How Do We Terraform Venus?

by Fraser Cain on July 24, 2014


It might be possible to terraform Venus some day, when our technology gets good enough. The challenges for Venus are totally different than for Mars. How will we need to fix Venus?
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Artist's conception of gas giant planet HD 209458b in the constellation Pegasus, which has less water vapor in its atmosphere than expected. Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STScI) and N. Madhusudhan (UC)

Artist’s conception of gas giant planet HD 209458b in the constellation Pegasus, which has less water vapor in its atmosphere than expected. Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STScI) and N. Madhusudhan (UC)

Surprise! Three planets believed to be good candidates for having water vapor in their atmosphere actually have much lower quantities than expected.

The planets (HD 189733b, HD 209458b, and WASP-12b) are “hot Jupiters” that are orbiting very close to their parent star, at a distance where it was expected the extreme temperatures would turn water into a vapor that could be seen from afar.

But observations of the planets with the Hubble Space Telescope, who have temperatures between 816 and 2,204 degrees Celsius (1,500 and 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit), show only a tenth to a thousandth of the water astronomers expected.

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Rosetta imaged its target comet, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, from about 3,417 miles (5,500 kilometers) away. The "neck" of the comet appears to be brighter than the rest of the nucleus. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta imaged its target comet, Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, from about 3,417 miles (5,500 kilometers) away. The “neck” of the comet appears to be brighter than the rest of the nucleus. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta’s “rubber duckie” comet appears to be wearing a collar! New images of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from the spacecraft, which is speeding towards an orbit of the comet next month, show that the “neck” region of the nucleus appears to be brighter than the rest.

Last week, images from the spacecraft revealed that the comet likely has a “contact binary” nucleus, meaning that there are two parts of the nucleus that are just barely joined together under low gravity. There are many theories for why this happened, but it will take a closer examination to begin to come up with answers. The shape of the nucleus reminds many of a rubber duckie.

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Dream Chaser commercial crew vehicle built by Sierra Nevada Corp docks at ISS

Dream Chaser commercial crew vehicle built by Sierra Nevada Corp docks at ISS

The winged Dream Chaser mini-shuttle under development by Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) has successfully completed a series of risk reduction milestone tests on key flight hardware systems thereby moving the private reusable spacecraft closer to its critical design review (CDR) and first flight under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program aimed at restoring America’s indigenous human spaceflight access to low Earth orbit and the space station.

SNC announced that it passed NASA’s Milestones 9 and 9a involving numerous Risk Reduction and Technology Readiness Level (TRL) advancement tests of critical Dream Chaser® systems under its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) agreement with the agency. [click to continue…]

Ultra-Deep Astrophoto: 75 Hours of the Antenna Galaxies

by Nancy Atkinson on July 23, 2014

75 hours of observing time allows for this 'amateur' view of the Antennae galaxies in the constellation Corvus. Look closely to see the myriad of distant background galaxies that show up in the image, as well.  Credit and copyright:  Rolf Wahl Olsen.

75 hours of observing time allows for this ‘amateur’ view of the Antennae galaxies in the constellation Corvus. Look closely to see the myriad of distant background galaxies that show up in the image, as well. Credit and copyright: Rolf Wahl Olsen.

You might think the image above of the famous Antenna Galaxies was taken by a large ground-based or even a space telescope. Think again. Amateur astronomer Rolf Wahl Olsen from New Zealand compiled a total of 75 hours of observing time to create this ultra-deep view.

“To obtain a unique deep view of the faint tidal streams and numerous distant background galaxies I gathered 75 hours on this target during 38 nights from January to June 2014,” Rolf said via email. “At times it was rather frustrating because clouds kept interrupting my sessions.”

But he persisted, and the results are stunning.

He used his new 12.5″ f/4 Serrurier Truss Newtonian telescope, which he said gathers approximately 156% the amount of light over his old 10″ f/5 telescope.

Rolf even has put together comparison shots from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope of the same field of view:
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