Biology, News, Space

Sea plankton discovered outside space station

Sea plankton was discovered on the outside of the International Space Station. Photo by NASA from Wikimedia Commons

Russian researchers who were conducting experiments on the surface of the ISS were absolutely shocked when they found sea plankton, just outside of the space station. Other reports mention that they found them while they were polishing some parts of the ISS, but that’s not really important here: they found real, living, sea creatures in space. Samples taken from illuminators and the surface of the space station were found to have traces of sea plankton and other microorganisms, but nobody really knows how they got there. Heh… I guess, uhhh, life finds a way. “Results of the experiment are absolutely unique,” chief of the Russian ISS orbital mission Vladimir Solovyev told ITAR-TASS. “We…

News, Observations, Space

The most detailed topography of a comet

The topography of comet 67P. Photo: ESA

Ten years ago, the European Space Agency launched the Rosetta probe tasked to orbit a comet for the very first time and study it up close with unprecedented detail. Six billion miles later, the probe reached its target, the four-kilometer wide 67P comet, and has beamed back some of the most breathtaking images of a comet science has witnessed. The most recent shot released by ESA captures the comet so close that we can even see its intricate topography. Captioned below, the photograph in question was captured while Rosetta was hovering only 65 miles (104 kilometers) away from the 2.5-mile-wide (four-kilometer) comet. We can clearly distinguish the three sections of…

News, Space

Big asteroid will hit Eart in 2880 … or will it?


New research has shown that a big asteroid is well on its way to hitting Earth in 2880 – and by that I mean it has a 1 in 300 chance of actually hitting our planet, but it’s still the likeliest celestial body to hit the Earth in the foreseeable future….

Astrophysics, News, Space

The most exotic material on the planet: researchers find dust from beyond the solar system

An optical microscope image of a track through aerogel made by Orion, one of the dust particles believed to be from interstellar space. Photograph: D Frank/Nasa/JSC

Researchers believe they have found seven dust specs from outside the solar system. This is the first time we have the chance to directly analyze interstellar matter. The material was probably ejected from a supernova….

News, Space, Space flight

The International Space Station is out of parking space


At this very moment, the International Space Station has all its docking ports fully booked, as five manned and cargo spacecraft have occupied all available slots. Most expensive parking ticket ever The spacecrafts in question are: Soyuz TMA-12M, Soyuz TMA-13M, Cygnus 2, Progress 56, and ATV-5. The Soyuz crafts are tasked with ferrying the crew of Expedition 39/40 and 40/41 to and from Earth, while the other three are unmanned cargo vessels. Of these, Cygnus is most notable, not because of any technical achievement (it’s quite obsolete, if you ask me), but because it’s the only one owned by a private company. Cygnus is only the second space company, besides SpaceX, ever to…

Astrophysics, Geology, News

Still hot inside the Moon? Earth gravity creating a hot layer

Credit: Image courtesy of National Astronomical Observatory of Japan

Scientists have indirectly demonstrated the existence of a hot layer surrounding the Moon’s core, through seismic and deformation studies. This layer is created by the gravity exerted by the Earth on the Moon and can provide valuable information regarding the evolution of the Earth-Moon system….

Feature Post, Great Pics, Space

Eight planets and a dwarf in one

The eight planets of our solar system and one dwarf planet shown approximately to scale. Image: Lunar and Planetary Institute

This magnificent painting by  Steve Gildea combines the planets of our solar system in one beautiful planetary mosaic. It’s a celebration of the geological diversity our solar system possess, illustrating each planet’s surface in the order they orbit the sun, starting from the battered Mercury to lonely Pluto. Speaking of which, Pluto is of course no longer classed as a planet – it’s technically a dwarf planet, but Gildea couldn’t have known this in 1990 when he first revealed the piece. Of course, the painting was made to hold each planet in proportion. The image below shows how each planet differs in size from one another. Jupiter (69,911 km / 43,441…

Astrophysics, News, Physics, Space flight

NASA confirms “Impossible” propellant-free microwave thruster works


Designs for a device called a “microwave thruster” were proposed in 2006. While the device was physically sound and followed the principles of relativity, it has been dismissed by researchers who claimed that such a functioning device would defy the law of conservation of momentum. A team from NASA set out to trial the device and see if it works; lo and behold – it did! Several years ago British scientist Roger Shawyer presented his EmDrive microwave thruster as an alternative to powering spacecrafts without propellant. Instead, it uses microwaves bouncing off a carefully tuned set of reflectors to achieve small amounts of force and therefore achieve propellant free thrust. Initially, the…

Astronomy, Astrophysics, News, Space

ESA’s billion-star surveyor, Gaia, ready to begin its science mission

Artistic representation of the ESA.

Gaia is an unmanned space observatory of the European Space Agency (ESA) which aims to catalog approximately 1 billion astronomical objects (mostly stars), about 1% of the Milky Way population. Gaia will provide a trove of valuable and spectacular data, including a precise three-dimensional map of astronomical objects throughout the Milky Way and map their motions. We were telling you in January that Gaia was already in orbit, in a stable point at about 1.5 million km from Earth. Now, Gaia is finally read to start working on its mission, observing each of its billion stars an average of 70 times each over five years. Furthermore, Gaia will also measure…