09:52 AM
CU Boulder solar instruments, experiments headed for space
A solar instrument package designed and built by the University of Colorado Boulder to help monitor the planet's climate is now set for launch Dec. 12 aboard a SpaceX rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

12/08/2017 10:00 PM
First black astronaut honored on 50th anniversary of death (Update)
America's first black astronaut, Air Force Maj. Robert Lawrence Jr., finally got full honors Friday on the 50th anniversary of his death.

12/08/2017 04:03 PM
Dusty protoplanetary disks
Planetary systems form out of disks of gas and dust around young stars. How the formation proceeds, however, is complex and poorly understood. Many physical processes are involved including accretion onto the star, photoevaporation of material of the disk, interactions of the disk with planetary embryos, growth of the dust grains, settling of the dust to the midplane of the disk, and more. To unravel these various factors, observations of protoplanetary disks at multiple wavelengths are used; the submillimeter wavelength range in particular offers a way to peer through most of the disk to estimate dust masses directly.

12/08/2017 03:44 PM
JPL deploys a CubeSat for astronomy
Tiny satellites called CubeSats have attracted a lot of attention in recent years. Besides allowing researchers to test new technologies, their relative simplicity also offers hands-on training to early-career engineers.

12/08/2017 02:37 PM
Mars atmosphere well protected from the solar wind
Despite the absence of a global Earth-like magnetic dipole, the Martian atmosphere is well protected from the effects of the solar wind on ion escape from the planet. New research shows this using measurements from the Swedish particle instrument ASPERA-3 on the Mars Express spacecraft. The results have recently been presented in a doctoral thesis by Robin Ramstad, Swedish Institute of Space Physics and Umeå University, Sweden.

12/08/2017 02:36 PM
Rare glimpse of a black hole's magnetic field could help us to understand how it feeds
Encountering a black hole would be a frightening prospect for our planet. We know that these cosmic monsters ferociously devour any object that strays too close to their "event horizon" – the last chance of escape. But even though black holes drive some of the most energetic phenomena in the universe, the physics of their behaviour, including how they feed, remains hotly debated.

12/08/2017 01:48 PM
Galaxy orbits in the local supercluster
A team of astronomers from Maryland, Hawaii, Israel, and France has produced the most detailed map ever of the orbits of galaxies in our extended local neighborhood, showing the past motions of almost 1400 galaxies within 100 million light years of the Milky Way.

12/07/2017 10:46 PM
Space program should focus on Mars, says editor of New Space
The U.S. space exploration program should continue to focus on robotic sample recovery and human missions to Mars, says Scott Hubbard, Editor-in-Chief of New Space. He details the benefits and risks of this strategy in an editorial entitled "Keeping the Focus on Mars," published in New Space.

12/07/2017 08:00 PM
Black holes' magnetism surprisingly wimpy
Black holes are famous for their muscle: an intense gravitational pull known to gobble up entire stars and launch streams of matter into space at almost the speed of light.

12/07/2017 06:59 PM
Team created techniques to analyze thousands of hours of NASA tape
NASA recorded thousands of hours of audio from the Apollo lunar missions, yet most of us have only been able to hear the highlights.

12/07/2017 03:35 PM
Cells in space
Laboratories on Earth hardly make the news, unless they come up with life-saving cures. So why would anyone care about a lab in space? The medicine you take on Earth begins with cell research, and the latest experiments on the International Space Station are helping to develop new treatments for osteoporosis, eye diseases and muscle atrophy.

12/07/2017 03:25 PM
Herschel data links mysterious quasar winds to furious starbursts
Astronomers have used ESA's Herschel Space Observatory to solve a decades-old mystery about the origin of powerful cool gas winds in the hot environs of quasars. The evidence linking these powerful winds to star formation in the quasar host galaxies may also help resolve the mystery of why the size of galaxies in the Universe appears to be capped.

12/07/2017 02:58 PM
The space station is getting a new gadget to detect space debris
Since the 1960s, NASA and other space agencies have been sending more and more stuff into orbit. Between the spent stages of rockets, spent boosters, and satellites that have since become inactive, there's been no shortage of artificial objects floating up there. Over time, this has created the significant (and growing) problem of space debris, which poses a serious threat to the International Space Station (ISS), active satellites and spacecraft.

12/07/2017 02:50 PM
Research on clay formation could have implications for how to search for life on Mars
Today Mars has only a thin atmosphere, and its surface is very dry with the possible exception of some localised and temporary water seeps. However, ancient eroded valley networks that were discovered by orbiting spacecraft in the early days of exploration prove that water flowed across the surface in the remote past.

12/07/2017 02:33 PM
Image: Cygnus cargo spacecraft at sunrise
NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik photographed Orbital ATK's Cygnus cargo spacecraft at sunrise, prior to its departure from the International Space Station at 8:11 a.m., Dec. 6, 2017. Expedition 53 Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei and Joe Acaba of NASA gave the station's Canadarm2 robotic arm the command to release Cygnus.

