Alien life, Astronomy, News

NASA presents toolkit to search for life on Jupiter’s Moon Europa

Realistic-color Galileo mosaic of Europa, highlighting the mysterious lines. Image via Wikipedia.

Sending a probe to look for alien life is just half of the work – it’s the tools you send there that will actually do the job, and NASA has decided which tools it wants to send to Jupiter’s moon Europa, a place considered by many the likeliest to hold alien life.

Geology, News

Galapagos islands’ Wolf volcano erupts, threatening unique pink iguanas

Ping iguala. Photo: Gabriele Gentile

This Monday morning, a volcano perched on one of Ecuador’s Galapagos islands erupted spewing lava on its side and dark plume overhead. The Wolf shiled volcano is the highest peak in the Galapagos Islands, reaching 1,707 m. Wolf is situated at the northern end of Isabela Island in the Galapagos, which is barely populated. The authorities have indeed confirmed that the population isn’t at risk, however the local, richly diverse fauna is another thing. The tiny island is the only place in the world that the pink iguana calls home.

News, Technology

Millions of public domain photos turned into beautiful time lapse videos by Google

Skyscraper timelapse using photos taken from the same viewpoint by different people. The photos were discovered and stitched together by an automated process. Image: YouTube

There are millions and millions of photos under the public domain, and no doubt for some these can be nothing short of a gold mine. For instance, some scientists could find them most useful to compare things like glacial retreat or deforestation with what we’re seeing today or with results generated by models. Shifting through such a catalog is no easy feat, though.

Almost mockingly, Google not only shows that this isn’t half as challenging as it may seem, but also manages to turn image processing and sorting code into spectacular works of art. Using millions of photos scrapped from social networks like Flickr or Picasa, Goggle engineers made an algorithm that stitches them together to make 10,000 timelapse videos. Some are so accurate that you wouldn’t think for a moment each frame is actually a photo taken by some random, different person. Quite amazing, and a nice demonstration of what can be achieved in the future using other, much older data sets.

News, Space

Nasty, cannibal star reveals cosmic secrets

An artist's conception depicts an immense disk of gas surrounding a massive, bright Wolf-Rayet star (at center). NASA, ESA, AND G. BACON (STSCI)

Astronomers have captured a glimpse in the life of a massive star, a brief transitory stage in its evolution that might reveal the secrets of a unique class of stars. It’s called Nasty1, a name derived from its catalogue name, NaSt1; but the name is quite fitting, considering that the star itself has a pretty erratic behavior. Nasty1 is part of

News, Offbeat

Spectacular solar halo seen in Mexico [with explanation… and memes]


A stunning round solar halo caused a social media frenzy – people were out in the streets, taking photos, sharing them, while scientists were also excited to see such a rare phenomenon. But what are solar halos, and why did this one appear in Mexico?

News, Space

It’s just crazy enough to work – NASA plans to send gliding probes to Mars

This illustration shows how the MARSDROP mission concept would land microprobes on Mars using an entry vehicle and parawing glider. Inset: A MARSDROP prototype under its parawing. ILLUSTRATION: PLANETARY SCIENCE INSTITUTE/INSET: MATTHEW EBY

An innovative concept might allow engineers to send probes on Mars in previously inaccessible locations. The project, called MARSDROP, would send two landers to the Red Planet, where they would detach from the shuttle and glide down to the planetary surface.

News, Space, Technology

ISS astronauts could use laser cannon to blast off hazardous space junk

There are hundreds of thousands of pieces of space debris in orbit. Image via Wikipedia.

Astronauts onboard the ISS may soon get a new “toy” – a space laser cannon to blast off space debris that might threaten the space station. Even a tiny scratch or dent could cause massive problems, and with us putting more and more stuff in space, the risk of damage constantly increases too.

News, Space

ISS astronauts capture spectacular aurora


Astronauts onboard the International Space Station were given a treat – they witnessed one of the most spectacular natural phenomenon on Earth, from space. From onboard the station, Terry Virts also filmed it and took some pictures, so we can all enjoy.

Astronomy, Observations

Scientists discover extremely rare quadruple quasar system

It's like winning the lottery - twice. Astronomers have spotted a rare cluster of four quasars—some of the brightest objects in the universe, formed from active black holes. Photograph by Hennawy and Arrigoni Battaia, MPIA.

A team of astronomers has discovered a unique system of quadruple quasars. The quartet, discovered at the very edge of the universe, is one of the most massive structures in the known universe.

News, Space

New Horizon gets close enough to spot Pluto’s moons

pluto's moon new horizon

Nine years and 3 billion miles later, New Horizon finally got close enough to Pluto to spot it along with all its faint moons. The probe photographed Pluto’s five “underworld” satellites, Charon, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos, and Styx, Long Range Reconnaissance Imager with 10 seconds exposure. Light is a bit faint once you’re so far away from the sun that there aren’t any planets left to explore. Not if you count Pluto as one, though, since New Horizon will flyby past it in July. Some still stick to calling Pluto a planet, though officially it’s been demoted to dwarf planet status.