12/07/2017 02:19 PM
New research bridges scaling gap between astrophysics and cosmology
In their respective efforts to understand the universe and all it comprises, there is a telling gap between what cosmologists and astrophysicists study and how they study it: scale. Cosmologists typically focus on the large-scale properties of the universe as a whole, such as galaxies and intergalactic medium; while astrophysicists are more interested in testing physical theories of small- to medium-sized objects, such as stars, supernovae and interstellar medium.

12/07/2017 02:12 PM
NASA Mars rover team's tilted winter strategy works
NASA's senior Mars rover, Opportunity, has just passed the shortest-daylight weeks of the long Martian year with its solar panels in encouragingly clean condition for entering a potential dust-storm season in 2018.

12/07/2017 08:49 AM
Discovery about rare nitrogen molecules offers clues to makeup of other life-supporting planets
A team of scientists using a state-of-the-art UCLA instrument reports the discovery of a planetary-scale "tug-of-war" of life, deep Earth and the upper atmosphere that is expressed in atmospheric nitrogen.

12/07/2017 08:37 AM
SpaceX's Elon Musk to launch his own car into deep space
SpaceX confirmed Wednesday its CEO Elon Musk plans to blast his cherry red electric car off toward the Red Planet when the company's Falcon Heavy rocket launches for the first time next month.

12/06/2017 10:44 PM
NASA's CATS concludes successful mission on space station
A spaceborne lidar instrument that fired more laser pulses than any previous orbiting instrument has ended its operations on the International Space Station, after a successful 33-month mission to measure clouds and tiny atmospheric particles that play key roles in Earth's climate and weather.

12/06/2017 10:15 PM
SuperTIGER balloon flies again to study heavy cosmic particles
A science team in Antarctica is preparing to loft a balloon-borne instrument to collect information on cosmic rays, high-energy particles from beyond the solar system that enter Earth's atmosphere every moment of every day. The instrument, called the Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder (SuperTIGER), is designed to study rare heavy nuclei, which hold clues about where and how cosmic rays attain speeds up to nearly the speed of light.

12/06/2017 07:45 PM
UAE launches programme to send astronauts into space
Dubai's ruler on Wednesday launched the United Arab Emirates' first space programme aimed at sending four Emirati astronauts to the International Space Station within five years.

12/06/2017 07:00 PM
Clay minerals on Mars may have formed in primordial steam bath
Planetary scientists from Brown University have proposed a new scenario for the formation of ancient clay minerals on Mars that, if shown to be true, could rewrite the early history of the red planet.

12/06/2017 07:00 PM
Scientists observe supermassive black hole in infant universe
A team of astronomers, including two from MIT, has detected the most distant supermassive black hole ever observed. The black hole sits in the center of an ultrabright quasar, the light of which was emitted just 690 million years after the Big Bang. That light has taken about 13 billion years to reach us—a span of time that is nearly equal to the age of the universe.

12/06/2017 07:00 PM
ALMA finds massive primordial galaxies swimming in vast ocean of dark matter
Astronomers expect that the first galaxies, those that formed just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, would share many similarities with some of the dwarf galaxies we see in the nearby universe today. These early agglomerations of a few billion stars would then become the building blocks of the larger galaxies that came to dominate the universe after the first few billion years.

12/06/2017 04:12 PM
Image: Mini-radar chip
A prototype transmit/receive module on a single 6x6 mm chip, intended to deliver miniaturised space radar systems for future missions.

12/06/2017 02:06 PM
Q&A about the toughness of NASA's webb telescope
Just how resilient does a space telescope have to be to survive both Earth's environment and the frigid, airless environment of space? Paul Geithner, the deputy project manager – technical for James Webb Space Telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, answered some questions about the design challenges of building the telescope and the gauntlet of tests it has endured in the years leading up to launch. James Webb Space Telescope, or Webb, is NASA's upcoming infrared space observatory, which will launch in 2019.

12/06/2017 12:59 PM
First light for ESPRESSO—the next generation planet hunter
The Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO) has successfully made its first observations. Installed on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, ESPRESSO will search for exoplanets with unprecedented precision by looking at the minuscule changes in the light of their host stars. For the first time ever, an instrument will be able to sum up the light from all four VLT telescopes and achieve the light collecting power of a 16-meter telescope.

12/05/2017 04:20 PM
Image: Astronaut Paolo Nespoli in BEAM
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli completes some tests in the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, on the International Space Station.

12/05/2017 04:18 PM
Meteorite analysis shows reduced salt is key in Earth's new recipe
Scientists have found the halogen levels in the meteorites that formed the Earth billions of years ago are much lower than previously thought.